• Thu, May 31 2012

I’m Embarrassed To Admit That I Think Prostitution Is Immoral

Pretty WomanI don’t watch Mad Men. I’ve never been a fan and I figure that I don’t have the time or energy to try to pick it up now. But you didn’t have to watch the show on Sunday to find out that Christina Hendricks‘ character Joan decided to sleep with a client in exchange for partnership in the firm. (You don’t even have to watch the show to debate about it, as Ashley proved wonderfully.) She prostituted herself out for profit and power.

Now, lots of amazing women who I thoroughly respect and enjoy have been calling this a feminist move. Joan used her sexuality to get ahead. It was her body, her choice and she did what’s right for her. But I continue to balk at all these arguments, because while I consider myself a very strong feminist, I have a serious problem with prostitution. In fact, if we’re being honest here, I have a problem with most forms of this whole “women profiting from their sexuality” thing.

Yes, I consider myself a feminist and I am completely uncomfortable with strip clubs, porn and prostitution. How funny is it that I’m a little embarrassed to admit this?

Let me explain, I don’t want to enforce my opinions on anyone else. I’m not saying that someone else who wants to strip or trade money for sex shouldn’t be able to. I don’t agree with people who want to enforce their morals on others. As long as we’re talking about consenting adults who are making their own choice, it’s really not my business to get involved.

That being said, by labeling prostitution as an act of feminism, does this put me on the opposite side of feminists? Am I somehow oppressing women because I don’t believe that selling sex for money (or power) is a good thing? I’m honestly conflicted about this.

Here’s my problem with selling sex. For me, sex is a private act between two people that love each other. I know, it’s an antiquated and probably unrealistic worldview. But it’s also one that I treasure. I don’t like the idea of sleeping with someone who I don’t actually feel an emotional connection to. I realize that other people don’t have a problem with that. I know that both men and women can enjoy sex without being in a committed relationship. I just can’t do it.

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  • superjack

    Although I think throwing around a word like “immoral” wades dangerously into very uncertain waters, I think you’re describing a response to the kind of “Jezebelification” of sexual politics, which is to say: everything relating to sex is okay and good and right and if you disagree, you’re oppressed by men/society/commercials/judeo-christian etc.

  • endn

    okay get ready for some feminism! I commend the author for trying to explain her feelings, which are certaily unpopular in liberal, feminist circles. I do think it’s crucial to examine the knee-jerk reaction to sex work as “good” or “bad”, “feminist” or “unfeminist”, etc. I don’t think calling it “immoral for me” is the best way to describe it, since using the dichotomy of morality is more of an external judgement than a personal feeling–like, if you’re pro-life, you’d say abortion is immoral, but if you are pro-choice but don’t think you personally could do it, that’s not an issue of morality. Morality has also traditionally been a weapon to objectify and marginalize women’s (and ohers’) bodies, as if something were objectively just wrong with sexuality or whatever and anyone who disagrees is sinful, so actually I avoid using it altogether.

    that being said, I get your point and your discomfort, I think you’re alluding to the weird embrace by some women of being objectified/sexualized/exploited as “controlling their own sexuality” and “using their sexual power” that seems to be a reaction to the conflict between second-wave feminist-anti-male-gaze stuff versus realities of ongoing sexism and exploitation. it’s hard to describe and hard to discuss. However I do think it’s un-feminist/progressive/whatever to assume certain motives on the part of women. I do think that assuming all sex workers are sinful harlots is just as bad as assuming they’re all exploited drug addicted slaves with nowhere else to turn. Neither takes into account the individual experiences and circumstances of each worker, and neither respects them, and that is unfeminist. I’m still mulling through my personal feelings as well but I’m trying to work on it by reading more about sex workers’ lives in the US and internationally, as well as first person testimonies and writings.

    • endn

      crap I’m sorry, thank you lindsay! now there are a billion comments from me, lol

    • http://www.facebook.com/lindsaychartman Lindsay Cross

      Hehe! We don’t ever mind a billion comments I promise. And I’m pretty sure I can speak for Jen as well when I say that we don’t censor comments, so if it didn’t show up, that means there’s a problem. Normally, we can go into the spam filters for the site and approve the comment from there. You just have to let us know, because we don’t get alerts or anything about filtered comments.

