A Woman’s Body is a Woman’s Business.

"Pretty Woman" is the fantasy...

There was an article in Sunday’s Washington Post about the Five Myths of Prostitution.  Well worth the time to read it and educate oneself on a subject for too many people their primary reference point for information about play for pay is a Pretty Woman rerun.

Whenever there is a discussion about legalizing prostitution the usual counter-argument is how it will lead to sexual slavery and unwilling women exploited by pimps,  how children will be exploited and how streetwalkers will be serving up blow jobs in the bushes of churches and public schools.

This is nothing but nonsense and scare tactics.  There are no mythical horde of sex-crazed prostitutes about to descend upon innocent men, tearing off their zippers with yellowed teeth and demanding $50 for French lessons without a translator.

Nobody is in favor of allowing women and children to be coerced into sexual slavery.  Nobody is in favor of underage and teen prostitution.  Nobody is in favor of women being exploited by pimps, madams and agencies.

That said, what consenting adults do in private is not the business of the state, politicians, moral crusaders and busy bodies.   Prostitution should be decriminalized and the dollars and hours wasted by the Sex Police would be better spent elsewhere going after real criminals and protecting real victims.

There are literally thousands of women who with a clear and rational mind make for themselves the decision to use their bodies how they see fit to use them and if they should make a profit while doing so, that’s just gravy on the biscuit.   Boxers, basketball players and other athletes employ their bodies as a means to an end.  Why so much drama when a woman uses hers to give another person pleasure instead beating each other into bloody pulps as fighters routinely do?

Personally, if I have to choose between keeping a drunk driver who has wiped out a car full of kids in jail or letting him out so I can lock up a woman who gave some slob seven minutes of pleasure in the back seat of a SUV, I know which one I would consider the greater menace to society.

The last thing the cops need to be worried about is being pressured to enforce another series of stupid laws. Just like medical marijuana, those who choose to partake of the services of a sex worker are engaged in a “crime” without a victim.

Haven’t we learned by now from the failure of Prohibition and the unwinnable War on Drugs (aka The War on the Poor, the Black, the Brown and Those Without a Good Lobbyist in Washington) that you can only limit the access to the vices a person wishes to pursue? You can never eradicate it completely and certainly not by dubious laws dreamt up by zealots and moralists.

The possible benefit of legalizing or decriminalizing prostitution is permitting the police to stop wasting time, money and resources for a consensual sex act between adults. Of course nobody wants to see their daughter having sex with strangers for money. However, nobody wants to see their daughter working in a non-union clothing sweatshop, busing tables while horny men check out her legs or otherwise being exploited by some pig.

Decriminalizing prostitution is not the same thing as legalizing it. Legalizing prostitution is sanctioning the practice and opens it up for the regulation of prostitution.  The unintended consequence is to turn government regulators into pimps.  It is not the want of sex workers to have government bureaucrats knock at their door to see if they have properly disinfected their sex toys after every usage or to inspect their underwear drawer to make sure they aren’t buying lacy little things made in Chinese sweat shops.

Sexwork is not the first option most women would choose for themselves, but why should a woman who chooses to put a price tag on her sexual favors be scorned while another who gives it away is not? There’s some inconsistency here.

Camille Paglia said it well: The most successful prostitutes are invisible, because the sign of a prostitute’s success is her absolute blending with the environment. She’s so shrewd, she never becomes visible. She never gets in trouble. She has command of her life, and her clients. The ones who get into the surveys have drug problems or psychological problems. They’re the ones who were sexually abused. Feminists are using amateurs to condemn a whole profession.

...Amanda Brooks is the reality.

One of the ten smartest people I’ve met (in the virtual world since we’ve never laid eyes on each other face-to-face) is Amanda Brooks, the author of The Internet Escort’s Handbook.   Miss Brooks is a college educated escort and activist  and we’ve been swapping e-mails and mutual admiration for several years now.  I don’t see her as some sort of  a Internet leper, a disease-ridden degenerate, an over-priced floozy or some sort of freak show that runs around seducing men for fun and profit.  Amanda is simply a woman who makes her living in a way society generally looks down its nose by day while eagerly compensating her for services rendered by night.

We can wring our hands and cluck our tongues and wag our crooked little fingers at these fallen women and their tawdry profession.   But there is a certain fact a late friend touched upon during a discussion about prostitution that can no more be challenged than gravity.

SEX IS A COMMODITY (And It Always Has Been).

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6 thoughts on “A Woman’s Body is a Woman’s Business.

