Re: Sanctimonious Moralizing About The Sex Industry; Or, Noting That I'm Still Not A Libertarian

1

This seems to depend pretty critically on what is and isn't an "ill effect"; otherwise, it indicts a lot of work for hire. Cleaning bathrooms is the first thing that comes to mind as also having physical disgust as an inherent part of the work (as opposed to being a result of particularly poor working conditions, which we could fix in other ways).


Posted by: Nathan Williams | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 11:15 AM
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indifference to the ill effects is enough to render a desire wrongful.

Agreed. And 1 is a very trite and obnoxious argument (though I've probably made it myself in devils-advocate mode). Cleaning bathrooms is not generally done with one's vagina.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 11:18 AM
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I'm sorry, I'm trying to avoid being obnoxious. LB's argument is phrased in a very general way, but depends on sex work being almost uniquely injuring. I'm not claiming it's uninjuring, at all, but that other, fairly accepted, things might be close enough to it that this argument applies to them as well.


Posted by: Nathan Williams | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 11:21 AM
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I'd say that the indifference to the well-being of the the person who you're taking pleasure from is the difference; that was the point of the boxing analogy. Having a clean bathroom isn't purely recreational, and a decent person is concerned with the welfare of the person cleaning the bathroom.

And the two professions aren't really comparable. Most people reading this have cleaned bathrooms, and while it wasn't pleasurable, it wasn't a memorably awful experience. I'd surmise that for those people reading this who have had actively undesired sex, it was a memorably lousy experience.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 11:23 AM
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That was my thought as well. Even some highly compensated individuals are "doing it for the money", as opposed for love, or whatever. But I also think that there is more to it than the sex. If it were truly just about the sex, there are both men and women who are less discriminating in their tastes who would be willing to satisty those needs. They are but a mouse click away.


Posted by: Tassled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 11:23 AM
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3: I know, but really, that argument gets made all the time, and it truly isn't a comparable thing. Cleaning a bathroom is something you can and usually do do alone. And performing personal services is usually not done in the nude. I think if you can imagine doing any job in the nude, with another person not only present but touching you, you can begin to see why prostitution is somewhat unique.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 11:26 AM
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I'm not claiming it's uninjuring, at all, but that other, fairly accepted, things might be close enough to it that this argument applies to them as well.

This just seems false as a matter of (possibly contingent cultural) fact to me. It's an awful lot easier to find someone who will take a job cleaning toilets than someone who will hook; doesn't that suggest a big difference in the perceived unpleasantness of the two jobs?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 11:33 AM
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It's an awful lot easier to find someone who will take a job cleaning toilets than someone who will hook; doesn't that suggest a big difference in the perceived unpleasantness of the two jobs?

That there are fewer people taking sex work might mean there are fewer who don't perceive it as an injury.

Mostly, though, I look at the fucked-up-ness of the life of "Kristen" and think that's the evidence that you're right about injury.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 11:42 AM
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This article points out how horrible actual existing prostitution is:

Yet the evidence is overwhelming that, in the United States, prostitution is only very rarely just another career choice. Studies suggest that up to two-thirds of prostitutes have been sexually abused as girls, a majority have drug dependencies or mental illnesses, one-third have been threatened with death by pimps, and almost half have attempted suicide.
Melissa Farley, a psychologist who has written extensively about the subject, says that girls typically become prostitutes at age 13 or 14. She conducted a study finding that 89 percent of prostitutes urgently wanted to escape the work, and that two-thirds have post-traumatic stress disorder -- not a problem for even the most frustrated burger-flipper.
The mortality data for prostitutes is staggering. The American Journal of Epidemiology published a meticulous study finding that the "workplace homicide rate for prostitutes" is 51 times that of the next most dangerous occupation for women, working in a liquor store. The average age of death of the prostitutes in the study was 34.



Posted by: lemmy caution | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 11:43 AM
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I think Amanda Marcotte has it right in the comments to Ezra: the Sad, Unfuckable John who just needs the $10,000 prostitute because otherwise he can't get laid is a myth.

Beyond that, I feel like the libertarian argument just misses the point completely. Perhaps it is a mere contingent fact that sex is treated as something unique in our culture, but honestly imagine, not just toy problem or bad fantasy novel imagine, but actually imagine one where sex is treated just the same as something like cooking dinner, could be intimate, could not, could just order takeout, and nothing more to be said about it, and you'll find it very bizarre.

(Still think it's a free-love fantasy? It's a world where date rape will be no different than any old instance of simple assault. Weird place.)

This isn't to suggest such a world couldn't exist. It's just so bizarre that it suggests that if we try to treat prostitution as a mere transaction, we're so far afield that we're really not in a place where we can trust our intuitions at all.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 11:44 AM
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Hm. I think I will back down from my argument. Something still feels wrong to me about the post, but clearly I'm going to have to think harder about what.


Posted by: Nathan Williams | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 11:47 AM
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Where I'd locate the weak point is (I made the argument, so I don't think it's a point where the argument fails -- this is just where I'd start picking if I disagreed with the post) the claimed rarity of people for whom prostitution genuinely isn't that bad, and the culpable self-deception of the customer who believes they're dealing with such a prostitute. If the capacity to cope with having undesired sex without having it be injuriously unpleasant for them isn't that insanely rare, then a customer doesn't have to be a moron to believe that they're transacting with such a prostitute.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 11:57 AM
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. Perhaps it is a mere contingent fact that sex is treated as something unique in our culture, but honestly imagine, not just toy problem or bad fantasy novel imagine, but actually imagine one where sex is treated just the same as something like cooking dinner, could be intimate, could not, could just order takeout, and nothing more to be said about it, and you'll find it very bizarre.

The problem is that you need some sort of reason to doubt/overcome self-reporting, which I assume is what we would otherwise be using. (I'm fairly prudish, for example, so there are probably lots of sexual practices where my available responses amount to (a) they're fucked up pretty badly, as sexual practice X shows, or (b) I don't really know all that much, and should just trust the other person when they say it's OK and fun for them.) Lemmy caution, in #9, gives me the sort of reason I need to doubt the (assumed) self-reporting.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 12:01 PM
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Nothing substantive to add, but I wanted to say that I think this (the post) articulates the argument exceptionally well. I guess that's why you [used to?] make the big bucks, LB!


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 12:01 PM
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If the capacity to cope with having undesired sex without having it be injuriously unpleasant for them isn't that insanely rare

This is the part I'd lean on. At least from my reading, sexual pleasure within marriage has been until comparatively recently seen as a blessing, not the average lot. And yet women were religiously and legally compelled to submit. I'm not really sure how that affected men's sexual psychology, but it does seem that some of the virgin/whore dichotomy would seem to come out of the wives' constrained desire.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 12:05 PM
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Anecdata: Many years ago some friends of mine lived in the flat below a bunch of prostitutes (they shared a flat, it wasn't a formal brothel), who used to drop in for a smoke when they weren't working.

They certainly kidded a lot among themselves about enjoyable experiences (and lack of same), but I strongly got the impression they were bullshitting for the benefit of their mates. They weren't junkies but never went to work without getting systematically stoned first, which I think says quite a bit about how they found it. I gathered all their friends did so too.

I'd say that if you can't face your job without getting off your face first, it counts as injuriously unpleasant.


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 12:07 PM
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I'd say that if you can't face your job without getting off your face first, it counts as injuriously unpleasant.

The secret truth behind being a bike messenger.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 12:08 PM
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Perhaps it is a mere contingent fact that sex is treated as something unique in our culture

I think this is key. To me it's imaginable that some population of prostitutes could perform the job without excessive levels of disgust and self-hatred. But the reality in the US is clearly that virtually all (female?) prostitutes are just as miserable as you'd guess.

No matter its legal status, we're not going to have well-adjusted American women without financial problems decide that prostitution is a better career path than, say, waitressing.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 12:14 PM
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For entertainment, I like books, and movies, with a certain amount of violence in them.

As a sidenote to this, I am morally opposed to the death penalty (killing someone to show that killing someone is wrong is, well, wrong) as well as practically opposed (too risky a chance that one person might have been innocent an executed). However, watching shows like Law & Order I find the fictional use of the death penalty satisfying as part of the story because it addresses the rather human desire for vengeance against Evildoers while not costing me any of my moral karma points, as it were.

So I think it is rather easy and rather common to be of two minds about a great deal of negative stuff in art.

Not sure where I was going with that point anymore.


Posted by: The Critic | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 12:15 PM
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To me it's imaginable that some population of prostitutes could perform the job without excessive levels of disgust and self-hatred.

It's imaginable that I will win £21 million on the lottery tonight, but the possibility doesn't inform my attitude to life. I don't believe there has ever been a society in which prostitution was pleasant, safe and (except for a handful of outliers) adequately remunerative.


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 12:21 PM
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I'm not sure that 12 actually disagrees with 1/3. The point of 12 (I think) is that the weak point of LB's argument is whether or not sex work is uniquely, injuriously unpleasant. Nathan may have been wrong to use cleaning toilets as an example, but I think his underlying point is that some jobs are extremely unpleasant, and so sex work is simply at the end of the continuum. The response (as in 2 and 6) is that sex work is uniquely bad, even taking away all of the meta things (pimps, cops, etc).

IOW, if you can make the argument that there is a significant number of people for whom sex work is not uniquely injurious, then the 1/3 argument isn't so trite/obnoxious.

I agree with 12 that that's the crux of the matter; but, as I said in 18, I think it's a pretty settled issue.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 12:21 PM
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It doesn't quite have to be uniquely bad -- there can be other members of the category 'bad enough to be a moral problem'. Circus geeking isn't sex work, but I'd put it in the same category (not that I think it exists anymore, but if it did).


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 12:26 PM
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To me it's imaginable that some population of prostitutes could perform the job without excessive levels of disgust and self-hatred. But the reality in the US is clearly that virtually all (female?) prostitutes are just as miserable as you'd guess.

Just as it's imaginable that increasingly fewer porn actors find it injuriously unpleasant to do their jobs, so that viewers of porn aren't necessarily morons for believing that the actors actually like what they're doing, or at least aren't being horrifically exploited.

What people experience as injuriously unpleasant shifts over time -- in both directions (as JM notes, wives are more likely now to find constrained relations in the marriage bed deeply problematic) -- and given the extent to which porn has become normalized already in our society, it's not as much of a stretch to imagine prostitution going the same route.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 12:28 PM
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Okay, and further to 14, I would add that it's somewhat unfortunate that this thoughtful analysis got buried under the very important discussion of OMG she is totally fatter than 105 pounds!


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 12:29 PM
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It doesn't quite have to be uniquely bad

The problem is the measurement of "bad." I'm not sure that isn't an intuition that can be informed, with acts recharacterized, but not changed.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 12:29 PM
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I was, by the way, serious about 17, if anybody is using OFE's criterion to define "bad enough to be banned". Any bike messenger I've ever known who's done the job for an extended period has a serious drug habit of one kind or another.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 12:31 PM
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"... That's probably not true for everyone, it's a big world out there and there are almost certainly some people who don't find undesired sex significantly unpleasant. ..."

"... I view the sort of desire for sex that's capable of being satisfied by sex with partners who don't desire the experience, whether or not they consent, as wrongful, ..."

What does "undesired" mean here? I expect plenty of women would desire the experience of having sex with me if they were paid sufficiently. So if I am willing and able to pay why should I feel guilty about satisfying their desire.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 12:31 PM
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20: Agreed. My only response is that there's also never been a society in which women have equal power with men, but that's changing. I'm not (really not) saying that empowered women=sexxxy prostitution. I'm saying that modern society appears to have radically different attitudes towards gender roles and sex from any prior ones, and what's imaginable to me is that women who grow up with less shame about their bodies could feel more comfortable with sex work. The flip side, of course, is that women who feel less shame feel more secure, and less willing to allow others to use their bodies.

I wonder how any of these arguments work WRT stripping (setting aside that many/most strippers do, in fact, have sexual relations with customers)?


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 12:32 PM
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There was a commenter a while ago who was considering going into the sex-for-pay business, and who said, IIRC, that she believed herself to be a person for whom such work would not be injuriously unpleasant. I don't know if she reads this blog anymore, but I'd be interested to know her thoughts on this.


Posted by: jms | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 12:32 PM
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26: Because of sore knees, or because that's part of the culture? I mean, the same thing could pretty much be said about rock musicians.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 12:33 PM
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29: I think that was LB, and she was just using sex work as a euphemism for private practice. She found it injuriously unpleasant.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 12:34 PM
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What does "undesired" mean here?

Golly, Shearer, shouldn't someone have had the Talk with you before now? When a man and a woman (or two men, or two women, or three women, a man, and a Shetland pony) love each other very much...

No, seriously, the concept of sexual desire as distinct from consent procured through payment is confusing you? My sympathies.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 12:35 PM
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Couldn't you say both that it's bad to want sex with a prostitute, and that, given that some people do reliably seem to want it, and other people do reliably seem willing to offer it, it's still good, utilitarian-style?


Posted by: Dr. Zeuss | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 12:35 PM
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30: because it's a grind, especially if you're someplace with shitty weather, and if you aren't high most of the time the effort per money calculus starts to get to you.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 12:38 PM
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Shearer is den Beste?


Posted by: Tassled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 12:38 PM
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I'm guessing, that is.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 12:38 PM
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32

"No, seriously, the concept of sexual desire as distinct from consent procured through payment is confusing you? My sympathies."

Men do lots of things to get women to consent to sex. Some of them like telling a woman you will love her forever although you intend never to see her again seem morally questionable. So why is offering payment so uniquely injurious that it should be illegal?


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 12:42 PM
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26. Sifu, I'm not advocating banning prostitution on those grounds. I think other approaches to getting people out of the game are more effective and less heavy handed. Just to be clear.

28. Right. In a society where attitudes to sex were not fucked up (SF readers consider The Dispossessed), prostitution would probably not exist, because the bottom line is that unfucked up people want to have sex anyway - as a species we've evolved a taste for it and you could argue that if we hadn't we wouldn't have evolved at all.


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 12:43 PM
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Is 38.2 saying that, in a non-fucked-up-attitude society, everyone would get enough sex so as not to need prostitutes?

I have my doubts.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 12:45 PM
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38.1: I'm not trying to imply they're equivalent, either. Just adding complexity to the question of how one judges the relative suckiness.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 12:46 PM
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The future: where Utopia happens.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 12:46 PM
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As labs pointed out earlier, diogenes said that the solution to the problem of unwanted sexual desire is always close at hand.

This backs up the argument attributed to Amanda M in 10.

So I agree with Fontana Labs, Amanda Marcotte, and Diogenes the Cynic.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 12:46 PM
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32. Semi-seriously, I'm all in favour of all kinds of human consensual sexual activity, but I draw the line at bestiality, because animals can't clearly consent. Does this make me a reactionary?


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 12:46 PM
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telling a woman you will love her forever although you intend never to see her again

Shearer is Meat Loaf!

Dude, you're not addressing the arguments in the post, which is not an argument that prostitution should be illegal, but rather an argument that I'm not willing to regard sexual desire indifferent to the desire of the partner as something that ought to be satisfied.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 12:48 PM
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34 makes sense, but I do think culture has a lot to do with it. Bike messengers tend to start out as sort of stoner/slacker dudes*. Presumably a lot of them are doing drugs before they start messenger riding, but the riding sucks enough that they start doing it more.

I think the same thing happens to Wall Street types as well.

* Approximate stereotype only


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 12:48 PM
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Is it possible to title a comment thread? Because this one should be called: "In which Shearer jumps the shark."

Also, I have nothing smart to say about the content of this post. I'm still chewing on it (it tastes a bit like chicken). But I do want to thank LB for putting something like this up. It's quite a remarkable and challenging piece. I'm forced by it to reflect on some deeply held assumptions about the sex industry. More than that, though, this is the very first thing that I've seen that has made me think hard about the Spitzer case and the coverage of same. Which coverage, by the way, has been shamful. I mean that literally: puritanical, giggling, sexist, repulsive, etc. (Etcetera may be doing too much work there. I don't know.)

Anyway, thanks for this bit of excellence. I appreciate it.

Oh, one more thing (sorry): what about nekkid dancing? Or lap dancing? What's the moral valence in those cases?


Posted by: Ari | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 12:48 PM
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People, if sex is what you are after there are plenty of people giving it away for free. Oh, but you want to have sex with someone you find attractive? That's different.


Posted by: Tassled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 12:49 PM
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JBS, we're drawing a distinction between when women actively want sex qua sex, or "consent" to it for money or other stuff.

OFE - I haven't read The Dispossessed, but I tend to feel like attitudes to sex will be eternally fucked up, because they're so directly veldt-influenced. We did evolve to like sex, but also to be choosy about who we want it with.


Posted by: Dr. Zeuss | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 12:49 PM
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Oh, one more thing (sorry): what about nekkid dancing? Or lap dancing? What's the moral valence in those cases?

Sweet jesus, Ari. You don't know what you're getting yourself into, here.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 12:51 PM
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39. I don't know what would happen in a non-fucked up society because I've never seen one. I suppose people who wanted to screw for money would do so, but given that in a non-fucked up society they would by definition not screw anybody they didn't fancy, the "poor sad loser" type might be shit out of luck. Or they might get a lot of pity fucks. Who knows, ain't gonna happen.


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 12:52 PM
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47: Preach it.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 12:53 PM
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49: Sorry, I don't know the history here all that well. Oh, the irony! Seriously, if those final two questions, which really emerged out of debates from my women's studies classes in graduate school, are going to derail the thread, consider them retracted. No kidding (just to reiterate my earlier, "seriously").


Posted by: Ari | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 12:54 PM
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47 wins the thread.


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 12:56 PM
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52: Begin here, continue for 700-something comments, or until your head begins to smoke as ours all did.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 12:57 PM
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Oh, but you want to have sex with someone you find attractive?

don't think this is really a problem either. Where people get really screwed up is by wanting to have sex with people other people assert are attractive.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 12:57 PM
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If we establish a clearer set of rules for utopian fantasies, I think we can make some more progress.

I've already suggested rule 1: No free energy sources. Rule 2 is "Don't change human nature beyond the point that ordinary education can change it." It is easy to built a perfect society if you imagine having perfect people, but that's cheating. On the other hand, if you deny that improved education and childcare would improve the citizens of Utopia, you are effectively saying education and childcare mean nothing.

So, will the citizens of utopia be so improved by their upbringing that everyone will be appropriately sexed? No. The best raised and educated among us still have sexual hangups. Thus utopia has to deal with the problem of mismatched sexual desire.

This isn't quite an answer to anyone's question, but I think I could get to one from here if I felt like typing some more.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 12:58 PM
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The question, I thought, was "Is there prostitution in feminist utopia?"


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 1:01 PM
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56- Don't the intertubes negate the mismatch? Controlling for advertising for fee for service, the ability to find a willing participant becomes global. Like how ebay has wiped out bargain hunting at yard sales.


Posted by: Tassled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 1:02 PM
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44

"... but rather an argument that I'm not willing to regard sexual desire indifferent to the desire of the partner as something that ought to be satisfied."

First as a factual matter I believe this is a major part of male sexual desire and that not satisfying it is likely to lead to all sorts of social problems.

Second would you still object if the desire were satisfied by lifelike robots?


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 1:05 PM
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58: The problem of unsatisfied sexual desire is rarely "I can't find the person I want." Its "I can't figure out what I want" or "If I can get it, I clearly don't want it."


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 1:07 PM
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Dropping in to link to Brad Plumer's latest post on the subject.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 1:07 PM
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59.1 You are wrong.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 1:07 PM
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I thought that maybe bonobo society provided a model for a utopia with unfucked up attitudes towards sex and no prostitution -- but it seems this is wrong
Sexual intercourse plays a major role in Bonobo society, being used as a greeting, a means of conflict resolution and post-conflict reconciliation, and as favors traded by the females in exchange for food
The last clause sounds like a pre-money version of prostitution.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bonobo#Sexual_social_behavior


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 1:08 PM
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No matter its legal status, we're not going to have well-adjusted American women without financial problems decide that prostitution is a better career path than, say, waitressing.

How can you possibly know this? This whole thread is highly paternalistic.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 1:10 PM
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First as a factual matter I believe this is a major part of male sexual desire and that not satisfying it is likely to lead to all sorts of social problems.

That's what porn is for.


Posted by: Michael Vanderwheel, B.A. | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 1:10 PM
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60. The problem of unsatisfied sexual desire is rarely "I can't find the person I want."

Here is the problem. You are trying to connect with a "person". I thought we were talking about sexual gratification. Clearly, 60.2 is correct.


Posted by: Tassled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 1:13 PM
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I see in the later part of the thread people work their way around to the group fatigue with the whole sex work debate (which I share). Hardly worth going through the whole thing again.


Posted by: PerfectlyGoddamnDelightful | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 1:13 PM
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Parsimon has a nice point about porn in #23. It does seem to becoming more mainstream, somehow. I can't imagine famous pornstars being in music videos or on E! twenty or even ten years ago. I don't know if there has been an increase in the number of women willing to do porn--I'm not exactly sure how you'd even measure that--but I wouldn't be surprised if there had been. More to the point, I suppose, parsimon seems to be pointing out that there is a fair bit of plasticity to these attitudes towards sex-related work.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 1:17 PM
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54: Oh. Well then. Oops. And sorry I asked.


Posted by: Ari | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 1:18 PM
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would you still object if the desire were satisfied by lifelike robots?

No. Shearer, you may become a prostitute with my blessing.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 1:18 PM
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I'm not exactly sure how you'd even measure that

Exhaustive research, clearly.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 1:18 PM
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There's a thread today at Feministe which, among other things, seems to have several people self-reporting on the level of badness in their sex work.


Posted by: Nathan Williams | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 1:22 PM
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Second would you still object if the desire were satisfied by lifelike robots?

Not at all. Be disgusted and contemptuous, sure, but certainly wouldn't object.


Posted by: mcmc | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 1:27 PM
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To me it's imaginable that some population of prostitutes could perform the job without excessive levels of disgust and self-hatred. But the reality in the US is clearly that virtually all (female?) prostitutes are just as miserable as you'd guess.

No; the reality around the entire world.

Now that said, yes, it's imaginable to me, as well, that one could have prostitution without exploitation. But I'm not entirely sure that I trust my ability to come up with an abstract scenario about an act that in actual practice really does tend to involve quite a bit of intimacy and trust. *Especially* from the pov of the person being penetrated.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 1:28 PM
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70: What evidence do you have that Shearer is lifelike?


Posted by: Ari | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 1:28 PM
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Forgot to close italics tag. Oops.

75: Well, at least his comments are usually sort of on-topic. Which is something few bots have actually mastered.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 1:30 PM
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Thanks, mysterious comment tag fixer!


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 1:32 PM
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77: they sure didn't fix mine.

74.last: life model at proctologist school?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 1:33 PM
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Drug mule?

Hm.

Professional medical study participant?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 1:33 PM
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Second would you still object if the desire were satisfied by lifelike robots?

Depends if you live in Mass., apparently


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 1:34 PM
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I've decided on an answer to my question:

In feminist utopia, there is no prostitution, but there is stripping and non penetrative pornography.

Now if I can make a bridge from my premises to my conclusion, I'd be set.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 1:34 PM
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78.1: You haven't slept with half the mainpage bloggers in payment for tag-fixing yet.

79: Yes, drug mule would be on the continuum. Less intimate, because you can do the inserting/swallowing/shitting in semi-private, I suppose. But clearly even more dangerous than prostitution.

Medical study participant, I'd say that at least medical studies have very clear human subject regulations in place.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 1:37 PM
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74: It's even harder to imagine if you try to imagine an act that is supposed to provide some shred of emotional intimacy and physical contact for the Pitiful John while imagining sex as an act that normally doesn't involve intimacy or trust (and hence isn't exploitive.)


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 1:37 PM
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an act that in actual practice really does tend to involve quite a bit of intimacy and trust.

But may not, in some important sense, for others. I really think the thing to look at is the rest of their lives. If I knew of a hooker who was pretty together and happy, no drug habit, no child abuse, yada yada, I wouldn't have much trouble taking her word for it when she said she was fine with it. But I would think the place you would be most likely to find such people would be at the Emperor's Club. And yet it turns out that "Kristen" didn't seem to be all that together with such a happy life. (Compare, for example, Washingtonienne, who, while not in any way a sex worker, had an active sex life and gifts seemed to be involved. Yet she seemed pretty OK, and I kind of loved her for showing a fair bit of class in a tough situation. If she says she's fine, I basically believe her.)


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 1:38 PM
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The Feministe thread is great. Many more people speaking from their own experience, many fewer claiming to understand all possible choices of all women, everywhere, presently and in all possible future states of society.

http://www.feministe.us/blog/archives/2008/03/13/feministe-feedback-can-a-feminist-be-a-sex-worker/#comments


Posted by: PerfectlyGoddamnDelightful | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 1:41 PM
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47, 58: Sex really is a very difficult matching problem. I'm surprised no one has really gone through the effort of creating a more workable system for matching people who'd want to get it on for free, but I guess there are also severe network-effect difficulties with the start-up.

Future utopia could be improve things plenty with better technology and/or better usage, but the intertubes' current systems that I've ever seen tend to fall pretty far short.


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 1:43 PM
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may not, in some important sense, for others

Like I said, it's easy to theorize.

I'm fine with believing people who do it and say they're fine with it. I'm not fine with extrapolating from the rare exception to try to form a rule.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 1:43 PM
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re - 47: I was talking to a friend about her recent trip to Thailand. The one thing she was disappointed about was not getting some "vacation sex", because all the guys were with Thai girls. "I can't compete with them!", she said.

I asked her what the hell she was talking about - of course she could compete: she was willing to give it up for free.


Posted by: McKingford | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 1:48 PM
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88 is so classy.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 1:49 PM
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88: Ha ha, I get it! Because all Thai women are prostitutes!


Posted by: jms | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 1:50 PM
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I'm fine with believing people who do it and say they're fine with it. I'm not fine with extrapolating from the rare exception to try to form a rule.

I don't think anyone's doing that (though I've skipped some comments). I take LB to be saying that she doesn't really believe such self-reporting (or that--as none of us really know how common such self-reporting is as against the field of total prostitutes or total prostitutes above some level, etc.--such self-reporting really isn't informative about the relevant percentage of people in that field such that a john could reasonably believe he wasn't injuring the other person.)


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 1:50 PM
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I'm fine with believing people who do it and say they're fine with it. I'm not fine with extrapolating from the rare exception to try to form a rule.

This is exactly it for me. At the risk of appearing Shearer-lite, the reservation I had about the orginal post is the hard line between desire and mere consent, where desire has to be spontaneous and preexisting. This makes sense, because it's how most of us experience sex, and the only way we want to experience it. I've known or met some folks who experience it differently, who are quite comfortable with sex-work as work. However, it would be ridiculous to jump from this to a belief that most folk experience sex-work in, say, the way that Annie Sprinkle did.


Posted by: JPool | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 1:55 PM
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or that--as none of us really know how common such self-reporting is as against the field of total prostitutes or total prostitutes above some level, etc.--such self-reporting really isn't informative about the relevant percentage of people in that field such that a john could reasonably believe he wasn't injuring the other person.

That's my thinking pretty much exactly -- not that there can't possibly be contented prostitutes out there, but that the odds that the prostitute in any given transaction is contented are quite low. And given those odds, that the desires of the john include indifference to a substantial chance that they're inflicting suffering on the prostitute they're patronizing. Which takes me to the conclusion that I'm not willing to grant any positive value to the satisfaction of the john's desires, because I'm regarding them as wrongful.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 1:57 PM
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88: Oh, good heavens that's an unpleasant thing to say. Ick.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 1:59 PM
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93: I think my problem is that I'm distrustful in both directions: of my ability to judge someone else's likely response to undesired sex by my own set of sex-related reactions, and of the ability of people to rationalize (and others--that is, the sex-workers--to dutifully intone) that the sex-workers enjoy the work, or don't mind it, or that it's no worse than any other job. So I end up in what for me is a fairly common category: "Wrong for me to do, but I couldn't speak to 'for you to do.'" Some of which is probably because I'm (at least presently) being mindful of Emerson's point that we're talking about range of outcomes that includes a whole lot of fucked up options that I'm not really able to imagine, and, if imagined, can't really imagine sufficiently well to be useful to me.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 2:10 PM
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I'm not willing to grant any positive value to the satisfaction of the john's desires, because I'm regarding them as wrongful.

Or at least irrelevant to the question of whether or not the work is inherently bad.

(Obviously if the john's violent or sadistic or whatever, then that's not irrelevant, but I mean, even if you don't think it's "wrong" to want to pay someone for sex, it's not relevant as far as the question of the nature of the job from the prostitute's pov.)


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 2:11 PM
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It's relevant to the extent that LB's argument needs the wrongfulness of the desires as a premise.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 2:13 PM
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To further Cala's point: I thought elbee was arguing from a consequentialist standpoint, where it would be legitimate to say "On the whole prostitution is harmful, but it does have the good effect of satisfying the John's desire." Elbee then has to block that move by excluding satisfying bad desires from the list of good consequences.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 2:18 PM
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95: I think the question isn't whether or not one wants to tell actual prostitutes that what they're doing is wrong or bad for them. I think the question is whether or not one wants to say that one doesn't object to prostitution as such, and I think the answer is yes, one should.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 2:18 PM
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Also, I went over to the feministe thread for a bit, and decided that I like our extended discussions of sex work with occasional visits from actual sex workers much better than theirs.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 2:19 PM
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97: Fair enough. I think it's irrelevant to why *I* object to prostitution, though; I'm willing to grant that some men hire hookers simply because they really are quite lonely.

