21 January 2013

The Oldest Profession

First of all, let’s make one thing clear.  A prostitute does not sell their body.  The only circumstance in which any person actually sells a body part is when someone sells a kidney.  When you sell something, the buyer takes permanent possession of it, and the seller can not get it back.  The new owner can do anything they want with their purchase, because it is now their property.  This does not describe the prostitute / client transaction at all.  Even when people accepted indentured servitude arrangements they were only offering themselves on a long-term lease, not actually selling themselves.  A prostitute normally only allows her (or his) clients limited use of a portion of their body for a short, usually designated time period, an hour perhaps, maybe a few. 
This is not just semantics.  It’s a very important distinction.   

Really, what the transaction consists of is a person agreeing to engage in a specific activity for a specified time period which they otherwise might not do, to the benefit of another person who offers compensation for the time and labor involved.
Which, if you think about it, kind of describes every job.

Why is sex a special case? 

Post- effective contraception, women’s liberation, and sexual liberation, (and beyond that to a modern world heading towards equality for homosexuals and acceptance of transsexuals), most people (at least people whose opinion is worth considering) have normalized sexuality, accepted it as a natural part of life and, frankly, not really such a big deal as people used to make of it (and some still do). 
It’s how we – and all multicellular life – reproduce, and it also happens to be enjoyable (except, not “happens to” – it is enjoyable specifically in order to get us to do it, because otherwise we wouldn’t). 

Non-reproductive sex is basically like chocolate cake with ice cream, or roller-coasters, or movies.
They are all examples of ways we have learned how to deliberately activate our own pleasure sensors - originally designed with some evolutionary function or other - but we can skip past all that survival of the specie nonsense and use our intellect to make life more pleasant for ourselves.  Sometimes there end up being negative side-effects, but plenty of times there aren’t.  When there aren’t any negative side-effects, there is no good reason why we shouldn’t.

My first two comments on this were both very similar.  They both addressed some commonly held ideas about the real world working conditions of prostitutes - specifically "street walkers" - currently, in the United States.  This is not an essay about what "is".  It is about what "could be" - perhaps even should be.  I believe that the REASON conditions are so bad for those women, and the reason many of them have backgrounds of addiction and/or childhood abuse is BECAUSE of both the illegality and the social stigma.  The same degree of correlation does not exist, for example, in the porn industry, which is a legal version where a person has sex in exchange for money. Some correlation still exists, but then again, the social stigma is there even if the criminality isn't.
However, given that this is what probably many people will be thinking about upon seeing the topic, I should address it early on.

Many people simply accept it as a given that the majority of prostitutes are being exploited by pimps, that they were abused as children, or that they began working as prostitutes as children. 
As is often the case, common knowledge does not fully match up to even current reality in the first place:

"a Miami study found that only 7 percent had pimps"
"studies that compare matched samples of street prostitutes and non-prostitutes [regarding childhood abuse] show mixed results; some find a statistically signific
ant difference in experience of family
abuse, while others find no difference."
"victimization is apparently not nearly as prevalent, even among street prostitutes, as the oppression model asserts."

"An estimated 20 percent of all prostitutes work on the streets in the United States."

"indoor sex workers are less likely to experience violence from customers than those who work on the streets. For example, Church found that few call girls and sauna workers had experienced violence (only 1 percent had ever been beaten, 2 percent raped"
"compared to streetwalkers, indoor workers have lower rates of childhood abuse, enter prostitution at an older age, and have more education. They are less drug dependent...Sexually transmitted diseases are fairly rare among call girls, escorts, and women who work in brothels"
"Research finds that many indoor workers made conscious decisions to enter the trade; they do not see themselves as oppressed victims and do not feel that their work is degrading. Consequently, they
express greater job satisfaction than their street level counterparts. And they may differ little from nonprostitutes: A study by psychologist Sarah Romans and colleagues comparing indoor workers
and an age-matched sample of nonprostitute women found no differences between the two groups in physical health, self-esteem, mental health, or the quality of their social networks."


Update: that link seems to have gone bad.  Try:

(or web search for "prostitution: facts and fictions" by Ronald Weitzer)

Street walking is the most visible form to most people, and the form that critics always point to, but there is absolutely zero reason to assume that it represents anything inherent about prostitution.
  Understand that all through-out this essay, I am referring to prostitution philosophically, removed from the social elements in day to day practice in the United States which are largely a result of both it being illegal, and the social stigmas which are a direct result of the sort of collective beliefs we hold about sexuality that I am addressing in this essay.

