The Providence Journal, my local newspaper, has an article in it about a push for new laws against human trafficking, particularly the sex trade. There are so many things wrong with it, it's hard to know where to start.
First off, there is a huge difference between prostitution and human trafficking. The former is the simple sale of sex for money. The latter usually involves lies, kidnapping, and some form of slavery. Nasty business. But, again, there is a big difference, and this article blurs that difference, which is one of the fundamental problems with this legislation and any of its ilk. Sex slavery and prostitution are entirely different things. That they both involve sex is like saying that farming is the same thing as a southern plantation.
One of the subjects of the article, Tiny Frundt, has suffered through one hell of a life. She was sold for sex by her foster-mother's boyfriend. Ran away, met a guy who promptly did the same thing, but this time when she refused he and some friends just raped her. Again. I feel for her. In fact, the very concept of rape is so repulsive to me that I'm unable to watch movies depicting it, or read books describing it. But her problem had nothing to do with prostitution. Her problem was other people.
It's wrong to say that rape, violence, and general scumbaggery irrevocably goes hand-in-hand with prostitution. It doesn't even make sense. Prostitution has existed since the beginning of time, and we have well documented evidence of the high-society of which many brothels were a part. Yes, some brothels invariably were scummy, but that's like saying that some restaurants are scummy, so they're fundamentally disgusting and should be outlawed.
And to this day, there are legitimate, violence-free sex clubs, big ones, in France, and Nevada, which has regulated brothels of high-repute. I'm not denying that there are tons of shitty places, but why we have them when they needn't be there in such high numbers is a question this article doesn't even pose.
What about the full legalization of prostitution? The only argument I hear in response to this is that prostitution is by its nature degrading to women, and cannot be separated from slavery. I have never heard an adequate explanation as to why this is the case.
First off, why is it fundamentally degrading? Why would a woman willingly selling her body for sex be degrading, whereas a woman selling her body to give a massage, or clean a house, or cut hair, is not degrading? I think there is an assumption hidden between the lines, and that assumption is not at all feminist. In fact, it is an assumption that feminists have been trying to get rid of for about one hundred and fifty years. These women are assuming that female sexuality is something fundamentally precious, as opposed to a mere aspect of life in line with eating, sleeping, and pooping.
Why do I say female sexuality is fundamentally precious? Because you never hear these anti-prostitution advocates argue against male prostitution. There's lots of it. You never hear them say it's degrading for men to sleep with women for money, or men to sleep with men. Politicians don't talk about. Men certainly don't. Because as with old religious ideas, and old American beliefs, male sexuality is not precious. It should not be guarded. It should be blown to the wind. Fuck everyone that you can. The more you do it, the better a man you are. Women are sluts.
Anti-prostitution advocates are assuming a double standard.
Prostitution is not degrading. It's a job. Like many people, some women may not like their job, but it earns money. I mentioned the farming example above and it applies perfectly. Many farm hands hate their jobs. It's hard, back-breaking labor for low pay. It ages you quickly and is not a job many people would want. But it's not slavery. Few people would even say it's degrading. It's just a job. I worked at a grocery store when I was younger. It was degrading. I had to suck up to crazy old people who wanted me to put everything in a separate bag. But it wasn't degrading. It was just a job. That assumption that sex is somehow precious is the key point of the prostitution-is-degrading argument.
Second, why is prostitution fundamentally slavery? In Rhode Island, prostitution is legal behind closed doors. All you have to do to see the vast number of independent prostitutes, offering everything from domination to erotic asphyxiation, is look at the local newspaper, The Providence Phoenix. It has an adult sexti... Freudian typo, SECtion, in the middle of the paper. There are many brothels listed, but an equal if not greater collection of single ads. These women are not slaves. They're doing it for the money, by themselves.
Women have the right to have sex with whoever, whenever, and for whatever reason they choose. If they want to do it for money, that's their choice. Sex is something that automatically attracts scummy people, as such, there should be less regulation, but more support and an immediate legislation attempting to extinguish those very same ideas that that anti-prostitution advocates assume. Women who have sex for money are people working a job who should receive equal rights under the law. They deserve Police help, not condemnation, and they deserve social recognition and acceptance.