98: Right, well, I don't care about the good effect of satisfying the John if it's on the whole harmful to the workers in a particularly irredeemable way. Which I think it is.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 2:21 PM
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How do these arguments apply to male prostitution (transvetite and not)? The moral issue regarding wanting sex with someone who doesn't desires you still seems to stand, but some of the others don't.


Posted by: Carlos | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 2:21 PM
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It's relevant to the extent that LB's argument needs the wrongfulness of the desires as a premise.

I thought it wasn't about a wrongful desire, but a wrongful decision.

The desire itself doesn't hurt anyone, and can't be eliminated. Wrongful desire is a thought crime.

But then translating the desire into the decision to patronize a prostitute can be wrongful, if the john hasn't been totally misled about the likelihood that the prostitute is being harmed/injured/traumatized by his actions.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 2:22 PM
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96

"... want to pay someone for sex, ..."

Few guys want to pay for sex, they are just willing to pay if the alternative is no sex.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 2:26 PM
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What counts isn't just whether prostitution is damaging, but *how damaging* it is. I'm sort of libertarian, in the sense that I think people should have the freedom to mess themselves up a bit, to take real risks, in pursuit of some goal that might be rewarding. One would want to forbid this mainly in cases where the chance of disastrous and permanent injury was quite high.

But I just don't see bad sex or casual sex or unfeeling sex or sex-as-exchange as a severely traumatic experience. Rape or torture is, but I don't think voluntary sexual intercourse for money under reasonably egalitarian conditions is analogous to rape or torture.

True that there are historic links between prostitution and enslavement, which uses rape and torture as tools. But there are historic links between agricultural work and slave labor too. It's cheaper and easier than paying the money and creating the conditions it would take to have people do the work on a truly voluntary basis.

Many criticisms of prostitution seem based on an ideology that sees sex as a uniquely sacred human act, such that allowing it to be performed for any but a certain set of reasons is injurious to the soul. But this is just out of line with ordinary human experience about sex, which is performed for all kinds of reasons and is frequently bad, boring, alienating, etc.

There's probably something to the idea that prostitution really can be more damaging than other forms of alienated labor. But how much more damaging is a relevant question. I don't see how in this case one can claim to understand from the outside the tradeoff between the potential damage to an individual and what that individual might potentially gain from participating in the market. Better to be very tough on coercion and leave those decisions up to the individual.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 2:27 PM
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Few guys want to pay for sex, they are just willing to pay if the alternative is no sex.

This isn't even close to correct, James.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 2:29 PM
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Ned: LB is specifically saying she thinks some *desires* are wrong. Hence the discussion about wanting to hurt someone, snuff porn, and the word "sanctimony" in the title.

Also, LB is right on this general point.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 2:30 PM
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I was responding to Ezra, and Tyler Cowen's, claim that in talking about prostitution, we had to consider the satisfaction of the johns' desires as a good. And I don't think we do under the circumstances (that is, given that the john has every reason to believe that he's inflicting injury) any more than we need to consider the satisfaction of Michael Vick's desire to see animals suffer as a good when we consider whether to make dogfighting legal.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 2:30 PM
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But this is just out of line with ordinary human experience about sex, which is performed for all kinds of reasons and is frequently bad, boring, alienating, etc.

The people who are saying sex work is uniquely harmful don't believe that sex is a pure act, and I bet many of them have had lots of experience with bad boring and alienating sex. That experience is precisely why they think sex work is uniquely harmful.

If you have had truly bad, but consensual sex, you know that it is worse than cleaning toilets.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 2:31 PM
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I thought it wasn't about a wrongful desire, but a wrongful decision.

It sounds to me like an appeal to a higher order of desires, that can determine which of the lower-order ones is to be satisfied.


Posted by: Michael Vanderwheel, B.A. | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 2:34 PM
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Better to be very tough on coercion and leave those decisions up to the individual.

We're not arguing here that prostitutes Should Be Punished for being desperate or fucked up, PGD.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 2:34 PM
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109: That hasn't been my experience, but whatever.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 2:35 PM
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I'm going to go out on a limb here and guess that it would take far, far more of a financial incentive for rob helpy-chalk to become a prostitute than it would for PGD.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 2:37 PM
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111: keeping prostitution illegal, underground, and stigmatized implicitly punishes prostitutes. Not only do they lose out on legal protections and any above-ground respectability they might get, but the stigma attaches to them.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 2:40 PM
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I haven't been able to concentrate on this thread because the image conjured up by 2 is so distractingly weird.


Posted by: felix | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 2:41 PM
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114: That's a harm reduction argument, which I explictly noted my openness to in the post, and haven't seen anyone else disagree with. Certainly, I think reducing the stigma on prostitutes is a good thing. I'm just in favor of maintaining the stigma for johns.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 2:42 PM
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114: The respectability and stigma points only hold if one believes that legalizing prostitution would remove the stigma.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 2:42 PM
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113: the wonder of the free labor market is the way it sorts people into their proper professions.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 2:43 PM
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118: That's a hard thing to say to someone in an unpleasant or stigmatized profession, and I'm not limiting that to hookers.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 2:47 PM
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114: So we'd be doing them a huge favor by just making it illegal and letting the free market sort itself out? Nonsense.

LB's correct; it should certainly be decriminalized, trafficking should be heavily punished, and the focus of stings and prosecution should be on the johns, not the hookers. It's the grossest thing in the world that we hold women more responsible for prostitution than we do men.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 2:47 PM
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112: Then you haven't had truly bad sex. Count your blessings.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 2:48 PM
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"With the wealthy," Mr. Prince says "it's all about power and control and new experiences."


Posted by: lemmy caution | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 2:50 PM
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120: you must have meant "legal" in your first sentence. And I do believe that, if you remove the "huge" and add the proviso that such a legal market would have to be strongly regulated. Trafficking is illegal under slavery laws already, that would have to be strongly enforced.

A legal market implies you wouldn't bust customers.

But LB is correct to say that this could be purely a harm reduction type argument, it doesn't get to her issue about whether the well-being of johns should be counted in a cost-benefit analysis. That gets back to the question of whether buying sex is simply an immoral thing to do under any conditions. I don't think so, but whatever.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 3:02 PM
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105: someday every streetwalker will ride a pony.


Posted by: mcmc | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 3:06 PM
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123: Yes, I meant legal. And in fact, the "strongly regulated legal market" has proven not to be especially great for the women involved, and to create a very major incentive for trafficking.

the question of whether buying sex is simply an immoral thing to do under any conditions.

No, it doesn't. You can say that the well-being of johns doesn't matter for shit when talking about prostitution without passing judgment on the johns one way or the other. All it means is that the clear and documented damage done to prostitutes by prostitution is such that you don't give a shit if it makes the customers happy.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 3:06 PM
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108

"... (that is, given that the john has every reason to believe that he's inflicting injury) ..."

Anytime you pay someone to do something they would not do otherwise you are inflicting an injury of a sort but you are also providing a benefit in the form of the payment. If the transaction is voluntary this is generally seen as indicating the benefit outweighs the injury meaning there is no reason for the payer to feel guilty. What is exceptional about prostitution?


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 3:10 PM
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See paragraph 5 of the post, Shearer. You can disagree with it if you like, but that's the argument.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 3:12 PM
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Shorter 126: I see no reason why johns should feel guilty. And how johns feel about hiring hookers is the only relevant issue.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 3:13 PM
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125

"... All it means is that the clear and documented damage done to prostitutes by prostitution is such that you don't give a shit if it makes the customers happy."

Do you have some links that show legal prostitution is an unusually damaging profession?


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 3:16 PM
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125: Again, I think it does in LB's argument. She's arguing that the well-being of the johns (we'll assume a net positive) doesn't count because it's a bad desire to be fulfilling, just like we don't ordinarily bother with considering the satisfaction of the rapist or murderer when counting up the harms or rape or murder.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 3:17 PM
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129: Try comment 9.

130: Well, 'under any conditions' I'd quibble with. Under any likely conditions in present-day America, yes.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 3:20 PM
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I haven't yet read all the comments, but I have to say, I don't think there's anything intrinsically unlibertarian about LB's post. Or at least, I consider myself a (left)-libertarian, but agreed with almost all of it. Then again, I'm a self-loathing libertarian; perhaps that makes all the difference.

(Nearly complete agreement insofar as it's not clear to me just how much LB's analysis actually applies to the subset of high-end escorts selling vanilla sex; but I agree with the analytical framework overall.)


Posted by: x. trapnel | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 3:21 PM
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That's probably not true for everyone, it's a big world out there and there are almost certainly some people who don't find undesired sex significantly unpleasant. But for any individual, the odds are strongly in favor of it being true*.

It's pretty clear that people for whom undesired sex is not significantly unpleasant are going to be hugely overrepresented among prostitutes.


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 3:23 PM
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from the link in 122: "He surveyed 661 people who owned private jets. It found that 34% of males and 20% of females had paid for sex"


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 3:23 PM
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131: We'll exclude the possible worlds with perfectly efficient energy and unicorns.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 3:24 PM
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It's pretty clear that people for whom undesired sex is not significantly unpleasant are going to be hugely overrepresented among prostitutes.

If you're going to consider all walks of prostitution, these sorts of concerns are at best secondary. The hugely overrepresented characteristic is addiction.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 3:26 PM
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133: It's pretty clear that people for whom undesired sex is not significantly unpleasant are going to be hugely overrepresented among prostitutes.

Would be, in a legal, no-stigma world. I'd think the desperation effect -- what's really likely to be overrepresented is people who don't see themselves as having other viable options -- probably overrides the small percentage of people who don't mind the work.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 3:27 PM
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129: Try doing some research, James. You claim to be a genius. I'm sure you can manage your own googling.

133: No it isn't. It's clear that people who are desperate and have few if any other options are going to be hugely overrepresented among prostitutes. And indeed, this seems to be the case.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 3:28 PM
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84: Compare, for example, Washingtonienne, who, while not in any way a sex worker, had an active sex life and gifts seemed to be involved.

What the fuck? In what way was Washingtonienne not a sex worker? If you can't break off a sexual relationship with someone because "the money is too good", you're a prostitute, regardless of what your day job is.


Posted by: Hamilton-Lovecraft | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 3:31 PM
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No it isn't. It's clear that people who are desperate and have few if any other options are going to be hugely overrepresented among prostitutes. And indeed, this seems to be the case.

That would also be a contributing factor. There can be more than one population overrepresented.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 3:32 PM
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I haven't been able to concentrate on this thread because the image conjured up by 2 is so distractingly weird.

I started to provide a link, but decided it was too icky. However, if you google "pussy toilet brush," you can do your own research.

Probably best left alone, though.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 3:34 PM
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139: Um. Would you expand that to someone who feels they "can't afford" to divorce their partner?

I agree with you in the strict, don't deceive yourself lady, vein. I disagree with you in a sense that I'm having a hard time articulating, bu that has something to do with the distinction between being a prostitute and being a "kept woman" or a golddigger.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 3:37 PM
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just like we don't ordinarily bother with considering the satisfaction of the rapist or murderer when counting up the harms or rape or murder.

If murder and rape don't enter into any such calculation, it's because the damages involved can't really be made incrementally less bad. Damages associated with prostitution arguably can be, and so a marginal comparison of costs and benefits makes more sense here.


Posted by: Michael Vanderwheel, B.A. | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 3:38 PM
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136 is dead on.

"I'm higher than hell and was so abused as a child that I don't even know what good sex would be like" is not the same as "I have a high tolerance for bad sex."


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 3:38 PM
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There can be more than one population overrepresented.

In theory. Do you have any evidence that a disproportionate number of prostitutes don't mind being prostitutes other than wishful thinking?


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 3:38 PM
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Further to Cala's 125.2, as I read LB's argument a discussion of whether prostitution carries with it inherent harm to a sex worker is irrelevant insofar as LB condemns the desire/pleasure of the John, not because of the actual harm to the prostitute, but because the desire ignores the extent to which its object is the displeasure of another person. See LB's condemnation of the sadist who takes pleasure of fantasy violence.

While I think calling certain pleasures wrongful begs the question, I also don't know if it clashes with Ezra's argument insofar as it ignores the fact that Ezra appears to be approaching the question from a utilitarian perspective, which does not admit of any pleasures being inherently wrongful.

There are many who comment here who will be able to explain to me the extent to which I am full of shit.


Posted by: Grumps the Lawyer | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 3:40 PM
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You're getting soft, apo.

She's arguing that the well-being of the johns (we'll assume a net positive) doesn't count because it's a bad desire to be fulfilling, just like we don't ordinarily bother with considering the satisfaction of the rapist or murderer when counting up the harms or rape or murder.

that's true, you shouldn't, this is a big problem with utilitarianism. If prostitution is like rape, torture, or sadism then the well-being of johns definitely shouldn't count.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 3:40 PM
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127

"Which finally gets us to the sex industry. For the vast majority of people, having undesired sex is the sort of thing that's perceived as a serious injury regardless of consent; someone in a marriage where they feel obligated to have sex despite being repulsed by their spouse, or someone being pressured into sex as a quid-pro-quo in the workplace, despite being in some sense a consenting participant, is undergoing a fairly horrible experience. That's probably not true for everyone, it's a big world out there and there are almost certainly some people who don't find undesired sex significantly unpleasant. But for any individual, the odds are strongly in favor of it being true*. "

This assumes a sharp dividing line between desired sex (good) and undesired sex (extremely bad) which I think is foreign to how most people actually experience sex. In fact I think there are a lot of shades of grey in between. If I have sex with my wife to please her although I am a little tired and would rather not I don't think this is a horrible experience or that I have suffered a serious injury.

You are also assuming not just that undesired sex is bad but that it is so horrible that no amount of payment could possibly compensate. There are lots of unpleasant jobs liking working in a slaughterhouse that people are permitted to do for pay.

Finally I don't think the relevant question is how the average person would perceive sex work but how the average legal sex worker would perceive sex work. Sex workers aren't being drafted at random.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 3:40 PM
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it's because the damages involved can't really be made incrementally less bad.

I don't think that's why. Think dogfighting -- we don't (or I'd rather not) include the pleasure people take in watching animals suffer in the calculus of whether it should be permissible, despite the fact that the suffering could be ameliorated.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 3:41 PM
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Would be, in a legal, no-stigma world. I'd think the desperation effect -- what's really likely to be overrepresented is people who don't see themselves as having other viable options -- probably overrides the small percentage of people who don't mind the work.

Color me unconvinced. Any of these thousand-dollar-a-go prostitutes could pretty easily get work doing cosmetic sales or answering the phone at a salon or waiting tables or some other largely unskilled job where you need to be physically attractive and friendly. Those jobs just pay a lot less than having sex with strangers.


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 3:42 PM
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146: That seems very much on point -- I'd say that my argument is meant to go under the heading of 'why I'm not a utilitarian' as well as not being a libertarian.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 3:44 PM
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If prostitution is like rape

Which it is. "Coerced sex" is rape. Coercing someone to fuck you because they are an addict, or their pimp will beat them up if they refuse, or because they are so desperate for money that they'll take ten bucks for a blow job is rape.

but how the average legal sex worker would perceive sex work. Sex workers aren't being drafted at random.

"There's no danger that someone like one of us would become a prostitute, so it's perfectly okay to ignore what happens to Those People."


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 3:44 PM
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142.1: I'm inclined, on a not-quite-articulable level to opine that there is something similarly dispiriting? dehumanizing? icky? about sex in that situation. Not getting a divorce because you can't afford it is surely pretty miserable; continuing to fuck someone you would divorce if you could afford to is... well, I'm not sure. Maybe not the same as prostitution, accepting that it is possible in theory to still sexually desire someone you hate. But still, I suspect the motivation and effects are not qualitatively all that different.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 3:46 PM
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150: Thousand-dollar-a-go prostitutes are very much not typical of prostitutes as a class.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 3:47 PM
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Sex workers aren't being drafted at random.

Mostly, their being drafted by limited ability to resist, and/or other leverage. Which isn't exactly random, but isn't a particularly defensible approach, either.


Color me unconvinced.
These thousands-a-toss scenarios have very little to do with the general state of things, and their existence (in small numbers) is a bad place to start thinking about policy.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 3:48 PM
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150: Don't you need the casual arrow to run both ways to rule out desperation? We don't see a lot of cosmetics girls thoughtfully debating between the MAC counter and prostitution and concluding alas, the high paying job is just illegal. (I mean, I don't think the only barrier to entry here is the illegality of prostitution.)


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 3:48 PM
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You're getting soft, apo.

The video was a boner-killer, it's true.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 3:49 PM
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153: I'm sure that not getting a divorce you can't afford is shitty, and that having dutiful sex with someone you'd rather not live with is pretty unfun. But I really think it shows a lack of imagination to equate either situation with prostitution.

(Note I am not talking about situations where actual spousal rape is happening.)


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 3:49 PM
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I'd say that my argument is meant to go under the heading of 'why I'm not a utilitarian' as well as not being a libertarian.

I count myself as a utilitarian, but I was completely convinced by your argument.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 3:52 PM
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142: There seem to be two major differences to me that might be the sticking point here.

The first is the more obvious one that the Washingtonienne was closer to a very high-class escort in her pay scale and having sex with only a handful of the same men. That sort of scenario is generally agreed upon as a totally different animal from the typical prostitute in the real world that we're talking about here, who's having anonymous sex with huge numbers of random men for small amounts multiple times a day with exponentially higher risks of all kinds of bad things happening. This is exactly why the "but high-class prostitutes seem to like it just fine!" argument completely misses the point in discussions such as these, and provides some reason to believe that even legalization and regulation of the sex industry, with a high enough price to prevent abuse, would probably price out all but the high-class prostitution anyway.

Second, I don't know the details, but I'm sure that Washingtonienne got propositioned by the men in question and then chose to do them for the money. This is fundamentally different from even a very well-paid prostitute who is sent to a client and does not get veto rights. The ability to be choosy about who one services for money (even if it's not used in a super-selective way) makes the work drastically easier to countenance.


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 3:53 PM
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their existence (in small numbers) is a bad place to start thinking about policy.

Yeah. As much as I like talking about weird outlying bizarreness, I'm getting more and more convinced that the popular tendency to talk about prostitution mostly in the vein of "well, would it be okay *if*" and "what about Annie Sprinkle and high-end escorts?" is kind of like trying to talk about racism by saying "but look, a black man is running for president!" or sexism by pointing to the existence of well-educated stay-at-home moms as proof that there's nothing wrong with expecting women to be primary caretakers.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 3:54 PM
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142: My inner Randite libertarian denies the distinction between "prostitute" and "kept woman", though that denial is obviously of small use in the real world we inhabit. Also, I don't care if she deceives herself; I don't think SCMT should be deceived.

And you know what? I'm going to go ahead and say, yes, I will expand my definition of prostitute to cover "someone who feels they 'can't afford' to divorce their partner". Married or not, if you're having sex you don't want to have, in exchange for some form of financial security, you're a prostitute. That's not to say that being a prostitute is the worst thing in the world.


Posted by: Hamilton-Lovecraft | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 3:55 PM
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Something else people miss. A not inconsiderable percentage of `high end' prostitutes end up doing `low end' prostitution too. Either concurrently (e.g. to feed an addiction) or later (e.g. when they age out of the higher bracket stuff but don't have a lot of other marketable skills). So we aren't talking about completely separate populations.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 3:55 PM
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The ability to be choosy about who one services for money

Or indeed whether or not one will "service" people for money at all. My sense is that Washingtonienne was doing it mostly as a lark. Which is not the same as doing it as a job.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 3:57 PM
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131

"129: Try comment 9."

Comment 9 appears to be referring to illegal prosititution. I doubt for example the workplace homicide rate in Nevada's legal brothels is 51 times that of working in a liquor store. Using harm arising from the fact that prostitution is illegal to argue against legalization is perverse.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 3:57 PM
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Though I have some sympathy for LB's position, the more I think about this argument, the less I am comfortable with it. JM's early comment on sex in marriage and parsimon's comment on porn somehow raised in my mind this: I think we could have made more or less exactly this argument about sex before marriage maybe fifty years ago: don't do it, even if she says she wants to, because you have no reason to believe she really wants to, free and clear. That argument today is likely to get you punched.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 3:58 PM
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164: If we talk about the people at the high end of prostitution, they do all have other options like those water moccasin brought up in 150. They're just not the sort of people we should focus on in policy discussions due to their small numbers.


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 4:00 PM
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158: Ghaaaa! Your argument just turned into a mobius strip!

Having dutiful sex with someone you'd rather not live with because you're desperate and don't have alternatives isn't even prostitution let alone spousal rape, but prostitution out of desperation is rape?


Posted by: Hamilton-Lovecraft | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 4:01 PM
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I don't think that either side in this debate really has a clue to what prostitutes lives are actually like, especially the largely invisible "indoor" trade, and most especially the high end of that.

This article is illuminating. It provides evidence for both sides.

http://www.alexandrakmurphy.com/pdf/vice_careers.pdf

While the above feelings about the work process do not appear to differ greatly for indoor and outdoor workers, we do find that the indoor-based women we interviewed express a surprisingly high degree of enjoyment for the work itself (see also Phoenix, 1999; Castillo et al., 1999). The indoor sex workers in our sample often see themselves as providing healing, acceptance, and psychological comfort to troubled clients (see also Phoenix, 1999). They describe themselves as therapists and nurses when talking about their work. As Natalie, a 22-year old woman who solicits clients through print media and works out of her home explains, "By doing this work you can help people, people pay to spend time with you. Some people like to have intellectual conversations. I think if I had met these people outside of this work context, we would have been friends." Similar sentiments were expressed by another woman who states, "I help my customers and I enjoy making others happy. A lot of the time I just talk to my customers who have different troubles. I'm nice to them, gentle, and they like it. People need this kind of treatment." In fact, some women have told us that they help save the marriages of their Johns--rather than destroy them.22 When describing the merits of their work, many women in the sample made direct comparisons and distinctions between indoor and outdoor work. According to them, the type of woman who engages in outdoor work is different than the type working indoors. Such discussions were framed around an "us" versus "them" perspective, with many women in our sample either feeling sympathy or shame for those working on the street. Some women went so far as to claim that outdoor workers and those who exchanged sex for drugs gave the profession of prostitution a bad name.

but then there's...

Twenty seven percent of our respondents reported having been robbed by a client at least once, 48% were forced by a John to do something that they did not want to do, and 43% said they were threatened or beatup for being a sex worker. Importantly, these rates are relatively low in comparison to those of street workers.

Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 4:02 PM
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158: Oh, I would only equate -- actually, not even "equate" so much as "compare" -- the latter circumstance to prostitution. Why does that strike you as "unimaginative?" In either case, I'm seeing elements of consenting to undesired sex based on financial/emotional/god-knows-what desperation. To be clear, I was only referring to the circumstance you raised of the partner who stays married only because they can't afford to get divorced and continues with undesired sex because of financial dependence.

No intention to further stigmatize that situation, of course, just perhaps another angle for understanding the ways dependence affects our choices.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 4:03 PM
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somethey do all have other options like those water moccasin brought up


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 4:03 PM
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160: Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that Washingtonienne is representative of anyone we should build policy around. But to deny that she's a sex worker seems silly.


Posted by: Hamilton-Lovecraft | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 4:03 PM
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162: Yeah, this is where the Randite libertarian world view is fucked up. Your desire to tell people "yeah, you're a prostitute" is pretty indifferent to the actual emotional contexts in which people live, I think. And saying "being a prostitute isn't the worst thing in the world" is true from the outside--there are certainly more blameable professions--but probably a lot less true from the inside. It seems like a really hellish situation for most people who are in it.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 4:03 PM
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I think we could have made more or less exactly this argument about sex before marriage maybe fifty years ago: don't do it, even if she says she wants to, because you have no reason to believe she really wants to, free and clear.

Nonsense. The argument that a decent man might be making against premarital sex with an explictly willing partner fifty years ago (I figure you don't really mean 1958, do you?) would be that she wasn't sufficiently weighing the risks of pregnancy, social ostracism if they got caught, and so forth. Not that it was socially implausible that a woman could want to have premarital sex.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 4:04 PM
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I don't think that either side in this debate really has a clue to what prostitutes lives are actually like,

You're incorrect. I'll be the first to admit I don't have a good handle on overall statistics. I've got an extremely good feel for what bits of the business are about, and that involves a huge number of people. It's not pretty.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 4:06 PM
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I think 174 goes too far towards assuming that people can know what's going on in the heads of other people.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 4:06 PM
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I don't think that either side in this debate really has a clue to what prostitutes lives are actually like, especially the largely invisible "indoor" trade, and most especially the high end of that.

Time for the "how many prostitutes do you know" poll?


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 4:07 PM
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168: I think the distinctions are pretty clear in the actual comments I've written, though.

170: Oh, I see. I think that the "undesired sex with a partner you can't or won't divorce" is pretty key to LB's point, and I think as a starting point for how icky prostitution probably feels it's a good one. I just meant unimaginative in the sense that I'm pretty comfortable saying that fucking someone you'd rather not be having sex with but who you otherwise trust (well enough) and are familiar with is not at all like what I imagine it must be like to be fucking strangers you'd rather not be having sex with--especially strangers who have reason to believe they have some kind of power over you.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 4:08 PM
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174: Or he might think: "She really won't enjoy sex without marriage, so she thinks this implies marriage, even if I say it doesn't and she agrees." Which doesn't strike me as all that odd. My general sense is that the idea that women (or good women) might enjoy sex is a relatively recent one.

I don't know what the appropriate date is: move backwards as necessary.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 4:09 PM
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I'm confused by 176. What do you think I'm saying that you disagree with?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 4:09 PM
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173: Ghaaaa again.


Posted by: Hamilton-Lovecraft | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 4:10 PM
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My general sense is that the idea that women (or good women) might enjoy sex is a relatively recent one.

I think this is historically ill-founded. It's true to the extent that it's circular; there's certainly been an idea that a woman who desires or enjoys non-marital sex was by definition not a good woman. But there's never been a society in which it was regarded as innately implausible that a woman could desire non-marital sex.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 4:13 PM
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And certainly not implausible that a married woman could desire sex.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 4:15 PM
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175, 177: it's a highly fragmented business with a lot of variance across settings and places. I don't doubt that a lot of it is not pretty. The article in 169 is based on repeated in-depth interviews with about 100 women in NY "indoor" prostitution. I don't think anybody in this thread has had in-depth conversations with 100 different prostitutes (maybe I'm wrong about that). That setting might be quite different from others though.

But a lot of people in this thread have essentially been saying that prostitution is and will always be harmful to the enormous majority of women who engage in it, regardless of legal setting, level of social stigma, wealth or other options available to women in the society, etc. I just don't see how that claim can proceed from evidence as opposed to extrapolation from a few intuitions and anecdotes. The opposing claim -- "hey, they're all fine, they chose it, right!" of course cannot be justified either.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 4:15 PM
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182: OTOH, "Lie back and think of England" jokes come from somewhere, as does the need to argue even today that women have sex drives comparable to men, or that women aren't necessarily trading sex for a relationship, etc. That there is one tradition--women like sex--doesn't mean it's the only tradition.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 4:16 PM
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180: Well...you seem to be saying that every man should know enough to presume that any potential romantic partner is having sex because she actually wants to and not implying any obligations on his part...even in the 1950s when premarital sex was very socially risky for a woman and she could have been brought up to presume that she wouldn't enjoy it. And you are also saying that every man should know enough to presume that a prostitute who claims to find him desirable is telling the opposite of the truth.

But I think that when these situations actually occur, it's hard to keep convincing oneself that these rules are still assumed to be true despite all evidence to the contrary.

Maybe it's just that I watched Closer last night, but we can't know whether someone else is telling the truth or not.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 4:16 PM
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I just don't see how that claim can proceed from evidence as opposed to extrapolation from a few intuitions and anecdotes.

The evidence available suggests that prostitution has always been harmful to the enormous majority of prostitutes. So.

That said, I appreciate, actually, what I'm perceiving as a certain desire on the part of guys to say "hey, I don't want to be patriarchal so I'm not going to say whether or not *some* women like being prostitutes." But I think that's really different from (1) arguing that theoretically prostitution could be okay, or not all that different from other kinds of low-status jobs; or (2) being unwilling to say that yes, prostitution in general is a heinous thing and johns are to be condemned. Neither of which I'm really willing to give people a pass on.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 4:19 PM
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Maybe it's just that I watched Closer last night

Closer made me feel that sex should probably be replaced by just staring at your partner across a bare, empty room, bitterly contemplating the unbridgeable gulf between human beings.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 4:19 PM
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you are also saying that every man should know enough to presume that a prostitute who claims to find him desirable is telling the opposite of the truth.

Yes. They should. Thte end.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 4:20 PM
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I think this is historically ill-founded. It's true to the extent that it's circular; there's certainly been an idea that a woman who desires or enjoys non-marital sex was by definition not a good woman. But there's never been a society in which it was regarded as innately implausible that a woman could desire non-marital sex.

Does this statement depend on the word "non-marital"?

Because I think that the society that we, right now, live in is quite colored by the presumption that sex is something that men enjoy, and women let men have it in exchange for other things (this does not apply to the beautiful and exciting people, but to the average person).


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 4:20 PM
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See what happens when you indoctrinate people, B? Sometimes you have to unindoctrinate them.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 4:21 PM
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Insofar as citing to fictional characters can support any point, in The Far Side of the World Mr. Martin, the parson, takes the position that women don't enjoy sex, and Stephen holds that this is nonsense.


Posted by: washerdreyer | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 4:23 PM
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some they do all have other options like those water moccasin brought up

Really? There are women capable of being paid $500-$1000+ an hour for sex who couldn't find jobs (much worse paying jobs, with annoying hours, but still) as hostesses in restaurants, bartenders at trendy bars, or salespeople in boutiques or similarly high-end stores?