  • endn

    this is weird, I wrote a comment here and a comment on another article yesterday and neither are posting… can anyone see this one?

    • http://www.facebook.com/lindsaychartman Lindsay Cross

      Hey there! I’m not quite sure what happened, but for some reason our spam filter picked out your comment. I went in, did an override and we have it now. If you have this problem again, definitely email the author of the post you’re trying to comment on!

    • endn

      ah what the crap! Jesus! okay well the gist of the long ass comment I wrote that disappeared is that, I agree with superjack, morality is an external dichotomy that doesn’t really make sense to use in the context of personal feelings, especially when the “immorality of sex work” evokes a very specific sexist judgement; I understand that author’s feelings, as I am trying to figure things out regarding sex work as well, but I think the best thing to do is to respect sex workers’ individual situations and motives (which can be anywhere on a big spectrum) rather than assume that they’re all sinful harlots, or exploitd drug addict slaves. there are lots of writings and testimonies directly from sex workers themselves, in the US and internationally. Better to read those than to speculate and assume.

  • crystal

    I dont think you’re not a feminist because you find prostitution immoral. In fact, i find it refreshing to see that someone else still holds intimacy and value in sex. Thank you for being a breath of fresh air!

    • martine

      But there is a difference between finding it wrong for yourself, and finding it wrong for others who may not feel as you do. thats my problem. I find prostitution to be immoral. I find gay sex to be just as immoral. But if others find it ok, then they can do it.

  • Lily

    You put all of my thoughts into words… thank you so much!

  • MM

    I feel the same way when I express my misgivings about porn. I think that sex-positivity is so in vogue in many feminist circles that you immediately become the enemy if you disagree with prostitution, stripping, pornography, etc. I am not even anti-porn, or anti-sex work, but I think a lot of it is very problematic and sometimes it just seems to get a free pass completely.

  • BeccaTheCyborg

    As far as prostitution goes, I wouldn’t say it’s feminist. But neither are most jobs. Something about living in a patriarchal society. As far as how to relate to it goes, I favour giving more rights and protections to people who are sex workers. Safety! Human rights! Harm reduction! Listening to the demands of people in the industry! And, in the case of the abuses, making it easier to get out without, say, being charged with a crime yourself.

    I think the term “immoral” isn’t really helpful, in that it doesn’t really affect the reality of the situation one way or the other. I have some serious misgivings about the claim that it’s particularly “empowering” or “feminist”, mostly because those seem to revolve around some shallow understandings of feminism, and ignore institutional oppressions.

  • Ella Jane

    This is something I struggle with, too, and here’s the problem I have with feminist defenses of sex work – they are generally made by women of privilege, alienated from the majority of people actually engaged in sex work.

    It’s one thing for a radical feminist living in LA making $3,000 a call to defend her work. Great. You haven’t been coerced, you’re making a great living, you’re choosing your clients, awesome. But the truth is that the VAST majority of women in sex work are in a completely different position, and that defense doesn’t touch on the women trafficked into prostitution or drug addicts coerced into prostitution or victims of domestic violence forced to strip, etc., etc.

    I condemn sex work because the majority of women in it aren’t in it by choice. I firmly believe that any defense of it is completely tone deaf until the problem of sex trafficking and pimping and all that shit are resolved.

    So, slightly off topic, but, yeah. I agree with you. I’m a feminist. I don’t think it’s un-feminist to not agree with sex work or the abuse of one’s sexuality. I do think it’s ridiculous to disregard the truth of the world we live in to take a stance that justifies your activities or indulgences, though.

    • Goldie

      This is all true, but a lot of people support legalizing prostitution because of these problems. Prostitution’s legal status now criminalizes the women who participate, willing or not, making it impossible for many of them to seek help and granting more power to the people exploiting them.

      I don’t see a problem with exchanging sex for money. The real issue is about women having agency over their own bodies.

