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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Comments

jonthom
Oct 15 2012 09:48
Book O'Dead wrote:
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?

confused well...of course they are. but one is the client and one is the worker. if I go out to pizza hut then both I and the staff there are participating in the food industry on some level - but putting it like that would be rather odd.

sorry if I'm missing something but I'm not sure what point you're getting at here...

Quote:
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.

well, obviously. but that's true of wage labour in general - a system in which people have to sell their labour in order to survive. often the way we're forced to sell our labour can be very unpleasant, and some industries, such as prostitution, do seem more potentially dangerous and harmful than others - in part due to their being criminalised. I'm not sure how that's relevant though.

(out of interest, are you in favour of prostitution being illegal?)

Quote:
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.

So are cooking, childcare, and a host of other activities. What is it about prostitution specifically that differentiates it from all the other natural activities that have been turned into commodities by capitalism?

Surely our solidarity with fellow workers is based on seeing them as fellow workers, not on the moral qualities of the work they happen to be doing?

Quote:
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.

Good thing nobody here said anything of the sort, then.

And while you might "empathise" with folks involved in sex with, that empathy evidently doesn't extend to having solidarity with them as fellow workers, nor to actually supporting them in improving their situation (except to the extent they should just go off and find "honest work"...)

Quote:
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!

Hard to say really, but I'd like to think I'd have at least a basic level of solidarity and human empathy, and show support for them in trying to improve their situation - whether by finding other work or improving their situation in their current work. As oppose to your approach of moral denunciation and calls to find a "real job" that frankly could have come from any tabloid in the world.

Three questions:

a) What is it about sex work that you think makes it somehow fundamentally, inherently different and morally inferior to all other forms of work?

b) If a group of sex workers where you lived were engaged in some form of social struggle - against their pimps, police raids or whatever - would you support them or not?

c) Where do you draw the line? There's a million and one jobs that are socially damaging to one extent or another - do you extend your moral judgement to anything else or is sex work a special case?

And as far as this insistence that prostitutes should just try and find an "honourable" profession...

wojtek
Oct 15 2012 11:22

Rank
Oct 15 2012 11:50

Book O'Dead's arguments are eerily reminiscent of the activities of a small clique of anarchists in Southampton in the late 1980s - two women and two men. To be fair to the general anarchist milieu in the city at the time, their activities were viewed with horror. Ultimately their campaign against prostitution boiled down to some cocktail of radical feminism ("you're betraying your sisters" kind of thing) and an unacknowledged moralism bordering on misogyny (both male participants came from a Catholic background). 'Highlights' I've heard of included shouting abuse and throwing stuff at prostitutes in Derby Road (when I asked my partner what, she said "Anything they could get hold of") and one of the women pouring a pint over a strippergram in an Eastleigh club.

Book O'Dead
Oct 15 2012 11:58

I've never seen so many half-baked, misinformed and perverse opinions regarding prostitution!
The sexual exploitation of people is the lowest rung of capitalist hell.

I think that some of you avoid using the word "prostitution" by insisting in the term "sex work". To me it reveals a certain insecurity about your own views as well as the futile desire to elevate it into something it is not: honorable work. There can be no honor in selling your body and your intimate person to strangers for money or favors. It is the subjugation of the deepest self; a repugnant thing to anyone who wishes to retain a minimum of self-respect and personal integrity.

In light of that assessment, it is ridiculous to even discuss whether what a whore makes is wages. Those are "wages" I could do without! I am confident many others feel that way.

Some of you have raised a false equivalency by comparing prostitution to child care and other honest occupations. I believe that any genuine worker that heard that argument, if they are intelligent and honest, would spit in your face for that insult. I certainly find it insulting!

The only possible similarity between what a whore does to their John and child care is that most people who use prostitutes are sexually immature, insecure and need a mommy or daddy surrogate to spank their monkey so that they feel sexually relevant. Such people need a psychiatrist, not a whore.

One of you used an awful example comparing the transaction between the whore and the John to buying a pizza. Unless the person that sold you the pizza sits down and eats it with you the analogy is false--not to mention ridiculous.