I think you've mentioned knowing some people of this variety in the past, so I'm genuinely curious as to what could be the difficulty. A number of attractive female friends of mine with zero work experience or finished education have had very very little trouble finding those jobs.


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 4:23 PM
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185, 186: No, I'm saying (or I will say now that I understand the argument) that the amount of information the parties have and the prior odds are very different in the two situations (1) romantic couple in the pre-sexual revolution period when premarital sex for women was still stigmatized and (2) john hiring prostitute now.

In situation (1), the parties are, you know, acquainted. Making it possible to reasonably assess motivations and consent. In situation (2), mostly (barring the Washingtonienne sort of case) they aren't. In situation (1), the woman is under a lot of social pressure to refuse to have sex even if she actually desires it. In situation (2), the prostitute is under pressure to consent to sex regardless of their desire or lack thereof.

In neither case can anybody be perfectly sure of anything, in the "I'm not sure that India exists, I haven't been there" sense. But the odds are different.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 4:24 PM
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189: However, a situation may exist where there is some degree of gray area between "prostitute" and "romantic partner". The aforementioned Washingtonienne.

And please don't say "Oh god, here we go again with arguing over the exception rather than the rule!" We argue about the exception rather than the rule because we all agree on the cases that comprise the rule, OK? This is why discussions like this are inherently silly. They always end up centering on the case in the middle, because that's the hardest one to agree on.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 4:25 PM
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178: I think you may be ignoring the possibility that perhaps the precise reason one desires the divorce is because the spouse is not someone they otherwise trust, and that indeed the spouse may very well be a person who thinks s/he has power over you -- and indeed apparently does, given the financial dependence issue.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 4:27 PM
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We argue about the exception rather than the rule because we all agree on the cases that comprise the rule, OK?

The preliminary agreement on the vast majority of cases step often tends to get skipped -- leading with it would often chill the conversation out quite a lot.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 4:28 PM
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191: Maybe I have too much faith in people to be able to think about shit without being "indoctrinated."

I'm genuinely curious as to what could be the difficulty

Addiction, for one. More to the point, I don't think it's necessary to argue against the "but surely they could always find some other job" claim, which is going to be true of any particular job you want to discuss. Individual undocumented farmworkers could find work as maids or gardeners, individual fast food workers could find jobs as janitors or busboys. So what?


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 4:31 PM
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197: Ah, then maybe we should first decide what we agree on. This would prevent arguments from ever occurring, since they would be revealed in their full pointlessness before ever getting the chance to irrationally inflame us.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 4:31 PM
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Ah, then maybe we should first decide what we agree on.

While I get the sense that you're kidding, I think this is a really excellent way to have a discussion -- first run through all the points of agreement so that you know where the common ground is, and only then start quibbling.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 4:34 PM
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But I think that's really different from (1) arguing that theoretically prostitution could be okay, or not all that different from other kinds of low-status jobs; or (2) being unwilling to say that yes, prostitution in general is a heinous thing and johns are to be condemned. Neither of which I'm really willing to give people a pass on.

But once you look at expensive prostitutes and say "hey, prostitution is a crappy job, but if you pay enough money it's worth it", then the problem with most johns isn't that they want something that is inherently wrong, but that they can't afford how much it would cost in a "fair" market. Which is an issue in a lot of jobs, from cheap restaurants to domestic help.


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 4:35 PM
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196: Sure that's a possibility. I still think that the situations are very different, albeit with the potential to be sadly similar, rather than the other way around.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 4:35 PM
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202: Fair enough. I don't, in any case, want to take this conversation off course.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 4:37 PM
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201: I don't think that the argument is that "if you pay enough money it's worth it." I think the argument is that the very few women who are temporarily in a position to really and truly "choose" to be high-end prostitutes because it's "easier" than being a restaurant hostess or what have you, are a pretty rare breed, and that you can't argue that oh well, prostitution isn't *inherently* different from "a lot of jobs, from cheap restaurants to domestic help" based on that (largely imagined) situation.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 4:38 PM
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I think this is a really excellent way to have a discussion

No it isn't.


Posted by: Hamilton-Lovecraft | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 4:38 PM
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I don't, in any case, want to take this conversation off course.

New here?


Posted by: Hamilton-Lovecraft | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 4:39 PM
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Addiction, for one. More to the point, I don't think it's necessary to argue against the "but surely they could always find some other job" claim, which is going to be true of any particular job you want to discuss. Individual undocumented farmworkers could find work as maids or gardeners, individual fast food workers could find jobs as janitors or busboys. So what?

The "they could always find some other job" claim is not true. The job requirements of a fast food worker (show up for work, display some modicum of care) are more or less the same as those of a janitor or busboy. The job requirements of an expensive prostitute (show up for "work", be very physically attractive, be willing to have sex with strangers) are a superset of being a hostess at a restaraunt (show up for work, be attractive).


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 4:41 PM
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As I think we've seen before, sometimes pinpointing the areas of agreement and disagreement here can inflame the debate rather than settle it. That happens when agreement is on surface issues and disagreements are fundamental. E.g. I come pretty close to believing both of the things that B said in 187 she was not willing to give a pass on. (Although in more complex forms than she stated them). Further discussion would just reveal that more and more, probably without settling anything.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 4:44 PM
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then the problem with most johns isn't that they want something that is inherently wrong, but that they can't afford how much it would cost in a "fair" market

Not exactly. Because wanting it (that is, being willing to purchase it) under the conditions you can afford is wrong.

"I really like violent movies. In this counterfactual universe, though, special effects are really expensive, so the only ones I can afford to go to actually kill people. But if I could pay for the ones with the faked violence, that'd be good too."

The speaker's enjoyment of violent movies is evil, even if he'd be willing to go to faked ones if he could afford it. A decent person would rather forgo violent movies if the only ones he could afford were snuff films.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 4:44 PM
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I'm wondering if we're circling around the real issue. Everyone seems to agree that the serious public policy question is women who go into prostitution out of desperation and not women making a thousand dollars an hour. What is the source of that desperation? Is it usually drugs? If it is, then isn't the real public policy question drugs, and not prostitution?


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 4:46 PM
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Here is an article about legal prostitution in Nevada:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2007/sep/07/usa.gender

It seems pretty abusive.


Posted by: lemmy caution | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 4:48 PM
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I don't think it's necessary to argue against the "but surely they could always find some other job" claim, which is going to be true of any particular job you want to discuss. Individual undocumented farmworkers could find work as maids or gardeners, individual fast food workers could find jobs as janitors or busboys. So what?

The reason those examples you give are "so what?" is because you are giving alternative jobs that we all agree are unreasonable in their current state. Many of them are severely underpaid and semi-abusive, hence their being mostly staffed by illegal immigrants or other people in dire straits. Someone not choosing to switch to those jobs says little to nothing about the desirability or acceptability of their current life.

For someone who has at least secondary education, is fluent in English, and is very attractive (the sort who would be a very highly-paid prostitute), the alternative service jobs that were mentioned in 150 and 193 are completely reasonable, well-regulated, and in many cases desireable. I've worked such jobs in the past (skewed more outdoorsy than attractive, due to my personal traits, but still) and a number of my friends still do. In this instance, it is a fairly powerful argument that someone choosing not to take such jobs is weighing a number of acceptable options and making an informed choice, especially if such jobs are fairly easy to come by as they have been in the past for me and my friends.

Now, the addiction point is a real one. It would be interesting to see what the addiction rate to seriously expensive drugs (such that one couldn't afford a moderate habit on a salesperson's or waiter's salary) is among top-end prostitutes.

Finally, as I've said all along, none of these arguments are relevant to the vast, vast majority of prostitution in the real world. But I do generally believe in revealed preference, so it's very interesting to work out some of these issues.


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 4:49 PM
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I come pretty close to believing both of the things that B said in 187 she was not willing to give a pass on.

Yeah, that's why I spelled them out. Because I think those beliefs were pretty clearly implicit in the things you were saying.

210: I think the real public policy question is why do we focus on the prostitutes rather than the johns.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 4:49 PM
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I think a lot of the problems outlined through this thread are caused by illegality, not inherent to the act itself. Legalised prostitution brings the same health and labour protections as for other fields of work, including, in any reasonable legal framework, the absolute right to refuse any prospective client at any point.

It's still, I would say, a bad thing, but it's not so overwhelmingly hopeless as you're making out. Forcing it underground (and prosecuting the clients is also forcing it underground) renders it much worse than allowing it in the open, where labour or health and safety inspections can discover forcible coercion and ensure proper precautions are taken at each step.


Posted by: N | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 4:50 PM
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209

"The speaker's enjoyment of violent movies is evil, even if he'd be willing to go to faked ones if he could afford it. A decent person would rather forgo violent movies if the only ones he could afford were snuff films."

So it's evil to pay less than LB's idea of fair value.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 4:50 PM
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194:

1. I'm not sure

In situation (1), the parties are, you know, acquainted. Making it possible to reasonably assess motivations and consent.

is right, because the archetypal situation, I think, involves virgin(s), in which case neither has any actual experience, making assessments of future assessments hard, and the assumption--based on the understanding that women don't enjoy sex--is that this is an experience that will be regretted. This is the "You'll be sorry in the morning" description.

2. I think we're also disagreeing about the description of the underlying person who is hooking. You are saying, I think, that there is this stable identity who will not want to hook but who is lying. I am saying it's something more like addiction: the prostitute is telling the truth as to what she desires, but her desires are so constrained and influenced by all manner of bad circs. that we shouldn't want to be involved in it. See, e.g., Quentin Crisp ("For six months he worked as a prostitute, looking for love, he said in a 1999 interview, but finding only degradation"). So in my case, it probably does look more like the "sex before marriage" case: there is reason to doubt a sincerely expressed desire.

3. Because of the disagreement in #2, I think we disagree about how to find evidence of "appropriate desire." Because your hooker is a stable identity, you introspect and map your intuition about undesired sex (or, maybe better, "bought sex") onto her. Because my hooker isn't a stable identity, I look to see if she is somehow otherwise healthy and trust health in other areas to predict health in this desire.

I think we end up in the same place in today's world--as lemmy caution indicated, as did the background on "Kristen," there are many reasons to doubt prostitutes are living healthy lives--but I think it's easier in mine to believe in the existence of prostitutes who enjoy or don't mind their work.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 4:52 PM
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212: No. The reason those examples are "so what" is that, despite the fact that we believe those jobs to be undesireable, I'm willing to go out on a limb and say that most of us here assembled have, in fact, worked in fast food or restaurant work at some point, and would, if we found ourselves hard up, take a job as a janitor or farm worker if it were the only option available. But I'm pretty sure that very few of us would willingly work as prostitutes.

I do generally believe in revealed preference

That's all well and good when we're talking about people who actually have choices. But as you're conceding, the vast, vast majority of prostitutes in the world really don't.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 4:55 PM
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211: http://www.lasvegassun.com/news/2008/jan/31/bewildered-academics-pore-over-sex-trade-hysteria/


Posted by: PerfectlyGoddamnDelightful | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 4:55 PM
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I think the real public policy question is why do we focus on the prostitutes rather than the johns.

Sexism. But there are also many, many more johns than prostitutes.


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 4:57 PM
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But they're probably much more likely to be dissuadable by a reasonable risk of legal sanction. Who's got more to lose in a bust, Spitzer or the prostitute he's patronizing?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 4:59 PM
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Forcing it underground (and prosecuting the clients is also forcing it underground) renders it much worse than allowing it in the open, where labour or health and safety inspections can discover forcible coercion and ensure proper precautions are taken at each step.

Apparently that's not at all true. The opposite, in fact, seems to be the case.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 4:59 PM
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But why don't street-walkers have choices? Because of drugs. It sure sounds like the entire bottom end of the market exists because of addiction. If you take away prostitution, you still have desperate people with no choices. What have you changed?


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 5:01 PM
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219: Yeah, but so what? I mean, even in this thread there seems to be a remarkable reluctance to entertain the idea that the *johns*, rather than the prostitutes, might actually be the issue.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 5:01 PM
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222 see 223.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 5:02 PM
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I mean, even in this thread there seems to be a remarkable reluctance to entertain the idea that the *johns*, rather than the prostitutes, might actually be the issue.

The entire thread is about the wrongness of the johns' desire (or that said desire requires a monstrous indifference to the prostitute's true feelings). But that wrongness is dependent on whether or not the johns can reasonably believe that the prostitutes actually don't hate their work.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 5:05 PM
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220

"But they're probably much more likely to be dissuadable by a reasonable risk of legal sanction. Who's got more to lose in a bust, Spitzer or the prostitute he's patronizing?"

Spitzer is probably not typical of clients any more than Kristen is of whores.

People are best dissuaded by increasing the probability of being caught. And this will be naturally be higher for prostitutes.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 5:09 PM
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that wrongness is dependent on whether or not the johns can reasonably believe that the prostitutes actually don't hate their work.

The abstraction, it burns. How many people do you even know who use prostitutes? I know just one guy who did it way back when. It's just a sleazy thing to do and in the unlikely event that a friend were considering it, I'd say "You can't participate in treating women like that." Even in the more unlikely event that prostitutes love their work, as long as going to a prostitute is an opportunity for a man to treat a woman as a thing, it's objectionable.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 5:10 PM
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including, in any reasonable legal framework, the absolute right to refuse any prospective client at any point.

It would be interesting to see how this would affect the entire practice of prostitution if it were ever effectively implemented. For a task so personal, I'd say it would be a vital requirement. It's also one that would make it far easier to support legal prostitution with a clearer conscience. But it also presupposes a large potential client pool, or at least the need for very few clients, so that prostitutes can actually afford to reject potential johns.

Once again, this brings us back to the idea that I mentioned in 160 and water moccasin seemed to get at in 201, which is that any reasonable form of legal prostitution would probably only allow the high-end of the existing trade to continue.


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 5:11 PM
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And we're all in agreement that the vast majority of evidence suggests that no, they can't. And yet it's so terribly important to hypothesize about situations in which maybe some of them do!

Not to mention that the entire legalization issue keeps sidestepping the johns. As if the only possible options are either "prosecute hookers" or "hey, there's nothing wrong with it, as long as women aren't actually being forced into it at gunpoint." There seems to be a remarkable blind spot to the idea that maybe if what's wrong with prostitution is the johns, then there might be another alternative.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 5:12 PM
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Ogged is correct.

Shearer, on the other hand, is clearly involved in organized prostitution, and proud of it.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 5:15 PM
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The abstraction, it burns.

What are you, new here?


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 5:17 PM
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193: Some women who are pretty enough and can pull it together enough for a few hours to do this sort of work at the hight end are also highly dysfunctional and/or heavily addicted. Both of which make regular employment iffy, at best.


Walt, the problem is not as simple as drugs, it's coercion. Drugs are a very effective form of coercion, but it's not all that's going on.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 5:17 PM
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229: Who in this thread ever suggested that "prosecute hookers" was the right way to go about things? I bet you'd find pretty much everyone except possibly Shearer (who I will not claim to understand one way or the other) agrees that prosecuting the prostitute makes far far less sense than prosecuting the pimps or brothel owners, and a fair bit less than prosecuting or otherwise punishing the johns.

If you do not look to legalize prostitution in any way, then I agree that the Swedish model looks like a good one. You'd probably be hard pressed to find disagreement among such a pool of lefty reasonableness as Unfogged.


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 5:17 PM
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Spitzer is probably not typical of clients any more than Kristen is of whores.

Antisemite.

221: Not disputing the facts in that link, but I don't follow the causation. Because a john (jan?) can legally go to a licensed sex worker, he therefore also has increased illegal access to kidnapped 13-y.o.s? The quoted text mentions a huge sex industry (which of course predates 2000 in Amsterdam) and also criminal gangs - but why would criminal gangs grow in the presence of a legal prostitution regime? The end of Prohibition reduced the role of rum runners, not increased it.

Presumably the reason has something to do with the fact that, as Amanda says, most johns want power over women more than any specific sexual satisfaction, and so they prefer to go to the more degraded sex worker.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 5:18 PM
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why would criminal gangs grow in the presence of a legal prostitution regime?

Because, unlike alcohol, you can't just create prostitutes in a factory, and there aren't enough women who are fucked up enough willing to meet the demand.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 5:20 PM
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228: From the article B linked, when legal prostitutes have rights, the johns tend towards underground sex markets. (Weird if they just want to buy sex, innit?)


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 5:25 PM
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when legal prostitutes have rights, the johns tend towards underground sex markets

This makes perfect sense if you think about what going to a prostitute means, and how essential it is that there be no constraints on your behavior short of extreme violence; it's all about a space where you can let yourself be ugly and have a woman accept it and even, if the price is right, coo over it. If you introduce rules and constraints, and if you remind the john that the woman is, however distantly, a person with rights, you've ruined the experience for him.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 5:29 PM
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234: Ex recto, but legalizing it might create demand and make it harder for the authorities to distinguish a legit place from a shady one, making it more hospitable for criminal gangs.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 5:29 PM
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232: Oof, talk about an argument for universal mental health care and addiction therapy.


Also, I think I have a great argument against any form of legalized prostitution:

Imagine, if you will, what would happen if high-end prostitution was legalized and seen as semi on the up-and-up. I'll tell you what will happen: Reality Television. There will be a show called America's Next Top Escort on Fox, Bravo, or VH1 within a year. For 20 weeks, the 30 contestants and countless viewers will be put through supposedly-titillating technique lessons, stilted attempts at charm school, terrible faux confessionals, and all the gimmicks the network execs could possibly throw at the concept. By the end of the season, one girl would get to be on retainer at one of the country's most elite escort agencies, probably already in high demand by scummy billionaires who want to screw the midwestern teen they saw on TV.

You people know this is true. We can never let it come to pass.


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 5:32 PM
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237: Exactly my point. The hooker-with-a-higher-education-degree-and-heart-of-gold and the lonely-john-who-just-needs-intimacy seem like not the general rule to me.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 5:32 PM
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236

"228: From the article B linked, when legal prostitutes have rights, the johns tend towards underground sex markets. (Weird if they just want to buy sex, innit?)"

Not if the underground markets are much cheaper.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 5:35 PM
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Or consisting of underage girls.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 5:36 PM
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Not if the underground markets are much cheaper.

See? Toldja.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 5:37 PM
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This makes perfect sense if you think about what going to a prostitute means, and how essential it is that there be no constraints on your behavior short of extreme violence; it's all about a space where you can let yourself be ugly and have a woman accept it and even, if the price is right, coo over it. If you introduce rules and constraints, and if you remind the john that the woman is, however distantly, a person with rights, you've ruined the experience for him.

Based on your one friend who went to one? I've never bought sex, but the times I've been closest were motivated by horniness and something like loneliness. My ex who used to live with hookers said that most of their customers were Asian and Indian dudes, and both of those cultures tend to frown on women engaging in premarital sex. Truck drivers and sailors - stereotypical patrons of prostitutes - are not in a good place to form the traditional sort of relationship with another person leading to sex.

238 sounds much more plausible with regards to the Amsterdam thing than "giving the prostitute rights ruins the experience".


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 5:43 PM
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Based on your one friend who went to one?

Actually, I never talked to him about it beyond noting the fact that he'd done it. Hey, maybe I'm wrong. If I went to a prostitute, you can bet it would be to defile her utterly.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 5:45 PM
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236/237 matches with my feel for it.

A bit of context: when I was about 15 I lived a few months in a house that was not exactly a brothel. Which means both the women living there (my friends mother and her friend) where whores, but they mostly didn't work out of that house.

Both these women were in the late 30s, but you'd think much older. They'd been street walking off and on since their teens, alcoholic and drug addicts, for around the same time. Physically, they looked about how you'd expect after 20+ years of hard living. Neither of them had managed to hold a steady job for more than a few months, though they'd both tried. Both of them ended up on the streets in the first place because they were pretty incompetent in exactly the ways they were incompetent years later when I met them.

I think there is a lot of that. Part of it is the tendency of people with mental diseases to end up on the street ... but also people who may technically not be ill, but are pretty incapable. You fall into a path that eventually leads to many things, selling yourself just a common part of it.

You might wonder why these women could still make a go of it (at least part time) at their age with young, pretty competition around. Part of it is probably excess demand. But mostly I think it's because they'll put up with/do things that a lot of the younger girls don't have to.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 5:47 PM
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233

"229: Who in this thread ever suggested that "prosecute hookers" was the right way to go about things? I bet you'd find pretty much everyone except possibly Shearer (who I will not claim to understand one way or the other) agrees that prosecuting the prostitute makes far far less sense than prosecuting the pimps or brothel owners, and a fair bit less than prosecuting or otherwise punishing the johns."

Since I don't think prostitution should be illegal I am not that interested in the best way to prosecute it. However if your goal is to reduce the number of transactions I think prosecuting prostitutes (and making it harder for prostitutes to advertise their services) would be most cost effective. Current levels of enforcement seem mostly symbolic.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 5:47 PM
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But that wrongness is dependent on whether or not the johns can reasonably believe that the prostitutes actually don't hate their work.

The abstraction, it burns. How many people do you even know who use prostitutes?

Forgive me for having read only the last 10 comments since a couple of hours ago, but I took it that it's LB's argument that the wrongness is dependent on what the johns reasonably believe about the prostitutes' feelings on the matter. That's part of the problem with the argument, in my view: the fact that a given prostitute might feel just fine about it doesn't excuse participation on the john's part in an institution that's fundamentally exploitative. But there's your slippery slope, the same argument several have hauled out, to the effect that any number of institutions (hate your job, anyone?) are exploitative.

I've seen a couple of arguments about prostitution as a special case: that it's a perversion of one of our most sacred relations, that of bodily intimacy, therefore maximally invasive; that it's an exercise, par excellence, in the commodification of (usually women's) bodies; that the audience or recipient engages in it, as in the case of boxing, for purely recreational purposes.

As for people one has known who have used prostitutes: a few in my case. One is physically handicapped and has trouble finding a lover otherwise. A couple were treated by their friends or father as an initiation. I know quite a few more people who have gone to strip joints.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 5:48 PM
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233.1: No one said that punishing prostitues was fair. But given that we all agree it isn't, people *have* said that it should be legalized. Which skips right over the actual problem, i.e., the johns. It's almost as if people thought that the issue was how to satisfy the poor men who want sex without exploiting women *too* much, rather than the unthinkable possibility that perhaps we should focus on trying to prevent exploiting women, period.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 5:50 PM
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I've never bought sex, but the times I've been closest were motivated by horniness and something like loneliness.

But seriously, you didn't, and I would guess that the sleaziness of doing it was at least part of the reason.

As for who else patronizes prostitutes, I'm not sure what that proves, since the (vast?) majority of guys do in fact have retrograde views about women and particularly about prostitutes.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 5:51 PM
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Oh, about the criminalization. It's simpler than that. Organized/ semi organized crime will show up *anywhere* that there are people who they can effectively lean on. Also, wherever the pay/risk looks right.

So at one end, you've got people actually enslaved and worked as prostitutes, but on the other end you've got protection money etc.

Even if prostitution is legal, if the social stigma is big enough you'll have a problem. Any time people are reluctant (for what ever reason) to go to the police and/or publicize, etc. you've opened a crack that people will leverage for money.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 5:52 PM
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when legal prostitutes have rights, the johns tend towards underground sex markets.

Well... No shit. There are sick bastards out there, which shouldn't surprise anyone. And the creation of any artificially high price for a good or service (such as a reasonable wage for prostitution) will tend to create a black market that needs to get cracked down on.

You and ogged and soup (and a subset of B's comments) have been right on this stuff, and I haven't disagreed with you anywhere. Most of prostitution is fairly easy to characterize, and both completely depressing and downright boring in the uniform misery of its existence. I'm just happy positing my what-if scenarios about potentially legalizeable (extremely tiny, it seems) subsections of prostitution.


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 5:54 PM
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the actual problem, i.e., the johns

I don't really like this way of putting it, either. It makes it seem like a boys vs. girls issue. If the issue is exploitation, lets talk about the culture of exploitation. At various people's preferred level of abstraction, the issue might be commodification/capitalism, or maybe alienation from the body, or a conflation of objects with beings...whatever. But I'm pretty sure "the" problem isn't the johns.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 5:55 PM
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B, are you just going to keep repeating that point until someone takes your bait? If prostitution should be illegal, then of course we should prosecute johns. If prostitution should be legal, then we should prosecute no one.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 5:55 PM
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My point is that there's another option, which is to decriminalize selling sex, but prosecute--and actually enforce--making it illegal to purchase it.

I know it makes it sound like a boys v. girls issue. Which is an unfortunate side effect of being blunt about reality, which is that it is generally men who pay for sex, and women who sell it. I don't think this has anything to do with men being inherently hornier than women or any kind of bullshit like that.

I think it has to do with men being excused for exploiting women by the way we tend to focus on things like "how to help these poor women" rather than "how to discourage men from doing this thing that we all agree is heinous."


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 5:59 PM
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If I went to a prostitute, you can bet it would be to defile her utterly.

Yes, but would you tell your friend about it in detail?


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 6:00 PM
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I find this is a hard issue to think about, because both prostitution and the use of state power to outlaw prostitution offend my moral intuitions. I think I have been persuaded by B's argument about actually-existing-prostitution. I'm saying this now, before B successfully baits me into arguing whatever it is she wants to argue about...


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 6:01 PM
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That said, nope! I'm gonna try to stop talking in this thread now, because I'm trying to train myself to let other people just *be* wrong without feeling like it's my personal responsibility to help them not be so dumb.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 6:01 PM
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I'm too damn earnest for this blog. I wonder when the fuck that happened.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 6:02 PM
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If I went to a hooker, I would be polite and respectful. I never know how to get my money's worth.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 6:02 PM
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But seriously, you didn't, and I would guess that the sleaziness of doing it was at least part of the reason.

Well, there was also no way in hell I was spending $1k, and even $500 was a bit steep, and the prostitutes who work for less than that in the SFBA are a pretty unappealing bunch. And the illegality and the sleaziness. The other time that I thought about it was on a motorcycle trip through Nevada because a) it was legal and b) no one would know.

As for who else patronizes prostitutes, I'm not sure what that proves, since the (vast?) majority of guys do in fact have retrograde views about women and particularly about prostitutes.

Having retrograde views about women doesn't mean that they're buying the right to defile.


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 6:02 PM
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Wow, 258 is really raising the stakes baiting-wise. Well done.

Soup, now that you are so earnest: if somehow magically prostitution was unavailable as a career, would the women you've known be better off, or worse off?


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 6:04 PM
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260: It's ok Walt, apparently a lot of people go to cry and whinge. It's a flexible market.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 6:04 PM
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257

"... I think I have been persuaded by B's argument about actually-existing-prostitution. ..."

But lots of the problems with actually existing prostitution are at least arguably caused by the fact that it is illegal.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 6:05 PM
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In a libertarian utopia, defilement rights would be sold on properly organized, well-regulated exchanges, like orange futures are.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 6:05 PM
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262: Shit, it would depend a lot on which ones. I think it would be a mixed bag. Some would probably mule or sell at street level. The women I described above did a bunch of other crimes, so probably more of that. But short of the really young ones, most of the girls I knew had been chewed up in a whole system for years, so it's hard to know what would happen to them if the system was significantly different.

The ones I know would be better off are the kids. Which isn't to say they wouldn't find other ways to self-destruct.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 6:09 PM
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But lots of the problems with actually existing prostitution are at least arguably caused by the fact that it is illegal.

by the fact that it is illegal to be a prostitute, not that it is illegal to patronize one.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 6:10 PM
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267 is good point. It would be interesting to see how the profile of associated crimes changed (or didn't) if the prosecution all switched over to Johns.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 6:13 PM
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259 is actually bugging me a bit.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 6:16 PM
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255 is very good.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 6:17 PM
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267

"by the fact that it is illegal to be a prostitute, not that it is illegal to patronize one."

Not entirely, a regime where only patronizing prostitutes is illegal still would have problems caused by illegality and not inherent in prostitution.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 6:22 PM
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268->271


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 6:24 PM
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269: 259 is puzzling me, but sounds fine on the face of it. ogged's defilement comment is flat out puzzling. I may actually have to read back through the thread.

This at 253 sounds right, though:

If the issue is exploitation, lets talk about the culture of exploitation. At various people's preferred level of abstraction, the issue might be commodification/capitalism, or maybe alienation from the body, or a conflation of objects with beings...whatever. But I'm pretty sure "the" problem isn't the johns.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 6:27 PM
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251.1 is right.

Re: 259: Some people are more accustomed to switching gears from abstract, sometimes lighthearted discussion of people/events/policy issues, to personal experiences and consequences of the aforementioned jokey policy decisions. That's not a criticism, just a description.

I am not especially good at switching gears, but I spend most of my time in earnest mode anyway.

I think it's easier to move fluidly between the two when you're with a group of folks with largely the same social experience and "priors". There's more surety that you're going to be read accurately even when you're shorthanding.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 6:32 PM
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273: What was bugging me is the thought that 259 is true.

Agree that `the Johns' is an oversimplification, without (hopefully) undermining B's points. I've known some male prostitutes as well and the dynamics are different.

Actually all this talk of as if `so-and-so is a prostitute' is a bit off too. So-and-so may prostitute themselves, but for a lot of people that's hardly a job description.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 6:33 PM
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At various people's preferred level of abstraction,

Now you're getting into the swing of things.

if somehow magically prostitution was unavailable as a career, would the women you've known be better off, or worse off?

