Happy hookers: sex workers and their would-be saviors

Happy hookers: sex workers and their would-be saviors

Melissa Gira Grant on the framework in which sex work is discussed.

The following books were not published in 1972: The Happy Secretary, The Happy Nurse, The Happy Napalm Manufacturer, The Happy President, The Happy Yippie, The Happy Feminist. The memoir of a Manhattan madam was. The Happy Hooker climbed best-seller lists that year, selling over sixteen million copies.

When it reached their top five, the New York Times described the book as “liberally dosed with sex fantasies for the retarded.” The woman who wrote them and lived them, Xaviera Hollander, became a folk hero. She remains the accidental figurehead of a class of women who may or may not have existed before she lived and wrote. Of course, they must have existed, but if they hadn’t, say the critics of hooker happiness, we would have had to invent them.

Is prostitution so wicked a profession that it requires such myths?

We may remember the legend, but the particulars of the happy hooker story have faded. Hollander and the characters that grew up around her are correctly recalled as sexually omnivorous, but desire alone didn’t make her successful as a prostitute. She realized that the sex trade is no underworld, that it is intimately entangled in city life, in all the ways in which we are economically interdependent. Hollander was famous for being able to sweep through the lobby of the Palace Hotel, unnoticed and undisturbed, on her way to an assignation, not because she didn’t “look like” a working girl, but because she knew that too few people understood what a working girl really looked like.

In The Happy Hooker Goes to Washington, a 1977 film adapted from Hollander’s memoir, a scene opens with teletype bashing the screen with Woodward-and-Bernstein urgency. Flashlights sweep a darkened hall. Inside an unlocked office, a criminal scene is revealed: a senator embracing a prostitute. Hollander is called before Congress to testify. When the assembled panel interrogates her career, attacking her morals, she is first shameless, then spare but sharp in pointing out the unsurprising fact that these men are patrons of the very business they wish to blame for America’s downfall.

What’s on trial in the film is ridiculous, but the questions are real. What value does a prostitute bring to society? Or is hooking really not so grandiose as all that? Could it be just another mostly tedious way to take ownership over something all too few of us are called before Congress to testify on (the conditions of our work)?

Did you know that 89 per-cent of the women in prostitution want to escape?” a young man told me on the first day of summer this year, as he protested in front of the offices of the Village Voice. He wanted me to understand that it is complicit in what he calls “modern-day slavery.” The Village Voice has moved the bulk of the sex-related ads it publishes onto the website Backpage.com. This young man, the leader of an Evangelical Christian youth group, wanted to hasten the end of “sex slavery” by shutting Backpage.com down. What happens to the majority of people who advertise willingly on the site, who rely on it to draw an income? “The reality is,” the man said to me, not knowing I had ever been a prostitute, “almost all of these women don’t really want to be doing it.”

Let’s ask the people around here, I wanted to say to him: the construction workers who dug up the road behind us, the cabbies weaving around the construction site, the cops over there who have to babysit us, the Mister Softee guy pulling a double shift in the heat, the security guard outside a nearby bar, the woman working inside, the receptionist upstairs. The freelancers at the Village Voice. The guys at the copy shop who printed your flyers. The workers at the factory that made the water bottles you’re handing out. Is it unfair to estimate that 89 percent of New Yorkers would rather not be doing what they have to do to make a living?

“True, many of the prostitution ads on Backpage are placed by adult women acting on their own without coercion,” writes New York Times columnist and professional prostitute savior Nicholas Kristof. But, he continues, invoking the happy hooker trope, “they’re not my concern.” He would like us to join him in separating women into those who chose prostitution and those who were forced into it; those who view it as business and those who view it as exploitation; those who are workers and those who are victims; those who are irremediable and those who can be saved. These categories are too narrow. They fail to explain the reality of one woman’s work, let alone a class of women’s labor. In this scheme, a happy hooker is apparently unwavering in her love of fucking and will fuck anyone for the right price. She has no grievances, no politics.

