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Ys
ysabel
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May 2011
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Ys [userpic]

I am very pro-sex (yeah, I know, all of you are going, Duh!) and, at least in theory, pro-legalized-prostitution. I also believe that prostitution as it currently stands is very harmful, but I'd had a lot of trouble sorting out how to make that concrete, because it's not just that it's illegal.

ginmar posted on the subject, and her post and the threads therein did a lot to help put words to many of the issues I have. I particularly liked the idea of decriminalization and making buying illegal but selling legal, so that the focus is on the ones abusing the power. The discussion also gelled my frustration with the fact, IMNSHO, that with our current culture and its fucked-up assumptions about sex and gender, it's probably not possible to sell sex without it being generally societally harmful (and even if it is possible, it requires such odd exception situations that they're pretty much down in the noise anyway).

But I also got into a conversation about whether it's possible to sell services that happen to include sex, in the ideal case, without getting into that harmful reinforcement of Bad Things™ or commoditizing sexual access to women's bodies. Such a discussion doesn't address the larger issues (and can in fact distract from and derail discussion of them), and is really more about philosophy in general than about real issues, of course. So I wanted to bring some of the philosophy parts over here...and incidentally indulge my curiousity as to what folks reading me think.

Is sex fundamentally different than other services, even in an ideal world? I would argue no, and (to quote myself from over there), here's the gist of my argument:

From a personal perspective, I don't see [such] services as any different than the idea that I periodically pay a good friend of mine (with whom I spend other time doing things together) who also happens to be a licensed massage therapist to massage my body and help me get rid of muscle knots and the like. Assuming that I liked/trusted [said person] enough to be willing to let her that close to me, then in both cases I'm paying someone I like and/or trust to do something for me that involves no small amount of work on their part.

As far as I can tell, though, that sort of exchange is nothing like what prostitution normally looks like. I'm talking about paying for someone's time and effort, not paying for "sex" or for access to their body or what have you. And, significantly, I can pay someone of any gender for their time and effort; it doesn't require any particular anatomy, just my trust and their willingness to do the work I'm wanting to pay for.
To me, there is a big difference to paying for someone's time and effort and paying for access to someone's body, and I would assert that prostitution as it currently stands is generally the latter. But I would also assert that it's possible, in an ideal world, for the former to include sex. Do you agree? Why or why not?

And yes, this is really just the philosophical bits, the things that are in your worldview inherent to services, economic transactions and sex independent of cultural hangups.

Current Mood: thoughtfulthoughtful
Comments

Unless you can make some compelling argument about how someone is getting harmed in a direct way...

...

I'm not sure how to respond to this. I suppose I could try to dig up specific references/statistics about the number of women harmed in direct, obvious ways by prostitution as it stands today. Poverty, violence, abuse and inequal treatment by the law are the status quo as I understand it. Frankly, though, I'm stunned that there's any dispute on that subject.

Or perhaps you're trying to dispute something else at the moment and I'm not getting it?

I'm still talking philosophy, not logistics or the way things are.

I interpret what you are saying as "because we live in a misogynistic society, the men who go to prostitutes do so because they think of women as sexual meat" (roughly paraphrased), therefore it should be illegal to go to prostitutes. However, if we could make the society non-misogynistic, and therefore have the transaction be without the overlay of women-as-meat, THEN prostitution should be legal because it is just like buying other services."

I'm arguing with the first half of the argument: that because prostitution exists in a culture of misogyny, THEREFORE it should be illegal. I'm arguing that EVEN in a current culture of misogyny, EVEN if johns see women as meat, that per se is not a good reason to make/keep prostitution illegal, because the mere fact of exchanging money for sex, regardless of the motives, is not inherently harmful to either party in the transaction or third parties.

Now, if we want to look at prostitution in the real world (rather than arguing philosophy of law, which is what I was doing), I will agree that lots of women are getting harmed -- by violent johns, by johns who share diseases, by controlling and abusive pimps, by controlling and abusive cops, etc. But I think most of that harm is a by-product of the fact that prostitution is illegal. If it were legal, protections could be put in place; unions could be formed; pimps would evaporate; cops would not be part of the process. Even without fundamentally changing the sexism in society, even with the motives your friend believes johns have...even with our real-life world still intact, the harm from prostitution would be greatly diminished if it were legalized and regulated. Even in a culture of misogyny and sexism, I do not find a compelling argument against legal prostitution.

(And yes, I'm the D! from a.s.b days. That was a long time ago, you have a good memory! Did you have a different name then? Yours is not familiar to me...)

...therefore it should be illegal to go to prostitutes.

This is a stronger statement than I'm attempting to make.

Even without fundamentally changing the sexism in society, even with the motives your friend believes johns have...even with our real-life world still intact, the harm from prostitution would be greatly diminished if it were legalized and regulated.

No argument with this particular bit. I don't believe that the harm fundamentally stems from the illegality; I do believe the illegality makes the existing harm far, far worse.

I think the question ginmar is getting at is something like, "What about that root harm?"

Look at the current situation — sure, it's illegal for both sides of the transaction, but who bears the brunt of the harm of the illegality? That's not because it's illegal, that's an indication of something else underneath. (One might argue that "underneath" is far too gentle a term.)

Even in a culture of misogyny and sexism, I do not find a compelling argument against legal prostitution.

So here's a question for you. Let's say that someone wants to sell the service of letting their clients beat the crap out of them. Normally, assault and battery is illegal because of the harm to the subject of the violence.

The libertarian in me says, "None of my business." The cynic says, "Serves 'em right, whatever they get."

But some other part has to wonder about whether maybe something should be done (and I'm not saying what) about people who would buy such a service. If they feel a need to beat the crap out of a living human being instead of finding some other way to channel those impulses, then are they a threat to the people around them who aren't selling such services? (Whether making such things illegal is an effective solution is a whole 'nother arguement, and I'd argue that statutory means are the wrong approach...but so is ignoring the issue.)

This analogy doesn't work if you believe that prostitution, as it stands today, is usually about selling sexual services. But if you believe it's about commoditization of the woman's body? Somewhat more so.

This is part of why I've written some about the whole 'service' thing and probably will write more about it.

And yes, I'm the D! from a.s.b days. That was a long time ago, you have a good memory! Did you have a different name then? Yours is not familiar to me...

Certainly I wasn't using Ysabel. On rec.moto I used "Deb Parks" a lot (Parks is my second middle name) but I don't recall exactly what I used on a.s.b. at the time. I suspect mostly just 'Deb', might've been 'Deb Hooker' (my actual last name...). (deb at colorado dot edu for most of the time I was active on Usenet, IIRC.) It's possible there were posts from before when I switched things over and was still using 'Devin' but I don't recall any more.

I found some old D! and STella posts poking around on Google News, which conjured fond memories. *grin*