I think this is one of the things that bother me, and it has come up on, I think, maquiladora (sp?)* stuff as well. I'm sometimes suspicious that "This is wrong" really means "Let's reduce the specific instance so I feel better about things, but changing everything isn't going to happen, what's for lunch?" Another oft-used (perhaps oft-misused) example is letting people out of the asylums under Reagan.

I can't shake the feeling that people (the hookers) are doing the best that they can, and that half-fixing something might make things worse for them, not better.

* Let's not derail by rehashing that. It was just a clarifying example.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 6:34 PM
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Continuing 274.3: I'm pretty sure soup doesn't share priors with many people here, nevermind that he seems unusually adaptable with regard to social circles.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 6:34 PM
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The imaginary Reality TV scenario in 239 is all too imaginable.

God, this topic is depressing.


Posted by: Mary Catherine | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 6:35 PM
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Ogged's defilement comment made me appreciate his genius.

When I hire a hooker, I'm sure to always hire two. Why? Because I am a feminist.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 6:38 PM
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My priors are a really weird mix, I think. It's been a really long time since I've been in a group of people where I didn't feel like that was a bit off. Which might have something to do with whatever adaptability is there; I've bounced social circles a lot.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 6:39 PM
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279 was me, embarrassingly enough. Not the hooker part; the saying-something-nice-about-ogged part.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 6:39 PM
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hookers are doing the best that they can, and that half-fixing something might make things worse for them

We might be able to get empirical data by looking at the results of the V or T visas under the Violence Against Women Act. These are special immigration visas available to women who were trafficked to the US to be sex workers, and/or are being abused by their husbands.

The "fix" could certainly be called halfway -- after you get the visa, which is basically a green card, you're still starting from scratch in a strange country to find a job, housing, etc. I suspect that few if any women who got the visas would say that this halfway fix made things worse. But it's a question that could, as I said, be answered with facts.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 6:42 PM
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Every single woman who I know for certain has turned tricks did it because of opiate addiction. I know a bunch of men who turned tricks (far more than women, actually), and while most of them did heavy drugs, they mostly weren't turning tricks to support a habit. They were doing it because they could.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 6:44 PM
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283: Yeah, obviously that's not always the case, but I think there is a population of guys who do this with little or no other effect. Not so with women I've met.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 6:46 PM
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283: Apo, were they making a living/surviving at it or doing it as (for lack of a better word) a sideline?


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 6:46 PM
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272

See here for a negative view of the Swedish experience.

Generally speaking I find it hard to see how you can reduce prostitution without making the lives of prostitutes less pleasant.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 6:47 PM
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282: Yeah, I'm sure there are some sort of answers, but I doubt they're straightforward ones. Though your case of immigrant women w/out papers seems different. I'm thinking of the incompetent-but-not-really-incompetent women soup referenced. On the one hand, it seems impossible to imagine that it could be worse ("But mostly I think it's because they'll put up with/do things that a lot of the younger girls don't have to"); on the other hand, I tend to believe it can always be worse.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 6:48 PM
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285: The guys? The latter.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 6:49 PM
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Actually, now that I think about it, I can think of at least one guy who was supporting a nasty drug habit through prostitution. But I have a sneaking suspicion that, even absent the habit, his behavior wouldn't have been terribly different.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 6:51 PM
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hough your case of immigrant women w/out papers seems different.

Not that different if you figure that they are disproportionately large number of the full-time prostitutes in the US. In the back of my local alt-weekly are pages and pages of ads for massage parlours featuring "lovely Asian beauties."

[If you want a surreal experience, try explaining to a non-native English speaker why his city has an ordinance against massage therapists having facilities near churches or schools. "Well, you see, the word "massage" has two meanings in American English..."]


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 6:52 PM
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288: I wonder to what extent the male/female split you mention is driven by the broader "male perv" problem. If there's a naked picture of you, Apo, out there, it's funny but not much more, but if there's a naked picture of a woman out there, it seems much more likely that it will be passed around, etc. So having been a male hooker get you "Ah, interesting" when people find out, while for female hookers it's "In-terees-ting...."

Rampant speculation, obv. But, per ogged, apparently now we have to announce that.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 6:56 PM
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290

"Not that different if you figure that they are disproportionately large number of the full-time prostitutes in the US. In the back of my local alt-weekly are pages and pages of ads for massage parlours featuring "lovely Asian beauties.""

Just another bad effect of illegal immigration.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 6:57 PM
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Just another bad effect cause of illegal immigration.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 7:03 PM
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Uh oh, Witt, you triggered the illegal immigration subroutine.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 7:05 PM
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278: The imaginary Reality TV scenario in 239 is all too imaginable.

No kidding. Aren't the existing Reality TV shows a short step away from an America's Next Top Stripper or Porn Star anyway?

In other matters, opinions obviously differ, but being allegedly too earnest for this place is a good thing; it's too boring otherwise, notwithstanding the claim that metacomments are in themselves boring.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 7:06 PM
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294: No! No! Undo! I take it back!


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 7:08 PM
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259: You might be feeling earnest about this because you actually have some significant personal experience -- for people (like me!) who are working off 'things they read someplace', it's a lot easier to argue lightheartedly.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 7:12 PM
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THe difficulty with this is taht there is no clear line to be drawn from any sort of using one's sexuality for an advantage, from wearing a well-fitting suit to work down to prostitution. People's judgments of others are too tied up in sexual desirability/nondesirability; its the fundamental drive once you have enough to eat and aren't being chased by a polar bear. To my mind its just a matter of 'having more power is good.' so people with least power, they're the worst off.


Posted by: yoyo | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 7:14 PM
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Just another bad effect of illegal immigration.

I'd like to propose a new form of blog-based entertainment: the James B. Shearer Non Sequitur Drinking Game. Every time someone (whether James himself, or another commenter in imitation or emulation of James) responds to an argument with a total non sequitur, you have to take another swig.


Posted by: Mary Catherine | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 7:14 PM
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To my mind its just a matter of 'having more power is good.' so people with least power, they're the worst off.

The problem with this sort of dimestore Machiavellianism is that it can be used to rationalize any type of injustice or exploitation whatsoever.


Posted by: Mary Catherine | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 7:19 PM
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299 definitely proves that Mary Magdaelene had sex with Jesus.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 8:11 PM
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Also 291: having been a male hooker get you "Ah, interesting" when people find out

Somehow I doubt this.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 8:15 PM
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So, kind of off-topic -- does anyone know how to go about hiring a prostitute?


Posted by: Adam Kotsko | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 8:18 PM
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Just look for short-skirted women on the street and ask "What do I get for five dollars?," Adam.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 8:21 PM
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299 definitely proves that Mary Magdaelene had sex with Jesus.

And that's why fluoridation is a conspiracy by the toxic waste industry.


Posted by: minneapolitan | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 8:28 PM
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If you have to ask, Adam ...


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 8:29 PM
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303: Go to the corner of Lincoln and Western in 20 minutes. I'll be the one in the short skirt.


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 8:29 PM
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"And that's why fluoridation is a conspiracy by the toxic waste industry."

More of us are compromised by heavy metal poisoning than by institutional exploitation, frankly.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 8:35 PM
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So, kind of off-topic -- does anyone know how to go about hiring a prostitute?

Craigslist, services, erotic.


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 8:36 PM
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erosonline.com, Adam, as I keep telling you people.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 8:40 PM
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Geez, moc, it says quite clearly on craigslist that offers of prostitution are prohibited.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 8:44 PM
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I can't believe people are answering Adam seriously.

You're all obviously suffering from mercury poisoning due to your dental fillings. Jesus.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 8:47 PM
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Adam, make sure you only agree to exchange money for sex if she can convince you that she loves her job.

Speaking of torture, one of the better "I've got you in a headlock and won't let go until you say uncle in a creative way" that I've heard was "Name five birds." One of those simple tasks that's much more difficult when you're in a headlock (not that I was the one in a headlock).


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 8:48 PM
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313: (not that I was the one in a headlock)

Christ, not half kinky, are ya?


Posted by: minneapolitan | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 8:50 PM
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I didn't say there were no headlocks.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 8:53 PM
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Headlocks don't count as defilement these days, ogged. I hope you didn't pay a thousand bucks, or you got screwed.


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 8:57 PM
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Shit.

Now I have a crush on one of the Craigslist escorts. Thanks a lot, water moccasin.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 8:58 PM
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I think ogged is in post-relationship processing.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 9:00 PM
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Oh, she has a bunch of grammatical errors in just one sentence. Nevermind.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 9:00 PM
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Is she only in town for a brief period? Better strike while the iron is hot.

Or better yet, we could play a game of "which craigslist escort does ogged have a crush on".


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 9:01 PM
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This man can help you.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 9:01 PM
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||

How much do you think it would cost to build a 1:1 replica of the Potala Palace in, say, Montana? The big outlay would be on the skilled masons, and no doubt you'd have to pay quite a bit for design and set-asides to keeps the bureaucrats happy, but it's really not that huge a structure. If you had most of it as pretty basic, unheated, unwatered rooms with minimal furnishings and decoration, it seems like you could probably keep the total outlay around $50 million or so.

Really gets a fella thinkin', that Wikipedia.

||>


Posted by: minneapolitan | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 9:05 PM
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Oh, she has a bunch of grammatical errors in just one sentence. Nevermind.

That's just the person who writes her ads. Don't give up so easily!


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 9:06 PM
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Some people on an escort review site (!) say it's a fake ad, but others seem to have gone out with her. It's not like I have plans tonight.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 9:09 PM
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If you had most of it as pretty basic, unheated, unwatered rooms with minimal furnishings and decoration, it seems like you could probably keep the total outlay around $50 million or so.

You think? 300 meters x 400 meters x 10-ish stories? 10 million-ish square feet? It'd have to be more, unless maybe you made the whole thing out of reinforced concrete.


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 9:10 PM
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323: Truth.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 9:11 PM
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Now I have a crush on one of the Craigslist escorts.

Beware the rebound romance, ogged. Just saying.


Posted by: Mary Catherine | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 9:11 PM
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My Redbook?

I'll contribute $50 toward the "settle an Unfogged debate through first-hand research" experiment.


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 9:12 PM
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Also, keep in mind that a lot of the myRedbook reviews are probably fake ones written to get free access to the site.


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 9:13 PM
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My Redbook?

Yes.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 9:15 PM
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328: I'll contribute $50 toward the "settle an Unfogged debate through first-hand research" experiment.

Wow, water moccasin, that's really great. I think we'll probably need to get a bunch of the lurkers involved too before the dream of the Montana Potala becomes a reality.

325: unless maybe you made the whole thing out of reinforced concrete.

Well, yeah, that would be the idea, I'm not saying you could fit it out with all the gold leaf and whatnot that the actual thing has for fifty million. But I bet if you bought a bunch of Cinva-Rams and hired HS kids to make blocks with them during summer break that would keep costs down too.


Posted by: minneapolitan | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 9:18 PM
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327: I tend to think ogged's joking, but on the other hand, the derring-do of the blog persona dictates rebounding forthwith.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 9:19 PM
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There was a commenter a while ago who was considering going into the sex-for-pay business, and who said, IIRC, that she believed herself to be a person for whom such work would not be injuriously unpleasant. I don't know if she reads this blog anymore, but I'd be interested to know her thoughts on this.

1) I tried, and eventually succeeded, in finding a sugar daddy situation. While looking for the right person I had sex with a few people once, never with the explicit intention never to see them again, and received, you know, a gift. While there were important structural differences between what I did and working in a brothel, I don't think any of those dissimilarities created a difference in kind between what I was doing and prostitution, except for legal construal purposes. I'm done for now, since I made enough to be financially secure for the time frame I'm concerned about.

2) I am very anomolous among the population of sex workers. I made a lot of money (not ultra high end money, but a lot), and could pick who I slept with. Even in my limited experiences I figured out that that last bit made a huge difference, and if I would have found it much less congenial if I didn't have that option.

2a) Something interesting that I found out, which I wouldn't have predicted, is that the experience I least wanted to repeat was having sex with someone who I really felt no attraction to. Prior to that I would have thought that sex with anyone I could feel positive about as a person, and could muster some sympathy for, would be fine. I liked it better having sex with someone who I didn't respect and who treated me degradingly (while attempting to maintain a fiction to himself and to me that that was not what was doing) but who I found somewhat sexy than I did having sex with someone basically nice who I didn't find attractive at all. Having to have sex with any ugly old man who wanted to would have been exponentially more unpleasant than what I did.

2b) One of the many advantages of being middle class, white (Asian will often also do), educated, attractive, etc. is that you can have sex for money under circumstances much more felicitous than most people in the world.

3) There was no occasion on which I net enjoyed the sex, but there were aspects I enjoyed at times. One of the men who I met who I really personally liked was also a great kisser (and cute). I did sometimes actively enjoy things around the sex. I sometimes enjoyed going out, talking to the men and learning about their lives and their motivations, hearing about what they needed. I often didn't enjoy their hypocrisy and self-deception, or participating in it. The man who stuck, and who I liked the best, was the least hypocritical. I was good at acting/flirting enough so everyone I met thought we "clicked", as little as that may have been true, but I sometimes found it unpleasantly effortful (the other ex-prostitute I know is more of a high self-monitor and does all that more naturally).

4) It was not uncommon for men to be really genuinely interested in me enjoying the sex. Money makes honest communication really hard, and I would have had to be critical to get anywhere near enjoying the sex, but didn't feel comfortable doing so. In any case, it was clear to me that some of them had real concern for my subjective experience. You could certainly argue that they were culpably stupid in thinking they were capable of accurately perceiving or responding to it under the circumstances.

5) I chose to do it to avoid a lower paying job I hated. Figuring in monetary compensation, time demands, and the fact that I wasn't going to need to rely on it long-term, I preferred it to continuing in the perfectly respectable, non-physically demanding job I had before where everyone was nice to me. I wouldn't like to do it long-term, but then, the thought of doing my other job long-term makes me want to stab my head with an ice pick too. I'd like to go back to it for a bit--when I have time--to wipe out my debt/build up my savings. I had some immediate financial needs I wanted to meet when I started, and those financial needs now met, I'm just too busy to be running around trying to find the right sugar daddy; it was a time consuming process, like dating, and I have other important priorities and no pressing financial problems. But it would not be a big deal to me to do it for a little while longer to make some more money. I've also considered stripping.

6) (5) is true despite the fact that I would stack my psychological adjustment up against anyone's. I suppose someone or other could take issue with that, but they would be leaning heavily on the difficult-to-avoid conflation of mental health with normality and conventionality. I am widely regarded by people who know me personally as good-natured, even-tempered, and upbeat. I've had more than one stable, loving, romantic relationship in which we treated each other gently and talked about our problems like grownups, and am in one now. I am friends with past boyfriends. I have never been sexually abused, abused substances, nor taken any kind of mood regulating drug, prescription or non-prescription. I am slowly working on my long-term career goals. The biggest psychological issues I currently have are tendencies toward procrastination and body image problems. Admittedly, viewing your body critically through the lens of a consumer isn't great for this last. I'm also fairly promiscuous, emotionally keratinized enough to be past getting really upset about sex unless I feel strong desire (this would naturally exclude getting beaten or raped, which would certainly upset me), and nearly immune to sexual shame. I'm unusual in all these ways, and maybe thus better suited to sex work than most.

6a) The other ex-prostitute I know made several hundred thousand dollars in less than a year, mostly from handjobs/massage, and while I can't vouch for her mental health at a fine grained level, I know she has no drug problems, is currently successful (though unhappy) in a finance job, maintains stable friendships, and is pleasant and affable in conversation. She has a history with bulimia; I don't know how well she's kicked it.

7) I am as introspective, as connected to my emotions, and as honest a reporter as you could find.

8) In my short career, I experienced efforts to get me to do something I didn't want to do ("forced" would be very strong there; there was never I time when I didn't think I could walk out the door of my own free will; I was never frightened). On the other hand, I experienced that not infrequently in the rest of my dating life, and I'm not sure the frequency was higher among occasions when I was having sex for money. I also had someone attempt to threaten me with exposure, though his threats were pretty laughable and impotent. It was an emotionally unpleasant experience though.

9) I find the generalizations about what motivates men to pay for sex to be very poorly mapped onto my experience. I think men who pay for sex are diverse, and the cause of understanding what motivates them would be well served by asking them. My sample might well be unrepresentative. A lot of men I met worked too much and did not have time to maintain a relationship. Patriarchy, I observed, hurts men too. Getting laid randomly is also pretty labor intensive, if you think about it, and what this subset didn't have was time and energy.

10) This is nothing particular to my experience, but I don't believe there is such a thing as a blameworthy desire. There are desires that it would be better to try to extinguish if they are likely to lead to blameworthy action, but it's the action that's blameworthy. In fact, I think I experience all the things that motivate johns. I have all sorts of fantasies about being serviced. I don't have an entire cultural apparatus to channel those desires into reality, and the desires aren't strong enough to induce me to expend effort to fulfill them. While there may be something wrong with a culture that encourages thae expression of desires like that, especially given the imbalance between the genders and the fact that women are encouraged to properly see themselves as vehicles for that expression, I don't think the desire to have your needs taken care of by some hottie without having to worry about them is actually so difficult to understand. Some people can really only imagine desiring sex with someone who affirmatively desires you back. I'm not one of them. It's hard for me to believe the desire is in itself wrongful. This doesn't mean I think the satisfaction of it should enter into some utilitarian calculation though.

11) It was overall a great decision for me in more dimensions than I'm elaborating here. Clients/johns/daddies can in some cases be helpful/supportive/useful for networking. I know this to have been the experience of the other ex-prostitute I know. However, I have no trouble believing that I am very unusual in having had such a positive experience.


Posted by: the commenter mentioned in 29 | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 9:20 PM
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Re: 321: No way was Tom Cruise merely a humble parishioner. He's simply not capable of the requisite humility.

I was appalled to learn that Bart Simpson's voice donated $10 million to Scientology. Not that I don't support the noble, and increasingly urgent, cause of de-aberrating the Earth, of course.


Posted by: Mary Catherine | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 9:27 PM
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Well, yeah, that would be the idea, I'm not saying you could fit it out with all the gold leaf and whatnot that the actual thing has for fifty million. But I bet if you bought a bunch of Cinva-Rams and hired HS kids to make blocks with them during summer break that would keep costs down too.

Ah, I didn't know if you wanted to make the whole thing out of stone blocks like I presume the original is. Fifty million still seems low - would that even buy you the raw materials? Seventy bucks a yard makes me think you'd be close not counting labor.

It'd be interesting to see. The City Palace in Udaipur inspired similar thoughts. Damn the ancient times and their incredibly low wages and despotic rulers who built great things to show off their awesomeness! All we get now is the lame Apollo Program.


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 9:29 PM
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333: I wish your comment were provided a space of its own for comment. Not criticism. Thoughtful, really interesting. Thanks.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 9:29 PM
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Hey, commenter mentioned in 29, I know I'm one of the more judgmental people around here, but I'd like to say that I'm really, really glad that it worked out well for you.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 9:29 PM
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A lot of men I met worked too much and did not have time to maintain a relationship.

Now there's a demographic that is underrepresented in blog comment threads.

Fascinating, 333!


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 9:34 PM
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333 is interesting. Like Ned, I'm fascinated, and like Ogged, I am glad it worked out well.


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 9:40 PM
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333: That's interesting, thanks for filling us in and particularly on commenting about what you learned in the process.

I have the feeling that your situation is unusual too, but certainly not unheard of. I met a girl who put herself through med school debt free this way. While she wasn't comfortable talking to her fellow residents about it she seemed pretty positive about the whole thing. I suspect if you start off from reasonably good space and have a temporary plan (and the right headspace for it) it can work out ok ...


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 9:41 PM
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333 is very interesting. The combination of 2(b) and the latter bit of 6 pick out a combination of circumstance, motive and psychological makeup that seem somewhat unusual.

I don't believe there is such a thing as a blameworthy desire

For the desires discussed in 10 this seems right, though I'm not sure it's right in general.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 9:54 PM
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unless maybe you made the whole thing out of reinforced concrete.

Concrete is really an ecologically disastrous building material. You should build a bamboo montana potala.

Everybody drink now.


Posted by: mcmc | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 9:54 PM
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This whole conversation relies entirely on the subjective experience of people involved in the sex trade, and yet, this conversation almost entirely lacks the perspective of people involved.

Even the links posted here seem to be heavily ideologically motivated, rather than motivated by a genuine desire to convey real experiences.

So thanks, 333. I haven't got a clue as to how generalizable your experience is, but it's still educational to hear about.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 9:57 PM
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does anyone know how to go about hiring a prostitute?

The yellow pages.

I know this from some book which recounts the author hanging out with Dave Navarro, getting hookers.


Posted by: Michael Roetzel | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 10:00 PM
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Argh, Safari is annoying me with that auto-fill feature.


Posted by: Michael | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 10:01 PM
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I was actually going to hire one for Ogged. It sounds like he really needs to degrade someone tonight.


Posted by: Adam Kotsko | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 10:06 PM
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This whole conversation relies entirely on the subjective experience of people involved in the sex trade, and yet, this conversation almost entirely lacks the perspective of people involved.

Even the links posted here seem to be heavily ideologically motivated, rather than motivated by a genuine desire to convey real experiences.

And we're still more open-minded and knowledgeable than the people who actually make laws about these things.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 10:08 PM
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333: Wow. Excellent comment (obv.). I'm glad it work out for you.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 10:08 PM
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He could just degrade himself in the privacy of his own home.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 10:09 PM
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349: I think he can reread the archives from pretty much anywhere. Doesn't he have an iPhone?


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 10:11 PM
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Doesn't he have an iPhone?

As I recall, his refusal to buy one was another manifestation of his auto-degrading tendencies.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 10:12 PM
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You bastards aren't even paying me for this.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 10:15 PM
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351: Did you get one? And was it worth it?


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 10:15 PM
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I was good at acting/flirting enough so everyone I met thought we "clicked", as little as that may have been true, but I sometimes found it unpleasantly effortful

That was my experience too, the once. And it's the biggest reason why I think that prostituting onself for *anything* more than the very short term would, in fact, be extremely difficult. If you do your job well, the johns are going to think you care, and that's a difficult position to be in. Not to mention potentially dangerous, depending on the guy.

299 has made me fall desperately in love with Mary Catherine. I hope you're not just acting, MC, or I will have to stalk you.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 10:20 PM
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351: Did you get one? And was it worth it?

Yeah, I did -- though I hadn't planned to. The conventional wisdom in our household was that I would find a way to break my phone in order to get one. But really, I would've been happy to wait out the rest of our contract, even though my phone was a piece of shit. Given the contract buyout costs, and the inevitability of a better iPhone model in the future, waiting was sensible.

As it turned out, my wife managed to drop her phone multiple times and eventually she broke it in half. The in-plan replacements were either expensive, crap, or entailed a new contract. So we ate the exit costs and got iPhones. I'd say they are about 90 percent awesome and 10 percent stuff that needs fixing.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 10:24 PM
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I don't believe there is such a thing as a blameworthy desire

I don't believe anything of the sort. Why should our desires be given a free pass? Just because the heart wants what it wants? (and if so, are you prepared to extend this generous indulgence toward the heart of a sociopathic would-be serial killer, even if he never acts upon his creepy desire?). Or maybe because they stem from, or speak to, some fundamental essence of our authentic true selves? Well then, but what if they do? and what if we are essentially and authentically first-class assholes down to the very core of our being? Does the 'authenticity' of a desire really mitigate against its blameworthiness, and if so, to what extent?

I can think of at least several desires (for bloodlust or murderous revenge, for example) that I would not hesitate to call 'blameworthy' even if never acted upon. What I mean is, if you feel that kind of desire, you are morally obliged to work to overcome it.


Posted by: Mary Catherine | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 10:24 PM
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"... Why should our desires be given a free pass? ..."

The theory would be you should only be blamed for things you can control and that you can't control your desires only your actions.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 10:29 PM
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333: 2a) Something interesting that I found out, which I wouldn't have predicted, is that the experience I least wanted to repeat was having sex with someone who I really felt no attraction to. Prior to that I would have thought that sex with anyone I could feel positive about as a person, and could muster some sympathy for, would be fine. I liked it better having sex with someone who I didn't respect and who treated me degradingly (while attempting to maintain a fiction to himself and to me that that was not what was doing) but who I found somewhat sexy than I did having sex with someone basically nice who I didn't find attractive at all. Having to have sex with any ugly old man who wanted to would have been exponentially more unpleasant than what I did.

This is the most interesting thing to me in 333. I'd venture to say it's not unique to the sex trade.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 10:30 PM
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Why should our desires be given a free pass? Just because the heart wants what it wants? (and if so, are you prepared to extend this generous indulgence toward the heart of a sociopathic would-be serial killer, even if he never acts upon his creepy desire?).

Yes. His desires aren't his fault. Simple as that.

Well then, but what if they do? and what if we are essentially and authentically first-class assholes down to the very core of our being? Does the 'authenticity' of a desire really mitigate against its blameworthiness, and if so, to what extent?

I keep being convinced that people who are basically assholes all day and all night can't help but be assholes, and the only way they could overcome it would be by becoming super-creepy fake-smiley religious converts. And this isn't their fault, is it? And selfishness is basically the result of a person's upbringing and what they've been lead to expect from others.

I'm not generous enough to make a special effort to hang out with awful and selfish people, though.

I think we have different concepts of "blame".


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 10:31 PM
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What I mean is, if you feel that kind of desire, you are morally obliged to work to overcome it.

I think this may have been what the commenter mentioned was getting at with calling actions blameworthy. At a certain point it's a bit of a fine distinction.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 10:35 PM
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354: B! I love you too! But in the interest of full disclosure, I feel it's only fair to warn you that I am fiercely, if somewhat irrationally, loyal to mon cher Canada.


Posted by: Mary Catherine | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 10:38 PM
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This discussion is going to be a morass unless you define "desire" more precisely. There are fleeting desires that we all have and probably would be ashamed to make public, but are transitory and harmless, and there are desires that betoken "issues" and that we wouldn't have in a perfect world, but are confined to fantasy or role-playing and are basically harmless, and there are desires that are strong and lasting that make you a worse person for having them, even if you're not morally blameworthy by not having chosen them (though you may be blameworthy insofar as you could rid yourself of them and don't).


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 10:38 PM
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Ogged is correct.

You become a bad person, through no fault of your own. It becomes harder to be a good person. So it's admirable when someone does so.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 10:41 PM
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And it's a morass without even considering whether desires can be chosen or modified.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 10:42 PM
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For examples, watch To Catch A Predator, then read the Esquire article about the woman suing them for the wrongful death of her brother.


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 10:42 PM
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To Catch a Predator is, in the words of Michael Jackson, very, very, very devilish. It makes me more depressed about the mentality of the average American than any reality show possibly could.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 10:44 PM
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People often want to say that certain desires are rooted in biology or some other fundamental feature of our constitution that's beyond our control, and thus exonerate them. But there's not much consensus about the specific things they pick. Cleverclogologically, you might also say the desire to sanction people is a central and generally beneficial feature of our sociability, and there's no stopping it from being applied to desires as well as actions: you can't blame people for thinking a lot of desires as well as actions are blameworthy.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 10:45 PM
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I should probably have said the tendency or willingness to sanction people, rather than the desire.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 10:46 PM
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Sorry Gonerill. It's true that Mary Catherine is not to blame for her innate feelings that people are to blame for their innate feelings. It's all a rich tapestry.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 10:47 PM
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That said, I'm inclined to say that LB's argument could remain agnostic on whether the guy's desires are bad and work with a few modifications.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 10:47 PM
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Sorry, meant to link to the Esquirearticle.

And of course 367/368 are right. Gotta enforce the social order somehow.


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 10:48 PM
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Cleverclogologically

Nice.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 10:49 PM
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There's also "Unhelpfuliciously," "Italicly," and "Littlebitchily."


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 10:51 PM
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(Also, joke neologisms aside, Gonerill is spot on. But one doesn't have to state that desires are unmodifiable point finale. One could, for instance, contend that there's something deeply-embedded about homosexual or bisexual desire that distinguishes it from, say, the desire to run over a guy who pissed you off in traffic.)


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 10:51 PM
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SHORTER 359:

HE DON'T MEAN NOTHING BY IT, THAT'S JUST HIS WAY.


Posted by: OPINIONATED GRANDMA | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 10:52 PM
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It doesn't even matter if you can or can't successfully rid yourself of desires; you can, at least, actively choose to try to suppress them or not indulge them, even as fantasy.

361: I realize. It's kind of weird. But then, your people are like that.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 10:52 PM
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370: Oh *now* you say that, after hassling me about it every time I said it didn't matter.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 10:53 PM
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the desire to run over a guy who pissed you off in traffic.

I think that would be more like an impulse.

But seriously, some people have to work a lot harder to resist doing things like that. Fortunately for us in the western hemisphere, most of the real extreme cases are working for military contractors right now.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 10:53 PM
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you can, at least, actively choose to try to suppress them or not indulge them, even as fantasy.

Littlebitchily: 9 out of 10 Ex-Gay Ministries Agree!


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 10:54 PM
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I think that would be more like an impulse.

Distinction without a difference.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 10:56 PM
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Speaking of military contractors, Mr. B. was just telling me about a recently hired co-worker who just got out of the army within the last year. His wife's pregnant. He just got called back to get sent to Iraq for at least 400 days.

Goddammfuckers. (Mr. B.'s trying to get everyone he works with to write letters saying how vital the guy is to his current job, which is true. And of course there's the blah blah anything we can possibly do to help and support you and your poor wife thing.)