But happy hookers, says Kristof, don’t despair, this isn’t about women like you – we don’t really mean to put you out of work. Never mind that shutting down the businesses people in the sex trade depend on for safety and survival only exposes all of them to danger and poverty, no matter how much choice they have. Kristof and the Evangelicals outside the Village Voice succeed only in taking choices away from people who are unlikely to turn up outside the New York Times, demanding that Kristof’s column be taken away from him.

Even if they did, with the platform he’s built for himself as the true expert on sex workers’ lives, men like Kristof can’t be run out of town so easily. There’s always another ted conference, another women’s rights organization eager to hire his expertise. Kristof and those like him, who have made saving women from themselves their pet issue and vocation, are so fixated on the notion that almost no one would ever choose to sell sex that they miss the dull and daily choices that all working people face in the course of making a living. Kristof himself makes good money at this, but to consider sex workers’ equally important economic survival is inconvenient for him.

This business of debating sex workers’ choices and whether or not they have them has only become more profitable under what sociologist Elizabeth Bernstein terms “post-industrial prostitution.”

After the vigilant anti-prostitution campaigns of the last century, which targeted red-light districts and street-based prostitution, sex work has moved mostly indoors, into private apartments and gentlemen’s clubs, facilitated by the internet and mobile phones. The sex economy exists in symbiosis with the leisure economy: personal services, luxury hotels, all increasingly anonymous and invisible. At the same time, more young people find themselves without a safety net, dependent on informal economies. Sex work now isn’t a lifestyle; it’s a gig, one of many you can select from a venue like Backpage or Craigslist.

Recall the favored slogan of prostitution prohibitionists that on the internet, they could buy a sofa and “a girl.” It’s not the potential purchase of a person that’s so outrageous; it’s the proximity of that person to the legitimate market.

Bernstein calls these “slippery borders,” and asks us to observe the feelings provoked by them, and how they are transferred. Anxieties about slippery market borders become “anxieties about slippery moral borders,” which are played out on the bodies of sex workers.

The anxiety is that sex work may be legitimate after all. In a sense, the prohibitionists are correct: people who might have never gotten into the sex trade before can and are. Fighting what they call “the normalizing of prostitution” is the focus of anti-sex work feminists. In this view, one happy hooker is a threat to all women everywhere.

“It’s sad,” said the speaker from the women’s-rights ngo Equality Now in protest outside the Village Voice. She directed her remarks at the cluster of sex workers who had turned out in counterprotest. “Backpage is able to be a pimp. They’re so normalizing this behavior that a group of Backpage advertisers have come out today to oppose us.” So a prostitute’s dissent is only possible if, as they understand prostitution itself, she was forced into it.

“Why did it take so long for the women’s movement to genuinely consider the needs of whores, of women in the sex trades?” asks working-class queer organizer and ex-hooker Amber L. Hollibaugh, in her book My Dangerous Desires. “Maybe because it’s hard to listen to – I mean really pay attention to – a woman who, without other options, could easily be cleaning your toilet? Maybe because it’s intolerable to listen to the point of view of a woman who makes her living sucking off your husband?”

Hollibaugh points to this most difficult place, this politics of feelings performed by some feminists, in absence of solidarity. They imagine how prostitution must feel, and how that in turn makes them feel, despite all the real-life prostitutes standing in front of them to dispute them.

It didn’t used to be that people opposed to prostitution could only get away with it by insisting that “happy” prostitutes didn’t really exist. From Gilgamesh to the Gold Rush days, right up until Ms. Hollander’s time, being a whore was reason enough for someone to demand you be driven out of town. Contemporary prostitution prohibitionists consider the new reality, in which they deny the existence of anyone with agency in prostitution, a form of victory for women. We aren’t ruined now. We’re victims.

Perhaps what they fear most of all is that prostitutes could be happy: that what we’ve been told is the worst thing we can do to ourselves is not the worst, or even among the worst. What marks us as fallen – whether from feminism or Christ or capital – is any suggestion that prostitution did not ruin us and that we can deliver that news ourselves.