Back to the question at hand.  Why is sex a special case, when really all employment involves renting yourself out?  What does it say about our assumptions about sexuality, our own lingering hang-ups and inappropriate moralizing if using ones hands to stimulate another’s back for money is ok, but using ones hands to stimulate another in certain other places is not?  Are we still going to claim that a woman’s sex parts are what make her valuable?  If not, why is it any more or less demeaning for her to use those parts to stimulate her client than it would be to use her hands?  What does it say about our own beliefs about female sexuality if any act of sex is somehow inherently degrading?

Man provides money, woman provides sex.  This describes a large part of the traditional model of home life.  If a live-in prostitute also cooks and cleans, does that somehow make it less scandalous?  How about if a man has sex with his live-in maid? What separates her from a housewife? What if the two feel a genuine affection for each other? At this point the lines get very blurry between a sugar daddy / sugar baby relationship – which is technically legal – and straight prostitution.  (link to playboy article, if available).  What separates this  arrangement from any other childless couple consisting of a breadwinner and a housewife?  One could answer that a wife need not submit on demand, but remember that for most of history, she generally was expected to.

A masseuse makes their client’s body feel good, using their own body.  The only thing differentiating massage from prostitution is sex part contact (though, of course, that is not always a difference.  It seems the two go together quite naturally.  Yet neither always implies the other). But masseuse is just most obvious analogy, how about a chiropractor?  Or any doctor for that matter. How about a model? They are renting out their body as well. Or a construction worker, who is paid to do particular things with their hands all day, which they wouldn’t be doing on their own?  Moreover, any one who does any work with their hands, is renting their body to whoever employs them.  Professional thinkers are not off the hook.  They are being paid to think about some particular topic, no matter what they might prefer to have on their minds.  They are renting out their brains to their employers or clients.  And the brain is an organ of the body, just like every other.  The temporary use of your body is what you get paid for.  If you weren’t using your body in some way that someone else wanted, no one would give you any money.  Unless you are unemployed, you rent out your body.  Most people spend the majority of their waking hours renting out their bodies to someone else.  And while there are a few fringe anarchists who think that is always immoral, most people see no problem with it, so long as it is a voluntary arrangement.

The one exception we have is for children (and perhaps people with the mental capacity of a child).
But in the case of sex, an awful lot of people don’t feel its ok even if the professional prostitute is an adult, and choose that line of work voluntarily.  What does this say about our hidden beliefs about female agency?  Can we assume that no one would ever voluntarily make that choice, therefore they must be a victim?  No other profession carries with it an assumption that the worker must be being forced or manipulated into taking the job.  I would never voluntarily work in a sewage plant, a landfill, a slaughterhouse, a coal mine, or wearing a giant advertising character suit.  Yet I don’t assume that anyone who does those jobs was traumatized in their past, is on drugs, or is being manipulated or threatened by their manager.  I just see that for the right price, different people choose to rent themselves out in different types of employment.  For unskilled or semi-skilled labor, the most unpleasant jobs tend to pay pretty well. 

As was established earlier, due to obvious evolutionary reasons, sex feels pleasurable.  It does for both genders, for the same reason.  On average males tend to have a stronger sex drive than women, but it is none-the-less pleasurable for females – if it wasn’t, they would never agree to it, and the specie would have died out millions of years ago.  Contrary to what much of society has claimed for centuries at least, women even have sexual desire of their own, independent of their partners, and most of them have orgasms at least occasionally.  So, unlike being a sanitation worker or a coal miner, the day to day (or night to night) business of being a prostitute is at least potentially pleasurable, and at the same time, the pay can be competitive with the crappiest of jobs. 

I propose that the real reason for the cultural stigma of prostitution may have actually originated from somewhere quite different – nearly opposite – than the purported reasons of today (protecting women), and it ties in with the housewife analogy I made earlier.

Our species is slightly sexually dimorphic – that is, males and females have slightly different characteristics aside from those which directly affect reproduction.  For example, males have furry faces, females do not. Males also tend to be slightly larger in stature and stronger physically than females.  Whatever the reasons this dimorphism originally evolved, as humans formed ever larger and more complex social groups, we tended to set up arrangements where males used their strength for hunting and protection.  This gave them a social advantage, since they had something to offer that females need - protein - while males were capable of gathering plant food as well if need be (and frequently did, during the long periods of waiting that hunting involves). 
Meanwhile, the long human gestation period and even longer time to parental independence means a female has reason to be much more selective in mates than other species, while for a non-monogamous prehistoric male there is still the same biological incentive towards promiscuity that there is for any creature (of either sex) which doesn’t have to take the time and resources to care for offspring.  This tends to leads to a situation in which the male human’s sex drive is much stronger than the human females – not just in terms of frequency, but, more importantly, in terms of the sensation of urgency.
And there lies the equalizer to the power dynamic caused by our sexual dimorphism.  For females sex is pleasurable, but for males sex is (or at least feels like) a necessity. 