  1. Citing Camille Paglia, who is brilliant and hilarious at the same time, on women in sex work is really stretching it. She is one of the biggest misogynist’s of our time. Sex is personal but one study does not a trend make. Also, very often discussions on sex work overlook a few distasteful issues -violence (many studies note that prostitutes have experienced being raped on the job more than once), men not paying after getting theirs and sexually transmitted diseases and the cost to society for the treat and care of the diseases. Then there’s the big ick factor – what woman would have sex with any man who is willing to pay for it? Its not like they get to choose among Brad Pitt, Kevin Kostner or George Clooney. They are getting all kinds from attractive to fat, sweaty, hairy men. Gross! The other ick factor is why would a man have sex with someone who is probably faking it and then pay her for it? I mean, ewwww. Isn’t masturbation better because it really is only about you? Throwing in a body that you could give a flying hoot whether she/him gets off is good how? That’s the part I really don’t get. Having sex with someone who is faking it and walking away happy with the result. Its just weird to me. I have no moral objection except for the fact that many people overlook the cost in terms of violence and sexually transmitted diseases.

    • Christine, I’m not the world’s biggest Camille Paglia fan and she has a antipathy for feminists I don’t much care for, but “the broken-clock-is-right-twice-a-day-theory” applies here. ALL sexwork is stereotyped and stigmatized by the most glaring and least appropriate examples: sexual slavery, child sex rings, and street-level prostitution. Most people have no clue there are intelligent, well-adjusted, healthy and clear-minded professionals engaged in this enterprise. I know I sure didn’t until I had the chance to meet a few.

      Secondly, about the “ick” factor. The same principle could be applied to a hook-up in some bar where two strangers retreat to a bed, poke, prod, lick and stick each other and have a miserable experience that is one step above taking matters into your own hand. Certainly sexworkers do it for the $$$. That’s a no-brainer. It’s a pay-to-play business, but women marry men every day they do not love, hate to screw, and are thoroughly grossed out by. Yeah, there’s more Kevin James that show up at the door of a escort than Kevin Costners, but so what? The Kevin James type might turn out to be better in the sack than the good-looking stud who’s too busy admiring themselves in the mirror.

      And believe it or not, there are sexworkers who do enjoy the sex.

      If beauty is only skin-deep, good looks are a plus, but not an necessity for an escort. Most sexworkers place a greater value on a client that is on-time, clean, sober and respectful of them than male model looks and six-pack abs. Everyone might prefer to bang a Brad Pitt or George Clooney, but what if they come off as selfish, self-centered, misogynist assholes? How important is that hunky exterior if the guy is full of crap where it counts?

      Violence is always a consideration, and female sexworkers are not casual about their safety. But violence against women can occur with any guy who doesn’t respect women.

      As far as STD’s go, I’d be more nervous picking up someone at a bar who doesn’t use or care about condoms than a professional sexworker who’s not only going to require one, she will probably have an assortment to choose from.

      Thanks for reading and posting, Christine.

  2. Christine,

    Camille Paglia is right on the money with this one. As someone who also blends in and knows plenty of other “blending” sex workers — she’s right.

    The Five Myths article Jeff links to is correct — with the exception of #4. I’ve yet to meet a sex worker who considers cops her friends. Other than that, the author of the article actually understates everything. The truth of prostitution is really simple: adult women make the choice. Worldwide. In vast numbers.

    When exploitation and harm happens, it most frequently happens when prostitution is criminalized and sex workers have no rights. If one does not have basic right to say, file an assault report without getting arrested yourself, then abuse is going to happen because the legal/social environment fosters it. Prostitution in and of itself is no more dangerous than any interaction between men and women, the laws are what create the dangerous divide. Trust me, sex workers are HIGHLY aware of the possibility for violence — because we know full well justice will not be served. This is why activists are trying to change the laws.

    I realize that you don’t have the first clue of how sex work functions. Stop going on what you assume happens and listen. First and foremost, sex work is an interaction between humans. Very few clients see us as disposable holes. Those who do are not well-liked. Sex workers do indeed choose their clients, they negotiate what will and won’t happen and are generally much bossier than your average girl trying to find romance with a one-night stand. To us, a nice, clean, respectful man who doesn’t haggle are our preferred clients. Looks don’t matter. Being treated well certainly does. And many of us do indeed enjoy the sex in our work — when it actually happens. A sizable percentage of clients don’t actually want to have sex with us (just like the study says). And — get ready for this shocker — the more you charge, the less likely it is that your clients will have sex. They pay good money for well-dressed and pretty therapists. Mere sex is something they can get cheaper elsewhere.

    Of course, not everyone can do this work. Nor should everyone be doing this work. Those who DO do this work want to do so in peace and safety. We don’t feel that’s out of the question, really.

    Oh, and statistically in the US (and in most countries), sex workers do not spread disease. The under-25 set are the walking STI-petri dishes out there.

    XX

    • I agree that wasting resources on chasing after prostitutes is a waste of time. It would very likely be safer for all involved if it weren’t illegal.