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 10:56 PM
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379: Fine, I'm an enabler, but I'm going to go on record saying that there's a distinction between wanting to fuck a consenting adult of the same sex and wanting to rape a child or kill someone.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 10:58 PM
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One could, for instance, contend that there's something deeply-embedded about homosexual or bisexual desire that distinguishes it from, say, the desire to run over a guy who pissed you off in traffic

True. It's still complicated. Institutional and especially interactional context matters to a very high degree when it comes to the relationship between desires and actions. Randy Collins' new book, Violence, has a bunch of neat examples.

As for sexual desire, remember that Republicans think everything except sexual orientation is genetically determined, whereas Democrats think nothing but sexual orientation is genetically determined.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 10:58 PM
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For clarity, I don't think it's the controllability/uncontrollability distinction that makes the desire unblameworthy. It's just that the desire isn't what's doing the work on the outside world. So the sociopath who manages never to kill someone is okay by me, though he ought to try to work on that, both for his own sake, and to minimize the risk that he'll one day act on it. I don't even know that you can say he's a better or worse person for having the desires. If he goes around fantasizing about killing people every day and doesn't through some gargantuan act of self-control, he may be accomplishing some special feat I don't have to, merely by my luck at never having wanted to kill someone. Maybe he's a better person than I. If he does that, he's probably not a sociopath though. A child molester would make a better example; I don't find the desire for sex with children blameworthy either. This may well be another way I'm unusual. Just wanted to clarify my view, since it was being replied to.


Posted by: the commenter mentioned in 29 | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 11:02 PM
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At a certain point it's a bit of a fine distinction.

Oh, at many points it's no doubt a fine distinction, to be sure.

But let's say, for example, you were raised amongst innocent racists (and by 'innocent' I mean something like 'honestly not capable of anything better than racism'), and you subsequently came into contact with viewpoints/evidence that would/should cause you to question that rockbed of racism with which you were raised, which maybe you even do, but even so you still find yourself "desiring" certain situations/outcomes that would seem to conform to the racism of your upbringing...What I'm saying is that it's not a relativistic free-for-all, where any desire whatsoever can easily stand in for another, and no judgment, of course, because we're all about the ethics of authenticity, no matter the source or implications of said authenticity.... What I'm saying is that some desires you're going to have to actively fight against, no matter how innocently, or not-culpably, acquired or held, if you just want to be a reasonably trustworthy moral being.


Posted by: Mary Catherine | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 11:03 PM
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You bastards aren't even paying me for this.

Why should we? You let us degrade you for free.


Posted by: Michael | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 11:04 PM
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Speaking of uncontrollable desires, if I read one more goddamn NYT article about some economists making elementary discoveries in a field -- this time, nonprofits, volunteering and philanthropic giving -- that has been studied for 30 years, I am going to beat Steve Levitt or Tyler Cowen or someone to death with my copy of Samuelson's Principles.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 11:09 PM
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The commenter mentioned is a consequentialist after my own heart.

Mary Catherine, I think 384 is an adequate response to your point. And of course the battle to constrain action is a daily one; 385 is really the worst sort of gotcha-mongering, but in fact is precisely the kind of struggle I, as someone from a Saffie upbringing, engage in every day.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 11:10 PM
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someone from a Saffie upbringing,

So ... you were raised by lesbians?


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 11:17 PM
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It's true that Mary Catherine is not to blame for her innate feelings that people are to blame for their innate feelings.

Well, I blame Sister Mary Frances Donalda, frankly, who had a nephew in the Black Watch Regiment, and who taught me Grade 10 geography. A lovely woman, and quite learned after the standards of the day, but a diehard Jacobite through and through.


Posted by: Mary Catherine | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 11:19 PM
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I think Mary Catherine's just taking a swipe at my anti-Canadian feeling. Which I think is wholly unblameworthy.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 11:19 PM
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Ben, I'm disappointed in you. That would obviously be "Sapphie."

"Saffie" as in "South African."


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 11:20 PM
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I am not sure whether desires are things that can accrue moral status. But I do think that they can be changed, some more easily than others. So I find the claim that desires are not controllable and as a result not subject to criticism completely baffling. Most of human socializing could be described as changing one's desires, and some of that is under conscious control. Habit, bitches, habit.

(Whether of course that means that desires have moral status is a separate issue. They could lack moral status for some other reason. But desires are immutable things? Really?)


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 11:21 PM
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392: So hang on. You're a post-punk black Canadian raised in South Africa who struggles daily with his own racism?

I am becoming completely confused.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 11:23 PM
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393: Again, this is where different levels come in. Can people be trained with reasonable hope of success to not rape other people? I like to think yes. Can people be trained to not have sexual desires, which are dirty? No.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 11:23 PM
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385: Good lord, it's only in this thread that it's come home to me what the objection to the so-called authentic, or to an 'ethics of authenticity', is. For some reason I thought that when it had been referred to in the past, it had something to do with a culturally-inflected derision for dirty hippies. But it's actually an objection to the notion that we are and may rightfully be just as we are born and made, sans superego, reflection, moral action, and so on.

Gosh, I'm sorry to have taken so long to get that. It's not quite the notion of authenticity I'm used to, but I'll have to think about that.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 11:23 PM
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Ben, I'm disappointed in you. That would obviously be "Sapphie."

I assumed you had made a mistake.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 11:24 PM
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394: Not raised in South Africa, just by South Africans, who to their credit are very liberal for being South Africans of their generation.

Otherwise, yes. And yes, it's confusing.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 11:24 PM
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397: Racist.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 11:25 PM
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Can people be trained to not have sexual desires, which are dirty? No.

Well, of course not.

398: White South Africans?? B/c when I hear "racist" in conjunction with "South African," that's what I think.

If so, jeezameezus, no kidding on the confusion.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 11:28 PM
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395: No one sane would point to the difficulty in getting someone to act correctly as evidence that actions weren't under our conscious control, and that we therefore weren't responsible for them. Why would it be different for desires?

I just don't want to hang the reason that desires aren't morally relevant on their alleged immutability. And before anyone goes there, not because I want to cure gay people, but because it seems plausible that part of ethical training is teaching people (usually children) to want the right things.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 11:28 PM
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400: Coloured, not white.

Racism at all levels, against all lower levels and seeking to ingratiate oneself with the higher levels. That was genius of the Apartheid system.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 11:29 PM
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Can people be trained with reasonable hope of success to not rape other people? I like to think yes. Can people be trained to not have sexual desires, which are dirty? No.

That's a big jump. My 9 month old presently takes a dump in his pants whenever he so desires, and he generally has a good time with it. Eventually he will be trained not to do this. However, the training process will not just leave him with the ability to suppress his desire to shit himself, it will also leave him without any desire to do so in the first place.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 11:30 PM
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402: Aha, of course. Right. Wow. You should write a book.

No one sane would point to the difficulty in getting someone to act correctly as evidence that actions weren't under our conscious control.

Hmm. Really? I mean, people all the time do things that run counter to their expressed preferences and desires, and to some extent I think this is evidence that our actions aren't entirely under our conscious control.

(Preemptively: shut up, Ogged.)


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 11:31 PM
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My 9 month old presently takes a dump in his pants whenever he so desires, and he generally has a good time with it.

Excellent, good training for his alcoholic years.

Wait, that's a dreadful thing to say, isn't it? I'm a little Becks-style at this point. Sorry.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 11:32 PM
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Desires can be reflexive, can't they? Meaning, we can think about which desires we do or don't want to have?

The theory would be you should only be blamed for things you can control and that you can't control your desires only your actions.

Sounds pretty arbitrary where exactly to put the locus of control.

But it's actually an objection to the notion that we are and may rightfully be just as we are born and made, sans superego, reflection, moral action, and so on.

This doesn't agree with what I've heard in association with the phrase.


Posted by: Michael Vanderwheel, B.A. | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 11:34 PM
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403: Some might say that the training process is at least in part an enabling process by which one helps the kid learn the actions that accord with his developing desire not to be dirty.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 11:34 PM
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405: If you'd been properly socialized, you would have suppressed the desire to say such a dreadful thing.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 11:35 PM
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404: You might say that some actions aren't conscious control, but you wouldn't point to the difficulty in rehabilitating a sex offender as a reason that PK couldn't learn not to hit his mama, "as proof that actions cannot be controlled."


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 11:36 PM
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409: Not as such, but we're still working on the "quit hitting me, you little shit" thing. So, who knows.

(That said, I'd still maintain that to some extent, the not hitting isn't entirely under conscious control, no; it's controlled by maturity level, internalized shame, and innate temperament--none really "conscious" in the sense of deliberate or choosable--as well as by simply learning that We Do Not Hit.)


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 11:39 PM
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409: Not as such, but we're still working on the "quit hitting me, you little shit" thing.

Cutting his hair might reduce the strength of his blows.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 11:41 PM
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404: Not a very singular experience though, really. Basically, the same dynamic exists almost anywhere whites, blacks and assorted ethnicities have cohabited in the last five hundred years, Apartheid just formalized it more than most.

408: Too true, too true.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 11:41 PM
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411: Or make him want to hit me even more.

412.1: Well, sure, I realize. But you've got the Canadian angle.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 11:42 PM
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we're still working on the "quit hitting me, you little shit" thing.

I spent exactly one summer as a camp counsellor. Those little fuckers always went right for the balls. I'm surprised I can still have children.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 11:43 PM
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I'm surprised I can still have children.

Are you sure about that?


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 11:43 PM
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413: Fucking Cecil Foster. Fuck that guy.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 11:44 PM
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I'd still maintain that to some extent, the not hitting isn't entirely under conscious control

Yeah, but Cala's not saying everything is consciously controlled all the time: habitual actions and dispositions occupy that enormous middle ground between conscious, deliberate choices and whatever is going on in the lizard brain.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 11:44 PM
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391: Honestly, I have nothing but sympathy for anyone who has ever had to spend more than 6 months in southwestern Ontario. It's like the American midwest, as populated by the United Empire Loyalists. Which is to say, it is to shudder.

That said! If you really want to know Canada (which maybe you really don't want to do, in which case, fair enough), you really have to 'go up the Line, lad.' Up the Opeongo Line, in other words. The mixture of French and Irish culture is, I think, genuinely interesting (and not a combination you are like to find in southwestern Ontario):

Oh, supper being ready, we all took seats.
Of course our foreman he said grace.
Johnny Moran thought long to wait,
And Laderoute Joe shoved up his plate.

To me rantin' O, fal the diddle ay,
Rant and roar and drunk all the way.

(from a shantyboy tune called "How We Got Back to the Woods Last Year").


Posted by: Mary Catherine | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 11:44 PM
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415: Yes.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 11:44 PM
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It's like the American midwest

Which is why I managed for three years to maintain the fiction that I lived in the American midwest.

419: And therein surely hangs a tale. See? Told you.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 11:46 PM
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You should write a book.

Especially if he's lying. There's a market for that sort of thing.


Posted by: Ari | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 11:46 PM
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Heheheh. You said "hangs."

Okay. I'm going to bed.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 11:47 PM
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421: Ouch.
422: What, just when you were beginning the amusing drunk commenting? Boo.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 11:49 PM
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418 is freaking me right out. And I'm Canadian. Or at least half (my memoir promises to be juicy).


Posted by: Ari | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 11:49 PM
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Surely you mean Jewcy. I mean, as long as we're talking about exploiting the ethnic angle.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 11:51 PM
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423.1: I don't think DS is lying. My comment was steeped in what the kids call context, laced with culture crit. Dont you get it? I'm hip.


Posted by: Ari | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 11:51 PM
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425: Right. With added Holocaustness for huge sales.


Posted by: Ari | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 11:52 PM
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Dont you get it? I'm hip.

You said you were Canadian, as I recall.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 11:53 PM
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but because it seems plausible that part of ethical training is teaching people (usually children) to want the right things.

Well, finally someone says it flatly, not that it hasn't been said before, in terms beyond those of mere plausibility.

Not kidding around now, we train people to behave in ways that aren't just polite behaviors, but ways that they internalize as the right way to be, such that they no longer find it good/desirable, or even comprehensible, to behave otherwise.

The question for our age is whether there are no impulses or desires that are inherent enough to our species that they can't be trained out of us without serious repercussions. If we suppress impulses toward intimacy, aggression, love, grief, anger, and so on enough, are they just going to disappear? It doesn't look like it. Or do we just need more therapy? Doubtful!


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 11:57 PM
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428: Hip for a Canadian, then.


Posted by: Ari | Link to this comment | 03-14-08 11:59 PM
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421: I came out as a white woman a while ago. Then I went back in. One of those was a lie.

No, of course I haven't really gone to bed.

Am I just being wistful in thinking parsimon sounds at least half as tipsy as I? And yet she's still making sense! I do envy her.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 03-15-08 12:00 AM
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430: I think Gonerill meant tragically Canadian, wink wink, nudge nudge.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 03-15-08 12:01 AM
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Are Canadians really capable of tragedy?


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 03-15-08 12:07 AM
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Only Gordon Downie Jr., unfortunately. And nobody understands what the hell he's saying.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 03-15-08 12:08 AM
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431.3: Oh no. When I wax on about the questions for our age, of course I'm serious. Especially when I'm replying to a comment from half an hour ago.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 03-15-08 12:09 AM
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435: Ah, 'twas the exclamation mark that deceived me. You're not generally exclamation prone. Do forgive me.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 03-15-08 12:13 AM
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I actually have patronized prostitutes -- three in four days in Amsterdam once time some years ago. I stuck to native Dutch women to avoid the whole eastern European sex slave thing. Two in a pretty luxurious brothel, one a very high-priced escort. It was a very interesting experience.

The idea that you go to prostitutes to have more power over what they will do sexually or to degrade her seems off. There were clearly established and maintained boundaries over what was and what was not permissible. I felt less in control of the sex, not more, when compared to having sex with my girlfriends. My understanding is that Amsterdam prostitutes are if anything more permissive than those in some other countries.

Despite that, the experience was still quite enjoyable. For one thing, all of these women were extremely beautiful and technically skilled. Another huge benefit was the absence of the lengthy negotiation about the emotional meaning of sex, all the implicit promises that get made. I feel like the times in my life I've hurt women most have been when all I wanted was a temporary sex/friendship/fun thing and they fell in love.

The women in the brothel said they came in for a couple of hours a day a few times a week, and saw men straight through the entire time they were there. They controlled their hours. From what I could figure they took home maybe $80-100 an hour, although that's a guess. The working conditions didn't seem horrible but they didn't seem very enjoyable either; hard to see it as something that the women would truly enjoy.

One woman I saw there seemed quite happy and described her life in very positive terms (lots of travel, parties, freedom, basically funded by this although she also said she worked in her parents record shop and played in a band). But she also seemed totally stoned off her ass so who knows. The sex was fun, vigorous and enthusiastic although not really deep, and she was very upbeat and enjoyable to talk to and be with. Again, though, she was obviously pretty stoned.

The second was frank that she didn't like the work that much and she was gradually transitioning out. But it paid so much better than other jobs she could get and gave her so much more time with her kid that she felt it was worth continuing to do for a while. She said she'd gotten into the lifestyle in part because of drugs but since she'd gotten pregnant she had sobered up completely. She told me that men who went to prostitutes were living in a fantasy world -- the men imagined the women liked them, but in fact it was purely business and the women weren't even there emotionally. Despite all this, the sex with her was pretty good -- she was polite and professional. It gave me renewed appreciation for how purely physical sex can be when your partner is really beautiful and skilled.

I felt great after those two experiences. Really relaxed and happy and had a great buzz for days. Like after a really nice vacation. If you're a guy, casual sex with beautiful women is very enjoyable, completely apart from any emotional involvement. I sort of knew that already but this experience really underlined it.

The third experience with the high-priced escort was a little different. It was some of the most memorable sex I've ever had (and I've had lots of great sex with lots of women). She apparently really was a college student, she was very thoughtful and intelligent and the conversation was fantastic. I almost had a hard time switching to the sex (she had to remind me of the time). The sex was almost surreal, a perfect combination of physical and emotional intensity. We were both very into it, she was definitely attracted to me and highly aroused (I'd be very hard to fool in those areas). I've always admired and been attracted to women who are unconventional and push the edge sexually. She was that plus really thoughtful, self-aware and sort of earnest in a way I like. Plus just the right level and type of beautiful.

Actually, if you can imagine that Hollywood fantasy of meeting someone who seems a little out of your league but deeply compatible in a way that makes that irrelevant, and then having rapturous sex with them, that was what it felt like. I was sort of relieved we didn't live on the same continent, because I was already starting to fantasize about being more involved with her.

Anyway, she said that I'd picked the right service. They placed a big emphasis on personality and background, and had an elaborate testing procedure involving fancy dinners, cocktail parties, etc. to see if a recruit could hold their own socially. She said she did a few dates a month, tried to keep it to less than once a week. She said the money made it very easy to get pulled in -- she took home about $200-250 an hour and never went out for less than two hours. But she thought that if you did it a lot it could wear on you emotionally, and she wanted to keep her balance in life. She said that she hadn't had any really bad experiences, the service protected her quite well. She also said that the men who were the least attractive to her also tended to be the least emotionally aware, so it was pretty easy to sort of tune out with them and they wouldn't notice.

She said she didn't want to continue that long, that it was sort of an adventure and the money was nice. I looked at the service web site I think six months later and she was gone.

I think BitchPhD is right in a sense that this is a boy/girl thing and it's about male sexuality. Prostitution is one way to sort of reconcile the incomensurability of male and female sexuality -- that constant, voracious, variety-seeking, casual quality of male desire that women don't really share. Making it a commercial transaction has the potential to give everybody what they want. I was sort of surprised by how easy, natural, and enjoyable casual sex with attractive strangers felt for me.

At the same time, there are obviously a lot of risks. Prostitution is inherently about getting women to engage in a level of casual and indiscriminate sex that they don't "naturally" want to do. When women really can come into it from a position of power and control of their working conditions, they can demand a sufficient wage and limit the extremes of sexual demands such that they are sufficiently compensated. But you can say that's inherently unlikely. In a situation where men dominate women, prostitution slides into slavery and the commercial element is one group of men paying another for enslaving the women.

I haven't really wanted to do it again since this time (quite a number of years ago now). I sort of feel I had the experience at the high end. That last escort especially was as good as I would ever find. I could see even in this experience the potential for a lower end encounter to be very uncomfortable and feel exploitative. But I'm glad I did it, it was very educational.


Posted by: evil john | Link to this comment | 03-15-08 12:19 AM
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You understand my exclamation points correctly. But. There was a wind of an analytic moral philosopher in the air: what, what's this? I am not sure that desires treat of moral culpitude (or words to that effect, "accrue moral status", 393).

Did I just make up "moral culpitude" -- perhaps morally exculpatory?


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 03-15-08 12:22 AM
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Good grief. 438 to 436. Maybe it's just time to go to bed.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 03-15-08 12:24 AM
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437 is pretty intense for this time of the evening, it's true.

Let me just pick out the problematic bits:

I stuck to native Dutch women How would you know? My understanding is that Amsterdam prostitutes are if anything more permissive Probably wrong. One woman I saw there seemed quite happy Standard boilerplate, as you seem aware of at some level. I'd be very hard to fool in those areas Aren't we all. that constant, voracious, variety-seeking, casual quality of male desire that women don't really share. Arguable. In a situation where men dominate women IOW, pretty much all of them. But I'm glad I did it, it was very educational. Good for you.

No further engagement for the mome.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 03-15-08 12:32 AM
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DS, provide an email address sometime.

I can't read 437 right now.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 03-15-08 12:36 AM
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Also this, DS:

If you're a guy, casual sex with beautiful women is very enjoyable, completely apart from any emotional involvement.

First, obviously, some guys prefer to have sex with other guys. Or prefer not to have sex at all. Then, of course, there's the issue that some guys, gay or straight, don't really like casual sex very much. In sum, "guys" aren't really a monolithic group. Though we are all from Mars. Except those of us from Canada.


Posted by: Ari | Link to this comment | 03-15-08 12:37 AM
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E-mail address.

Now I really am going to bed.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 03-15-08 12:37 AM
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437: MMMMmaybe. Few thoughts:

that constant, voracious, variety-seeking, casual quality of male desire that women don't really share

I'm sort of willing to grant that maybe this is true. On the other hand, by your own admission,

I was sort of relieved we didn't live on the same continent, because I was already starting to fantasize about being more involved with her.

It's certainly my experience of men (and unnamed commenter above seems to bear this out, I think) that despite the frequent claim that men's sexual desire is more casual than women's (which may be true), that an awful lot of men really do seem to fall for women with whom they enjoy good sex. You guys produce oxytocin too, you know.

That said, this:

the women weren't even there emotionally. Despite all this, the sex with her was pretty good -- she was polite and professional

arguably speaks directly to LB's claim that there is something unacceptable about a man's being willing/able to have "pretty good" sex with someone who isn't "even there emotionally." Now, again, if the claim that there's some fundamental gap between male and female sexuality is true (which, how would we know, since the reality of sexual desire is necessarily subjective? Although from the very little I have read/heard by people who went through sex changes or hormone therapy, maybe the claim is true), perhaps this isn't heinous (at least, if you're unwilling to condemn half the human species as inherently heinous), but is instead merely a kind of difference. Nonetheless, *if* it's true, and we want to extrapolate from that that for men, casual competent sex is perfectly enjoyable even absent emotional presence, and for women, it isn't, then surely the fact that the prostitutes in question are women is the more relevant and important factor in deciding if sex with prostitutes is or isn't okay.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 03-15-08 12:38 AM
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Heh. I'm amused that I seem more willing to accept the evil john's statement at face value than either Slack or Ari.

At least, I do know what you mean by "glad I did it, it was educational." That said, I wouldn't do it again, myself, and I'm not sure that it was a good thing for you to have done, regardless of how much you enjoyed/learned from it.

I gotta hit the sack too. Stupid daylight savings has been a problem for me all damn week.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 03-15-08 12:41 AM
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How would you know?

They all spoke fluent English. No need to hide where they were from.

Standard boilerplate, as you seem aware of at some level

You misunderstand -- I'm not claiming to know that she was happy with any depth, or to know her at all. Just describing the immediate way she came off. Like I said, she was really stoned, it was an upbeat kind of weed (she even recommended the strain to me). For all I know she was miserable and covering it up with drugs.

Aren't we all.

I can't speak for other people, but I am. Some things are hard to fake.

Arguable.

well, there are always exceptions. The escort service I called said they had several straight male prostitutes who serviced women.

IOW, pretty much all of them.

I disagree, but it's obviously common.

Good for you.

I sense there might be some irony here.

That's all the engagement I'll do too, since the OP was excessively long.


Posted by: evil john | Link to this comment | 03-15-08 12:47 AM
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443: DS, that email address bounces.

'night all. I still can't take reading 437.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 03-15-08 12:54 AM
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despite the frequent claim that men's sexual desire is more casual than women's (which may be true), that an awful lot of men really do seem to fall for women with whom they enjoy good sex. You guys produce oxytocin too, you know.

But can't resist commenting on this too, just to say I agree. Differences between men and women are more both-and than either-or. The second woman (the one who wasn't into it) told me that her clients fell in love with her fairly regularly, even though she did no more than listen politely to their problems and provide competent sex. I laughed at that, and then found myself dealing with a similar temptation a few days later. Sex is tricky.


Posted by: evil john | Link to this comment | 03-15-08 12:57 AM
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evil john's identity is becoming transparent, by the way.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 03-15-08 1:02 AM
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447: Oops, sorry. This one should work. Later.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 03-15-08 1:22 AM
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I think it's interesting that we have one person going on about how all men aren't the same so you can't make statements about how they feel regarding casual sex at the same time we have someone else saying that women don't enjoy casual sex absent emotional connection so sex with hookers is bad.

That said, the bar I just left was full of hookers, and while one of them was good looking, none of them were attractive in any substantial way.

I also don't know who evil john is, but agree that he's probably deluding himself wrt the mental states of prostitutes. But I think he's got a point wrt sex with hotties even absent emotional connection.


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 03-15-08 3:28 AM
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I can't speak for other people, but I am. Some things are hard to fake.

What, you mean like because she had an orgasm? Yes, that settles it, she clearly was very into you!

Actually, your comment does sort of call into question one of the premises of LB's post in an interesting way. I'm still with LB totally that satisfying the desire of a john is not a net value where that desire is indifferent to the injury to the sex worker. Your comment, however, serves as a reminder that at least a certain class of johns is really pretty deeply invested in the belief that there is no injury -- it is clearly important to you to believe that these women were reasonably happy and not terribly traumatized by the work -- and genuinely enjoyed it, with you. It seems fairly apparent from the outside that you were being fed the precise lines you wanted to hear and that your readiness to buy it seems willful ignorance. But I will say that the willful self-deception is less distasteful than raw indifference.


Posted by: DK | Link to this comment | 03-15-08 7:19 AM
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at least a certain class of johns is really pretty deeply invested in the belief that there is no injury -- it is clearly important to you to believe that these women were reasonably happy and not terribly traumatized by the work -- and genuinely enjoyed it, with you.

Yeah. And I'd agree with you that the willful self-deception brings it out of the realm of immediately grotesquely repugnant, and into the realm of bad things that I can picture generally reasonable people doing. I still find myself thinking that "john" has injured himself as well as the prostitutes he had sex with -- selling himself the line of bullshit about how unlikely it was he was deceived about how the last prostitute was really happy and into her work has made him stupider, and more likely to ill-treat people, in this context.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-15-08 7:49 AM
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interesting thread, reads like a novella
i have no opinion at all on the topic it turns out
just think that everybody is on his/her own, what one chooses is one's choice and for the consequences blame or praise oneself
when i read somewhere a prostitute is mistreated, i don't feel the need to blame society, call for social reforms or feel compassion or pity for her
i can't judge a prostitute or men who use them too, if prostitution exists legally or not must be there is some purpose, some people's way of life may be
or it's lazy me to think of all morality issues
desires are not right or wrong, they just are or not
if you give in to a desire, you'll pay somewhere somehow, if you suppress you'll also pay some price, positive or negative, so it really does not matter in the end, what will happen will happen like
so i float through life indifferent to very many things



Posted by: read | Link to this comment | 03-15-08 7:58 AM
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and i think it's bad
should try to be more engaged with life


Posted by: read | Link to this comment | 03-15-08 8:00 AM
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Belatedly, Gonerill's link in 387 is interesting. I was mostly torn between the kind of impotent frustration that comes from watching someone move laboriously through elementary analysis, and thinking philosophically that it's not a terrible piece, as these things go. (I have liked some of Leonhardt's other stuff recently.)

Then I got to the end of the article. Whoa: 90-degree turn into "How can we change the tax code so people donate just as much but the government gets more money - for things like Universal Preschool! Rah!!" Oh my heavens. Every quasi-libertarian nerve in my body flared to life.

[Also, there is something maddening about an article that conflates as "charity" as your gifts to your place of worship, anonymous junk-mail solitications, and socially-mediated gifts such as a donations to a friend's favorite cause or alma mater's new computer lab. It's like saying paying rent and buying a private jet are both just varieties of consumerism. Bleh.]


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 03-15-08 8:05 AM
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453: Agreed.


Posted by: DK | Link to this comment | 03-15-08 8:06 AM
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454: Read, do you feel like that when you are in your home country? Because it seems possible to me that part of what you describe is just the natural result of living in a society that you aren't fully invested in.

My very minimal international experience at times has made me shrug my shoulders about hot debates in the places I was visiting. Important, sure, but not necessarily my problem.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 03-15-08 8:07 AM
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Feel no shame in your desires!

It seems to me that William Blake provides a lot of guidance on the subject of the original post. "Sooner throttle an infant in its cradle..." and all that. Then there's Pacino's monologue in Glengarry Glen Ross which touches on these themes as well. I dunno, it all [issues around being the patron of a prostitute] just sounds so degrading to me. But some people get off on being degraded, so what're ya gonna do?

I think I've said this before, but where I part company with a lot of the analysis above is in seeing bright lines between various forms of sex work, and for that matter, between sex work as a whole and other occupations that are sexually marked. If I go into the bar next door to my job, I guarantee that every bartender there is going to have many of the attributes of a high-class prostitute (male or female.) That's hardly accidental. It's a ritzy bar, and they want people who will keep the grandees coming back to spend more money on drink and expensive food. So they get attractive young people (mostly women) who can provide casual emotional support and manifest upper-middle class mannerisms and talk knowledgably about the lifestyles and conspicuous consumption habits of their clients. Those people are being paid, and tipped, for exactly the same type of service that SV claims about 40% of the very highest tier of prostitutes provide. Because rich people like that kind of thing. Once again, if you have no class analysis, you can't make sense of any of this.


Posted by: minneapolitan | Link to this comment | 03-15-08 8:15 AM
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I'm all in favour of all kinds of human consensual sexual activity, but I draw the line at bestiality, because animals can't clearly consent

oh come on you old reactionary. If you were fucking a Siberian tiger, and it just stood there and didn't disembowel and devour you, then you'd probably guess that it was consenting at some level, wouldn't you?

(I seem to remember that the French law on this used to be that anything the size of a sheep or larger was considered to be able to defend itself, and therefore acquiescence implied consent, while sex with snything smaller was prosecuted as animal cruelty. But the only citations I can find are to me, saying the same thing, elsewhere).


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 03-15-08 8:17 AM
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If you were fucking a Siberian tiger, and it just stood there and didn't disembowel and devour you, then you'd probably guess that it was consenting at some level, wouldn't you?

I haven't seen enough research on how Siberian tigers behave when they're consenting/objecting to sex with some idiot who's trying to fuck them, really.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 03-15-08 8:22 AM
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Also, sheep are supposed to be able to defend themselves? Where then, exactly, does mutton come from?


