Jules: Look, foot massages don’t mean shit.
Vincent: Have you ever given a foot massage?
Jules: Don’t be tellin’ me about foot massages. I’m the foot fuckin’ master.
Vincent: Given a lot of ‘em?
Jules: Shit yeah. I got my technique down and everything, I don’t be ticklin’ or nothin’.
Vincent: Would you give a guy a foot massage?
Jules: Fuck you. - Samuel L. Jackson and John Travolta in Pulp Fiction
When I was a librarian, our director once read a study showing that when fiction is divided into genres, the works of more obscure authors tend to circulate better because readers of that genre can discover them more easily than if all fiction is shelved together. He decided to try it, and I was given the task of reclassifying every single book into one of six genres, plus a general fiction class. I soon discovered that, while some authors (Robert Heinlein, Agatha Christie, Barbara Cartland, Stephen King, etc) were easily categorized, others were not…and some books simply defied assignment to any one genre.
People just love to mentally file things in little boxes; it keeps them neat and orderly and, as in the case of our director’s plan, makes a large number of somethings easier to manage by subdividing it. And there’s nothing wrong with that, as long as one recognizes that the grouping is often an artificial one which exists only in our minds. Yes, some authors set out to write works in a particular genre, but others just get ideas and write, and any classification is something imposed upon the work afterward. And if that classification is a poor fit based on superficial criteria, it can actually hamper interpretation of the work by instilling false expectations in the mind of the beholder. For example, the British TV series Space: 1999 is generally classified as science fiction because it takes place on a moonbase with conventional science fiction trappings such as spaceships and ray guns. But actually, the series is more horror than science fiction, and once that is understood a number of the most common criticisms of the show evaporate.
In real life, such categorization can be even more problematic because human behavior is far more complex than any fictional story. And given the voracious desire of modern government to seize control over all aspects of human life, the arbitrary box into which bureaucrats choose to place any given behavior can mean the difference between being allowed to live in peace and being ruthlessly persecuted by uniformed thugs and entitled busybodies. Worst of all, the rules of classification are often purposefully vague, or else the behavior is one so complex it’s impossible to break it down into a rigid system, and police and prosecutors are thus empowered to classify any given behavior as they please…and it’s nearly always in the box marked “illegal”.
In a free country, sex would be recognized as completely outside of the government’s business; alas, no country is completely free, so every government feels the need to meddle in people’s private sexual affairs to a greater or lesser degree. For reasons far too complex to discuss here, nearly every human society has decided that a sex act which is compensated by currency is somehow vitally different from one compensated by other means, and so have enacted rules and regulations in a futile attempt to control the uncontrollable. The existence of such laws creates the necessity of drawing artificial and ephemeral lines between “pay” and “gifts”, “stranger” and “acquaintance”, “discriminate” and “indiscriminate” and (most absurdly of all) “sex” and “not sex”. Defining sex is like twisting a rope of sand; the more one tries the more it slips away. In Pulp Fiction Jules is adamant that foot massage is not remotely like oral sex…until Vincent forces him to recognize that there is a definite sexual dimension to it. How about tying someone up? Most people would probably consider that nonsexual, but I’m far from the only one who disagrees. What about holding hands? We even do that with our children…yet Tennessee legislators recently defined hand-holding as a “gateway sexual activity” and therefore prohibited it from schools. That’s the hardest part of drawing artificial lines to excuse meddling and criminalization: draw the lines too tightly, and they’re either too easy to circumvent or (as in the case discussed in my column of one year ago today) almost nobody can qualify as a “victim”; draw them too loosely and the legislators and their goons are revealed as busybody sociopaths. This is exactly why New Zealand opted for decriminalization; enacting practically any rules about sex opens the door for abuse, so any country that actually cares about justice has to leave the whole subject alone. Alas, the United States doesn’t care about justice any longer, so we get petty tyranny like this:
…Melissa Borrett, 26, began Fantasy Maid Service of Lubbock [Texas] as a way to make extra money. She charges customers $100 per hour to clean their homes, and at their request, she can do the dusting in lingerie or in the buff…[she] started the service in February. Now, just a few months later, she has three other women working for her. But while business is booming…the “sexually oriented business” doesn’t have a permit to operate, police Sgt. Jonathan Stewart said [and] Borrett could face at a fine of $2,000…”Just the fact employees are topless or semi nude in this case — it’s just not allowed,” Stewart told KCBD. Company policy prohibits employees and customers from engaging in any physical or sexual contact. “If a maid accepts tips for physical contact, she will be terminated immediately and the customer will not be able to schedule service with Lubbock Fantasy Maid Service again,” according to the company’s website. Additionally, the company will not work topless or nude in the presence of persons under 18. According to the Associated Press, the permit Borrett needs to obtain costs $650 per year and requires an additional $5,000 surety bond or letter of credit…Borrett has said she will take legal action if the city attempts to shut down the business.
Although it pains me to say so, the police are factually (though obviously not morally) right; of course it’s a sexually oriented business, and those who deny it are being disingenuous. The reason she can charge low-end escort rates for maid service is because of the sexual component, and for no other reason.
Lawheads cannot be fought on their own terms and in their own territory; attempting to define sexuality (commercial or otherwise) as being in the “permissible” or “legal” category rather than the “unacceptable” or “illegal” one is a tacit acknowledgement that such lines of demarcation are valid and that government has the right to draw them. That is a losing strategy because even if one wins the battle, the government can simply re-draw the line to include one’s entrenched position. The only way we as a culture will win the war for liberty is to reject any and all claims by “authority” to power over the private, consensual behavior of individuals, no matter what that behavior is or how far it falls outside of the boxes which define our own personal comfort zones.