Originally posted: August 2012 at Jacobin Mag

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Juan Conatz
Oct 14 2012 04:55

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Book O'Dead
Oct 14 2012 06:12

There's always someone in the bourgeois left that wants to argue for the legitimacy of prostitution.

Juan Conatz
Oct 14 2012 06:36

Well, no wage work is 'legitimate'.

Book O'Dead
Oct 14 2012 13:29
Juan Conatz wrote:
Well, no wage work is 'legitimate'.

True, but prostitution is not wage work; it's prostitution.

Ed
Oct 14 2012 14:44

I'm a bit ambivalent towards this particular article on sex work, but don't get how prostitution isn't wage work? Is it because its illegal? Is it because some sex workers are forced into by gangsters or drug addiction?

In either of those cases I'd say it still counted as wage work.. and then you've got those who weren't forced into it by gangsters/drugs, are they not wage workers either? If not, why not?

Book O'Dead
Oct 14 2012 15:58
Ed wrote:
I'm a bit ambivalent towards this particular article on sex work, but don't get how prostitution isn't wage work? Is it because its illegal? Is it because some sex workers are forced into by gangsters or drug addiction?

In either of those cases I'd say it still counted as wage work.. and then you've got those who weren't forced into it by gangsters/drugs, are they not wage workers either? If not, why not?

To elevate prostitution to the level of socially useful, productive labor is to demean labor.

Prostitution is a degrading occupation that turns one of the most intimate of human activities into a commodity. No self-respecting worker who values human affection, compassion and solidarity engages in such a practice because it is the absolute objectification of humans.

Prostitution is the basest form of slavery.

Book O'Dead
Oct 14 2012 16:07

Oh, and one more thing:

To claim that the money a prostitute receives for their degrading work is 'wages' amounts to claiming that the sustenance a chattel slave received was wages.

Wages are an economic category correctly assigned to that portion received by labor when it creates value that is arbitrarily divided by the owner of the means of production.

"WHENCE DO WAGES COME, AND WHENCE PROFITS?

What you now stand in need of, aye, more than of bread, is the knowledge of a few elemental principles of political economy and of sociology." --Daniel De Leon, 'What Means This Strike'

http://www.marxists.org/archive/deleon/works/1898/980211.htm

Ed
Oct 14 2012 17:21

Mate, I think you're making a really common mistake and then running with it to the point of making really offensive statements about an entire category of working class women which, I imagine, you've never met..

So yeah, what you're saying is right about women who've been kidnapped by gangsters and forced into prostitution, but there's no way you can put that on the same level as a woman with limited job opportunities who decides to start selling sex from a flat somewhere.. I mean, she could just as easily find a job cleaning rich people's toilets.. is that more respectable? Getting on your hands and knees scrubbing the back side of the toilet of someone who doesn't want you to look them in the eye? For minimum wage? Whatever, I'm not judging either, they're both tough fucking situations but there's no way I'd say someone doing either one had no self-respect..

As for socially useful, come off it mate.. when I was working in a call-centre was I doing something socially useful? Was I fuck.. I was phoning working class people at home when they were having dinner or putting their kids to sleep and trying to sell them shitey insurance.. social use is not the defining aspect of 'wage work'.. working, and receiving a wage, is..

wojtek
Oct 14 2012 17:43

BookO'Dead, your moralism dressed up in radical dogma aside, if a sex worker were to ask for solidarity and legalisation/ an end to police harassment what would you do? Refuse to engage with them and condemn them as 'bourgeois' or an enemy of some 'true human affection' which you're suddenly the arbiter of?

Uncreative
Oct 14 2012 19:03

Admin edit: no flaming please.

jonthom
Oct 14 2012 20:39
Book O'Dead wrote:
There's always someone in the bourgeois left that wants to argue for the legitimacy of prostitution.