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 03-15-08 8:23 AM
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anything the size of a sheep or larger was considered to be able to defend itself, and therefore acquiescence implied consent

It's not often we see you standing up for Welsh culture.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 03-15-08 8:24 AM
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the only citations I can find are to me, saying the same thing, elsewhere

Somebody more clever than me needs to come up with a word for this phenomenon.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 03-15-08 8:25 AM
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464: googelganger.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 03-15-08 8:28 AM
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464: autothority,


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 03-15-08 8:30 AM
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The potala should be made with local materials. Is there some place it would be legal to quarry from the Purcell sill?

You'd want to put it somewhere the land was cheap, views long, and crowds minimal. People should have to go on a long pilgramage to get there. Maybe the Big Snowy range, south side.


Posted by: Nápi | Link to this comment | 03-15-08 8:30 AM
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464: Reflexitation.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 03-15-08 8:31 AM
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If you were fucking a Siberian tiger, and it just stood there and didn't disembowel and devour you, then you'd probably guess that it was consenting at some level, wouldn't you?

You first.


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 03-15-08 8:32 AM
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459: Don't forget the flair!

Actually, at the class of bar that minneapolitan describes you're paid to where your flair on the inside.

And of course per the GGR reference this really extends to almost all sales work. At some level I simply marvel at the capacity for abuse of the commercial sales personnel* I know and encounter in my work, I swear that if I were in a role like that I would be an alcoholic within a month. (But of course my own form of economic whoredom simply involves slightly more coded forms of degradation that are relatively easy to compartmentalize in the short-term.)

Then again, there may be no bright lines, but the ends of in the continuum from routine economic submission to" The Man" to actual sex work are quite different places in practical terms.

*I suspect this is not unrelated to my observation that sales types are among those who tend to towards the use of prostitutes (not sure of the direction of cause and effect though).


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 03-15-08 8:34 AM
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470: Holy fuck. "Wear your flair"!


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 03-15-08 8:37 AM
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Ubiquitegoseus.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 03-15-08 8:42 AM
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464: Buck's a journalist specializing in a fairly small corner of the computer industry. Once, five years ago or so, he was writing for a number of different publications, and someone else wrote a piece saying "The emerging consensus in analysis of the [X] market is..." and cited three things Buck had written for different outlets, in which he agreed with himself.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-15-08 8:42 AM
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Those people are being paid, and tipped, for exactly the same type of service that SV claims about 40% of the very highest tier of prostitutes provide.

Less actual fucking, which I find myself unwilling to abstract away as on the same spectrum as making obsequious conversation.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-15-08 8:44 AM
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Judith Gap is the place. MPLSian can look to the fundraising, I'm happy to deal with the legal stuff, so now we need an architect. And I suppose a couple of you philosophers ought to consider applying for the position of wise person in residence. ('Gee, you ARE you' as the Firesign people put it.)


Posted by: Napi | Link to this comment | 03-15-08 8:49 AM
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475: No tradition of temple prostitutes at the Potala I guess.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 03-15-08 8:56 AM
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Goofing around thinking about Judith Gap -- avoiding timesheets, really -- I came upon this graph. I wonder what other towns look like in comparison.


Posted by: Nápi | Link to this comment | 03-15-08 8:59 AM
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458 you are right, Witt
sure i'm the most fervent pro-condom and anti-prostitution activist at home


Posted by: read | Link to this comment | 03-15-08 9:20 AM
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I haven't seen enough research on how Siberian tigers behave when they're consenting/objecting to sex with some idiot who's trying to fuck them, really

me neither but I bet when the peer reviewed studies are finalised, the words "disembowel" and "devour" will be prominent.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 03-15-08 9:41 AM
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460:

Presumably the lewd animals who consented got the death penalty. Not that the death penalty has much deterrent effect for farm animals:

When the sentence was read, the bovine pervert only said "I always knew it would come to this sooner or later".


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 03-15-08 9:45 AM
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Hey, the tiger was smiling when it was all over.


Posted by: The Young Lady Of Riga. | Link to this comment | 03-15-08 9:46 AM
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avoiding timesheets, really

Sucks to be you, man.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-15-08 9:47 AM
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479: Yes the savagery with which academics attack each others' work never ceases to amaze.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 03-15-08 9:48 AM
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Insensitive guys to whom "foreplay" is an unfamiliar concept shouldn't mess with tigers. (Come to think of it, normal tiger foreplay looks pretty lethal).

That would be a reality show I'd pay to see: "Romancing the Tigress":

Episode 23 will take place once Episode 22 is fully digested. Satiated tigresses feel little apparent desire.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 03-15-08 9:49 AM
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460: I'm the main internet source for Leibniz's "People would argue about the multiplication table if there were enough money in it", mostly because that's not exactly what he said. I have no idea what my original source was.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 03-15-08 9:51 AM
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Safe sex for zoologists: Tying a ribbon around the tails of the Siberian Tigers that disembowel.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 03-15-08 9:55 AM
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From my brother's experience, high end bartenders often move to the actual-fucking part. It's a borderline case where the barmaid / bartender has no obligation to consent to anything, and doesn't have a flat hourly rate, but has definite financial expectations and uses her job to meet guys. (Cf. "Breakfast at Tiffany's" for another borderline case.) And hott barmaids / bartenders do bring in the business, though there's also the possibility of scandal and soap opera, so management treads a fine line.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 03-15-08 9:57 AM
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It's a borderline case where the barmaid / bartender has no obligation to consent to anything, and doesn't have a flat hourly rate, but has definite financial expectations and uses her job to meet guys.

I take you to be saying that there are lots of grey areas, looks-like-prostitution scenarios. Is that right? Is that evidence regarding the malleability of desire when cash is involved? I think most of us probably accept that to some extent.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 03-15-08 10:02 AM
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479: But by the time that happens (publication in a peer-reviewed journal), the data will be stale. So what's the point, really, of the whole academic exercise? I really do think that field work and a blog post are the answer here. Let us know how it goes.


Posted by: Ari | Link to this comment | 03-15-08 10:07 AM
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It goes a bit beyond that in that the bartender took the job to meet guys with money to spend.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 03-15-08 10:08 AM
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I don't think that failed erotic encounters with Siberian tigresses go stale exactly. The lover's rotting leftover parts smell nastier than
that.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 03-15-08 10:11 AM
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Yeah, my strong beliefs about the likelihood of harm to the prostitute and the resulting culpable indifference of the john are limited to fairly literal prostitution -- the sort of transaction in which consent is literally purchased, and refusal because the prostitute doesn't feel like it is not an expected part of the transaction. Once you get into grey areas, (Washingtonienne, the sort of thing being talked about above), I start thinking that while it doesn't sound like my idea of fun on either end, I'm unsure that harm is being done.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-15-08 10:11 AM
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I actually have patronized tigers -- all three tigers in the Bronx Zoo, some years ago, over four days, hiding in the bushes at night, binding my wounds and evading the security guards. I would have preferred wild tigers to avoid the complicated ethical issues around captivity but they're hard to find. Two by the watering hole, one through the wire fence while I distracted her with a bit of fish on the end of a long stick. It was a very interesting experience.

The idea that you go to tigers to have more power over what they will do sexually or to degrade them seems off. With tigers, there are clearly established and maintained boundaries over what is and what is not permissible. I felt less in control of the sex, not more, when compared to having sex with human girlfriends. My understanding is that captivity-reared tigers are if anything more permissive than those in some other countries.

Despite that, the experience was still quite enjoyable. For one thing, all of these tigers were extremely beautiful and technically skilled.

We didn't talk much, the tigers and I, but I could tell they were happy.

I haven't really wanted to do it again since this time (quite a number of years ago now). I sort of feel I had the experience at the high end. The last tiger especially was as good as I would ever find. I could see even in this experience the potential for a lower end encounter to be very uncomfortable and indeed fatal. But I'm glad I did it, it was very educational.


Posted by: anonymous | Link to this comment | 03-15-08 10:14 AM
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"Either end"? "High end"and "low end", you mean?

Someone explain the terminology, I'm not up on the hott new terminology you young people use.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 03-15-08 10:15 AM
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489: In my experience, the cross-species mating practices of Siberian tigers are very fluid. You never know what you're going to get, though it's always memorable. Some of the most memorable sex I've ever had -- and I like to think that the tiger felt the same way.


Posted by: Zippy the Comment Frog | Link to this comment | 03-15-08 10:15 AM
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My first comment, and I'm already pwned.


Posted by: Zippy the Comment Frog | Link to this comment | 03-15-08 10:16 AM
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Maybe Wittgenstein was right about lions, but I was terribly discomfited when I understood my tigress to be unmistakably asking "Are you in yet?"


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 03-15-08 10:17 AM
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494: No, from the customer's end or the bartender's end. It sounds like very little fun to me for either of them, but I'm unsure enough that any harm is actually being done that I'm not going to worry about it.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-15-08 10:19 AM
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This thread has all but convinced me that I'd be OK with legalized prostitution, but I'd want licensing that included strong anonymity protections, psych checks, and probably a mandated X time on/Y time off schedule. And an absolute punishment hammer to use against those who frequented unlicensed brothels.

But I think that was roughly where I was before, so maybe I'm just pinging between two different positions as different anecdotes convince me it either is necessarily horrible or isn't.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 03-15-08 10:24 AM
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Hi Zippy! Welcome. I'd offer you a fruit basket, but I can't remember where we left the last one.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 03-15-08 10:26 AM
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You know who really asks "Are you in yet"? Tapiresses. They're very gentle and considerate, fortunately. "Honey, size isn't everything. You were wonderful".


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 03-15-08 10:31 AM
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OK with

I've still got a lot of distance between "OK with" in the "legalization might be the lowest-harm option" sense and "OK with" in the "Johns aren't doing anything morally suspect by patronizing prostitutes under these circumstances" sense.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-15-08 10:41 AM
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493: Oral? This seems the key question, I think, in terms of the transgressive nature of the experience. Also, I originally read your final "educational" as "emotional," which seemed to throw off your whole point. "Educational," though, makes sense: a kind of ethnographic enouncter, with the usual ethical questions asked and answered. No muss, no fuss, right?. Although: did you run it by the IRB, I wonder?


Posted by: Ari | Link to this comment | 03-15-08 10:54 AM
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In my experience, all encounters with tigers, no matter how they start, soon become primarily oral.


Posted by: anonymous | Link to this comment | 03-15-08 11:01 AM
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502: Eh. My "OK with" is dependent on a licensing regime that would actually produce something like a healthy or "OK with it" hooker. At which point, I don't have a moral problem with the johns. Least harm is a different, though probably much more salient, issue.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 03-15-08 11:01 AM
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I've still got a lot of distance between "OK with" in the "legalization might be the lowest-harm option" sense and "OK with" in the "Johns aren't doing anything morally suspect by patronizing prostitutes under these circumstances" sense.

See, I just don't find investigating the abstract moral worth of prostitution all that interesting. If we determine that johns are Bad People, then what? It doesn't tell us anything about how the American legal system should handle prostitution - and the way it handles it now is abominable.

Prostitution predates human history, and it's not going away anytime soon, and the key question in my mind is what we can do to make it as safe, healthy, and non-exploitative as possible for everyone involved. Wagging fingers at prostitutes and johns isn't any likelier to end prostitution than scolding drug addicts is likely to win the war on drugs. Legalization and regulation seems to me to be the least-bad option, and obviously so. Everything else seems like angels-on-pins territory.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 03-15-08 11:29 AM
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I can agree with you on that. I think such a licensing regime is probably in the realm of fantasy -- I can't think of any way to make it practical. But if it were practical, at that point I probably wouldn't be worrying about the johns.

But that's in the "If my grandmother had treads, she'd be a Sherman tank" category of counterfactuals.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-15-08 11:34 AM
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Question that this discussion has made me think about:

Is there anyone commenting here who was 16-25 (say) when the AIDS scare really hit in the early 80s. That's before my time, but I know that's talked about, along with the birth control pill a generation earlier, as an event that drastically changed the social context of sex. That shift had already happened by the time I was an adolescent.

I'm just curious how much sexual mores can shift in a relatively short period of time. It seems relevant to this conversation.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 03-15-08 11:39 AM
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507 to 505. To 506, I think there's some point in figuring out whether an action is wrong, regardless of whether it's a good idea to make it illegal.

It is possible that the least-harm alternative would be legalization of prostitution pretty much as it is now, making it still mostly a damaging and terribly unpleasant experience for the prostitutes involved. To the extent that a john is indifferent to or enjoys the damage to and suffering of the prostitutes he patronizes, the john is still personally contemptible, and his enjoyment is not something I'm willing to consider in the analysis of whether prostitution should be legal.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-15-08 11:40 AM
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But that's in the "If my grandmother had treads, she'd be a Sherman tank" category of counterfactuals.

I remember a photo from the 1970s of a billboard advert for a Fiat 127. There's a picture of the car on the billboard, and the tag line is "If this car were a lady, it would get its bottom pinched." Underneath this, someone has spray-painted "If this lady were a car, she'd run you down."


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 03-15-08 11:43 AM
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508: I'm just a little too young to directly answer your question -- born in 1971, so AIDS had really hit in the couple of years before I was personally considering sexual activity. But I've got the same impression you've got: very big change in mores, very fast. (I actually have a theory that the combination of AIDS and the Reagan-revolution rise of the religious right is what really did it; sex became dirty and diseased and contemptible again in a very short period.)


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-15-08 11:44 AM
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It is possible that the least-harm alternative would be legalization of prostitution pretty much as it is now, making it still mostly a damaging and terribly unpleasant experience for the prostitutes involved.

I don't quite know what it would mean to "legalize prostitution pretty much as it is now." A lot of the worst aspects of the life of a prostitute - abuse, rape and the threat of rape from police and pimps, for example - arise directly from its illegality. I also don't see how the least-bad alternative could be mere legalization, and not legalization plus regulation, which would ideally involve STD screenings for johns and sex workers, condom requirements, and unionization.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 03-15-08 11:50 AM
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very big change in mores, very fast

Is it big enough to make one cautious about overgeneralizing the relationship between johns and prostitutes?

I'm not proposing that the shift in attitudes in the 80s specifically changed the views of prostitution (though it may have -- I don't know whether that shift in mores made it more difficult for someone to easily move between prostitution and "legitimate" work) but wonder whether the "imagine a different relationship between johns and prostitutes" is quite as far fetched as you're making it out to be.

This is purely speculative, but it relates specifically to the arguments SCMT has been making.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 03-15-08 11:50 AM
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On that topic I think of this song which is clearly intended to be light hearted and fun, and just doesn't work for me; but which probably did work as intended for boomer contemporaries. Was everyone who found the song amusing ignoring the creepy aspect of it, or have attitudes shifted in a way that makes it hard for me to know how a contemporary listener heard it?

My baby wakes in the deep of the night. She doesn't need it , but she says it's all right. My baby digs it, just a Rollin' away. My baby gives it up every day. My baby gives it, she gives it away. My baby gives it up every day. My baby. She just gives it away.
When you're alone in some city hotel, You can get company by ringing a bell. You might go pick up a girl on the street, But my baby gives it up totally free. My baby's counting' on, 'cause you alone. My baby's brother never break a your arm. My baby ha, ha, I love her.

(I should note that, recent news aside, I've never taken Pete Townshend to be particularly retrograde on issues of sex and gender.)


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 03-15-08 11:56 AM
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The second woman (the one who wasn't into it) told me that her clients fell in love with her fairly regularly

Do you not think that dealing, on a daily basis, with people who are "in love with you" yet doing things to you that you have to deal with by emotionally withdrawing, would be pretty godawful? Having someone you feel zero interest in be "in love with you" is an unpleasant experience; having it happen "fairly regularly," and having to fuck these guys and play along with their fantasies, must be excruciating.

I also think there's a pretty major difference between being a hot bartender and picking up rich guys at the bar, and being a prostitute who works in a brothel, on call, or on the streets. The difference in the power dynamic should be screamingly obvious to anyone, if nothing else.

Going alllll the way back to 3, since I was unnecessarily snippy with Nathan's 1:

depends on sex work being almost uniquely injuring. I'm not claiming it's uninjuring, at all, but that other, fairly accepted, things might be close enough to it that this argument applies to them as well.

I think the difference here (and my major problem with Minneapolitan's claim that this all boils down to a class analysis, blah blah) is that it's ignoring the obvious fact of interpersonal relationships. If you're cleaning bathrooms or working in slaughterhouses, you're doing pretty boring or gross work, yes (I'm willing to believe that slaughterhouse work, in particular, is, in fact, quite damaging): but you aren't dealing directly with other human beings who are actively indifferent, or even hostile to, you *as a necessary function of the job*. You might have an asshole boss, and most bosses aren't going to spend a lot of time worrying about whether their workers are happy, but there's a difference between a situation where the bad boss is, you might say, external to the job itself, and a situation where the bad boss *is* the job itself. And we do know that working a low-end job for an asshole boss is pretty intolerable and causes enormous amounts of stress; all the more so when you cannot avoid or ignore the boss but must actively strive to please him *and* deal with his fantasy that you don't dislike him but are, in fact, uniquely attuned to him.

Same thing with bartending. A lot of customers are surely assholes, and the boss might be too, and yes, up to a point, you are required to service the customers. But if you're emotionally indifferent to your customers and put the drinks on the bar and walk away, you're still doing your job. If you're emotionally indifferent to your customers and have to fuck them and stroke them, that's a different story. If you're flirting with customers and hand-picking the rich ones that seem tolerable and enjoyable, yes, you're letting money come into your decision of who you'll have sex with, but that's very different than having money be the sole determining factor that irons out everything else. If your rich boyfriend pisses you off, you can yell at him and refuse to fuck him that night. If your john pisses you off, you can't.

Which is to say, sure, there are other jobs that involve stress, degredation, are emotionally and psychologically damaging if you do them for any length of time. Prostitution, however, is unique in involving all those elements, in that it is (it seems to me) *necessarily* impossible to do the job without them, and--as LB keeps pointing out--having sex with someone *really is* an order of magnitude different from "servicing" them in any other way.

Plus, you have to remember, prostitution is going to mean doing this sort of thing repeatedly, with lots of different individuals. You can't just think of it in terms of discrete encounters. Evil john tells three stories of seeing prostitutes: one woman is high, another is emotionally closed off, and a third, he falls in love with. If you're a prostitute, and a third of the time you're high, a third of the time you're emotionally closed of, and a third of the time you're dealing with men who are "in love with" you, think about how enormously stressful and awful that's got to be, as working conditions go.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 03-15-08 11:57 AM
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Reading this does make me want to read a good historical survey of prostitution. Surely there were two big events that strongly influenced people's views in the US on sexuality during my lifetime (the pill and AIDS, some might argue abortion legalization as well). However, in the context of the long. long history of prostitution in diverse cultures, economic, political and religious systems these surely simply represent minor events.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 03-15-08 11:59 AM
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513: Honestly, I'd guess no. My sense of Western European sexual mores is that they're a lot more like pre-AIDS American mores than like current American mores, which is part of the reason that all the UK commenters are always making fun of us. That still doesn't seem to get Western Europe to 'selling sex is jolly happy funtimes' for the prostitutes involved, with no social stigma and so forth. I could be wrong here, I'm talking out of my ass, but I'd say that the negative emotional effects of engaging in undesired sex on an ongoing basis are pretty fundamental for most people, and not all that dependent on social stigma or poor working conditions.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-15-08 12:00 PM
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Oh, and I crossed with Bitch, who does a great job of laying out exactly the sort of fundamental issues not contingent on the working conditions I was thinking of of. Exactly.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-15-08 12:03 PM
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Go read 515 again. I can't say it better.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 03-15-08 12:04 PM
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I'd say that the negative emotional effects of engaging in undesired sex on an ongoing basis are pretty fundamental for most people

To the extent that I have an argument it wouldn't be to disagree, but to suggest that the boundaries of what constitutes "undesired sex" may be somewhat fluid. Like much of the thread, this isn't a defense of prostitution in it's purest form, but to wonder about the lines being drawn above between "prostitution", "sex work", etc and to suspect those lines can shift quickly at the margins.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 03-15-08 12:04 PM
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I still maintain that, given that studies of places where prostitution has been legalized show that it *doesn't* improve the lives of prostitutes and simply creates an even higher demand for trafficked women (since, once they're in the country and working, it's above board), legalization isn't the answer.

Surely we all agree that *selling* sex needs to be decriminalized. That doesn't mean we need to accept *buying* it, and I do think that in addition to decriminalizing it, we should focus on providing support for women and men wanting to get out of prostitution. In short, write the laws to reflect what we think we know, which is that it's an inherently damaging job that doesn't serve any particular public good and does create some clear public problems; that its effects on the people who do it is one of those problems; that a lot (perhaps most) people working as prostitutes don't really "choose" that line of work in any meaningful sense of the word, but that the customers surely do choose to be customers; and that the primary "cause" of prostitution (as such) is the people who purchase it.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 03-15-08 12:15 PM
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a good historical survey of prostitution

For a narrower slice, I highly recommend this book (which also addresses the roles of bodily appetites and their satisfactions in the official political life of Athens):

Davidson, J. N. (1997). Courtesans and Fishcakes: The Consuming Passions of Classical Athens. London: Harper Collins.


Posted by: Merganser | Link to this comment | 03-15-08 12:23 PM
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513. Agreed. Also, I don't think indoor prostitution is illegal per se anywhere in W. Europe - as opposed to soliciting, pimping, false imprisonment, etc. - which I gather from this thread it is in America, and that must be added stress on the worker. But all European governments are obsessively trying to reduce the level of prostitution all the time. They just don't tend to think going after the girls with the full majesty of the law is the best way to do it. I think they're right.


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 03-15-08 12:24 PM
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521: Again, I would invite you - and everyone else, really - to take a look at Brad Plumer's recent post on prostitution and various countries' attempts to come up with different legal schemes for dealing with it, which links to a number of different studies on this subject.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 03-15-08 12:26 PM
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509: I think there's some point in figuring out whether an action is wrong

I expect this has been pointed out, but there's no such thing as figuring out whether an action is wrong in isolation from a given cultural milieu. That's not rampant relativism, should anyone think so. In the case at hand, we have a culture in which the selling of sex, whether in the form of prostitution, stripping, or porn-making, is increasingly unremarkable.

What's stunning (in the sense of dazzling) to me in the long revelations from the Commenter from 29 and the evil john is the extent to which we're basically already at the point at which sex work is considered by many to be no big deal, really: worthy of thoughtful consideration, not necessarily ideal, but not deeply consternating. Sounds like our society's slow crawl toward selling oneself as a matter of course or justifiable expedience is almost complete.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 03-15-08 12:27 PM
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Bitch, thanks for laying that out in 515. I used to have a straight up labor theory of prostitution -- that it was no worse than coal mining, and just required organizing and regulating. A few years ago I went squidgy on that position; your 515, and some of your and others' comments in this thread make a very non-squidgy, non-sentimental argument for considering it especially injurious.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 03-15-08 12:37 PM
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Our society has considered buying sex to be no big deal for men for a very long time, and evil john's comment doesn't seem to me to be anything unusual in that tradition -- barring writing style, something similar could have been written at any time in the last couple of hundred years by a privileged man. Likewise with Commenter 29; while discussions of the subject would have been more mealymouthed, her story isn't that far off Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, which was written in the '20s.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-15-08 12:38 PM
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524. Read it, Stras. I think it's possibly significant that the International Prostitutes Collective advocate decriminalisation rather than legalisation "with the state as the pimp". Also interesting that nobody here, except minneapolitan by inference, has raised the possibility of prostitutes acting for their own interests.


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 03-15-08 12:38 PM
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Davidson, J. N. (1997). Courtesans and Fishcakes: The Consuming Passions of Classical Athens. London: Harper Collins.

I was just trying to remember the name of this book to recommend to someone the other day!


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 03-15-08 12:44 PM
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528: I know, and I'm aware that my views on regulation might be unduly influenced by internalized paternalism towards women and sex. That said, I think legalization plus regulation was the best way to go with drug policy, and I'm not sure why it wouldn't be different with prostitution: the main issues here are still health, safety and labor issues, and I think that government has a role to play in guarding workers' rights in those areas.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 03-15-08 12:57 PM
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But that's in the "If my grandmother had treads, she'd be a Sherman tank" category of counterfactuals.

That's roughly where I started this thread, because of "Kristen's" back-story. But then I remembered Washingtonienne, we had Cmtr. 29 (or whatever it was), Apo noted that he had gay friends who hooked for pin money, which reminded me that I've met a couple such people, and Emerson noted that there were men and women in bars who did similar things. So now it doesn't seem impossible, however improbable.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 03-15-08 1:01 PM
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526: I made the same labor theory argument when I was considering whether or not to take money for sex. After doing it, I realized that there was something missing in the labor theory argument, so most of what I say on the subject now comes from my (very limited, to be sure) experience of the actual doing of the thing.

legalization plus regulation was the best way to go with drug policy, and I'm not sure why it wouldn't be different with prostitution

Because women are not drugs. Drug addicts are the *users* of the commodity; prostitutes *are* the commodity. Where drugs are concerned, the only thing we care about is that they be as clean as possible. Where prostitutes are concerned, hopefully other things are more important.

In short, I don't think your views are paternalistic; quite the opposite.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 03-15-08 1:01 PM
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527: Since the 20s. Or the 19th century. I was about to blame capitalism, or industrialization, or the dawn of mass production. Could be the 17th and 18th centuries; I could go back to imperialism and make some broad claims about exploitation as a way of life.

But it sounds as though people want to gesture toward the veldt, a boy/girl thing, after all. Really?

Ben makes a good point regarding classical Athens. It's hard to blame them for much.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 03-15-08 1:02 PM
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530: One thing that makes me concerned about legalization arguments is that the state is not immune to wanting to increase its revenue from the newly-legalized market. Thus you have state-regulated gambling resulting in lottery-advertising campaigns that try to get poor people to buy more lottery tickets.

In the prostitution example, this could mean the state turning a blind eye towards increased trafficking, as I believe someone said upthread is already happening in Europe.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 03-15-08 1:04 PM
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I also think there's a pretty major difference between being a hot bartender and picking up rich guys at the bar, and being a prostitute who works in a brothel, on call, or on the streets. The difference in the power dynamic should be screamingly obvious to anyone, if nothing else.

Yeah, that was the point. It overlaps with Minneapolitan's point, that the power differentials and similar factors are the decider, not whether sex is being sold. But the high-end on-call prostitution strikes me as closely continuous to the bartender case, as do some of the forms of courtesanship I've read about.

You aren't dealing directly with other human beings who are actively indifferent, or even hostile to, you *as a necessary function of the job*.

In point of fact, this isn't true. The whole mining industry is as indifferent as it can get away with being on questions relating to the health and safety of miners. Without government interference, almost none of the safety protections in place would be there, and they're always trying to weaken the ones there are. Agricultural labor is another very similar example, perhaps a better one because there are more people involved. Logging used to be a third example, though things may have changed somewhat recently (mostly because logging companies need political support against environmentalists.) And it's true that this is not "necessary", but it's definitely actual, and it involves millions of workers.

The big question is what to think of men who patronize prostitutes. Are they men who hate all women, or are they just guys who for whatever reason aren't able to manage normal dating / marriage relationships, or who mostly just want sex and don't want to go through the dating routines, or guys who just aren't either attractive or lovable but have some money in their pocket and want to have sex.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 03-15-08 1:08 PM
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But it sounds as though people want to gesture toward the veldt, a boy/girl thing, after all. Really?

Because what we're talking about, specifically, is prostitution as practiced in a capitalist system, where one "sells" and "buys" things for money. What's specifically being "sold" and "bought" is one person's access to another person's body. Hence, bodies matter.

The veldt doesn't come into it.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 03-15-08 1:10 PM
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531: You know what makes me think that all those 'counterexamples' or however you'd characterize them aren't particularly important from a policy point of view? They're all instances in which someone selling sex actively chooses individual patrons, retaining the option to reject a customer or back out of a particular transaction as an ordinary part of their business practices. I'd think that would be absolutely necessary to make selling sex tolerable (although still, from Commenter 29's description, fairly unpleasant).

But it's not at all compatible with the wishes of a john who has a couple of hours to kill and wants to get laid, which is my understanding of the bulk of the prostitution market. For B's reasons, I don't think there's anyway to make that kind of transaction (prostitution in which a prostitute takes on anyone with the money to pay them) tolerable for most people.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-15-08 1:11 PM
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The veldt does come into the speculations that even with power differentials and wealth differentials erased, there might be more men buying than women.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 03-15-08 1:12 PM
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Are they men who hate all women, or are they just guys who for whatever reason aren't able to manage normal dating / marriage relationships, or who mostly just want sex and don't want to go through the dating routines, or guys who just aren't either attractive or lovable but have some money in their pocket and want to have sex.

To bring the thread around in a circle, if they're culpably indifferent to the welfare of the women they're paying for sex, I don't give a damn whether or not they actively hate women, they're still doing something contemptible and wrong.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-15-08 1:14 PM
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534: Plus, if it's legalized, then the obvious argument is going to be "there's nothing wrong with it; why provide programs to help workers get out of their jobs?"

535: No. The jobs of miners or farmworkers--and yes, management is actively hostile to their well being--does not involve directly servicing *management*. It involves directly working on the mine, or the produce. Management's hostility creates a shitty situation, but that situation is external, in a way, to the actual work of the job itself. I said that rather clearly.