    • Natalie

      I whole-heartedly agree with this. It’s difficult for me to support these as acts of feminism when it’s more or less women performing within partiarchy’s desires. As you said, when the issues of domestic violence, rape, sexual slavery, and the idea that women can be props in a man’s sexual performance are resolved, then we can begin to discuss fairly sex work as an act of empowerment.

    • Ella Jane

      Goldie – while I certainly agree that sex workers should not be victimized further by the law, I cannot agree that legalizing prostitution will resolve any of the problems in the sex work industry. Going after Johns, pimps, and traffickers will, and that can only happen in an environment where prostitution is illegal.

    • Sabrina

      I agree that legalizing prostitution would solve a lot of the problems of victimization of prostitutes. It is similar to the drug trade, the reason there is so much corruption and violence surrounding the drug world is because it is illegal. If prostitution were regulated like it is in other countries, prostitutes wouldn’t really need pimps for protection and they could hopefully go the police when they needed help, instead of being afraid they themselves will get in trouble for reporting a rape, etc. When you put a stigma (against the law) on something, it becomes dangerous. When it’s not stigmatized (legal) it becomes safer for all involved. Look at the history of abortion. Women were dying from back alley abortions and doctors were able to charge whatever they wanted. Now, abortion is much safer and while it still costs money, it’s a lot harder for doctors to directly profit from exploiting the needs of their patients.

    • Goldie

      Ella Jane, that’s not true that prosecuting johns/pimps/traffickers can only happen when prostitution is illegal. It would be easier to arrest and prosecute them when their victims have the law on their side. Right now they can’t be brought to justice because there is no one to even point a finger. What prostitute today can walk into a police station and say she was raped?

      And Natalie, the idea that women can’t enjoy sex (and by extension, stripping, prostitution, porn, dominatrix-ing, etc.) is also a construct of the patriarchy. What about the women who want to do it? I don’t think that selling sex is wrong absent of its abuses and the idea that you have to eradicate all of the bad aspects of something before you can participate is flawed in my opinion. Women have beaten new pathways into all sorts of environments that were unfriendly or dangerous to them. Rape is rampant in the military. Should women not be allowed to serve?

    • Natalie

      Goldie, you bring up some very good and very important points. I agree that the presence of horrible acts shouldn’t necessarily act as a deterrent. I don’t feel like my response was saying that they should, though. Personally, I feel that we should consider and address the negative realities of sex work before we can make blanket statements about how it is empowering and a positive way of manipulating the system. However, I do understand that there are many woman who can and do actively, positively, and pleasurably participate, but I think there are women involved who don’t have the choice in the first place.

  • Goldie

    There’s a difference between providing a service and putting a price on your dignity. Prostitutes do the former and whores do the latter. Not all prostitutes are whores. That’s my take anyway.

  • Sabrina

    Here’s the thing, you may think anything is “immoral” or wrong, etc. and hold yourself to that standard. But feminism is supporting women for having rights over their own bodies. So no, not wanting to be a prostitute doesn’t mean you’re not a feminist. This is ok, as long as you’re not infringing on others’ rights to do as they please.

    When I saw this headline, I was about to go all ape shit, but after reading your post, I really enjoyed it and can relate. I think you presented your opinion in a great way which hopefully will not offend others. I appreciate that you said you think it’s wrong for you, but that you’re not trying to impose your beliefs on others.

    I also have this conundrum when it comes to sex work. I am all for ladies getting involved in prostitution, go free and sex it up for money. On the individual level. But occasionally, I’ll think about the larger picture and I can’t help but think that prostitution is yet another way women are trapped in a patriarchy. Even if it is our choice, I have to wonder, would we think prostitution is a choice if men hadn’t invented it first? I really don’t think so, but you never know…