Question: how exactly are you defining "legitimate"?

I'll fully admit to speaking from a position of ignorance here but, FWIW...

I don't really think sex work is inherently, in and of itself, more "degrading" or "illegitimate" than any other form of work. Arguably the emotional intimacy sex brings with it may have a personal emotional and social impact when turned into "work", regular activity with relative strangers, but that itself is so tied up with social norms and values that I'm not sure it's that useful a route to go down. At the very least, problems around prostitution need to be situated in a wider social context - the need to sell our labour to survive, the lack of available options in which to sell our labour (for women in particular), patriarchy in general, etc.

From that point on, though, things get a bit convoluted.

On the one hand, often pieces focusing on the plight of sex workers tend to focus on the abusive, exploitative nature of that work to the point that the women themselves are deprived of any and all agency, with the assumption being that they couldn't possibly have chosen that work (even to the extent any of us can "choose" what work we go into) voluntarily and that it therefore must be down to drug addiction, abuse, trafficking and the like. Any role for working class people who might have limited options to make a living and go for sex work as an available option - or, for that matter, those who have other options but choose this one - tends to get thrown by the wayside, and/or get written off as bourgeois apologism.

On the other hand, it's also true that some arguments focusing on the positives of sex work, seeing it as a sign of liberated women, embracing their sexuality, making a decent living, not being exploited, doing what they love, etc., can often be used to obscure the abusive nature of the industry. While all capitalism is exploitative, I don't think it's unreasonable to say that some professions can be more unpleasant and abusive than others - and prostitution, often, does seem to be more than most.

On the other other hand, as described in the article here, a lot of anti-prostitution ideas and campaigns to "save" the women involved can often lend themselves to social conservatism in all sorts of ways. One point for example is the migration issue, and the way that authoritarian measures around migration controls and deportation can be justified on the grounds that the state is merely protecting women from abusive sex bosses. That they're also threatening them with arrest, deportation or imprisonment is just by the by, of course. And, as noted in the article, many anti-prostitution campaigns are influenced by religious conservatism, which should at least be food for thought.

On the other other other hand...sex workers are workers, and as fellow workers, IMO the only consistent approach is to support them in workers struggles, against abuse, intimidation and exploitation by both state and boss, against the social pressures which can leave people with few other options, in fights for better wages, conditions, and against this system as a whole. Questions of whether it's a "legitimate" profession, whether it "cheapens" the act of intimacy, whether it's socially useful and such strike me as secondary at best.

Lastly, this comment I find frankly rather strange:

Quote:
Prostitution is a degrading occupation that turns one of the most intimate of human activities into a commodity. No self-respecting worker who values human affection, compassion and solidarity engages in such a practice because it is the absolute objectification of humans.

I don't understand why a socialist would cast judgement on the prostitutes themselves. Surely, even if you have a moral, philosophical or political objection to prostitution in and of itself, the blame would lie with a social system which forces us to sell our labour to survive, which provides many of us with few available options for selling said labour, and which treats women's bodies as sexual objects? Putting the blame on the prostitutes themselves, moralising about "self respecting workers who value human affection" is, as Ed suggested, akin to blaming callcentre workers for the pointlessness of the products they sell, or blaming factory workers for the worthless tat the electronics industry produces or whatever - right?

Book O'Dead
Oct 15 2012 01:08
Ed wrote:
I mean, she could just as easily find a job cleaning rich people's toilets.. is that more respectable? .

ONE CHILD: Mommy, what kind of work do you do?
HOUSE MAID [annoyed]: I clean rich people's toilets, now leave me alone!

A DIFFERENT CHILD TO HER MOTHER: Mommy, what kind of work do you do?
PROSTITUTE [nervously]: I clean rich people's toilets, now leave me alone!

Book O'Dead
Oct 15 2012 01:14
wojtek wrote:
BookO'Dead, your moralism dressed up in radical dogma aside, if a sex worker were to ask for solidarity and legalisation/ an end to police harassment what would you do?