And the point isn't to pass judgment on the men--it doesn't matter if they're "just" lonely guys. What matters is what having to intimately and directly service someone who necessarily sees you as a means to an end, rather than an autonomous person, does to you, the worker.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 03-15-08 1:14 PM
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Further to #531: From Slate's XX (legitimately good!; thanks, ogged), I learn that "Kristen's" back-story is...unclear. For example, she may have left home, in part, because she crashed her oral surgeon stepfather's Porsche. Which again makes me think that the world is bigger and more diverse than I think.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 03-15-08 1:15 PM
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536: I was referring to evil john's remark in 437 that:

Prostitution is one way to sort of reconcile the incomensurability of male and female sexuality -- that constant, voracious, variety-seeking, casual quality of male desire that women don't really share.

Which you seemed to provisionally agree with in 444. That puzzled me.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 03-15-08 1:16 PM
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538: Which is irrelevant, except as a question of fact. It doesn't matter to the theory (unless you want to say that part of the reason male prostitutes seem less bothered by their jobs is that they're less likely to have the job necessarily require them to be penetrated). (Which I am not saying; I've mostly left aside the "but men prostitutes often seem to really like their jobs" thing, because it's a whole other issue.)


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 03-15-08 1:17 PM
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537: But that might simply describe a need to tailor the regulatory regime.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 03-15-08 1:18 PM
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542: I allowed it as a possibility that doesn't, I think, actually matter much to the question at hand. And that I can't definitively say I "know" to be false, not having ever been, myself, a man.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 03-15-08 1:20 PM
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Tim, can you say more about what you mean? I don't think I agree with you, but maybe I'm guessing wrong.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 03-15-08 1:21 PM
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544: Which is where we seem to be getting into unicorns and pixie dust land to me. If you can come up with a regulatory regime that seems likely to produce humane results, more power to you, but I'm having a very difficult time imagining one.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-15-08 1:22 PM
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Further to my 542: Desire is constructed. We all know this.

That said, this at 540:

What matters is what having to intimately and directly service someone who necessarily sees you as a means to an end, rather than an autonomous person, does to you, the worker.

Someone finally said this! I am so happy now. Now we can have a moral and political theory.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 03-15-08 1:23 PM
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But it's not at all compatible with the wishes of a john who has a couple of hours to kill and wants to get laid, which is my understanding of the bulk of the prostitution market. For B's reasons, I don't think there's anyway to make that kind of transaction (prostitution in which a prostitute takes on anyone with the money to pay them) tolerable for most people.

You don't think it's compatible? I'd imagine that the market would shake out pretty quickly in terms of providers who take anyone by charging enough to make it worth it to them (either by raising how much they charge or having low standards) and those who exercise discretion. Like the way most professional services work - effectively any client can find a lawyer to take their case, but no individual lawyer has to take any particular case.


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 03-15-08 1:26 PM
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549 reads to me like the verbal version of those graphs in economics class that showed how the market would respond oh-so-perfectly to the ebb and flow of supply and demand.

IOW, I'm not buying it. There are too many complicating factors at work.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 03-15-08 1:30 PM
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548: That's been underlying almost everything we'e been saying. It's not sufficient, though (which is why I've been saying other things), because it's too easy--constructed in theoretical abstract language like that--to end up with the response Nathan originally made, something along the lines of "well, all workers are means to an end, rather than autonomous persons. I don't care about the humanity of the person who sells me my socks. How is that different?"

Which is why I've been talking about bodies and people, rather than abstractions.

549: It wouldn't, though. It never has. And that seems to be because the real control over how much the thing pays comes at the demand end, not the supply end, since the only suppliers who really *will* take on all comers are people who are desperate/degraded enough (by addiction or some other major problem) that the only thing that matters to them is getting some money.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 03-15-08 1:30 PM
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549: having low standards

Presumably you can see why this still worries me. "No, a regulatory regime under which some prostitute is servicing five clients a night is perfectly humane. It's just a matter of that prostitute's standards."


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-15-08 1:32 PM
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Which is why I've been talking about bodies and people, rather than abstractions.

I understand, but don't be overly dissuaded by the 'the abstraction, it burns' thing.

You're going to have a hard time making out that prostitution is a special case -- especially since I've been quietly arguing that all sex-work, including pron and stripping, is problematic on the same grounds, as special cases of exploitation at which we'd like to draw the line. Others don't draw the line there, and want to say that prostitution goes too far, but stripping/porn is okay. Do you really want to argue that it's the contracted physical engagement that pushes it over the line? I don't.

The line, the problem, lies elsewhere.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 03-15-08 1:43 PM
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546: Tim, can you say more about what you mean? I don't think I agree with you, but maybe I'm guessing wrong.

547: If you can come up with a regulatory regime that seems likely to produce humane results, more power to you, but I'm having a very difficult time imagining one.

I have trouble imagining one, too, though I suggested psych checks, high anonymity controls for hookers, and time on/time off schedules. Maybe it's something like only allowing someone to hook for one month per twelve month period, so that all it might provide is side cash. But, really, I have no idea.

The issue I have is that apparently there are people, often men, but inc. women, who can manage the sex for cash business and remain healthy, whole human beings (and given any number of odd-looking relationships that seem to work and look somewhat similar--I'm thinking trophy spouses--it doesn't seem all that incredible that they exist) . Given that they exist, and I don't see a problem with them existing, I want legal and moral regimes that allow for that existence.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 03-15-08 1:51 PM
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Yes, I really do want to argue that the contracted physical engagement is a major part of the problem with prostitution, and a major cause of a lot of its negative affects. I really do think that we aren't just brains on sticks, and that our bodies matter. A lot.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 03-15-08 1:53 PM
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540: Yes, you said it clearly and metaphysically, but we'll always be dealing with an actual world. American life is pretty crass and harsh, and I'd say high-end prostitution isn't the crassest or harshest part of it. Street-level, yes.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 03-15-08 1:54 PM
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555 agrees with 81?


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 03-15-08 1:54 PM
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A couple of references of interest.

1) Probably not the best overview, but The History of Prostitution: Its Extent, Causes and Effects Throughout the World (1858) by William Sanger and available on Google books is worth a look. It comes with some predictable 19th century outlooks, but a lot of the discussion in the introduction covers the essentials of the debate here.

2) Prostitution ProCon.org has what looks to be a pretty balanced set of materials that if nothing else illustrate the complexity of this question.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 03-15-08 1:55 PM
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I suggested psych checks

Surely the potential downsides of mandating government psych checks more than outweigh the potential upsides--which are what, again, exactly?--of legal prostitution as a regulated activity.

(Also, further to 555: I also don't think that there necessarily has to be a clear "line" between "perfectly okay" and "not okay." I'm okay with ambiguity.)


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 03-15-08 1:56 PM
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556: I agree. I don't think that the (let's call it a) fact that ultra-high-end prostitution is less horrible than, say, working in a slaughterhouse, is a legitimate reason to argue that prostitution isn't essentially different from other seriously crappy jobs. That kind of high-end prostitution is *clearly* the exception, and a pretty rare one.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 03-15-08 1:58 PM
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555: You misunderstand, I think. I want to say that yes, our bodies do matter quite a bit, and it's a question of the public and the private. We have very little left that remains sacred, private, and our bodies are among those things. That's why I'd say that porn and stripping are invasive as well. I recognize that I may be an outlier in that opinion, but I'd argue that they equally involve the selling of the body for the transient gratification of others. Anything that involves objectifying and commodifying, for pillage of one sort of another, that which should be sacred, is out of bounds.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 03-15-08 2:03 PM
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What on earth do you mean by "sacred"? Are you actually arguing that bodily privacy is holy?


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 03-15-08 2:09 PM
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I realize this is a bit random, but how do wet nurses fit into this discussion? I feel neutral/agnostic about that job in a way that is very different from the prostitution.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 03-15-08 2:10 PM
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Oh good God, a regulatory regime? There already is one. How much good does it do sex workers? There is abuse and exploitation because there are willing buyers. No regulatory regime will change that.

508 -- I'm old, and was coupled up before AIDS entered mainstream consciousness. So I don't know anything about any changes either. I kind of doubt that there was materially more sex going on for anyone within a couple of standard deviations of the mean than there is now, or was in the mid 90s, for example. Totally ex recto, I admit, but whether someone was interested in intercourse with you was then, and surely is now, the predominating factor. Rather than fear of disease.

I won't be surprised to be contradicted here.


Posted by: Nápi | Link to this comment | 03-15-08 2:17 PM
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562: I was afraid someone would object to "sacred." The term has a resonance for me that I probably can't explain. It just means private.

This thread is becoming too long to keep refreshing, unfortunately.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 03-15-08 2:21 PM
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I guess I'm wary of using religious language like that because it basically means that one is saying exactly what Youth Pastor Mike told us when we were 13, that our bodies are sacred and to share them outside of marriage is to defile God's holy temple. Taking the language of "god" and "marriage" out of it doesn't make it not, fundamentally, a religious argument. Which, if you're religious, cool. I just don't know if it's a rhetorical gesture with much power in a secular environment.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 03-15-08 2:28 PM
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This table of Prostitution Policies from 50 different countries from the Prostitution ProCon site makes for na interesting quick read.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 03-15-08 2:33 PM
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-which are what, again, exactly?--which are what, again, exactly?-

As I said, or suggested, above, to protect a strong notion of personal autonomy and to be clear that neither Cmtr. 29 nor Apo's friends aren't doing anything wrong or shameful, regardless of whether or not I can imagine doing the same.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 03-15-08 2:33 PM
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If it hasn't been mentioned already, there was an interesting interview on the high-end prostitution phenomenon on npr this morning, which closed with the point that even women in this version of the profession are subject to high levels of violence and abuse.


Posted by: JPool | Link to this comment | 03-15-08 3:07 PM
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Man alive! The one time I actually contribute to a discussion and I wind up being at work until it peters out.

To clarify a bit: Obviously there's a distinction between awful jobs which involve sexual touch as part of the job requirements and awful jobs which are simply physically demanding or even physically punishing. If you go to Alaska and work 18 hour days on a fishing boat for $800 a day or whatever, you can still walk into any church or bar and hold your head high when you tell people how you were able to afford your new pick-up. That's a very real social distinction that even the libertarians and Ev-Psych boys should be able to grasp.

I guess what I'm more interested in, per my comment above, is the other end of the continuum. If you are a waitress at Hooters, no one can accuse you of being a stripper or a prostitute or a pornographic actress, but you're still indubitably in the sex industry and there's certain contexts where you might very well be uncomfortable mentioning what you do for a living. Does the Hooters customer have any right to hold his head up higher than the john or strip-club patron?

A lot of the strenuously anti-prostitution arguments seem to be founded on an unchallenged, mostly unspoken assumption that there's always penetration (esp. of the prostitute) going on in a private sex work encounter. But we know that's not true. There's quite a bit of prostitution (or whatever you want to call it) where penetration isn't even on the table, so to speak. There's also quite a bit where the customer is the one being penetrated. So where then is the line to be drawn? Is it equally objectionable to desire a fluffing conversation followed by some oral sex from a $200 per hour escort as compared to desiring to be dressed in a ridiculous outfit and flogged for the same price by a dominatrix?

So anyhow, to state my position, in the current legal and social context in the US, I'd be overjoyed if the various arms of the law could go into a harm-reduction mode, rather than hiding behind all of this quality-of-life crimes nonsense. We already have the armature of a system that could focus on giving people who are sexually exploited and/or forced into prostitution a better shot at having a life that involved more consensual, convivial relationships, and that prevented them from suffering too much social opprobrium whether or not they were prostituting themselves. I do think there are some good models for this out there, especially the prostitutes' union model, but I think there's a great deal more that could be done in "straight" society (than has previously been attempted) to improve the lives of people who find themselves in the sex industry. This really isn't unicorn land. We could do it fairly easily, probably much easier than we could create a sane climate for the recreational use of chemicals, which is also not impossible.


Posted by: minneapolitan | Link to this comment | 03-15-08 3:27 PM
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343

"This whole conversation relies entirely on the subjective experience of people involved in the sex trade, and yet, this conversation almost entirely lacks the perspective of people involved."

A first person account of working in a legal Nevada brothel.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 03-15-08 4:56 PM
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452

"... Your comment, however, serves as a reminder that at least a certain class of johns is really pretty deeply invested in the belief that there is no injury ..."

And some commenters here seem deeply invested in the idea that there is always an uniquely serious injury.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 03-15-08 5:05 PM
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561: I get where you were going. And I'm not hostile to the idea that stripping, and to a greater extent penetrative porn, are also fucked up and damaging. But I think that for stripping, especially, the fucked-uppedness really *is* purely the result of social constructs around sex and sexuality, and that for porn, at least you're working (hopefully) with other sex workers, so I would imagine that some of the difficulty, at least, of dealing with people's fantasies and projections would be much less of a problem.

In any case, the discussion is about prostitution specifically, not sex work generally, and I didn't want to muddy the waters.

570: I do, in fact, think that there is probably a pretty major difference between a job where being fucked is an option, even if a given john doesn't want it, and one where being fucked is completely off the table and you've defined precisely what services you will and won't provide (dominatrix).

572: Well, yes, James, because some of us think that not injuring people is more important than creating little theoretical constructs where we pretend people don't have feelings.

And also because we are actually familiar with the subject we're talking about.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 03-15-08 5:25 PM
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"familiar with the subject we're talking about" in some way that involves actually seeing prostitutes as people like ourselves, that is, rather than robots like ourselves. I realize this is probably a difficult concept to grasp, though.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 03-15-08 5:28 PM
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566: Taking the language of "god" and "marriage" out of it doesn't make it not, fundamentally, a religious argument. Which, if you're religious, cool. I just don't know if it's a rhetorical gesture with much power in a secular environment.

I do not want to start this thread up again, interesting as it's become.

For the record, I don't consider myself religious in any way. I do, however, find space for a notion of the sacred, by which I mean the inviolable, that which must be respected no matter what, in the way that one's mother is. I realize quite well that arguing that the body is an inviolable space absent true consent is deeply problematic (true consent, what's that?). I honestly don't know how to philosophically parse differences that seem intuitively clear to us between levels of voluntary behavior, without getting into discussions of the relative value of the things one gives up.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 03-15-08 5:32 PM
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492

"Yeah, my strong beliefs about the likelihood of harm to the prostitute and the resulting culpable indifference of the john are limited to fairly literal prostitution -- the sort of transaction in which consent is literally purchased, and refusal because the prostitute doesn't feel like it is not an expected part of the transaction. Once you get into grey areas, (Washingtonienne, the sort of thing being talked about above), I start thinking that while it doesn't sound like my idea of fun on either end, I'm unsure that harm is being done."

So how do you feel about sex surrogates?


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 03-15-08 5:32 PM
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how about a combination of decriminalization and licensing johns (& only johns)? national johns database to which anyone who wants access can have it; unlicensed johns who solicit liable to prosecution; prostitutes not liable either way?


Posted by: lurker | Link to this comment | 03-15-08 6:06 PM
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577 is a hilarious and fascinating suggestion that I sort of love.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 03-15-08 6:14 PM
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how do wet nurses fit into this discussion?

Or home care nurses, for that matter. No penetration, I suppose, but arguably far more intimate. And certainly most people wouldn't wipe strangers' asses for free.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 03-15-08 7:15 PM
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579: I dunno. I've done caregiving work, some of it pretty intimate, although mostly for family members. It's messy, it can be supremely unpleasant, but I would never ever on the worst day compare it to prostitution.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 03-15-08 7:24 PM
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I've warned you about the consequences of that sort of behavior before, minneapolitan.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 03-15-08 7:46 PM
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Strange people would say above that I am invested in thinking that prostitutes enjoyed their time with me. I explicitly said that I did not think the second woman did, she was at best indifferent. I also said I could not know about the first. Even in the final case, all I knew was that there was emotional and physical attraction in the moment.

People seem very committed to a narrow view of the kind of human contact that is possible in this area. But the case against prostitution does not require that prostitutes never like their clients, any more than the case against porn requires that the actresses never come.

I really was invested in thinking the women were not physically coerced. I spent extra money and tried to take precautions in this regard by avoiding women who were not Dutch, but I admit one cannot know the full situation.


Posted by: evil john | Link to this comment | 03-15-08 11:29 PM
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People seem very committed to a narrow view of the kind of human contact that is possible in this area.

Yes, because we're big meanies who want to ruin your chance for true romance, and keep prostitutes from getting their MBAs at Harvard.

But since it's no big deal, why not try a couple of weeks of prostitution yourself, maybe on your next vacation, just to see how enjoyable it is? No clients who aren't bigger and stronger than you, no turning down offers, minimum of six clients a night, because you'd just be a beginner. Oh, you wanted to be an exclusive call person? Sorry, your conversation is not sufficiently amusing.


Posted by: mcmc | Link to this comment | 03-16-08 7:00 AM
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You folks might not have noticed it, but government contractors have recently come under new restrictions with respect to prostitution. Check out 48 CFR 52.222-50(b)(2) & (d)(1). Yep, contractors have to report use of prostitutes by their employees. And this one flows down to subcontractors as well.

"Commercial sex act" means any sex act on account of which anything of value is given to or received by any person.


Posted by: Nápi | Link to this comment | 03-16-08 7:38 AM
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FAR clause.


Posted by: Nápi | Link to this comment | 03-16-08 7:41 AM
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That would never have flown in ol' Duke's day.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 03-16-08 7:42 AM
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581: I know, I know! It's enough to make a guy wanna go out and buy an iPhone or something.


Posted by: minneapolitan | Link to this comment | 03-16-08 8:01 AM
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582: My apologies. Looking back over the conversation, I realize that in the attempt to cut someone who I probably know some slack, I gave you credit for being more self-deluded than you seem to have been. Instead, you're someone who had sex with a woman who you had good reason to believe found the experience unpleasant and would have preferred to not have had to touch you, and found her polite professionalism about it so pleasurable that you went back for more.

Thank you for commenting anonymously; I've probably done worse things in my life, and plenty of people I'm fond of have as well. But I'm just as glad not to know that about someone I 'know'.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-16-08 9:08 AM
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Even in the final case, all I knew was that there was emotional and physical attraction in the moment.

I'm not sure this makes it better, to be honest. The best case of prostitution is one where everything is clean, safe, kind, respectful, and there's an emotional and physical connection. And she's a welder by day and a hooker by night or something.

parsimon used the word "sacred" where I would use the word "intimate." And you've mentioned the prostitute who found it annoying that her johns kept falling in love, and felt that way yourself a little. So let's put that down to nothing mystical, just basic hormones. Everyone had a good time, you left happy and a little wistfully in love. Let's say she did, too. And with money! No worse than a breakup.

Except this isn't a one time deal for her and it's completely artificial. (Which we seem to keep overlooking.) As intimate as it was, you're not her only client, and even if she does have control over whom she services, she's gotta pay the bills. A string of intimacy-creating encounters that are wholly artificial doesn't sound really all that great, and if you figure that it's likely that even though she was really into you, she probably has to fake it with other guys, it looks pretty sad.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 03-16-08 9:31 AM
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I have now dreamed about hiring a prostitute for two straight nights.

Both times it didn't go very well.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 03-16-08 10:47 AM
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It occurred to me last night that as far as I've noticed, no one here has suggested that prostitutes (of whatever sort) actually want to do what they're doing. There may be a case for their engaging in their activities voluntarily, but that of course is not the same as their wanting to have more-or-less anonymous, assigned sex with numerous parties in exchange for money. The only case of such a thing I can imagine would come in the case of a nymphomaniac.

Regarding what I called "sacred": I do want something beyond the merely intimate. Reverence or respect for one's mother is an instructive example. One cannot (I assume) imagine suggesting to one's mother, should she find herself in financial straits, that she consider a stint as a prostitute or any other form of sex worker.

There's nothing mystical meant by what's sacred about the inviolability of the body. It's rather that we simply do draw lines in various places. Cora Diamond has a wonderful paper called "Eating Meat, Eating People" (a response to Peter Singer) in which she points out that there simply will be no ultimately persuasive argument about why we should not eat people; rather, we just do not. People are not the sort of thing that falls under the category "possible food"; they do not 'count as' meat. The visceral negative response we have to the very suggestion that we might normalize doing so is indicative of the sort of sacredness I'm after: this is one place we simply draw the line. It's ultimately, I'd argue, the ground of moral thinking. One reason profaning a culture's sacred places (destroying a temple, bulldozing burial grounds, pissing on the Koran) is so unspeakably grotesque is that it violates ... well, the sacred. This is how you break a people, break their hearts. We sometimes call it rapaciousness.

Where was I? With respect to sex work, we do seem, as a culture, to be on the road to normalizing it. But it seems to be in response to the economic realities facing any number of women, rather than a response to increasing numbers of them actually wanting to engage in sex work. This strikes me as deeply sad.

What we collectively sanction as a culture, whether explicitly or implicitly, obviously reflects very seriously on us, and should be taken seriously. It bothers me a great deal that something like prostitution (nicely termed escorting) would increasingly warrant a shrug: the lines of the sacred shifting, eh? Everything for sale? Does this make me a conservative? Note that given the economic realities, I'm not prudishly disapproving of prostitution or of its legalization; I do find it important to witness its ramifications for us as a society.

(/moralizing)


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 03-16-08 10:54 AM
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It occurred to me last night that as far as I've noticed, no one here has suggested that prostitutes (of whatever sort) actually want to do what they're doing.

I'm not sure that's true; the issue is how to say, at once, conditioned on the money and not conditioned on the money.

But it seems to be in response to the economic realities facing any number of women, rather than a response to increasing numbers of them actually wanting to engage in sex work.

I'm really not sure about that. There's a weird glamorization of hyper*-sexual women. It's extraordinary how many apparently self-made "sexy" videos of women show up, for example, on Youtube. You see Jeena Jamison being discussed on E! alongside normal movie stars. And I just noticed on Two and a Half Men, Charlie Sheen's character--who is supposed to be a cad, but little worse--talks about engaging hookers all of the time. I find all of this a little strange, but none of it connects up directly to economic realities.

I have a female friend who recently said to me, in connection with a conversation about child rearing, that she now felt really lucky not to have been very sexually confident or successful when she was young, because she felt she avoided learning some misleading lessons along the way. If you're young and attractive, that seems to grant you a certain power and even entree before almost everything else. Particularly if you're a woman, though I suspect that's moving as well. If you're that person, and you're not the ball of insecurities that most of us are in that area, it must be hard not to make use of that power. Just to test drive it. (And then to use it only when needed. And then....)

To be clear, it's not that I think dramatically larger numbers of women want to be in sex work. (I have no idea if the numbers are increasing.) Rather, it seems to me that it's really hard to come up with an account that says, at once, no judging your consensual sex life, but X, Y, and Z are right out, even if you tell me that you've chosen X, Y, and Z. Which means that the justifications are out there both for women who do want to move in that direction and as cover for the lives of women who are effectively forced into it, or choose it from a wildly constrained menu. And it is--or so it seems to me--to be hard to pick out which activities must be honestly chosen or are otherwise OK by introspection. Which, given the background of most of the people here, is mostly what we're left with.

* Not used judgmentally; intended descriptively.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 03-16-08 11:13 AM
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591: I think it's also, in part, an example of langauge not being available to describe what we're concerned about.

I'm quite comfortable using the word "sacred" as you defined it, and in calling myself a person of faith. But in mainstream American conversation, that kind of value-laden language is seen as the more-or-less exclusive provenance of right-wing social conservatives or nonserious hippy-dippy types.

To complain that our society's decisions and endorsements are violating the sacred is to invite people to think of you as Rick Santorum or, I dunno, Jon Kabat-Zinn.

Coining terms like "domestic violence" helped public conversation coalesce around a phenomenon that already existed. The same is necessary here.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 03-16-08 11:15 AM
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All I'm saying, parsimon, is that in order to make an argument that something is sacred, inviolable, or taboo, there should at least be some evidence that the culture thinks it's sacred, inviolable, or taboo, because it is naturally a circular argument. Diamond's obviously right that it doesn't occur to most people in our culture to eat people. It does, however, occur to people all the time to sell sex for money. It's not inviolable; in fact, it's violated all the time, and always has been.

Women's bodies are simply not considered some kind of precious private holy temple that can't be entered without proper respect. I'm not saying the world shouldn't be this way, but new taboos are hard to get going, since it's hard to manufacture a brand new visceral disgust.

I wasn't trying to say that I disagree---I am, in fact, someone who does have a personal loathing for all forms of prostitution. I have to swallow a lot of pride even to let a man I'm sleeping with buy me an unreciprocable dinner. When a woman I've just met suggests going to a bar where there will be rich guys, I have to struggle not to act like she just said something viciously racist or homophobic; my visceral reaction is so strong. It's not even like a conscious moral thing; my body revolts against anything that looks like a sexual obligation. There's enough free, willing sex in the world, if only we started considered women to be human beings.

But I seem to be very much in the minority. What is taboo for me in that visceral way is not something I can argue to others "is" or should be taboo. And I still don't think that criminalizing sex work makes anyone's lives better. I also have to realize that not everyone hates the idea of sex-as-commodity, and that what is taboo for me has little or no effect on them, at least according to self-report. So sure, I'm a wet blanket on this issue too, but it's a wet blanket that I can't share.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 03-16-08 11:16 AM
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Ooh, "domestic violence" is a great example, Witt. Giving new terminology to the unacceptable makes it pretty clear that a new taboo is forming.

What about "spanking"? The word is so associated with something that almost everyone 20 years ago thought was reasonable to do, and still continues in a lot of places. Is it that the word for it needs to be changed?

I think it's only through a language shift that taboos can be manufactured for things that have existed for a long time, like racism, homophobia, rape, etc.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 03-16-08 11:20 AM
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Is it that the word for it needs to be changed?

You mean to "child abuse"?


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 03-16-08 11:32 AM
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592: The problem is that that version of "sexual confidence" can be very misleading (as your friend seems to realize). A lot of it is insecurity and a really strong desire for attention and affirmation.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 03-16-08 11:34 AM
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Yeah, it's just that the main difference between "child abuse" and "spanking" for people like my parents was either (1) closed/open hand, and (2) whether the kid deserved it or not. Redefining the word to be more inclusive is hard.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 03-16-08 11:35 AM
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507:

I think such a licensing regime is probably in the realm of fantasy

I can't work out whether fantasising about licensing regimes is tragically prosaic or obscenely kinky. I'm having a few speculative thoughts about the direction of Federal Reserve policy myself at the moment but so far, not so much as a stirring.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 03-16-08 11:40 AM
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597: I don't disagree, but it's a hard criticism to make of someone else. Given historical realities, perhaps particularly if you're a man and the someone else is a woman (though "slut-shaming" etc.) Or if you know a fair number of people who are freer and more comfortable with semi-random sex and who seem to be healthy and together in all other areas.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 03-16-08 11:41 AM
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fantasising about licensing regimes

I'll need to examine your credentials, ma'am. If you know what I mean.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 03-16-08 11:44 AM
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What is taboo for me in that visceral way is not something I can argue to others "is" or should be taboo.

Yeah, this is a key part of the problem. I have a visceral reaction against a lot of tinkering with the human body, but I'm not actually sure it should be outlawed. That is, I'm not sure I want to legislate my values for everyone.

Of course, there are other areas where I'm happy to do that. Forming a social consensus that, hey, it's Not Okay to do X is an important part of creating a new taboo.

(Tangentially, to this: if only we started considered women to be human beings I actually read David Brooks's column today and found this awfully telling: "I don't know if you've seen a successful politician or business tycoon get drunk and make a pass at a woman." Could it be any more clear that he sees {successful politician} and {business tycoon} as sets that cannot include {woman}?)


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 03-16-08 11:44 AM
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602 was me.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 03-16-08 11:46 AM
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602: Funny you mention Brooks, as I think my own suspicious posture on this is, in part, a response to something he wrote a while ago: something along the line that anyone who has more than one sexual partner per year kills a little bit of his (though I assume he meant 'her') soul.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 03-16-08 11:51 AM
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A lot of it is insecurity and a really strong desire for attention and affirmation.

That's just it, I think. When I was in college, I sought out a lot of opportunities for sex because I have a really overactive libido and desired sexual gratification. My best friend would engage in sex with anyone who seemed cooler than her, because her gratification was not sexual but some self-worth thing.

I find it nearly impossible to figure out why people have sex to increase their self-worth, rather than, you know, for the sex. I've never felt like a better or more interesting, intelligent, or worthwhile person because someone wanted to have sex with me, but at I have reliably often gotten sexual satisfaction from sex.

But ego-fucking and status-fucking are common enough that I can't just wipe my hands of the people who do it or I wouldn't have many friends left. Ego-fucking isn't really so far off from the prostitution spectrum, and it's a slippery slope from fucking to make yourself feel pretty and fucking so someone will put a price on your body. They're both about external sources of value.

Which leads me to the "do prostitutes enjoy it?" question. Women who enjoy sex for sex's sake, because they like sex and all that, are unlikely, IME, to be people who would allow a man to place a price on their sexuality, because for them, sex is already a commodity exchange---of sex.

Again, not an argument for any kind of further criminalization---I'm just arguing that lots of women really seem to think that the sex they have makes them better than other people, and that this is different from sexual enjoyment of sex. Where does the former come from? It makes pretty much no sense to me, and I'm not trying to claim I had some enviably joyous upbringing or something.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 03-16-08 11:53 AM
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The thing that confuses me is how fucking so reliably leads people who need validation about their looks to actually feel much worse about their looks, and yet they keep going back to sex for this gratification. How can something that makes people feel so obviously terrible about themselves be the thing they want to make them feel better? Aren't we capable of learning from experience?


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 03-16-08 11:56 AM
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I've never felt like a better or more interesting, intelligent, or worthwhile person because someone wanted to have sex with me, but at I have reliably often gotten sexual satisfaction from sex.