As obsessed as our particular society is with rape, in practical terms, barring the use of weapons, bondage, or drugs (none of which had been invented yet) to force submission, it’s simply challenging to do successfully.  Imagine trying to get a key into a doorknob while someone on the inside keeps turning the handle.  Now imagine instead of just turning the knob, the other person has the knob out of the door, and they are spinning it and waving it all around, and also punching you in the face and kicking you in the crotch at the same time you try to get the key in the keyhole.  The difficulty in practical terms is reflected in how rarely rape is successful by total strangers who don’t use any sort of weapons, drugs, or other means to force submission.

This is reflected by real life statistics.  Depending which study you look at, 70-90% of rape victims knew the attacker personally, and the vast majority of these happen inside the home of one of them.  In these cases there are a myriad of social and psychological factors that affect power dynamics, so in order to determine any inherent gender based power imbalance, we have to focus on only those rapes committed by strangers.
Among all rapes, in 54% the victim was intoxicated, and while many of these coincide with the cases of known assailants, at least one study suggests that women raped by strangers are more likely to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of attack.  Of rapes committed by strangers, 20% brandish or use weapons, and 20% have more than one assailant.  These 3 factors will no doubt have some overlap, but it means somewhere between 60% and 90% of the time there is something other than just physical strength differences involved.  Of what remains, a very significant number of victims do not resist.  This is likely from a mistaken belief (one which has been actively promoted by well meaning but misinformed professionals) that resistance will increase the violence used against them, when in fact "resisting victims are less frequently and less seriously injured after taking some kind of protective action than non-resisting victims"
When a potential victim offers physical resistance before rape has occurred, it is effective 85% of the time.
Another study found violent physical resistance prevents rape up to 86% of the time it is attempted and simply running away is effective up to 85% of the time.
Apply that 85% of the time an attacker is unable to overcome resistance to the up to 90% of the time when physical strength is the only advantage the attacker has, and the reality matches up with the thought experiment - outside of modern social and technological factors, the physical power imbalance between the genders is much smaller than we commonly assume: considering only cases where a single, unarmed male attacker tries to force a fully sober female potential victim to submit, and that female uses any form of physical resistance, he fails up to 98.5% of the time.
So that leaves female choice as the deciding factor in when, or if, a male gets to have the sex which he (feels he) needs.  This balances out the power dynamic, as females have almost total control over something males need; something that they are not realistically able to do without.

Once agriculture is invented, though, women are less dependent on men for sustenance, and the power balance shifts in their favor.  To try to compensate, men formed strict social roles that attempted to keep women dependent, all the way to the fairly recent era of housewives and breadwinners – a female may be just as capable physically and mentally as doing whatever job her husband does, but if she is capable of supporting herself, what incentive does she have to stay with him and continue providing him sex?  (Incidentally, this is perhaps reflected in that, since female employment has become normal and wide-spread, the majority of divorces are initiated by women).

Then, perhaps largely to that end, at some point in our history, cultures all over the world invented marriage. 

This is very good in an important way for females, as it mandates males to stay put and provide time and/or resources necessary to sustain the helpless human offspring they helped to create. 

But it also takes away the one source of power that they had, as (up until about 1979), the deal also mandated that a wife satisfy her husband sexually anytime he wanted.  It allowed females themselves to be commoditized, a possession originally owned by her father, later transferred to her husband in a match the father arranged. 
Most important of all, it was good for social cohesion and society as a whole, and allowed a mechanism by which one group could form alliances with others nearby.

Prostitution bypasses that mechanism.  Societies’ leaders don’t like it, because having authority over sexual acts gives them power over individuals, and because illegitimate children are hard to fit into organized social structures. Illegitimate children confuse issues of inheritance, dowries, and kinship. 
Males don’t like it because it gives females power.  Sex (as opposed to the women themselves) is again commoditized, which means the female can demand a fair market price for it, rather than being forced to provide an unlimited amount.  A prostitute can even turn down a client she isn’t interested in. 
Non-prostitute females don’t like it because their promise of sexual availability to their male partner was supposed to be the trade off for sexual exclusivity from their partners, guarantying the male isn’t tempted to spend resources on offspring produced with some other female (like the prostitute).