      It is interesting that you assume I don’t know any sex workers. I do, a few, and none were really happy with their chosen profession. They felt they had no other options. Now, granted, these were people in the profession before all the Internet/CL stuff so my perspective and theirs is probably skewed.

      The overriding impression these women gave me was that they did not like men. They did feel they were nothing more than holes. They weren’t treated that way if they played the game which is to listen to the client and give them the conversation the client wanted to hear. Once they started on their own needs, their own “real” life it became very clear to them that their clients could care less. They paid for something and that something, whether sex happened or not, was about sex.

      I find it sad too that none of the discussion is about soceital expectations that women shouldn’t feel comfortable just having sex whenever they like with whoever they like so that men don’t have to be in a position of paying for it. Now that would be sex positive, wouldn’t it? If sex work still existed in that perfect society we would know for sure what prostitution really was about, wouldn’t we?

      Equating marriage to prostitution is probably apt at times and at least a prostitute is honest at what she’s doing. I agree wholeheartedly. I don’t believe marriage works for everybody but for a great many, men and women, it does work. It doesn’t for me.

      From the sex workers I know, when they say a nice guy they mean someone they aren’t afraid of and who isn’t going to have sex with them. As for the ick factor. I will stand by that statement any day. Isn’t it a bit sexist, though, to say that women just want a nice guy who treats them well and that they don’t care about looks? Women aren’t visual, don’t really care for sex and just want a guy to treat them well?

      And, bottom line, you are absolutely right, sex work isn’t for everyone. Its just that the sex workers I’ve met don’t like men. They only like the clients who don’t hurt them, who pay them and don’t want sex. That, to them, was the best client.

      I am wondering how many sex workers can charge the high rates you noted just to be pretty therapists? That isn’t the majority of sex workers, is it? Is your perception skewed by your being in that position? I am only guessing since that seemed to be from the perspective you know. You don’t speak for the majority. Even in my professional life I am hands above my colleagues, this is a field of college educated people in white collar jobs, so was able to pull in top dollar. That similar rule of economics applies to sex work, too, right? Better product equals higher price?

      I agree, there is a lot to sex work I don’t understand. Such as why would a man be willing to pay so much for a pretty therapist when he can get that cheaper from someone who is actually trained to do that? He could see a male therapist, if he was straight, if it wasn’t about sex, couldn’t he? It seems, to me, even if its just to talk, it is still about sex, otherwise the guy could go elsewhere.

      • I am not being contrary. I am just curious about this as a sociological kind of thing. Why is sex a commodity? Its a value that we place on it so why is that? Wouldn’t the way to deal with the issue is to remove that value and try to work toward a society where people just have sex with whoever, whenever, etc, without judgements? If we had that society, would we still have prostitution? If yes, then prostitution is not about being a commodity then. Right? I am not sure, I really am asking.

        I also thought some other things. You said, “Sexwork is not the first option most women would choose for themselves, but why should a woman who chooses to put a price tag on her sexual favors be scorned while another who gives it away is not? There’s some inconsistency here.” Actually, women are scorned if they give away. They are called whores, sluts, etc. I’ve seen it and heard it from men and women. I’ve met many people who think women who enjoy sex purely for sex and have “encounters” purely for the joy of physical contact are “missing” something. I’ve heard people use “emotionally empty” “immature”, “afraid of intimacy” and those were the nice phrases. I am heartened that you don’t think a woman giving it away for free isn’t called those things but as a woman who has given it away for free, believe me, not everyone thinks like you do.

        And if sex work is about sex being a commodity why is it that the prostitutes are the ones arrested and, generally, not the men? Economics seems to suggest that without demand there would be no supply ie: w/o men wanting prostittutes, prostitution wouldn’t exist. So if you take away the demand for it wouldn’t it just go away? So, then, why are women punished and not men?

        Who makes the laws and enforces the laws, anyway? Generally? Men, right? So men have some “moral” issues with sex work, too? And this prohibition has been through out time.

        And why do men get to have an outlet for their sexual needs and women don’t? Why is it men can buy sex and women can’t? I’ll push the point further. Why can a fat, unattractive yet nice guy have an outlet for his sexual needs ie: go to a sex worker but a fat, unattractive yet nice woman does not? I am talking about just purely having sex. I am not talking about finding a relationship. I am just saying a horny unattractive woman does not have same opportunity to have her needs addressed as a man does. So that says something about society, doesn’t it? Or are you going to say that women are just different from men? I am curious.