I would tell them to go find honest work.

Quote:
Refuse to engage with them and condemn them as 'bourgeois' or an enemy of some 'true human affection' which you're suddenly the arbiter of?

I believe in class conscious proletarian morality, the highest form of morality hitherto. Prostitutes are not the enemy; they too need to be liberated, but the path to liberation is not the one you propose.

redsdisease
Oct 15 2012 01:26
Book O'Dead wrote:
I would tell them to go find honest work.

I'm stunned that somebody on this site is talking about "honest work." I am trying to find something to say to you that won't be considered flaming and literally can't.

Jesus, this might be the angriest I've ever been on this website.

jonthom
Oct 15 2012 01:43
Book O'Dead wrote:
wojtek wrote:
BookO'Dead, your moralism dressed up in radical dogma aside, if a sex worker were to ask for solidarity and legalisation/ an end to police harassment what would you do?

I would tell them to go find honest work.

...

I'm sorry but that's just appalling.

I'm not even sure how to begin addressing this, except to say that if your instinctive reaction to people doing jobs you consider "unethical" is to tell them to find honest work then I think you should seriously think about what you're saying, and how exactly that fits with you being a socialist. Would you say the same to, say, factory workers working in a weapons factory? Would you blame bar staff for alcoholism (and the social problems that come with it), and tell them to just "go find honest work" (cos jobs are so fucking easy to come by these days!?)

Perhaps you would. But still.

Book O'Dead
Oct 15 2012 01:42
jonthom wrote:
Book O'Dead wrote:
There's always someone in the bourgeois left that wants to argue for the legitimacy of prostitution.

Question: how exactly are you defining "legitimate"?

I'll fully admit to speaking from a position of ignorance here but, FWIW...

I don't really think sex work is inherently, in and of itself, more "degrading" or "illegitimate" than any other form of work. Arguably the emotional intimacy sex brings with it may have a personal emotional and social impact when turned into "work", regular activity with relative strangers, but that itself is so tied up with social norms and values that I'm not sure it's that useful a route to go down. At the very least, problems around prostitution need to be situated in a wider social context - the need to sell our labour to survive, the lack of available options in which to sell our labour (for women in particular), patriarchy in general, etc.

From that point on, though, things get a bit convoluted.

They certainly do.

Here's an example: Why is it that the activity a prostitute engages in is called "sex work" but the same activity by their customer is not? After all, aren't they both engaged in the same thing?

[...]

Quote:
On the other other other hand...sex workers are workers, and as fellow workers, IMO the only consistent approach is to support them in workers struggles, against abuse, intimidation and exploitation by both state and boss, against the social pressures which can leave people with few other options, in fights for better wages, conditions, and against this system as a whole. Questions of whether it's a "legitimate" profession, whether it "cheapens" the act of intimacy, whether it's socially useful and such strike me as secondary at best.

As far as I know, prostitution is a practice that emerges out class divided society; It did not exist prior to the establishment of private property and the division of humanity into social classes, starting with the male/female dichotomy.

The aim of communism is to abolish classes and all of the social evils that accompany it, including the status of commodity that people find themselves in when they exchange their labor power with another. In its proper context and under normal circumstances, sex is not a form of labor, it is a natural activity engaged in by people who trust and care for each other; it is for enjoyment and/or procreation.

[...]

Quote:
Lastly, this comment I find frankly rather strange:
Quote:
Prostitution is a degrading occupation that turns one of the most intimate of human activities into a commodity. No self-respecting worker who values human affection, compassion and solidarity engages in such a practice because it is the absolute objectification of humans.

I don't understand why a socialist would cast judgement on the prostitutes themselves. Surely, even if you have a moral, philosophical or political objection to prostitution in and of itself, the blame would lie with a social system which forces us to sell our labour to survive, which provides many of us with few available options for selling said labour, and which treats women's bodies as sexual objects? Putting the blame on the prostitutes themselves, moralising about "self respecting workers who value human affection" is, as Ed suggested, akin to blaming callcentre workers for the pointlessness of the products they sell, or blaming factory workers for the worthless tat the electronics industry produces or whatever - right?