Yet, despite all of the various social arrangements prostitution circumvents, it remains a worthwhile transaction for the parties involved.  What can the leaders of society – those creating the fundamental beginnings of culture, that which would continue to affect our collective consciousness for the rest of foreseeable time – do to prevent two consenting individuals from engaging in what they determine to be a mutually beneficial transaction?
Before there was any such thing as law, there was only one thing societies leaders could do.  Invoke a religious based morality, one which needs no justification or explanation, because it is claimed to come directly from the mouth of “god(s)”.  Prostitution, along with all non-procreative sex, gets condemned universally.  In a world with no technology and no law enforcement, where individuals may live any distance from anyone else, and where the majority of families are responsible for their own sustenance, there isn’t much leverage a society’s leader has over the people.  If individuals can be convinced that there is something fundamentally bad about the pleasure of sex, that it is permissible only in the context of an officially sanctioned marriage, then those who control marriage control an important aspect of individuals lives – and of course marriage is universally controlled by religious or government officials, those same entities which have attempted to maintain control over people for as long as people have lived in groups.  Every expression of sexuality outside of it then becomes expressly forbidden – per-marital, adultery (even if its consensual, including the consent and/or participation of the spouses), incest, prostitution, and even masturbation – by way of the false “morality” of religious decree. 

Of course any sane person, told that, for example, enjoying the sunshine on your face on a sunny day, or enjoying a delicious orange, or enjoying music, or laughing with friends was actually immoral and angered “god(s)”, not for any particular reason, but just because (S)He says so, would immediately disregard such utter non-sense, and probably disregard pretty much everything else the priest who made that claim said as well.  It has to go beyond just a decree.  It has to be a universal condemnation of any pleasurable aspect of sexuality which is drilled into every single individual from the moment they learn to speak, if not sooner.  Herein lies the birth of the concept of nudity and its inseparable concepts of indecent exposure, modesty, and shame.  Never allowing any person to see one’s sex parts outside of the family unit creates a subtle anti-sex message to a new human trying to make sense of the world even before they are old enough to speak. 

In a society where women are property, a young girl’s value is inherently tied up with her virginity.  No family wants to arrange a marriage for their son with a girl who is already pregnant with someone else’s child, nor does a man want to spend his resources raising a child that doesn’t have his genes.  But hundreds of thousands of years before modern technology, the only way to be absolutely sure a woman or girl isn’t already pregnant is if she is a virgin.  Therefore, from the point of view of her parents, who have her to trade, her virginity is valuable.  However, from her own point of view, any child she may get pregnant with has her genes, and more immediately relevant, any sex she has is potentially enjoyable to her.  So there is a conflict between her acting in her own interests, and what her parents want her to do.  Much like with the leaders of societies' desire to control all of society by limiting who has sex with who, individual parents have incentive to prevent their daughters from having sex with anyone other than who they designate, and they have the same problem of how to actually enforce that.  The solution is the same: make sure that she feels guilty about her own sexuality from as young an age as possible, and constantly reinforce the idea that her value as a person is intrinsically tied up with who she has sex with.  Make her feel that refraining from sex makes her a virtuous person, and slander the words “slut” and “whore” as the two worst possible insult that can be given to a female.  Tie up her self-esteem with her sexuality (or rather lack-thereof), and reinforce that so persistently that she completely and fully internalizes it.  Eventually everyone is so affected and it gets reinforced by social pressure so thoroughly that many thousands of years later people still assume that if a female chooses to have sex with several different people, she must have a low sense of self-worth, and similarly sex-workers of any kind – not just prostitutes, but also escorts, porn actresses, strippers, and even nude models, are all often just assumed to be victims of abuse, drugs, or desperation.