I am not a prude about sexuality. I think that it's a wonderful thing when it happens between consenting adults and, sometimes, when its good, it's the only good thing that ever happens to people that have nothing else in life to look forward to. For me, sex has always been something that happens between people who deeply care for each other, people who have first come to know each other and wish to seal their bond of solidarity, friendship and love in a way that excludes vulgar transactions that place a money value to human affection and tenderness. You can't get that from a whore, no matter how sincere they may try to appear.

I am not a religious fundamentalist that believes in imposing his personal morality on others. I am indifferent as to how you enjoy your sex. But i will not accept that prostitution and its practitioners is somehow another category of legitimate work for whose emancipation from capital we must strive. On the contrary, we must struggle to abolish the conditions that make it an inevitable choice for so many poor oppressed workers; we must make prostitution disappear from the face of the Earth!

My principal concern, of course, is what sort of message do we give to our children when we sanction a deplorable behavior that involves the transaction of sex for money. What do we say to them, "yes honey, when you grow up you too can be a whore"? They deserve better than that, I think.

But fundamentally, what this discussion reveals is the atrocious level to which our morality as workers has sunk under capitalism; that we are willing to tolerate and defend the sexual exploitation of others--whether voluntary or not--is a sign of how rotten this system is and how infected we are by its decay.

Finally, I repudiate your objections to my proletarian morality because they are wrong.

wojtek
Oct 15 2012 12:06
Quote:
what this discussion reveals is the atrocious level to which our morality as workers has sunk under capitalism

grin You forgot to quote De Leon.

wojtek
Oct 15 2012 12:10

BINGO!

jura
Oct 15 2012 12:11

Or Lenin, for that matter.

This attempt to use Marxian categories to dress up some Victorian moral concerns is ridiculous. Prostitution is wage labor, prostitutes are workers. It does not matter if their labor is productive or not. Unproductive labor can take the form of wage labor and workers who do it are part of the working class. Anyone who verbally subscribes to Marx's analysis should know that.

Joseph Kay
Oct 15 2012 12:15

This is a bizarre line of argument. Because you don't think sex should be a commodity, you attack those who, having little else to sell, sell themselves. I don't think labour power should be a commodity either, therefore I'd better start slagging of everyone with a job as an immoral, perverse, half-baked, misinformed, dishonerable, debased stench.

Juan Conatz
Oct 15 2012 12:17
Book O'Dead wrote:
'perverse'
'honorable work'
'honor'
'repugnant'
'self-respect and personal integrity'
'whore'
'honest occupations'
'genuine worker'
'whore'
'whore'
'whore'
'I am not a prude about sexuality'
'vulgar transactions'
'whore'
'I am not a religious fundamentalist'
'legitimate work'
'what sort of message do we give to our children'
'deplorable behavior'
'whore'
'our morality as workers'
'proletarian morality'
Caiman del Barrio
Oct 15 2012 13:13

Also who was it who said that call centre work is as degrading as prostitution? Am I going fucking nuts if I think it was Kathleen Hanna?

jura
Oct 15 2012 13:19

I should add that what I wrote above about prostitutes being wage laborers is actually a bit more complicated, but still does not justify Book O'Dead's analysis.

Sex work can be productive in the sense of producing surplus-value for the boss, i.e., the pimp. Here the sex worker receives a wage and is exploited in the economic sense. There's no denying that they're a wage laborer, while the pimp acts as a capitalist.

Sex work can be unproductive (i.e., not productive of surplus-value) in the case of "casual" sex workers who work on their own. Here it is a mere exchange of services (i.e., commoditites) between the client and the sex worker, like (to use Marx's example) when I have a tailor make me new pants. The client does not "exploit" the sex worker (or the tailor) in the economic sense. But the price of the commodity the casual sex worker sells is generally not independent of the prices in sex enterprises (i.e., illegal brothels run by pimps or offi question about them being cial, semi-legal prostitution) with which they compete, and what the casual sex worker thus earns may even be below the value of labor-power (which is one of the reasons it's not usually a lifetime plan).