        “Secondly, about the “ick” factor. The same principle could be applied to a hook-up in some bar where two strangers retreat to a bed, poke, prod, lick and stick each other and have a miserable experience that is one step above taking matters into your own hand.” Actually, I think you are missing the point. The people in the bar are coming together to have sex and, one would hope, get each other off. How many men go to a prostitute thinking they are going to give the woman/man a good time? Also, men and women in bars, barring extreme beer goggles, generally aren’t hopping into bed with people they aren’t attracted to. And isn’t poking, prodding and licking all about the sexual experience? You make it sound gross. It isn’t. Its gross when its with someone who you are NOT attracted to and who is physically repellent. Then its gross.

        Barring the high-end sex workers who can be more selective since they are articulate and/or attractive so can charge a higher amount thus making it less about quantity then quality, don’t sex workers have to NOT be selective in order to get work? I am not foolish enough to think that only repulsive men seek out prostitutes but, still, I am not always attracted to really good looking men either. Its a chemistry thing. Are sex workers attracted to all the men? Is that what makes them different than me? Or is it, they “close their eyes” and think about something/someone else?

        I am really curious. Does a man, when he has sex with a prostitute think about her/his enjoyment? Does he even wonder if she really got off or was faking it? That is the part I am curious about. If the other person’s enjoyment is not a factor other than being a warm body why not just masturbate? Why spend your money that way?

        Also, as noted, its not a job you would want a family member to do. If that is the case why would you go to prostitute? If it isn’t something you wouldn’t be proud of a family member doing then why would you patronize a prostitute? You could give me examples of jobs out there that you wouldn’t want your family to do but I don’t think any of them would carry the emotional heft that would come if you found out a family member was a sex worker. So why is it OK for a man to frequent a prostitute yet he wouldn’t want the same job for a family member? I am just curious about the reasoning behind this.

  3. We could get into a pissing match over who knows more sex workers. Keep in mind I’ve been a sex work all of my adult life, am an activist and have written books for sex workers (who use me as their agony aunt). Yes, I feel very confident when I speak about sex workers in the US. I’ve gotten to know a cross-section who feel like they can speak pretty freely to me. Your original comment sounds like someone who has never met a sex worker in their life and only believes Movie of the Week stereotypes. If you want to advocate on behalf of your friends, you might want to rethink how you make your points. You might also consider that everything you and I have said has been said elsewhere, many times. I’ll respond here and then stop reinventing the wheel.

    The Happy Hooker is a stereotype as much as the man-hating lesbian hooker. I’ve met both types and I guess I’m the happy hooker type (I like to think I’m the realistic hooker type). This label is thrown at any sex worker who refuses to be a victim of men and feminists. Most sex workers do indeed like men — they work with men and have relationships with men. Most have a partner or are married. The majority are quite happy with their work and don’t spend time telling people about their happiness — they just go on with their lives. Those who are unhappy reach out for help/support — just like unhappy people generally do.

    As to the ones you’ve met who hate men — I’ve no doubt they do. When I stripped, I hated men — and it was because I was in the wrong job for me. Escort work is a whole different thing and changed my attitude. So perhaps you have met sex workers who are not in work suited for them. As not everyone has the luxury to do only what they love, it’s possible.

    As sex workers, we are PAID to do a certain job. We like nice respectful men because they make our lives easier. Just like I’m sure EVERY SINGLE PERSON in the entire service industry likes nice, respectful clients who tip well. Honestly — who wants to deal with an asshole? If we can find great clients who also appeal to us physically — that’s icing on the cake. But as paid professionals, our personal preferences do not matter quite so much. They certainly matter in our personal lives, just like anyone.

    I’ve been at this long enough to understand that clients aren’t paying us to hear about our lives. Why the hell would they? Likewise, when I get my hair done, I don’t pay to hear about all the crap going on in the stylist’s life. I want my hair done and done right. Friends are the people who want to hear about all the drama in our lives — that’s what they’re for. Not clients. FRIENDS. None of this bothers me and it really shouldn’t. I’m not sure why this concept bothers you.

    Your “ick” factor is something YOU have a problem with. You’re not a sex worker and again, not everyone can be. Realize that everyone is wired differently. Some people share your feelings, other do not. Sex workers are usually the ones who do not.

    I’m high-end, huh? How can you tell? Being intelligent and eloquent does not indicate rate structure unless it’s on an ad/website — but thank you for that. You do seem to think that rates indicate the intrinsic value of the sex worker and her work. Not true. Street workers will defend the value of their work just as vehemently as I — and I’m not going to gainsay their perspectives because of the rates they charge. FYI: the majority of high-end girls do not concern themselves with activism. Most sex worker activists are the proles.

    The vast majority of sex workers in the US are here by choice. Even if their choice financially-motivated, it’s the same reason anyone takes up a job. The vast majority do not want others telling them what to do or how to do it. Or being looked down upon for their life choices.

    And now, I have to get to work and make money. Sex work is what affords me the free time to do all this unpaid work in trying to open people’s minds about sex work.

    XX

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