Even though, in the years between then and now, quite a few totally game-changing events have happened.  Women have regained recognition by males as people.  Women have ceased to be legally property.  Rape is no longer a crime against a woman’s father or husband, as it was in the Bible, but instead a crime against her.  Women have been included in democracy, allowed to vote and hold office. 
Another sea-change in human culture is religion lost its strangle-hold on society.  It still has plenty of adamant followers, and even among non-believers its influence on world-view can be rather dramatic, but it is no longer a serious rival to secular government in making Laws which must be obeyed by all.  That leaves open for questioning all of the “moral” rules handed down by it which have no actual basis in the fundamental ethics of harming or helping sentient beings which real morality is based on, and nearly all of them have indeed been questioned by secular liberals, and occasionally even secular conservatives and religious liberals.  In dramatic contrast to the religious past, homosexuality is widely tolerated, if not accepted outright, gambling is a problem only if it leads to addiction or crime, blasphemy is just a figure of speech, and Family Guy is aired nightly on broadcast television with nothing more than a brief message of parental advisory.
The third gigantic change – one which may actually have had significant affect in helping the other two occur – was the invention of forms of contraception which actually worked.  People have been using methods to try to enjoy the pleasure of sex without the inconvenience of reproduction since before anyone thought up the wheel, but “actually worked” are the key words.  That invention completely dissolved most of the original reasons for centralized authoritarian control over individual sexuality – managing fertility and kinship in order to manipulate social relationships.  The main reason left for anyone to want to control an individual female’s sexuality is the power imbalance caused by sex being a necessity for men but a nicety for women.  Now that she can have sex without the risk of having to raise a child without paternal support, she has substantially more power.  Couple that with women’s substantially increased rights, and women gain control over their own sexuality from both men and from biology; and in doing so gained a huge amount of power over men.  As religion lost strength and contraception became cheaper, easier to access, and more effective, many of the sexual morays which pretended to be morality but were really about controlling fertility and maintaining power structures began to melt away.  While it’s not exactly dinner conversation, it’s pretty much understood that most normal healthy people masturbate at least at some point in their lives.  "Swinging" or open relationships are seen as choices a couple makes.  Premarital sex has become the norm – who in modern society would marry someone they had never had sex with?  Homosexuality, once seen as the gravest of sins, is no longer a capital offense, no longer a mental illness, and in many places, nothing to be ashamed of at all.  All of these things which we take for granted were once considered capital offenses.  Regardless of the consent of all parties involved, the punishment for any sex outside of marriage was death.

But with all these changes, certain things – particularly those with significantly less universal appeal – have kept their status as inherently “immoral” even if they don’t actually hurt anyone.  Incest between two consenting adults is still seen as inherently immoral even by otherwise secular progressives.  There is likely a biological component to this aversion, as there are a lot of regressive genes which lead to various genetic illnesses which are only expressed if a person has the same version from both parents, and statistically speaking the more closely related the parents, the higher the chance of them both having the same problematic recessive gene. However, even siblings only have about 50% of their variable DNA in common (that which can vary and still leave a being human) and all the members of a given population (especially prior to the advent of mechanized long-distance travel) are likely to have very similar genomes.  In other words, incest is not at all a guarantee of offspring with problems, nor is avoiding it a guarantee against them.  By the logic of the recessive gene argument, people should seek partners as foreign to themselves as possible, yet people (especially females) tend to seek partners of their own race (that, or seek out white partners, regardless of their own race).  In any event, the invention of effective contraception renders the entire deformed offspring argument entirely moot.  There is no objective reason for any objection for sex between two consenting adults, who are using contraception, who happen to be siblings.  And yet this persists even in the most progressive of societies as being seen as despicable, and that speaks to just how strongly the affects of past religious based “morality” continues to have indirect influence over current culture, no matter how far removed from it any particular non-believer is.

You can still hear post-sexual-liberation women use the term “slut” and “whore” as an insult against other women.  A “slut” is just a female who chooses to have sex with multiple partners without forming relationships with them first.  A “whore” is a derogatory word for prostitute, or, anyone who receives compensation from a partner for engaging in sex.  Why should these things continue to offend women?  Certainly a part of it is the same lingering religious morays that condemn incest, but there may be another factor as well.  As previously noted, much of the reason for the original subjugation of women may have been men’s attempt at undoing the power unbalance, and with women’s liberation, the power imbalance returned, and with the advent of contraception and abortion, that influence over males could be exercised with no risk of unintended offspring.  But the power shift to the entire gender is only available to any individual to the extent that she controls the only access to sex for a given partner.  Although any given couple is unlikely to make every sexual contact a squid row quo, generally both partners are expected to contribute to the relationship, and sex is frequently seen as a negotiating point in the female's favor since, as since ancient times, no matter how much she may desire and enjoy it, she can do without it, while a male can no more go without then he can without food (which is why there are so many cases of celibate priests in sexual scandals, but it is essentially unheard of among nuns). 
However, if a prostitute comes along, it diminishes that negotiating power, as her partner now has another avenue for that resource, one that comes without the explicit long-term contract of marriage or even the implicit long-term contract of a relationship.  And of course a promiscuous female is even worse, since they don’t require any form of compensation.  Obviously few if any women actually consciously think all this through when looking down on another women for their sexual choices, but I propose it may be a subconscious mechanism that explains why some people who take pre-marital sex for granted and are totally ok with homosexuality still have a distaste for prostitutes and promiscuous women.