But still, even though the casual sex worker does not earn a wage, he or she is generally a member of the working class, just like the unemployed, "illegal" workers or "independent contractors". Whether one is a member of the working class is not determined by their legal relations, living standards or whatever silly criteria sociologists choose. Of course one could construct examples like, say, a bored factory owner's wife who lives off his husband's dividends and does casual sex work in her spare time, but this is not exactly the dominant reality of sex work, is it?

jolasmo
Oct 15 2012 14:23

Book O'Dead doesn't have an analysis, he's just spouting bigoted crap.. His view amount to "prostitutes are amoral scum" and should be considered on par with "black people are lazy and work shy" or "homosexuals are deviant monsters". I'm really not sure why the mods are letting him use libcom as a platform for this bile. It seems pretty ass-backwards to censor Uncreative (whose partner is a prostitute, btw) for flaming but allow B O'D to carry on expounding this shite.

Seriously his views are far below the worst of anti-sex work feminists, who at least pretend to be on the sex-worker's side, even if they reduce the prostitute to a helpless victim with zero agency. It's pure Christian moralism (and even most Christians I know have a more enlightened view of prostitution than him).

~J.

Steven.
Oct 15 2012 14:34

just to clarify, speaking for myself at least I find book's views despicable, bigoted moralising, anti-working class nonsense.

However, he/she has not breached the posting guidelines as such, whereas uncreative did. It would be great if uncreative would give his/her response to book's views without flaming.

georgestapleton
Oct 15 2012 15:09
jura wrote:
I should add that what I wrote above about prostitutes being wage laborers is actually a bit more complicated, but still does not justify Book O'Dead's analysis.

Sex work can be productive in the sense of producing surplus-value for the boss, i.e., the pimp. Here the sex worker receives a wage and is exploited in the economic sense. There's no denying that they're a wage laborer, while the pimp acts as a capitalist.

Yeah this is true in terms of how Marx used the term productive labour. But its worth remembering that Marx was writing a critique of political economy. So his point in his use of the category "productive labour" was to say that for 'political economy' and it object, capitalist relations of production, that labour was consider productive not in terms of its creation of use-values but rather in its creation, not only simply of commodities, but more precisely of surplus value.

Marx:

Quote:
In considering the labour-process, we began (see Chapter VII.) by treating it in the abstract, apart from its historical forms, as a process between man and Nature. We there stated, “If we examine the whole labour-process, from the point of view of its result, it is plain that both the instruments and the subject of labour are means of production, and that the labour itself is productive labour.” And in Note 2, same page, we further added: “This method of determining, from the standpoint of the labour-process alone, what is productive labour, is by no means directly applicable to the case of the capitalist process of production.” We now proceed to the further development of this subject.

So far as the labour-process is purely individual, one and the same labourer unites in himself all the functions, that later on become separated. When an individual appropriates natural objects for his livelihood, no one controls him but himself. Afterwards he is controlled by others. A single man cannot operate upon Nature without calling his own muscles into play under the control of his own brain. As in the natural body head and hand wait upon each other, so the labour-process unites the labour of the hand with that of the head. Later on they part company and even become deadly foes. The product ceases to be the direct product of the individual, and becomes a social product, produced in common by a collective labourer, i.e., by a combination of workmen, each of whom takes only a part, greater or less, in the manipulation of the subject of their labour. As the co-operative character of the labour-process becomes more and more marked, so, as a necessary consequence, does our notion of productive labour, and of its agent the productive labourer, become extended. In order to labour productively, it is no longer necessary for you to do manual work yourself; enough, if you are an organ of the collective labourer, and perform one of its subordinate functions. The first definition given above of productive labour, a definition deduced from the very nature of the production of material objects, still remains correct for the collective labourer, considered as a whole. But it no longer holds good for each member taken individually.

On the other hand, however, our notion of productive labour becomes narrowed. Capitalist production is not merely the production of commodities, it is essentially the production of surplus-value. The labourer produces, not for himself, but for capital. It no longer suffices, therefore, that he should simply produce. He must produce surplus-value. That labourer alone is productive, who produces surplus-value for the capitalist, and thus works for the self-expansion of capital. If we may take an example from outside the sphere of production of material objects, a schoolmaster is a productive labourer when, in addition to belabouring the heads of his scholars, he works like a horse to enrich the school proprietor. That the latter has laid out his capital in a teaching factory, instead of in a sausage factory, does not alter the relation. Hence the notion of a productive labourer implies not merely a relation between work and useful effect, between labourer and product of labour, but also a specific, social relation of production, a relation that has sprung up historically and stamps the labourer as the direct means of creating surplus-value. To be a productive labourer is, therefore, not a piece of luck, but a misfortune.