I do not condemn the prostitute for their lamentable predicament. I do condemn capitalism and all other forms of class-divided societies for helping to impose this occupation on men, women and children. I empathize with people who are caught up in this destructive vice, be they prostitutes or the customers who seek in them what they cannot obtain at home.

I have no sympathy for those who seem to think that prostitution--the selling of sex in exchange for money or favors--is an inevitable condition that must somehow be palliated with reform measures.

Book O'Dead
Oct 15 2012 01:45
redsdisease wrote:
Book O'Dead wrote:
I would tell them to go find honest work.

I'm stunned that somebody on this site is talking about "honest work." I am trying to find something to say to you that won't be considered flaming and literally can't.

Jesus, this might be the angriest I've ever been on this website.

The question invites the answer.

If you cannot respond it must be because there is no other statement that addresses the original question.

Book O'Dead
Oct 15 2012 01:54
jonthom wrote:
Book O'Dead wrote:
wojtek wrote:
BookO'Dead, your moralism dressed up in radical dogma aside, if a sex worker were to ask for solidarity and legalisation/ an end to police harassment what would you do?

I would tell them to go find honest work.

...

I'm sorry but that's just appalling.

I'm not even sure how to begin addressing this, except to say that if your instinctive reaction to people doing jobs you consider "unethical" is to tell them to find honest work then I think you should seriously think about what you're saying, and how exactly that fits with you being a socialist. Would you say the same to, say, factory workers working in a weapons factory? Would you blame bar staff for alcoholism (and the social problems that come with it), and tell them to just "go find honest work" (cos jobs are so fucking easy to come by these days!?)

Perhaps you would. But still.

If a homeless person came to me with a request for some kind of support I would not tell them to go find a job, I would help them. If a worker at a factory asked for advice or help in their struggle against their exploiter I would help them as best i could and tell them they should take over their workplace.

What would you say to a prostitute who told you that their pimp was beating them up? Take over the whore house? Fight for legislation? Expect reforms? Negotiate with the pimp? Call the cops? I cannot see myself giving support to those ideas!

revol68
Oct 15 2012 02:29
Book O'Dead wrote:
Ed wrote:
I'm a bit ambivalent towards this particular article on sex work, but don't get how prostitution isn't wage work? Is it because its illegal? Is it because some sex workers are forced into by gangsters or drug addiction?

In either of those cases I'd say it still counted as wage work.. and then you've got those who weren't forced into it by gangsters/drugs, are they not wage workers either? If not, why not?

To elevate prostitution to the level of socially useful, productive labor is to demean labor.

Does something have to be socially useful/productive labour to be wage work now?

How is socially useful and productive the same?

I would make a longer post but I have to get up in 4 hours for my call centre job which is not productive or very socially useful.

princess mob
Oct 15 2012 04:22

Your argument is just bizarre, Book O'Dead. On the one hand you say sex work isn't really wage labour because it's not 'socially useful'. Everyone else has dealt with that argument.

On the other, you say it can't be considered wage labour because

Quote:
sex is not a form of labor, it is a natural activity engaged in by people who trust and care for each other; it is for enjoyment and/or procreation.

So what other 'natural' activities done by people who care for each other don't count as work even when they're done for a wage? Caring for children? Caring for the elderly? Counseling? Tending the sick?

If your idea of 'empathy' is to tell someone to get 'honest work' (I bet no one ever thought of that without your help!), then you have a very strange definition of empathy.

Book O'Dead
Oct 15 2012 05:02
revol68 wrote:
Book O'Dead wrote:
Ed wrote:
I'm a bit ambivalent towards this particular article on sex work, but don't get how prostitution isn't wage work? Is it because its illegal? Is it because some sex workers are forced into by gangsters or drug addiction?

