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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

Yes. There's a reason why I've tried to distinguish between the concept of selling sexual services and selling access to a body. I see them as having a philosophical difference.

Well, without generating a specific list of sex acts, what sort of sexual services can be sold without crossing that line?

A) A world where there are not gender-based power imbalances.

Definitely.

B) A world where people do not see sex as necessarily somehow different than any other bodily function.

At risk of sounding obtuse: there are a lot of different bodily functions that have different... well, they're treated differently. I think sex gets some of the worst treatment, but the rest aren't all treated equally or close to. And, of course, every single thing any human ever does is essentially a "bodily function" to some degree or other, so it'd be good to set a boundary on this, for sake of discussion.

I'm just trying to, for the philosophical discussion, eliminate things like 'it's inherently degrading because SEX IS EVIL' and the whole women-as-meat sorts of things. (Wouldn't it be nice if it were that easy?)

For my part, any unease with prostitution does not stem from a feeling that sex is somehow bad, or even special/sacred and in need of being put on a pedastal, or the fact that so many others may think one or the other (simply put: fuck 'em! ;p).

(And I think that that's essentially what most prostitution boils down to right now; thus the whole distinction of sexual services, if that makes any sense.)

I think I get where you're going, here. I'm to the point where I'm thinking that, hypothetically, there could be a place for sale of sexual services in an 'ideal world' scenario, but even in such a world the types of services / sex acts up for sale and the entire practice/profession would be radically different from prostitution as it is practiced today, even in many of the exception cases.

I don't think that sex is inherently harmful, but I don't think that sex-as-I-see-it is what's usually being purchased in prostitution transactions today.

I don't, and I don't think that was a major factor in the post that started this all off, think sex is harmful. I was positing that the sale of sex is harmful, perhaps inherently so. Just at the moment, I'm leaning toward thinking more that, if not all, at least some sex acts and/or the sale under certain circumstances is harmful, perhaps inherently so.

Even so, one could never rightly call the sort of thing I'd see as okay in an ideal world "prostitution". Possibly also not sex, but that's a stretch.

Even so, one could never rightly call the sort of thing I'd see as okay in an ideal world "prostitution".

I think that's likely true, though some of that is just that "prostitution" has such baggage associated.

Possibly also not sex, but that's a stretch.

I could (I think) argue that most of what I think is healthy sexual interaction (and thus could possibly qualify as a reasonable service to sell in my worldview) doesn't qualify as sex under current cultural definitions. *grin*

The way mainstream American culture looks at quote sex unquote drives me up the wall, in so very many ways. It seems to me like many of the assumptions about sex roles and the appropriateness of violence against women and so forth are all built right in to the word "sex" in the minds of most people. That's really depressing to me.

...hypothetically, there could be a place for sale of sexual services in an 'ideal world' scenario, but even in such a world the types of services / sex acts up for sale and the entire practice/profession would be radically different from prostitution as it is practiced today, even in many of the exception cases.

No argument from me there. Then again, I think that most of the things that wouldn't qualify also don't qualify as healthy sexual interaction even when it's free...and the rest, if you sold them, would be lies (to risu's points over on ginmar's journal).

I think sex gets some of the worst treatment, but the rest aren't all treated equally or close to.

Not arguing that they do, just that they should, IMHO.

And, of course, every single thing any human ever does is essentially a "bodily function" to some degree or other, so it'd be good to set a boundary on this, for sake of discussion.

A not unreasonable point, I suppose. I am saying, then, specifically, that I don't consider sex any different than breathing, eating or defecating (wait, I know how that's usually meant...let me finish! *grin*). I do include masturbation in "sex" in that sentence, though; there is certainly no inherent right to have someone else participate in any of those functions. (I'm not sure I believe there's any inherent right to any of those functions, but I definitely think that the whole "pursuit of life, liberty and happiness" is the right general expression.)

I'm certainly not including 'beating the crap out of someone' in that bodily functions thing.

Now, the obvious answer to why sex is different is that one won't die if one doesn't occasionally have some form of sex (masturbation included, remember). I would argue that it's possible to go a short while without oxygen, a somewhat longer while without water, and quite a bit longer without food. These are different levels of immediacy of need, not qualitatively different.

Sex stimulates the production of endorphins and other neurotransmitters, and the human body is certainly evolved to need that kick periodically. It's unhealthy to deny that need entirely, just as it's unhealthy to deny entirely the need for, say, food. You can eat things the body wasn't really set up to normally digest, and you can find other ways to get some of those neurochemical kicks in the butt as well.

I see these as also differences in immediacy, not qualitatively different.

(There are, of course, exceptions. Some people can do without sex entirely. Some people can also do without sleep entirely, without suffering the normal ill effects. As far as I can see, they're the exception rather than the rule. Admittedly, I don't know of anyone who can do without oxygen, but hey, it's not a perfect analogy. *grin*)

But, just so it's clear...I don't think that obligates anyone else to participate. Regardless of the gender or lack thereof of either party. Nor do I think that this need is somehow unique to men. (Yeah, right.)

By way of analogy, I could totally buy that some people need strenuous physical exertion to be mentally healthy and balanced. (I'm inclined to say I fall into that group — I tend to feel crappy when I don't do some sort of exercise after a while.) That doesn't mean it's okay for them to get it by periodically beating the crap out of someone.