This might seem an arcane and academic point to make in this thread. But I'm making it solely to emphasize the point that others are making. Book O'Dead is using Marxist terminology to hide an extremely repulsive and anti-worker morality. And this is true not only because his comments on this thread are repulsive and anti-worker, but also because his comments on this thread clearly do not arise from a Marxist theory of wage labour.

For Marx being a productive worker is not a positive thing. As the above Marx quote states:

Quote:
To be a productive labourer is not a piece of luck, but a misfortune.
Book O'Dead
Oct 15 2012 15:08
Juan Conatz wrote:
Book O'Dead wrote:
'perverse'
'honorable work'
'honor'
'repugnant'
'self-respect and personal integrity'
'whore'
'honest occupations'
'genuine worker'
'whore'
'whore'
'whore'
'I am not a prude about sexuality'
'vulgar transactions'
'whore'
'I am not a religious fundamentalist'
'legitimate work'
'what sort of message do we give to our children'
'deplorable behavior'
'whore'
'our morality as workers'
'proletarian morality'

You forgot all the other words, especially "sexual exploitation".

Book O'Dead
Oct 15 2012 15:47
jura wrote:
Or Lenin, for that matter.

This attempt to use Marxian categories to dress up some Victorian moral concerns is ridiculous. Prostitution is wage labor, prostitutes are workers. It does not matter if their labor is productive or not. Unproductive labor can take the form of wage labor and workers who do it are part of the working class. Anyone who verbally subscribes to Marx's analysis should know that.

In Victorian London houses of prostitution proliferated, precisely because the rural poor had been displaced by the changes brought about by the industrial revolution and because there was a male large clientele whose private sexual life was oppressive. I can't recall the exact number but I can refer you to John Fowles' "The French Lieutenant's Woman". In that novel he provides accurate numbers.

For my views regarding prostitution to be Victorian they would have to be hypocritical (condemning the practice and its victims publicly while indulging in them privately). Such is not the case.

I believe that some here defend prostitution as an acceptable occupation from ignorance and because it is fashionable.

Book O'Dead
Oct 15 2012 15:49
jolasmo wrote:
Book O'Dead doesn't have an analysis, he's just spouting bigoted crap.. His view amount to "prostitutes are amoral scum" and should be considered on par with "black people are lazy and work shy" or "homosexuals are deviant monsters". I'm really not sure why the mods are letting him use libcom as a platform for this bile. It seems pretty ass-backwards to censor Uncreative (whose partner is a prostitute, btw) for flaming but allow B O'D to carry on expounding this shite.

Seriously his views are far below the worst of anti-sex work feminists, who at least pretend to be on the sex-worker's side, even if they reduce the prostitute to a helpless victim with zero agency. It's pure Christian moralism (and even most Christians I know have a more enlightened view of prostitution than him).

~J.

You assign to me words I have not used and sentiments I do not share. Please address the topic rather than falsely characterizing my position.

Book O'Dead
Oct 15 2012 15:55
Joseph Kay wrote:
This is a bizarre line of argument. Because you don't think sex should be a commodity, you attack those who, having little else to sell, sell themselves. I don't think labour power should be a commodity either, therefore I'd better start slagging of everyone with a job as an immoral, perverse, half-baked, misinformed, dishonerable, debased stench.

Do you think sex should be a commodity?

Joseph Kay
Oct 15 2012 15:59

Do you think that labour power should be a commodity? If not, do you pour vitriol on those who sell it?

wojtek
Oct 15 2012 16:02

Book O'Dead
Oct 15 2012 16:09
wojtek wrote:

I grade this in the 12 to 14 year-old level. Do you have permission from your mom to be on the Internet?

Book O'Dead
Oct 15 2012 16:11
Joseph Kay wrote:
Do you think that labour power should be a commodity? If not, do you pour vitriol on those who sell it?

So you think sex should be a commodity or not? Come, man, that's not a hard question to answer!

georgestapleton
Oct 15 2012 16:16
Book O'Dead wrote:
Joseph Kay wrote:
Do you think that labour power should be a commodity? If not, do you pour vitriol on those who sell it?

So you think sex should be a commodity or not? Come, man, that's not a hard question to answer!

No.