In either of those cases I'd say it still counted as wage work.. and then you've got those who weren't forced into it by gangsters/drugs, are they not wage workers either? If not, why not?

To elevate prostitution to the level of socially useful, productive labor is to demean labor.

Does something have to be socially useful/productive labour to be wage work now?

How is socially useful and productive the same?

I would make a longer post but I have to get up in 4 hours for my call centre job which is not productive or very socially useful.

Insofar as capitalism is concerned your work is socially useful. You may not enjoy it but you are producing value to the capitalist for which they pay you wages.

Juan Conatz
Oct 15 2012 05:16

This is sort of a ridiculous argument to sort of sidestep your conservative moralism on the issue, imo

Book O'Dead
Oct 15 2012 05:20
princess mob wrote:
Your argument is just bizarre, Book O'Dead. On the one hand you say sex work isn't really wage labour because it's not 'socially useful'. Everyone else has dealt with that argument.

On the other, you say it can't be considered wage labour because

Quote:
sex is not a form of labor, it is a natural activity engaged in by people who trust and care for each other; it is for enjoyment and/or procreation.

So what other 'natural' activities done by people who care for each other don't count as work even when they're done for a wage? Caring for children? Caring for the elderly? Counseling? Tending the sick?

You cannot equate the work you list with prostitution. Those are socially useful and often profitable occupations.
Prostitution is socially necessary only in a dysfunctional society wherein many people are either deprived of the opportunity to have normal sexual relations or because they've become dissatisfied with the ones they already have.

Quote:
If your idea of 'empathy' is to tell someone to get 'honest work' (I bet no one ever thought of that without your help!), then you have a very strange definition of empathy.

So what would you tell a prostitute that complained about their working conditions? I would tell them to find a better occupation, one that doesn't dehumanize and debase them. I would tell them that prostitution is not an honorable way to earn a living; that it is not an edifying example to teach their children that giving your sexual favors for money is a good thing.

I would much rather have my kids know that I clean toilets for a living than that I am a human toilet, a repository for all of the depraved misfits looking for a quickie.

jef costello
Oct 15 2012 05:43
Book O'Dead wrote:
You cannot equate the work you list with prostitution. Those are socially useful and often profitable occupations.

sex work is profitable and the workers can be exploited.

Quote:
Prostitution is socially necessary only in a dysfunctional society wherein many people are either deprived of the opportunity to have normal sexual relations or because they've become dissatisfied with the ones they already have.

Most of the work in our society is unnecessary. When I worked in a call centre selling crappy insurance I wasn't being productive. I was however making money for myself and for my employer.

Quote:
So what would you tell a prostitute that complained about their working conditions? I would tell them to find a better occupation, one that doesn't dehumanize and debase them. I would tell them that prostitution is not an honorable way to earn a living; that it is not an edifying example to teach their children that giving your sexual favors for money is a good thing.

I sincerely hope that no one ever asks you for solidarity.

Redwinged Blackbird
Oct 15 2012 06:01
Juan Conatz wrote:
conservative moralism on the issue

yep.

Ed
Oct 15 2012 06:18

Book O'Dead, out of interest, have you ever spoken to any sex workers about their work? Even more, have you ever spoken to any sex worker organisers about the things that they do to organise at their work?

Also, the fact that you say sex workers would lie about their work to their kids because they would feel stigmatised for it, is not an argument that it's inherently bad/not 'honest work' etc. It's an argument that sex workers are stigmatised.

Joseph Kay
Oct 15 2012 06:40
Book O'Dead wrote:
So what would you tell a prostitute that complained about their working conditions? I would tell them to find a better occupation

As others have said, this is conservative moralism posing as socialism. This isn't a hypothetical question either, there are sex workers who use this site who I count among my friends and comrades, and who have a far more nuanced take on sex work than 'get a decent and proper job acceptable to my mores'. Some people choose sex work over unemployment or precarious/casual wage labour. Some people choose unemployment or precarious/casual wage labour over sex work. The problem isn't which choice proles make, but that proletarian freedom consists of such choices. There are considerable difficulties organising as a sex worker, not least as its often highly casualised, notionally self-employed, often illegal and so on, but the response of 'get another job' is the staple reactionary response to complaints about working conditions.