All of this history and politics, to try to look into why sex is considered a special case, any different from any other temporary renting out of one's body, why it should have any more or less to do with self-respect than any other form of labor.  The primary reasons are obsolete.  Many of our sexual morays are relics from before birth control existed, and gradually – very gradually – societies in many parts of the world are finally changing to catch up to modern technology.  Things which have been ingrained into our collective psyche for thousands of generations often have a tendency to take on an existence of their own, independent of the original reasons they developed.  But as logical intelligent individuals, we can each think about our own true core values and separate that which we believe from that which everyone around us has always told us to believe.  If we accept that there is absolutely nothing dirty or sinful about enjoying sex in any form so long as it is by the consent of everyone involved, then all of the old “goes-without-saying” type of morays should be questioned.  Not just the ones we personally would like to violate, but also the ones we have no interest in.  There is no such thing as a perversion.  There is just differing tastes. 
And once you have removed the “non-reproductive-sex is evil” non-sense from the equation, all that is left is prostitution is a job.  A job in which you temporarily rent your body to someone, and do something you wouldn’t otherwise be doing in that particular moment.  Just like every other job that exists or could possibly exist.  If you are employed, in any fashion, if you get compensated by anyone for doing or thinking anything, that makes you, essentially, a whore.  And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.


  1. Hmmm... let's talk about this sometime. I agree with the concept of de-stigmatizing prostitutes and carefully examining our prejudices. However, I think your analysis is over-simplified and often based on questionable assumptions.

    For one thing, power (including power between the sexes) is not based purely on sex and its availability. I also vehemently disagree with the notion that women can generally not be raped w/o a weapon, etc. You are failing to acknowledge the difference in physical strength between most men and most women; rapists frequently use their body as a weapon and overpower a woman and force her despite her efforts to stop them (even the women with the psychological where-with-all to fight, and many women were raised to not fight even to defend themself &/or just feel too powerless and scared to fight back.)

    I think you have done a lot of thinking about this, but not much research/reading on the topic. People don't say most prostitutes were abused as children just out of prejudice; they say it because research has found that to be so. Not all prostitutes, but most street-walkers, and absolutely most teen prostitutes. For all your conjecture about people's motives, (and your math-like assignment of simple logic to human motivation, emotion, and behavior), the reality is that most women with a healthy self-esteem have some self-protective boundaries that make women reluctant to share (emotional or physical) intimacy indiscriminately (or to whoever will pay). But if you are raised to believe that your sex is the only thing of value that you have to offer, and your natural boundaries have been broken and distorted by being sexually abused as a child, and/or you desperately need money to survive after being kicked out of your home (or run away from the abuse) at a young age when no one can or will hire you for any other work, &/or you are using drugs to dampen the anguish you feel and need the $ for the drugs..... these things I am describing are how most teen girls end up as prostitutes. It is not the idyllic "choice" your logic would have us believe.

    Again, some of your arguments and conjectures about the origins of marriage &/or how our society became so sex-phobic (the 3 Abrahamic religions--Judaism, Christianity & Islam-- definitely had a lot to do with that ) are valid. But the realities of power imbalances among the sexes (men still have more access to more $-making work & more powerful positions in politics, business and other realms of power, and often have more financial power in relationships as well) and the actual realities of what most prostitute's lives are like in most of the US & the world of today, are much different than what you suggest.

    I do believe that the lives of prostitutes would be better if prostitution was decriminalized, and that they are better off in legal and protected brothels run by madams such as in Nevada, rather than with pimps in the streets of most major cities. Also, that high-class call-girls (whether they have a pimp or madam or manage their own business themselves) also have a much easier life than those on the street. But the ones on the street are the 99%, and it is a very hard and painful life; those who don't start out on drugs, usually end up on drugs to dull the pain.

    Your description of a woman's relationship to her own body and to sexuality is over-simplified. Yes, we've all been brainwashed to have some aversion to sex for pleasure or nudity or any incest ever etc. But that is not the only factor at work in these dynamics as I have tried to explain above.

    Open to discussing this more whenever.


    1. How would we determine if the reason the only people who were abused end up doing that work is directly because of something inherent to human sexuality, as oppose to the correlation existing BECAUSE of societies view towards woman and sex. I am not disputing that a correlation exists between abuse and drugs and desperation and prostitution. I am suggesting that at least a large part of that correlation is a result of it being illegal. The same degree of correlation does not exist, for example, in the porn industry, which is a legal version where a person has sex in exchange for money. Some correlation still exists, but then again, the social stigma is there even if the criminality isn't.

      I don't see why this should automatically be applied to street walkers specifically, or to teens. Again, if it were legal, then the amount of the industry that existed as brothels would increase dramatically, and street walking would go down proportionately. As far as the law and many people's moralizing go, the self-managed "high class" call girl is indistinguishable from the street walker. If she hasn't necessarily been abused and isn't necessarily on drugs, then it isn't the profession itself that stems from or leads to those things, its the criminalization itself.