Do you think any form of human activity should be a commodity or not? If not, do you pour vitriol on those who sell it? Come, man, that's not a hard question to answer!

Steven.
Oct 15 2012 16:24
georgestapleton wrote:
Book O'Dead wrote:
Joseph Kay wrote:
Do you think that labour power should be a commodity? If not, do you pour vitriol on those who sell it?

So you think sex should be a commodity or not? Come, man, that's not a hard question to answer!

No.

Do you think any form of human activity should be a commodity or not? If not, do you pour vitriol on those who sell it? Come, man, that's not a hard question to answer!

exactly. Answer the question, book.

To your question: of course we don't think sex should be a commodity. Nor do we think labour power should be a commodity. Neither means that we stigmatise workers: we support workers struggling in their own interests (whether they are sex workers, call centre workers, factory workers or whatever).

Now you answer the question.

commieprincess
Oct 15 2012 16:37

Book - it doesn't seem like you've addressed the vast majority of points raised on this thread. Perhaps you didn't notice them, it's obviously difficult to keep track of the huge stack of excellent points raised in objection to what you've written. So to summarise:

-How do you define "socially productive work"?
I think many people would see it as work that is actually, tangibly beneficial to those around them (work that would still need to happen once we abolish capitalism).
Am I correct in thinking that you think "socially productive" means making a profit for a boss? (You seemed to suggest this earlier in response to someone saying call centre work is not socially productive.) If so, in what way is this "social"? And apart from producing a profit, in what way is this "productive"?

-If you define it in this way, then you're obviously wrong, but aside from that your own logic defeats your line of thinking. Sex work makes profit for a boss in plenty of circumstances. So if we go by your weird definition, sex work is 'socially productive'. Conversely, there are jobs that I would define as socially productive (ie childcare, nursing, cleaning) which are degrading and horrible - not because of the work itself, but because of the coercive dynamic which is an inevitable aspect of working for a wage.

-Do you have a judgement of people who have consensual sex with those they do not have deep feelings for? Do you think those people need psychological help? If so, why? If not, why not?

-Have you ever been a sex worker? If not, how on earth do you know how degrading it is?

-Have you ever organised at work? If so, would you not be deeply livid if someone told you the solution to getting better conditions at work was to get a less degrading job?

-Where's your evidence that sex work has only existed since the birth of capitalism? I thought it was the 'world's oldest profession'...?

-What's your objection to the term 'sex work'? Seems like you're the one who can't cope with the reality if you have to use the loaded term 'prostitution'. Besides, it seems like an inadequate term as it doesn't cover people who work in other kinds of sex work, ie the porn industry.

-Do you think phone sex, stripping, burlesque, porn, nude modelling etc are degrading?

edit: cross-posting!

jolasmo
Oct 15 2012 16:56
Book O'Dead wrote:
I believe that some here defend prostitution as an acceptable occupation from ignorance

It's obvious that you know fuck all about prostitutes and the work they do from your posts here. Maybe you should answer this question, put to you on page 1 on this thread:

Ed wrote:
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?

It's not a hard question to answer.

~J.

jolasmo
Oct 15 2012 17:07
Steven. wrote:
just to clarify, speaking for myself at least I find book's views despicable, bigoted moralising, anti-working class nonsense.

However, he/she has not breached the posting guidelines as such, whereas uncreative did. It would be great if uncreative would give his/her response to book's views without flaming.

It's you guys' site at the end of the day, and I'm not trying to have a go, but the posting guidelines do say:

Quote:
ANY KIND of oppressive, sexist, racist, unreasonable personal abuse, discrimination etc. is not allowed and threads will be removed and offenders banned.

... which I think applies in this case.

~J.

Inhousejoke
Oct 15 2012 17:15

I've been in favour of banning Book O'Dead since his first post, simply because his writing style drives me up the fucking wall. black bloc

But seriously though, it's obvious that Book O'Dead is having the absolute craic on this thread. I think he actually does believe what he's saying, but he's trolling all the same, the rhetoric alone of calling people "whores" is due a warning. He's winding people up and loving it.

Konsequent
Oct 15 2012 17:21

I'm amazed by this. Book O'Dead makes anything other than support of sex workers struggles look ridiculous. I'm not one to encourage bigots on the assumption that no one could possibly be convinced by them, but he's more absurd than any straw man I would dare create to illustrate why I should be as deserving of solidarity as other workers.