That, right there, is the real problem. Illegalization automatically makes a black market where scumbags can thrive. Abused prostitutes cannot run for help, or go to the police. They are trapped in an underground world of society's making. The prostitution is not the problem, it's the abuse, because prostitution is not itself abuse. It is society's job to best eliminate the abuse and give women the freedom to work in prostitution with the protection of law. Even Rhode Island, where's it's legal, there is stigma. Not surprisingly, the brothels here have many young women working in them who were, for lack of a better word, tricked into the job and now have no choice. While I could make an argument that our ridiculous immigration laws make this worse, the fact that, even here, prostitution is grey-market is the main problem. Expose the world to light and just watch the scum melt away.
I won't say otherwise. Prostitution as it is today, sucks. This rather heartbreaking short video documents the lives of some prostitutes in Britain. But while watching it, remember, it's not the prostitution that's the problem, it's the drugs, addiction, and bad life decisions.
Penn & Teller did a good episode on prostitution which I have embedded. It's a bit outdated, they mention how only one state allows same-sex marriage, but otherwise timely.
I have included a link to a debate about prostitution where the majority of people presents were against prostitution after the end of the debate. I'd argue it's because the pro-prostitution crowd was terrible at debate.
Let's go through some of the arguements against prostitution.
Wendy Shalit: "I would submit to you
that paying for sex is at least as wrong as building an ugly highrise... Why, because we’re using— we’re talking about using a human being as a means to your ends. Today people want to believe that paying for sex is just like paying for a hamburger. But a sexual transaction is different, because it teaches on the deepest, most personal aspects of ourselves. The proof that sex is different, in my opinion, is our response to the terrible crime of rape. If paying for sex were as morally neutral as paying for a hamburger, well then, rape is akin to just forcing someone to eat a hamburger. Right?"
She says wrong, and rightfully so. But think about that. Imagine someone holding you down, forcing a hamburger down your throat. Maybe using a broom handle to get it all the way down there. She presents it as an absurd idea, but doesn't go all the way. Yeah, frankly. Imagining someone forcing a hamburger down my throat sounds pretty bad. So, it's not all that absurd.
"For example today we place a lot of value on hotness in women, have you noticed this?"
LIke many politcal commentators, she is now-biased. Women are based on hotness now? Where the hell was she in history class. There was a time when women had NOTHING but youth and looks. No rights, no freedoms, no money, and no job opportunities. She also misses the boat on male-oriented problems. If she thinks dolls give unreasonable expectations of girls, she hasn't looked at action figures recently. They're HUGE. Jacked beyond description. Just look at the Batman to the left. He's enormous! No wonder Batman wants to fight crime. He just wants to fight, period. Might as well just change his name to 'Roid Rage.
"To those who are against trafficking, but they insist that some women have nothing else to sell but their bodies, I say that they suffer from a real lack of imagination."
No, the WOMEN lack imagination. I don't. I can think of plenty of things that the girls could do other than prostitution, but that's not my job.
"About the power of the human spirit and about the strength of women in particular and if you keep up with the Harvard Business Review, you may have noticed, that they’re now talking about micro-loans to poor women and only lending them, only having these loans to poor women. Right?"
This is absurd. This discussion has nothing to do with the power of the human spirit. This is about economics, not judgement. If the woman wants that loan, she can try for it, if she doesn't, she can continue being a prostitute. Moreover, nothing against the human spirit, but if you're a street-walker, you aren't thinking about micro-loans.
"So…we have to believe in the women first, it takes a risk to give them that loan.
If instead we demand their bodies instead of appealing to their intelligence, it’s this philosophy of this is all she can do, and the not too subtle misogyny behind it, that feeds the demand and expectations that cause the problem."
We DO believe in women. It's hard not to. They make up 60% of college students, they own businesses and stock portfolios. I'm not talking about women/people, I'm talking ONE woman. In the same way that men and women alike, for whatever reason, can only ever hope for a career in burger flipping, some women honestly have their body as their most valuable asset. They don't NEED to do it. They could work another job just as easily, that whole human spirit thing and all, but they can probably earn a lot more as a prostitute, and that's their choice and theirs alone.
And why do I get the feeling that Wendy is a man-hater. Demand their bodies? Does she frequent seedy bars? No one is demanding their bodies. There's a big difference between demand and economic demand. And importantly, no one is saying that this is all women can do. The argument she's trying to get to is that this is all a woman can do, and that's possible. In the same way we could say that a janitor is all some stupid guy can do, there is no misogyny in saying that the most valuable thing a woman could do is prostitution.
