Familiarity is the test of truth. – Mason Cooley
Most of you have probably seen the recent articles bemoaning the fact that the recession has induced a number of women who had never previously done sex work to take such jobs (especially the legal varieties like phone sex operator, stripper or sugar baby). And as you’ve read here, it’s the same story among escorts. As Whitney Jefferson of Jezebel pointed out, mainstream articles on the subject tend to be characterized by anti-whore judgmentalism and the pretense of horror, which Jefferson characterizes as an “I can’t believe this is actually happening …in America” tone. And of course one of the Jezebel commenters, demonstrating an almost total recto-cranial insertion, posted a comment which illustrated that attitude better than the author could have:
It seems like men never have to resort to this kind of stuff. People seem less squeamish about taking a job at McDonalds than they do about sex work, for obvious reasons. Some women aren’t comfortable with sex work but feel like it’s either that or starve…I think that it’s problematic that society is able to shrug and say, “eh, at least she can be a stripper or a phone sex operator” despite the fact that lots of women do not want those roles. Then we can all collectively wash our hands of the responsibility of providing better jobs.
Because in the neofeminist mind, no job could possibly be worse than one with good pay and flexible hours, and to the Neomarxist mind governments are somehow magically able to provide such jobs regardless of market factors…something even Marx himself recognized was impossible: (“A thing cannot have value, if it is not a useful article. If it is not useful, then the labor it contains is also useless, does not count as labor and hence does not create value.”) Though Marx might have disagreed, sex work is valuable for the simple reason that real human beings unmotivated by a political agenda are willing to pay their own money for it, which is a far different thing from make-work jobs paid for with stolen money.
But even though I’m opposed to women who aren’t suited to sex work participating in it (for reasons I discuss in my upcoming January 17th column), I don’t think there are really all that many of them. Because of the noise created by prohibitionists and prudes (like the commenter quoted above), and the outsized footprints left by embittered malcontents who should never have entered the sex trade in the first place, it sometimes seems to the casual observer that there are plenty of unhappy sex workers. But studies show this simply isn’t the case; though streetwalkers often report being dissatisfied with their jobs (a fact wrongfully extended by lying prohibitionists to the more than 85% of prostitutes who are not streetwalkers, and thence to strippers, porn actresses and even PSOs), most brothel workers are satisfied with theirs and most escorts see theirs positively. An Australian study even found that half of all prostitutes surveyed ranked their work as a “major source of satisfaction” in their lives, and 70% said they would definitely choose prostitution again if they had their lives to live over.
In other words, despite the claims of yellow journalists and neofeminists the great majority of the inexperienced women entering sex work due to economic pressure find that work no more odious than that of other women forced by economic pressure into other jobs that might not have been their first choice. As I pointed out in “A False Dichotomy”,
The only people who can truly claim to have made an absolutely free choice to do any kind of work are the Paris Hiltons of the world, those who have a guaranteed inheritance, income and secured future no matter what they choose to do with the present. Every other person has no choice but to work in some fashion; the choice not to work at all simply doesn’t exist unless one considers starvation an option. At that point, then, the choice boils down to what kind of work one is able and willing to do.
And that being the case, I think it’s fantastic news that more women are choosing to do sex work. A great deal of prohibitionism is fueled by the myth that all whores are monsters, criminals, defectives or victims rather than what we actually are: women using our natural abilities to make a living, just as men use their natural abilities to do so without anyone as much as batting an eyelash. The more women try sex work, the more people will know a woman who has done it and the more the stigma will evaporate; the less the stigma, the less the support for criminalization. As it has happened with homosexuality, so it will with sex work; once the majority of women know someone who has done sex work, the majority of men who have employed sex workers will more easily be able to admit it and the more people will recognize prohibitionist propaganda for what it is.
Not so very long ago, gambling was portrayed as a monumental social evil, but Nevada made it easy for many Americans to experience it and by the 1980s Las Vegas had even succeeded in dispelling much of the seedy atmosphere that had frightened more timid souls away. Indian casinos, riverboat casinos and state lotteries proliferated throughout the ‘80s and ‘90s and the internet brought online gambling, the persecution of which by the federal government is predestined to fail for reasons which should be obvious. And now it looks like the “gentrification” of Nevada brothels may be starting with the appearance of themed brothels (thanks to Krulac and Dean Clark for sending me that item), which have been popular in Japan for years.
Repression thrives on ignorance; when people see others as human beings they are less likely to support the persecution of those people, and when they see behaviors as normal rather than strange and “scary” they are less likely to support bans on those activities. The more women try sex work the more people will know someone who has and the less prohibitionists will be able to present lies and exceptions as the norm. In the present climate of ignorance, women who have bad experiences with sex work are seen as far more representative than they actually are, but with knowledge comes perspective and the recognition that sex work is like any other kind of work: awful for a few, tolerable for many and perfect for some.
One Year Ago Today
“Grow the Hell Up” examines the support for prohibition which derives from ignorance acting in conjunction with a desire to avoid personal responsibility.