      "...self-protective boundaries that make women reluctant to share (emotional or physical) intimacy indiscriminately" I question if that may not be just a different manifestation of the idea "that your sex is the only thing of value" - only in one case its a value (sexual purity) to be kept safe, while in the other it may be cased in on. It's like if a person has a family heirloom, most would want to keep it forever, for the emotional value. Some - mostly those who are desperate - will sell it for the cash.
      But my question is, why are women taught that sexual purity is a family heirloom to begin with? Why is it that a woman who is promiscuous (not indiscriminately, and not for money) is also assumed to have low self esteem (yet the same assumption is not made about a promiscuous man)? I propose that they are all manifestations of the same societal beliefs that a woman's sexual purity is her greatest asset. In some cultures this is overt. In ours we still believe it, but it comes out more inirectly

    2. I agree with some of what you say and disagree with others. I certainly agree that society has a double standard concerning how it judges promiscuous women vs promiscuous men. I also agree that all of the "moralistic" judgements against people engaged in the sex industry are unfair and destructive. And I am open to the concept that in a different cultural environment, people (both female and male) might trade sexual "favors" without feeling demeaned or having such a choice result from childhood sexual abuse. But the reality of the society that we DO live in, is that the way that prostitution manifests in OUR world, most prostitutes DO make that "lifestyle" "choice" as a result of abuse &/or desperation.
      Why teens even more than those who start later as adults? Because teens are much more vulnerable and not fully independent and emotionally developed. They are truly between childhood and adulthood in this regard, and are very influenced by the limited experiences they have had in making the choices they do. Generally, most teens will stay in their parents homes and not choose "work" that alienates not only their parents but most of their peers as well, and is seen as demeaning by almost everyone they have contact with, unless they have been conditioned to see sex as their only bargaining chip, and/or they are desperate for money (due to either drug addiction or the absence of adult support outside of a pimp.)

      Let me clarify something else I wrote... I am not saying that a higher % of streetwalkers were abused as children compared to call-girls. But there are many more street-walkers than call-girls, so I would assume that research done on prostitutes (and the correlation with sexual abuse) had a much higher number of streetwalkers in the samples, and thus I can't be sure that the same conclusions generalize to call-girls/"escorts" as well. Also, the only women I have heard defending their lifestyle as a freely chosen choice that they remained happy about were call-girls, not street-walkers. Since streetwalkers have a much harder life with less pay, they do seem much less likely to make such a "choice" without abuse or desperation in the background. But chances are, call-girls have a similar % background of sexual abuse to street-walkers; I just don't know.

      I also contest your apparent belief that prostitution is exactly like promiscuity but with pay, and that the being a prostitute is a way to enjoy the pleasure of sex and be paid for it at the same time. Just as a therapist-client relationship does not reflect the kind of mutuality that exists in a friendship between peers, sex between a prostitute and a client is not the same give-&-take as in other sexual relationships between consenting adults who are both interested in mutual pleasure. When a therapist meets with a client, the focus is completely on the problems and needs of the client, not of the therapist. Likewise, a prostitute serves the desires of the client, not her (or his) own. Prostitutes work for money, not for their own orgasms; the focus is on pleasing the client. Whereas a promiscuous woman (or man) presumably is seeking sexual pleasure for themselves. What they have in common is society's negative judgment, though these days in the US, prostitutes are judged more harshly than promiscuous women, (while, of course, promiscuous men are glamorized in many circles).

      (continued in next comment/reply)

  2. As to differences between the sexes regarding any "natural tendency" to refrain from indiscriminate sharing of sexual intimacy in the absence of coercion or a history of abuse..... you already acknowledged that there are some (general) differences between men and women which are at least partly rooted in biology. The male wants to distribute his genes as far and wide as he can. The female is much more choosy, as she will be stuck with a 9 month gestation, during which she and the offspring feel increasingly attached so that after the birth she feels an emotional and biological imperative to protect, nourish and raise the child until it can fend for itself. The bio/emotional pull for women to stick around and raise their children under whatever circumstances is much stronger for women than for men. Obviously, the woman's genes will pass to the child no matter who impregnates her. So women have as much incentive to be selective as men have to be promiscuous. The fact that effective birth control frees women to have much more sex for pleasure alone, does not drive most women to have to have sex with many more men. Again, the bio-push to spread seed everywhere exists for men only. And given the reality of how so many men behave, there is all the reason in the world for women to feel a need to be self-protective and want to share intimacy mostly just with people they trust. Furthermore, the experience of sexual intercourse itself is different for women than for men. Opening yourself to allow someone to enter you is a different experience than that of putting your sex organ into another person's opening. If you ever try being the receiving partner in anal sex, you may find that you feel more vulnerable in that position than in the position of the enterer. In any case, many reasons, including biological and cultural/environmental, contribute to differences between men and women in both the experience of sex and the motivation to limit or expand the number of sexual partners.