Melissa Farley: "These pimp-messaged slogans are good for business but there’s
not much truth to them."
Again, an assumption that it's a pimp writing the message. As the Penn & Teller episode shows, many women are independent entities.
"What’s wrong with prostitution, and what’s wrong with buying sex, are the same things that are wrong with other forms of violence against women, incest, rape, and battery."
Prostitution is not violence. It can be if they pay for it, but it's not. No way. No how. Violence is violence, prostitution is prostitution. They are entirely distinct concepts.
"A woman in Lusaka, who knew that five blow jobs would get her a sack of mealy meal to feed her kids. That’s not a choice."
First, yes it is. She could try some other way to get money for food, but, right, she's in fucking Zambia. No one there has a choice about anything. It's a toilet. It's a terrible example. She's likely happy she has something, anything of value. But it's still a choice. I could be hungry and have a valuable heirloom and choose to sell it for money, never to get it back. But it was still a choice.
"Or the young woman sold by her parents in a brothel in Nevada."
The only significant example she brings up and says nothing else about it.
"The Emperors Club, where [Elliot] Spitzer bought her, was run by pimps who charged a lot because they said it was high-class call girls. But it was the same as any other pimps, they took their 50 percent off the top. Like a majority of johns, Spitzer most likely enticed, coerced or persuaded her with money to put her life on the line by not using a condom. That’s not a freely made choice."
Yes it is! She could simply not accept the money. Coerced with money? You mean, made an offer? And he didn't buy her, he bought her services. Earlier in the debate, Ms. Farley said "Some words hide the truth." She's doing that right now.
"A woman at a legal brothel in Nevada said, it’s like you sign a contract to be raped."
Again, one of the most significant things she says and she then goes on to say nothing more about it. Who is this woman? What's her story? If she was raped, why didn't she go to the police? If she didn't like it, why continue?
"Women in prostitution are seen as body parts or fake girlfriends and their feelings don’t matter, and they’re not seen as human which is perhaps why they’re murdered at a higher rate than any other group of women ever studied."
Really? I've seen interviews with men who have a nasty habit of falling in love with the prostitutes they use. Oh yeah. They don't see them as human. Too bad she's making the exact same mistake and not seeing the men has human, either. OH, and the murder statistic, maybe is has to do with the fact that most of them work in undergound black markets where everyone gets murdered in large numbers.
"What’s wrong with sex is what johns themselves tell us about it. For example, if you look at it, it’s paid rape. She has to do what you want."
Gah! No it's not! No they don't! It's a transaction on agreed terms, that's prostitution.
"When women are turned into objects that men masturbate into, it causes immense
psychological harm to the person acting as a receptacle. Please don’t be fooled by people who tell buying sex is just another job. It’s wrong to set aside a special class of women, those who are the most vulnerable among us, for men’s sexual use. What’s wrong with paying for sex is it’s the business of sexual exploitation."
First off, men aren't masturbating into a woman, they're having sex with her. They want HER. They want the other person. And we're not fooling anyone, we're making an argument that just happens to make a lot of sense. Moreoever, we're not setting aside anyone. It's not like society is like "Ok, all you women over here, yooouuuuu will be the whores." And yes, it is the business of sexual exploitation. Just as McDonalds is the exploitation of hunger, and La-z-Boy is the exploitation of lazy people. As long as it's the woman doing the exploiting of her own body, there is no problem. That should not, and cannot, be eliminated.
Catherine MacKinnon: "In prostitution, women have sex with men they would never otherwise have sex with. The money thus acts as a form of force, not as a measure of consent. It acts as physical force does in rape."
What the hell is it with them and this argument? The money is a form of MONEY, or more accurately a motivator. It's not some tractor beam that pulls the woman in against her will. That's like saying that a hot woman who dates a fat slob because he's a millionaire is being forced into it. It couldn't be farther from the truth. Was Anna Nicole Smith forced into her relationship with J. Howard Marshall?
"We're not here, actually, to discuss the proposition “it’s wrong to be paid for sex.” We are here to discuss the proposition, “it is wrong to pay for sex.” I’ve just been talking about what’s wrong with it for her. What’s wrong with it for him is, he’s using her, he’s exploiting her, he’s exploiting his inequality to her, which is usually a desperate economic inequality. In order to have access to her person in a form of bodily invasion, while he gets off on the illusion that he has chosen this freely, when he is taking more than can ever be paid for."