Book O'Dead
Oct 15 2012 07:17

Next to chattel slavery, prostitution is the lowest form of human debasement. To make demands in behalf of them for better "wages" and more livable conditions is equivalent to expecting the owner of chattel slaves to make improvements on their standard of living. Absurd.

Moreover, it is reformist and reactionary to expect the political state to palliate the suffering of people when all it can do is make things worse for everyone.

The thing to do is to work to put an end to such injustices; to make war against the system that imposes that dishonorable choice on the poor. Put and end to capitalism and build industrial democracy, and the stench of prostitution will be swept away like a bad dream.

"Give us a truce with your reforms! There is a sickening air of moral mediocrity and childish aspirations at times like these, when great-man issues are thundering at every man's door, demanding admission and solution!" --Daniel De Leon.

redsdisease
Oct 15 2012 07:42
Book O'Dead wrote:
redsdisease wrote:
Book O'Dead wrote:
I would tell them to go find honest work.

I'm stunned that somebody on this site is talking about "honest work." I am trying to find something to say to you that won't be considered flaming and literally can't.

Jesus, this might be the angriest I've ever been on this website.

The question invites the answer.

If you cannot respond it must be because there is no other statement that addresses the original question.

Are you for real? What the fuck are you talking about?

edit: Gee, I sure hope the word "fuck" doesn't upset your puritan... I mean... uh proletarian morality.

Joseph Kay
Oct 15 2012 07:48

"dishonour", "debasement", "stench of prostitution". it's like I've stumbled on a Christian right forum. Seriously wtf?

Book O'Dead wrote:
To make demands in behalf of them for better "wages" and more livable conditions is equivalent to expecting the owner of chattel slaves to make improvements on their standard of living. Absurd.

No this is absurd, or rather in a single sentence there's two non sequiturs: (1) It doesn't follow from considering sex work to be work, and not a moral blemish on the noble proletarian condition, that people want to make demands on behalf of others. And (2) making demands on behalf of others (representation/speaking for) is not analogous to making demands of slave owners.

So not just the morality, but the reasoning skills of the Christian right.

Juan Conatz
Oct 15 2012 08:05

You still haven't really given a reason as to why sex work is this different thing. 'Socially useful' and 'productive' aren't really holding weight, as there are tons of jobs that are neither one of these (call centers, widget making at factory etc) or don't fall into them neatly (care giving, housewives, parenting). A couple of us have already refuted your stance on this, but you continue going on about how sex work is different in some way.

I'm not super familiar with this subject, other than what I've read from the conflicts between second and third wave feminism and random anarchist trans/queer stuff, but there usually seem to be two arguments made against sex work.

1)There is some sort of sanctity to sex, and by agreeing to exchange sex for money, a violation of the sanctity of sex happens.

2)You can't separate patriarchal society from sex work and it always reinforces patriarchy, if not furthers it along.

The first argument I'm not really sure how to respond to. It's a kind of moralism, particularly conservative and or religious. We can probably all agree that sex is a lot different than other human activity, but I think it's hard to place morals on it outside of issues of consent between people and safety (such as using protection, etc. If there's some sort of non-religious perspective that advocates that the sanctity of sex, you should say it, because I'm not immediately aware of it. Also, if sex work violates it, then what else? Sex outside marriage? Sex with multiple partners? Polyamory? I mean that's the logical conclusion I see out of this.

The second argument, I don't think holds up, either. You can make the argument that all sorts of stuff 'reinforces patriarchy'. From being housewives, to monogamous relationships, to heterosexual relationships, to presenting yourself as feminine, etc etc etc. It's an accusatory rabbit hole that doesn't get us anywhere.