I usually don't get any more sexual satisfaction from sex than I do from masturbation, but it always makes me feel more confident and interesting to know someone wants to have sex with me.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 03-16-08 11:56 AM
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593: To complain that our society's decisions and endorsements are violating the sacred

I didn't think that's what I was doing. Complaining, that is. Rather, I was trying to locate the violation of something that our society has, until fairly recently, considered sacred. It's nothing to do with being a person of faith (I'm not one).

594: It does, however, occur to people all the time to sell sex for money. It's not inviolable; in fact, it's violated all the time, and always has been.

Well, yes, the fact that our lines have shifted is difficult for me to accept. When we get to the point at which one goes to one's sister's sex show to support her with enthusiasm and applause, let me know. Courtesanship was once an honored profession; then it was not; looks like it's becoming so again.

Right now it's still an underground thing, no? Something that sex workers don't advertise to their families (or as Tim notes, that YouTube sex movie types don't trumpet). So it is still rather taboo.

I am not arguing that a new taboo should be constructed: on what could I possibly base that? Really, if people want to completely normalize sex work, it's not for me to say. I'll have to think a great deal about the ways in which the world has changed. We're in the process of legalizing torture, after all, and increasing numbers of people seem to find that okay: the world is changing.

Tim's point about advertising one's sexuality in the absence of economic constraint is an interesting one. God knows trying to be a 'hottie', and being told that one's a 'hottie', has a new and pervasive currency. I'm not sure where to go with it in terms of cultural commentary. A lot of directions available: probably understanding it as a function of the accretion of power is most promising to my mind.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 03-16-08 11:58 AM
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it's not for me to say.

Wait, what? My absolutely fundamental starting point here is that all of us absolutely have a voice in what our society is normalizing or stigmatizing. Heaven knows I have written and argued and marched and advocated and paid to say that torture should remain stigmatized.

(Also, I wasn't saying that you were complaining, just that if one were to complain...blah blah.)


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 03-16-08 12:04 PM
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597 continued: And even if it's not, it's quite a leap to go from "sexually confident" to "wanting to prostitute onself." I don't think the two are in any way connected, except inasmuch as, perhaps, someone who is sexually confident and needs a job might think, well, I could strip or work as a prostitute, I guess. As in, I have the skill set. But like Parsimon said, this isn't the same as "wow, I'd really love to have sex with anyone who wants to fuck me and is willing to pay." Confidence necessarily implies, I think, a sense of being in control, of being the one who chooses; prostitution is the opposite.

That said, sure, there are a lot of jobs that people go into because they have the skill set rather than because they're just dying to do that kind of work. But given what's already been said about the usual downsides of prostitution, I'm still going to say that it's uniquely shitty in a way that doing other jobs one *can* do but isn't in love with, aren't.

(And you might pay attention to what the resident sexually confident women are actually *saying* about the difference between sexual confidence and attention whoring. I know I've certainly done both. They really aren't the same thing.)


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 03-16-08 12:05 PM
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Sigh. 609 was me. I'm going to take this absentmindedness as a sign that I should concentrate completely on work, never mind this still-percolating discussion.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 03-16-08 12:06 PM
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Tim's point about advertising one's sexuality in the absence of economic constraint is an interesting one. God knows trying to be a 'hottie', and being told that one's a 'hottie', has a new and pervasive currency. I'm not sure where to go with it in terms of cultural commentary. A lot of directions available: probably understanding it as a function of the accretion of power is most promising to my mind.

Disagreed. It's simply a combination of the commercialization of feminism ("I can bring home the bacon," etc.) and a far dollop of anti-feminist backlash.

I also don't really think that the argument that discussing prostitution implies the decline of western civilization is particularly convincing. Blah blah it's the oldest profession, after all, and if anything starting to be able to talk/think critically about it seems to me an advanage.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 03-16-08 12:11 PM
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it's a hard criticism to make of someone else. Given historical realities, perhaps particularly if you're a man and the someone else is a woman

Right, but you needn't make the criticism; all you have to do is decide whether you, yourself, are comfortable "taking advantage" of that ambiguity, and whether you think that it's valid for other men to do so.

I mean, surely there's a huge difference between a woman who comes onto you and seems sexually confident and wants to fuck, and a woman who comes onto you and seems sexually confident and wants you to *pay* her to fuck. You don't need to say "I think your confidence is actually attention-seeking insecurity" to feel like there's something weird about the latter.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 03-16-08 12:14 PM
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Parsimon, sometimes you argue like a Jewish grandmother. "Don't worry about me, I'll just sit in the dark" when the lightbulb needs changing.

Just sayin'. I still adore you.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 03-16-08 12:15 PM
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And you might pay attention to what the resident sexually confident women are actually *saying* about the difference between sexual confidence and attention whoring. I know I've certainly done both.

As I said, this is an area where introspection seems to go off the rails fairly quickly. I find it pretty easy to believe that David Brooks believes what he says--more's the pity--and can find women among his own circle who believe the same.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 03-16-08 12:16 PM
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615: I see.

So it's uncool to say that maybe women whose "sexual confidence" leads them to advertise their bodies indiscriminately are really insecure, but totally cool to imply that women who talk thoughtfully about their own experiences of sexual insecurity and confidence are self-deluded.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 03-16-08 12:23 PM
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616 is to 615?


Posted by: Hustle Misterioso | Link to this comment | 03-16-08 12:26 PM
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Tim, we can agree that there are men who have sex with high-status women to stroke their egos, just as there are men who have sex because they want to have sexual gratification, right? And that those are sometimes the same man at different points in his life? And that some men seem only to care about the former, while others seem only to care about the latter? This is not so hard to imagine in men.

Why is it so hard to imagine that there is a similar spread in women's sexual desires?


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 03-16-08 12:26 PM
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In any case. I'm not advocating for a "those poor girls, tut-tut"; that's slut-shaming disguised as condescension.

What I'm saying is that it's quite a leap to go from "hey, a lot of girls post sexy pictures of themselves on the internet of their own free will" to "maybe some of them want to be prostitutes; after all, they seem pretty confident in their sexuality." That's not sexuality, it's sexiness. Which yeah, is important if you want to make good money as a prostitute. But it is very illogical to assume that bragging about your attractiveness/sexual performance/sexual desire is anything like being willing to fuck anyone who makes an offer. If anything, the two are complete opposites.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 03-16-08 12:30 PM
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The main difference I can see is that men who fuck for status tend to go for magazine-looking women, while women who fuck for status tend to angle for rich men.

I have done a wee bit of ego fucking in my time---I'm no saint---but when I've done it, it's been with magazine-looking boys, but I had a pretty stereotypically masculine upbringing. Like the guy who fucks beautiful women, it didn't make me think I must be just as good-looking---that's ridiculous---but that I'd gotten away with something that I shouldn't have. Would I pay for it, though? Hell, no.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 03-16-08 12:31 PM
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612: Disagreed. It's simply a combination of the commercialization of feminism ("I can bring home the bacon," etc.) and a far dollop of anti-feminist backlash.

I'm not entirely sure what this means. I was suggesting that exhibiting what Tim called hyper-sexuality is a newish form of power for women. I can read that as you describe it above, but you're giving a(n) historical explanation, while I tend to be interested in more abstract explorations of power-relations. Just a difference in intellectual preferences, probably.

I also don't really think that the argument that discussing prostitution implies the decline of western civilization is particularly convincing.

No, discussing prostitution doesn't imply the decline the western civ. Did I sound like I was saying that? No, agreed that talking about it is an improvement.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 03-16-08 12:32 PM
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Why is it so hard to imagine that there is a similar spread in women's sexual desires?

It isn't hard at all to imagine a spread at all; I think I've said as much a couple of times. It's not very hard to assign labels to different people based on their sexual history; people do it all of the time. It is hard, for me, to be sufficiently confident of the judgment of Act A by someone outside, such that we ought to impose X legal regime or Y moral regime.

Is really that hard to believe that there are men or women that you wouldn't want making that judgment for society, and then extending that to believe that there are men and women who wouldn't want you to making that judgment for society? Have I misread a good third of all of the threads here?


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 03-16-08 12:36 PM
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a newish form of power for women

But it's not (and saying something is "new" implies a historical explanation.) It *is* a "form of power," yes, but a very dependent form. Iow, what I'm saying is that I don't think it's actually a form of power; it's an expression of a conflicted *desire* for power balanced with a desire not to upset the status quo (which is a risky thing to do).


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 03-16-08 12:38 PM
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614: "Don't worry about me, I'll just sit in the dark"

Sweetheart, I'm just trying to hear the complaints that I'm desperately humorless about the pronification of society. What I hear is that I'm hopelessly out of date, and I'm a little stumped, because the call is to shrug or find it funny or at least absorbing or completely reasonable, and I figure I should try to get it, but I don't. It's actually been a little tough to try to decide whether to just join in (in my own way, natch).


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 03-16-08 12:45 PM
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So it's uncool to say that maybe women whose "sexual confidence" leads them to advertise their bodies indiscriminately are really insecure, but totally cool to imply that women who talk thoughtfully about their own experiences of sexual insecurity and confidence are self-deluded.

I have no problem believing that your reporting of your experience is a pretty good vantage point from which to view your experience. Or even that of people much like you. Extending that to everyone is probably a mistake.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 03-16-08 12:45 PM
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I'm not extending it to everyone. I'm saying it provides grounds to be cautious about assuming that posting one's pics on myspace means one wants to be a hooker.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 03-16-08 12:47 PM
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Parsimon, I for one am not accusing you of being old-fashioned. I'm just trying to imagine that it's somehow true that in the past, women's bodies were more respected than they are now. I'm not saying the world is better than used to be, either. I just have never heard anyone make the argument that prostitution used to be a respectable, respectful institution and now it's degraded. It's always been terribly disgusting and corrupt and misogynistic, no?


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 03-16-08 12:48 PM
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I'm saying it provides grounds to be cautious about assuming that posting one's pics on myspace means one wants to be a hooker.

Which voice in your head said that? Because, AFAICT, no one here did.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 03-16-08 12:48 PM
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Are we in for another 400 comments of some people saying "Although we agree that the majority of prostitution involves exploitation and coercion, couldn't there be a small minority of people who choose it out of their own free will because they don't mind it as much?", and other people saying "Although that may be possible, it would be a small minority of people, and we shouldn't consider that until we agree that the majority of prostitution involves exploitation and coercion"?

I was hoping 333 would be a nice place to stop.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 03-16-08 12:49 PM
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(Then again, that woman in Belle du Jour--hooking was very empowering for her.)


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 03-16-08 12:50 PM
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627: There's some nonsense about the temple priestesses, but I think that's mostly stroke material for burning man types. Correct me if I'm wrong: it will make for better material.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 03-16-08 12:51 PM
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630: ...a... film...

I thought the super-creepy guy with the metal teeth was worth it though. Fox.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 03-16-08 12:52 PM
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628: There's a weird glamorization of hyper*-sexual women. It's extraordinary how many apparently self-made "sexy" videos of women show up, for example, on Youtube. You see Jeena Jamison being discussed on E! alongside normal movie stars. And I just noticed on Two and a Half Men, Charlie Sheen's character--who is supposed to be a cad, but little worse--talks about engaging hookers all of the time. . . .
To be clear, it's not that I think dramatically larger numbers of women want to be in sex work. (I have no idea if the numbers are increasing.) Rather, it seems to me that it's really hard to come up with an account that says, at once, no judging your consensual sex life, but X, Y, and Z are right out, even if you tell me that you've chosen X, Y, and Z.

629: No, I've moved on to suspecting that the "well, but maybe *some* women really do want to be prostitutes, and btw your subjective experience isn't reliable" argument is an (unconscious! surely!) expression of male arrogance and entitlement.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 03-16-08 12:55 PM
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No, I've moved on to suspecting that the "well, but maybe *some* women really do want to be prostitutes, and btw your subjective experience isn't reliable" argument is an (unconscious! surely!) expression of male arrogance and entitlement.

You didn't suspect that before?


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 03-16-08 12:56 PM
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I was giving you guys the benefit of the doubt.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 03-16-08 12:57 PM
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It must have been a long struggle, but now you can finally give up in despair.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 03-16-08 12:58 PM
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Wouldn't that be nice for you.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 03-16-08 12:59 PM
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it's an expression of a conflicted *desire* for power balanced with a desire not to upset the status quo (which is a risky thing to do).

Ah. Completely agreed.

What I said was "newish" is the *hyper* sexuality; yes, a historical explanation, okay.

How's this: exhibiting hypersexuality as a bid for power is a case of women not knowing how the hell else to garner power, and reverting to that which has never been awfully threatening, because so well known. To attempt to do this through sexuality is as old as the hills. It shows a terrible lack of imagination.

If y'all can't tell when I'm starting to seriously joke around, I'll need to throw in some emoticons. Don't make me go there.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 03-16-08 1:03 PM
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638: Agreed.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 03-16-08 1:04 PM
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627, see 631. I think the temple priestesses and some people even today consider sex-love-therapy to be an honorable activity. Some hippies, these days. Everybody needs touch and celebration of life. Rumor has it that certain boys in ancient Athens weren't frowned upon, either. But in none of those cases were people doing it for money, I don't think.

I can't really make a historical argument about all this; haven't several people linked to histories of prostitution in this thread?


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 03-16-08 1:16 PM
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613

"I mean, surely there's a huge difference between a woman who comes onto you and seems sexually confident and wants to fuck, and a woman who comes onto you and seems sexually confident and wants you to *pay* her to fuck. You don't need to say "I think your confidence is actually attention-seeking insecurity" to feel like there's something weird about the latter"

Assuming this is a woman I just met, I would find the former weirder than the latter.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 03-16-08 1:26 PM
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641: That's sad, James.


Posted by: jms | Link to this comment | 03-16-08 1:31 PM
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641's the most convincing thing you've ever said on this site, James.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 03-16-08 1:36 PM
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I think the point of 641 was "assuming this is a woman I just met". Makes sense to me too.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 03-16-08 1:43 PM
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Again, not so surprising.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 03-16-08 1:46 PM
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Maybe if I was more attractive to women, my presumption about such a thing, should it theoretically happen in an alternate universe, would be different.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 03-16-08 1:50 PM
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Maybe if you thought about what the woman might be thinking, rather than about yourself--and if you didn't think women were an alien species--you'd realize that it's a lot weirder to walk up to a stranger and offer to fuck them for money than it is to want to sexxor someone you just met.

Okay, I'm getting bitchy. Back to the topic at hand, this article in the LA Times:

I thought it was only fair to ask why the vice squad is working the Internet on the trail of what is often referred to as a victimless crime, and a misdemeanor at that.

Legalize prostitution, some argue, and redeploy the cops to go after car thieves, burglars and gang-bangers.

Smith had an answer. Prostitution investigations aren't just about selling sex. They often lead cops to crimes involving drugs, child exploitation and assault.

The working girls and boys are "sometimes on drugs, they're beaten up, they get their teeth kicked out and get into a huge downward spiral," said Smith. Some who work the ritzy downtown L.A. hotels have ended up addicted and desperate on skid row, he added, where assaults and even the murder of prostitutes is not uncommon. . . .
The vice squad recently answered one for a 19-year-old woman, set up a rendezvous, and knocked on a hotel door to find a 14-year-old who was booked for prostitution and taken to juvenile hall.

It's common, the cops said, to find someone other than the girl in the photo when answering an ad. The 14-year-old was no exception.

"She looked like she was closer to 12," said Officer Ramirez. A pregnant older companion had apparently rented the room earlier that day, and the 14-year-old claimed to have already earned $1,000 from clients paying about $200 apiece.

The officers tried to talk some sense into her, but the angry young prostitute told them to mind their own business.

"She said, 'The money's too good,' " and boasted of $2,000 days, said Ramirez.


I guess that 14-year old really enjoys her work, huh? And the cops are doing their jobs, too, trying to protect her.
Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 03-16-08 2:00 PM
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633: My #592 is, admittedly, poorly written. Now point out "Myspace pics mean she wants to be a hooker." Or are you saying that because it's poorly written, it could mean anything, so it's fair to read whatever one wants there?


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 03-16-08 2:01 PM
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Okay, you guys are now officially freaking me out. I should probably go run around in circles. It's just exhausting.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 03-16-08 2:03 PM
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647: not sure why you feel so ahem entitled to speak for the 14-year-old.


Posted by: Barbar | Link to this comment | 03-16-08 2:04 PM
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649 to 641 - 644.

Isn't there a thread about cheeseburgers?


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 03-16-08 2:07 PM
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650: Yeah, it's really arrogant of me. I should just let her make her own decisions.

648: No, you didn't say that exactly. You did, however, imply from people posting "sexy" videos on FB suggests that maybe some women really want to be prostitutes, since after all, we live in a hypersexualized culture.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 03-16-08 2:08 PM
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Maybe if you thought about what the woman might be thinking, rather than about yourself--and if you didn't think women were an alien species--you'd realize that it's a lot weirder to walk up to a stranger and offer to fuck them for money than it is to want to sexxor someone you just met.

Actually, now that I'm thinking of women as people similar to me for the first time in my life, I can say that I would never want to do either...but if I was desperate for money, I might do the former.

Maybe instead of trying to think about what other people might be thinking, I should just go with what seems more likely, based on prior experience and knowledge of our society. Having never been hit on by a stranger, or by anyone at all (unless "hitting on" can mean "sending subtle signals over the course of several weeks"), I think of myself as someone who is not attractive or interesting enough to get hit on by strangers. Therefore, if something happens that appears to involve a stranger hitting on me, my first thought would be to presume that what is happening is something that doesn't conflict with the rest of my life experience.

BTW, this is my last comment as "Cryptic Ned". I am taking advantage of the internet's ability to allow one to not have everything one says be dismissed on the basis of what one has said in the past. Being lumped in with James B. Shearer is the last straw.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 03-16-08 2:09 PM
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652: at the least it's an expression of some kind of privilege.


Posted by: Barbar | Link to this comment | 03-16-08 2:10 PM
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654: Yeah, the privilege of not being a 14-year old pushed into prostitution. Thank fucking god.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 03-16-08 2:16 PM
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(Combined with the privilege of believing that if the cops found me in a situation where I was being repeatedly raped, they probably wouldn't arrest me, but would instead go after the rapists.)


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 03-16-08 2:17 PM
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654: you seem a little confused. If I were to say, "You don't really mean what you're saying right now, you're just very distraught and upset," I wouldn't be relying on the fact that I'm not a 14-year-old pushed into prostitution.


Posted by: Barbar | Link to this comment | 03-16-08 2:21 PM
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657 -> 655.

Aren't you glad you could find someone to debate the merits of child prostitution with? This thread was in danger of dying.


Posted by: Barbar | Link to this comment | 03-16-08 2:22 PM
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You're right, I am confused. What, precisely, is your point?


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 03-16-08 2:33 PM
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I knew 258 was a bald-faced lie.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 03-16-08 2:47 PM
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Bye, Ned! Can't wait to meet the new you.

(I for one, will miss the old Ned, and don't think you should be bitch-baited into hitting reset. But you're weird and friendly enough to be a new welcome addition to this Mos Eisley corner of our lives.)


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 03-16-08 3:25 PM
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If we can just keep this thread going for a few more comments, I bet there'll be a really awesomely creepy anonymous personal confession for 666.


Posted by: felix | Link to this comment | 03-16-08 4:03 PM
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I can feel it, this horrible thread has not claimed its last victim, it hungers for more


Posted by: felix | Link to this comment | 03-16-08 4:04 PM
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I'm sympathetic to bphd's arguments in this thread, but the "oh, maybe you'd understand if you were enough of a Real Man to score with the ladies" stuff is irritating as hell. (And patriarchical, I think.)


Posted by: Dr. Zeuss | Link to this comment | 03-16-08 4:17 PM
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I don't think that's at all how B means that, and I think that's a needlessly ungenerous reading. Her point is (I think) that men who are not super-confident studs are taught to think that all they have to offer to women sexually, since they don't have social status or great looks, is money. What about sex? If they're wanting sex from someone, why not offer sex?

The assumption seems to be that lower-status men assume no woman could possibly want to sleep with them, and so why not cheapen it all the way out by offering money instead of intimacy or sexual pleasure? Since women's pleasure is depicted to them as some crazy alien thing that's incomprehensible, why not buy one's way out of having anything to do with their pleasure?


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 03-16-08 4:24 PM
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At the risk of stealing the delicious 666, I'll point out that no one is sticking a finger in the face of individual men and blaming them for the way things are taught to them. In a culture in which men are considered pathologically sexual and women are just the grudging gate-keepers of heterosexual sex, prostitution is the most sense-making thing in the world.

The confusing bit is that there are two kinds of open female sexuality arising at once. On the one hand, there are women trying to be more open about our desire because we want to change the way that female sexuality is just a commodity to be sold. (I don't want to exchange sex for money; I'd far rather exchange sex for sex.) On the other hand, there are women trying to be showy about their sexual availability because they hope to benefit from a patriarchal culture that rewards them with money (if also horrible risks), and who could blame them?


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 03-16-08 4:31 PM
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That makes some sense. I'm not seeing how you could get any of it from B's comments, which still read to me like a generic high-schoolesque putdown, but if that's what she meant, cool.


Posted by: Dr. Zeuss | Link to this comment | 03-16-08 4:38 PM
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668

how terribly disappointing


Posted by: felix | Link to this comment | 03-16-08 4:39 PM
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I don't know if that's what she meant, but she does tend to be a lot more personal and snarky, that being the general tone here, and one that I suck at.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 03-16-08 4:48 PM
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Right, for example 647->333.


Posted by: Barbar | Link to this comment | 03-16-08 4:52 PM
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Wait, what happened that Ned's changing his name over? Ned, don't do that -- either everything will be all confusing while we all figure out who you are, and it'll be pointless, or it'll be annoying when Den Citpyrc shows up and is acting like he knows everything.

I'm not following the depths of the offense here, but let me try to talk you out of the name change.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-16-08 7:24 PM
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Oh, maybe you'd understand if you were enough of a Real Man to score with the ladies.

That always comes up sooner or later in this kind of thread, usually sooner. Women really hate lame guys.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 03-16-08 7:31 PM
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Wait, the issue here is about 645? Ned, that's what you're changing your name over? Don't do that, it's completely not worth it.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-16-08 7:39 PM
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Cryptic Ned is a cool name, in my opinion
are you going to be Peppy Orgon? :) hope not
actually it is with umlaut both os
so if you wanna use it you can use it, sometimes


Posted by: read | Link to this comment | 03-16-08 7:58 PM
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Huh?

My point was that the "I'd find it easier to believe she wanted money than sex" thing suggests to me that the guy is thinking in terms of his own self-perception (assuming, which I *wasn't*, that he didn't mean it in an "all women are frigid whores" way). And that if you think of it as if you yourself were the woman in this scenario--i.e., would you, personally, be more likely to go up to someone and come on to them b/c you want to have sex, or because you want them to pay you for sex?--maybe it'll be a little easier to realize how freaking weird it is to say that a woman you'd never met before would be more likely to do the latter than the former.

That said, I apologize to Ned for lumping him in with Shearer, as he put it. Admittedly that was totally below the belt. My bad.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 03-16-08 8:01 PM
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Wait, 645, rather than 647 is the offensive comment?

Dude. It was a joke. A sharp one, but a joke.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 03-16-08 8:12 PM
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I sense danger, one should stay out of this, but I'm afraid I may have contributed to it with my 649 and 651.

B's rephrasing in 675 is good:

would you, personally [as a woman], be more likely to go up to someone and come on to them b/c you want to have sex, or because you want them to pay you for sex?--maybe it'll be a little easier to realize how freaking weird it is to say that a woman you'd never met before would be more likely to do the latter than the former.

It was really weird to hear that men on the receiving end of a come-on would be more likely to assume it must be prostitution.

But from the perspective of a man who doesn't consider himself a typical recipient of come-ons, it makes sense.

Lame as it may sound, then, call the whole exchange the result of a major misunderstanding, a flaring of tempers?


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 03-16-08 8:32 PM
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Having not read the thread: 1. People who change their names in response to things that happened in threads I haven't read are. dead to me! for reasons I will never truly understand. 2. Geez, B.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 03-16-08 8:48 PM
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676: it was a very mean joke, it would appear.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 03-16-08 8:58 PM
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678.2: If that's intentional, it's very funny. If it isn't, it's funnier, in that head-in-my-hands kind of way.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-16-08 8:58 PM
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679: Oh, dear, it's the head-in-my-hands option.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-16-08 8:59 PM
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Good night, everyone. Tomorrow's my first day at the new job, so I probably won't check in until tomorrow night. Try not to set the blog on fire or anything?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-16-08 9:02 PM
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681: I believe you, but won't read the thread to find out. Happy to be funny!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 03-16-08 9:02 PM
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Hurray new job, LB! Hope you have a great first day.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 03-16-08 9:08 PM
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Break a leg, LB!


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 03-16-08 9:17 PM
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Fuck Ned, though. That stupid asshole should learn to take a joke.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 03-16-08 9:19 PM
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good luck, LB, good night all
you say break a leg to wish luck? funny


Posted by: read | Link to this comment | 03-16-08 9:33 PM
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From a certain perspective, what Ned said is obviously true: if you've ever been on the receiving end of a come-on from a prostitute, it's orders of magnitude more aggressive than from the most eager amateur. I once had a prostitute follow me down the street until I finally told her I was born again.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 03-16-08 10:25 PM
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688: Ned is an asshole who deserves to never get laid, ever. I can't believe you're even defending that humorless nazi.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 03-16-08 10:28 PM
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Ned is as sweet as Tupelo honey, Sifu. I can't believe you'd say something like that.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 03-16-08 10:50 PM
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No, seriously. How could that misogynist buttwipe ever think that a woman who was coming on to him like her life depended on it wanted anything other than his sweet, sweet, body? What a goddamned disingenuous little bastard. He knows how beautiful he is.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 03-16-08 10:54 PM
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We're all full of shit, of course, and why do we even care do deeply much about teh sexitude in the first place? Since posting whatever nonsense I posted the other night, I've been reading Charles Taylor on the "culture of authenticity" and how the notion of authentic personhood through sexual expression is just another means of tacitly acquiesing to the (in this case, commercial-capital) power of the powers-that-be from the get-go...

What would really be edgy and counter-cultural and maybe even "libertarian" in its implications would be to declare oneself in favour of celibacy. Now, go ahead, I dare you...


Posted by: Mary Catherine | Link to this comment | 03-16-08 11:45 PM
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"do deeply much" s/b "so deeply much." Or maybe not, who the hell even knows?


Posted by: Mary Catherine | Link to this comment | 03-16-08 11:48 PM
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675

"My point was that the "I'd find it easier to believe she wanted money than sex" thing suggests to me that the guy is thinking in terms of his own self-perception (assuming, which I *wasn't*, that he didn't mean it in an "all women are frigid whores" way). And that if you think of it as if you yourself were the woman in this scenario--i.e., would you, personally, be more likely to go up to someone and come on to them b/c you want to have sex, or because you want them to pay you for sex?--maybe it'll be a little easier to realize how freaking weird it is to say that a woman you'd never met before would be more likely to do the latter than the former."

This is a fallacious way of looking at things. I personally would never send someone an email saying they had won a lottery unless they had in fact won a lottery. This does not mean that if you receive an email saying you have won a lottery that the email is likely to be genuine.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 03-17-08 1:18 AM
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677

"It was really weird to hear that men on the receiving end of a come-on would be more likely to assume it must be prostitution."

Really? After all there are numerous warnings in popular culture about bad things happening to guys uncynical about a woman's advances. The Seinfeld episode in which George ends up handcuffed to a bed, movies like "Body Heat", espionage stories about "honey traps" etc.

"But from the perspective of a man who doesn't consider himself a typical recipient of come-ons, it makes sense."

There is an implication here that only losers would think that way but guys who are typical recipients of come-ons like sports stars are probably even more cynical about the motives of strange women coming on to them than the average guy.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 03-17-08 1:46 AM
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692: I support celibacy as an option, as we know.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 03-17-08 7:03 AM
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I was noodling around on another blog* when I ran into this comment: what Marx had in mind when he pointed out that the structure of capitalistic social relations imposes itself on the people involved

And I began recovering early memories of analyses of sex involving power, gender, commodification, de-personalization, money as power to subordinate others, wage slavery, et al.

And then I remembered that law involves the use of power to deprive others of autonomy, and I thought Spitzer! DA! Sending people to jail! Yes indeedy, we know what he gets off on. Let's blame capitalism and the lawyers.

My recollection is that this sort of analysis was conventional wisdom a few decades ago, yet I didn't see it go by here. Is it so passé, or did I just fail to read carefully? I'm assuming that I can identify the argument by adverting to it rather than laying it all out, that everyone (except possibly myself) knows what I'm talking about.

*It's all your fault that I have to go to other blogs to satisfy my natural intellectual needs.

** http://economistsview.typepad.com/economistsview/2008/03/morality-and-ma.html#c107054052


Posted by: Michael H Schneider | Link to this comment | 03-17-08 8:57 AM
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typical recipients of come-ons like sports stars

Or like, you know, regular guys. I suspect that for most men it's more likely they haven't recognized come-ons than they haven't got them. I'm quite willing to believe there is a population that essentially never gets them, but it's got to be small.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 03-17-08 9:17 AM
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Also: this thread is officially undead.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 03-17-08 9:17 AM
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700 agrees with you, soup.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 03-17-08 9:19 AM
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Mostly off-topic, and yet strangely appropriate: did anybody see Tracy Morgan on SNL's Weekend Update? "If Hillary's last name wasn't Clinton, she would be just another crazy white lady with too much money and not enough lovin'."


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 03-17-08 9:46 AM
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Hey, thanks for bringing that to our attention, Apo. Klassy with a capital K.


Posted by: mcmc | Link to this comment | 03-17-08 10:02 AM
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