Everything is wrong with this statement. Why is using her wrong for him? Does that make we wrong for paying a maid to clean my house? That applies to her successive points of inequality. And it has nothing to do with bodily invasion. Again, they use these nasty, hard words like invasion. No, invasion is rape. Whereby someone is made to have sex against their will. Not against their liking or enjoying, their will. And the whole "taking more than can ever be paid for" statement again drives home the ridiculous belief that female sexuality is somehow precious and needs to be protected. He has taken NOTHING. Virginity is not a thing! It's a social construct created by a male-dominated society obsessed with such things. You are the same person after as before sex. Nothing has been diminished or taken.
"And you de-criminalize the sold. You couple this with real education, real employment opportunities, real jobs, real money. Women are entitled to real equality and real choices."
They have that. Well, to a degree. Sexism is still pretty bad, but they DO have everything she listed. Some people are underpriviledged and we could say that we need to spend more money on education for poor people, social programs for people, and jobs for people. The focus on women against society greatly diminishes Ms. MacKinnon's position.
And you know what? Even with all of that, we WILL STILL HAVE PROSTITUTION. You know why? Because the service is valuable to people. If anything, all of these services combined with legal prostitution would be great for the prostitutes because there would likely be fewer of them competing for the same number of clients, thus driving up prices.
"And you know, prostitution is what women do when all else fails, and all else fails often. And there are a lot of things that men do, in general, when all else fails, and prostitution is not that thing. And that means this is an institution of sex inequality."
Man-hating, again! First, it is not always the last resort, sometimes it's the first or second, or fifth. And she obviously does not live in a gay-friendly town. Providence is FULL of male prostitutes, some of which undoubtedly started as a last resort. So that means this is NOT an institution of sex inequality. It's an institution of horny men willing to pay for sex, with more straight men in the population than gay. Duh.
Melissa Farley: "I would like to quote, to respond to what Sydney said, and quote
from her book, which is, she said, “A call girl is simply a woman who hates poverty more than she hates sin.” I would use the word prostitution and not sin, so I would say a call girl is simply a woman who hates poverty more than she hates prostitution. I think that’s the whole point we’re making here, that shouldn't be
the choice. If we’re seeking an end to inequality between men and women, if we’re seeking an end to violence against men and women, women should not have to make the choice between poverty and education, paying the next month’s rent, and prostitution."
Yes, and a shitty job at a burger joint with an asshole boss is worked by someone who hates poverty more than the job. Oh wait, right, that argument applies to ALL jobs. Why is prostitution fundamentally terrible? Why is it so much more terrible than working any crap job just to afford rent? And when she says "that shouldn't be the choice," she used that magical word "should." Sorry, girl, but "is" is the only word that matters. By focusing on women you miss that economic inequality is among both sexes, all across the world. Should it be otherwise? I don't know, I just know that it isn't, and it would likely be better if the inequality wasn't there. She's basically saying we shouldn't have poor people. But too bad, it's there. The world sucks and it has always sucked for many people. Outlawing prostitution will not change it, it will only make it worse.
Ok, I've said enough. I've made my point fully. The full transcript is available at the link and I encourage a read. It would only take a few hours to full digest. But in closing, my complete point is that there is nothing wrong with paying for sex. It is an economic transaction. To say it is wrong applies a judgment that goes dangerously close to morals, which as we all know are completely subjective and worthless in substantive arguments.
Moreoever, history has shown us that no regulation, even the threat of death, has ever stopped prostitution. It cannot be stopped. It will not be stopped. And to say it's wrong is to say that human nature is wrong. Such a judgement call make assumptions about the prostitutes, the clients, and all of their motivations, hopes, dreams, desires, and lives.
True equality for women will only come when they are allowed to do whatever they damn well please without judgment, stigma, or penalty. And that is not what these advocates are doing. They are doing damage to women and their rights and, whether they know it or not, supporting the very same male-dominated society they claim to hate. I have only one bit of advice for you, shut up.
I close with a video about sex in Japan, showing how Western ideals color these women's perceptions of sex and relationships. Strange, the prostitutes there seem to be doing just fine.
Hundreds rally to end sex trafficking in R.I. (Projo.com)
X RATED: DC's Underground Sex Industry (Washingtonian.com)
It's wrong to pay for sex (Intelligence Squared)