    Again, we totally agree that people in the sex industry should not be looked down on and burdened with all sorts of negative judgments; nor should promiscuous women be disrespected as they are. We also agree that much of the negative judgment comes from centuries of sex-phobic culture. Where we disagree is concerning the reality of what life is like for prostitutes in our society, and what influences people to enter "the life" (that life) in the world in which we live. As to your conjecture as to what choices people would make if we did not live in such a sex-negative world.... any argument here is academic, as one can not research and really know how people would behave in conditions that do not currently exist.


    1. Because of your last comment here, and another I got on Facebook, I added a section to the original post, which addresses a lot of this comment.
      It is above, the 5th paragraph, after the word "EDIT", and then 6 short paragraphs until the words "Back to the question at hand."

      -I was never intending to write about 21st century United States specifically, not about street walkers specifically, and most definitely not about teens. I was writing generally, and theoretically.
      -"there are many more street-walkers than call-girls" this is false. They are just the most visible.
      -"most prostitutes DO make that "lifestyle" "choice" as a result of abuse" some studies show some correlation between childhood abuse and becoming a prostitute, others show none. No study shows the overwhelming correlation that most lay people assume.
      -"your apparent belief that prostitution is exactly like promiscuity but with pay" I never said that, I was simply using it as an analogy. Many people in our culture assume that promiscuous women must have low self-esteem, because they are starting out with the axiom that female sexual purity is of the utmost value. The belief that prostitutes must have low-self-esteem as evidenced by the very fact that they are prostitutes is another version of the same idea. This has nothing to do with whether its work, as opposed to paid fun.

      I acknowledge the biological component, and that something instinctive would not be expected to be overcome as fast as technology advances, however that is no reason that culture should be enforcing and amplifying obsolete instincts, rather than helping individual to move past them. For example, violence is perfectly natural, but we choose as a society to encourage individuals to repress it, with the effect of a better life for everyone.

    2. The need to be protective of oneself in a world full of men (not all men, but a high percentage) who are at best, untrustworthy, and at worst, violent, does not disappear just because one has less fear of pregnancy. Furthermore, other than the pill (which can be a health hazard) and abstinence, no birth control is 100% reliable. So for both reasons, I disagree that the self-protective "instincts" of women are obsolete.

      The reason I thought that you thought that 'prostitution is exactly like promiscuity but with pay' is because early in your essay one of your arguments to show how logical a career-choice it is, is that one gets paid for doing something enjoyable. That is what I was referring to when I wrote how the prostitute serves the desires of the client, not her own.

      Perhaps you are right that there are as many or more call girls as street-walkers; perhaps I am not up-to-date about that.

      As to when & where you are writing about, there is nothing in your essay that explains that all your writing is purely theoretical and without context. Any time you write about something that has a reality in this life, readers will naturally assume you are writing about that reality as it actually exists. If you are writing about what prostitution MIGHT mean in a world without any sexism or sexual abuse or rape or violence, then you could avoid a lot of misunderstanding by making that clear from the outset. But your writing implied that anyone who has anything negative to say about prostitution is either sexist &/or sex-phobic, with no apparent recognition of how much suffering is involved in the world of prostitution here in this real world that we all live in.

    3. Most of the first sentence is addressed in the next post. "Protect" generally means "preventing harm". Only if we assume that sexual purity is an inherent good does it make sense to protect ones self from voluntary sex. There is no gender bias in honesty or loyalty, and the effects of untrustworthyness are not limited to sexuality. The need to protect ones self from others who may take advantage of us is universal. In any job that one interacts with the public, esp. alone, there is some risk. The belief that a disproportionate amount of violence happens to women is not only false, its the polar opposite of reality.
      And incidentally, hormonal birth control is not 100% effective...

      Any job where a person gets paid to do something they might enjoy in normal life is still a job. Nothing makes a fun activity less fun faster than having to do it, even when you don't feel like it, 40 hours a week.

      As I said in my last comment reply, above, I already went back and added a section to the original that explicitly explains that the writing is theoretical, as well as pointing out that research does not confirm the popular cultural beliefs. I'm not writing about what it might be like in a world without violence, I'm writing about what it would be like in a world without stigma.


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