Book O'Dead wrote:
I think that some of you avoid using the word "prostitution" by insisting in the term "sex work". To me it reveals a certain insecurity about your own views as well as the futile desire to elevate it into something it is not: honorable work. There can be no honor in selling your body and your intimate person to strangers for money or favors. It is the subjugation of the deepest self; a repugnant thing to anyone who wishes to retain a minimum of self-respect and personal integrity.

No one said prostitution is "honorable work". They criticised the concept of honourable work in itself. I don't fuck people for money because it's honourable, I do it for the money. But I've never done any job because it was honourable, I did all of them for the money. I'm unclear on which work is honourable and which isn't. Is every worker doing work which becomes obsolete post-revolution doing something dishonourable. Are they all worthy of the same derision?

I'm not really arguing that prostitution isn't repugnant if by repugnant you just mean gross. Or do you mean morally repugnant? I don't see how prostitutes are the target of your disapproval when we're exchanging sex for money which we need, and our clients are exchanging money for sex which they don't need. I can see why you'd be disparaging of the people hiring us. I'm pretty disparaging of them myself. But apparently I'm the one lacking in self-respect and personal integrity whereas the people who have no issues with paying me so I'll have sex with them are merely immature and insecure.

Although earlier you claimed

Book O'Dead wrote:
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've seen no empathy from you towards prostitutes. I've seen mainly judgement and some pity. But apparently I'm afforded as much of it as clients who are "caught up" in this vice because they're not getting what they're entitled to at home (cry me a fucking river).

But amongst your condemnation you also say that

Book O'Dead wrote:
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.

which if it were true would mean that is social necessity until such point at which we no longer have this dysfunctional society. In which case I guess we're providing some sort of valuable service, or what? I don't even agree but it's pretty amazing how you manage to be so down on prostitutes while leaving men's entitlement to have their every sexual whim satisfied completely intact.

Also, "normal sexual relations".

You also came up with a pretty bizarre definition of "socially useful" here

Book O'Dead wrote:
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.

which wouldn't include the work I currently do but would if I had a pimp.

Book O'Dead wrote:
Some of you have raised a false equivalency by comparing prostitution to child care and other honest occupations. I believe that any genuine worker that heard that argument, if they are intelligent and honest, would spit in your face for that insult. I certainly find it insulting!

Clearly no worker here is a "genuine" worker.

Book O'Dead wrote:
For me, sex has always been something that happens between people who deeply care for each other, people who have first come to know each other and wish to seal their bond of solidarity, friendship and love in a way..

That must be lovely for you. Apparently cruising for consensual, mutually enjoyable, anonymous sex is also out then? Just to be clear, imo, there is a world of difference between that and prostitution. The former being something that I hope will continue to exist in a post-revolutionary society, and the latter being something I hope will be abolished along with all other work (no sooner, as I'd be out of a job). But it seems you have quite a specific idea of when people should have sex which goes far beyond whether or not it's exploitative.

Book O'Dead wrote:
..that excludes vulgar transactions that place a money value to human affection and tenderness. You can't get that from a whore, no matter how sincere they may try to appear.

You've realised you can't pay people to like you. Well done. Sad though it is, you can pay them to pretend to like you.

Book O'Dead wrote:
On the contrary, we must struggle to abolish the conditions that make it an inevitable choice for so many poor oppressed workers..

This is obvious.

I'm Uncreative's boyfriend btw. He says the mods decision was fair enough and that I can speak for myself.

Fleur
Oct 15 2012 17:19

@Book O'Dead
Have you ever actually known/ talked to any sex workers?

I'm certain that sex work is not a product of capitalism. I went to Pompeii once and there's this place
[url]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lupanar_(Pompeii)[/url]

There was certainly a thriving sex trade in 79 ACE and before you start mentioning slavery again, I'd like to point out that the Guild of Prostitutes was a powerful entity. I wrote a paper on prostitution in Victorian London once, can't exactly remember the details but it was a little bit more involved than your French Lieutenant's Woman analysis.

"What sort of message do we give our children?"
Well, I have no idea what you tell your children, if you have any, but I tell mine that they should respect other people and not judge them for what they do for a living.