  • Holden

    Thank you for this, seriously. The Gloss has become one of my favorite sites to frequent during idle hours at work and after reading some of the comments akin to, “yeah, I’d probably do it for $300 bucks and bus fair,” Im really ready to do a nosedive off the Brooklyn bridge. I think we’re trying to appear so PC, liberal and sex-positive that we’re inadvertantly condoning a seriously harmful and destructive practice that most of us dont really believe in. Feminists like Catherine MacKinnon, Susan Brownmiller, Gloria Steinham, Andrea Dworkin (a former prostitute herself) have been fighting this sort of thing for years, fighting for women’s self respect, to demostrate that they’re more than just sex objects. I do enjoy Mad Men, I understand Joan’s decision, and I know that everyone has their own view of morality and feminism, but frankly, to me, the “feminist” thing would have been to say NO. The feminist thing, in theory, would be to obtain success by virtue of your hard work, your intelligence, your determination, not by letting some obese wall-street walrus ride you for a fifteen minutes. There’s nothing noble or courageous about that.

    To the people saying it’s just an extension of the service industry – you really see yourself and your body no better than a cup of coffee? How self-objectifying is that? Plus, um, hello, the risk of rape? Of contracting an STD? Pregnancy? Assault? Murder? Theft? The fact that it’s illegal in 49 states? All the well documented history of sex trafficking, exploitation and underage girls being forced into prostitution? That’s not cool. Thats not feminism.

    As far as sex-positive goes, i feel it just cheapens sex by reducing it to a sterile, mechanical transaction between two strangers, completely divorced from real pleasure or intimacy. And all for what? Financial gain? Material wealth?

    You have no reason to be embarassed! To borrow a quote from Female Chauvinist Pigs by Ariel Levy,  ”New empowerment looks an awful lot like old objectification.” And that’s not to say I think sex workers are immoral, indecent harlots, I think it is very important to realize these are real people and to treat them with empathy and understanding. I still love Joan (who, um, is still a fictional character mind you) But the profession, the institution of prostitution, nuh uh. And I don’t think that makes old fashioned or *shudder* conservative. Sorry for the lengthy rant, and I’m sure some will dismiss this as the musing of a douchey-oppressive male (he’s trying to tell US about feminism?) but I really needed to get that off my chest.

    • mm

      @Holden — I agree with you! Feminism is not sleeping your way to the top or flaunting your sexuality! Feminism (to me) has nothing to do with sex and more to do with removing everything associated with sexuality to make it so that women are equal – not sex objects. We become sex objects when we use sex in ways other than with someone we are in a relationship with, unless you’re just really yearning for a good lay and get it on randomly. I will never understand the whole, “I’m free with my body and give it up whenever I want, therefore I am a feminist” idea. I just won’t. Mind you this is coming from a little brunette with long wavy hair, enormous boobs, big eyes, and big lips. I am CONSTANTLY seen as a sex object, and nothing in the entire world makes me more angry.

      I agree I agree I agree, with both you and Lindsay. All of the posts about how prostitution is okay etc etc always irritate me on The Gloss, which is my favorite website. It’s nice to see people disagreeing with that.

      Sorry if this was a convoluted post I’m 1.5 glasses of wine deep =)

    • Lindsey

      I said I’d totally do it for like $250 in the other article. Probably less, actually.

      15 minutes of faking it to a walrus for $250 vs. 30 hours (before taxes) of busting my ass at a minimum wage job for the same amount? What is the question exactly? Is the sanctity of my vagina only worth ‘selling’ (though I’d say ‘renting’ is more accurate) if I’m getting thousands of dollars an act?

      I mean… there are dude prostitutes, too!

      I think it’s funny that the act of adding a $ makes it so different. Like, is seeing a therapist just to talk cheapening the act of venting to a friend? Does a paid massage take the joy out of a backrub from a boyfriend? I may pay a hundred different people to do a service that I could get a friend or close person to do for free, but for whatever reason I call the pro.

    • Catherine

      Great response. LOVE the Ariel Levy quote. I’m writing that down.

  • Kj

    I see what you are getting at and I don’t have anything to say that hasn’t already been mentioned by all the other lovely commenters, except that in some ways, men (and I suppose the occasional woman) will always need prostitutes because there are some men that would just never get. laid, and it’s better that they pay than that they rape someone.

    There is an amazing series of columns on this subject here by a former escort in Toronto (Woot woot! Representin’) who really goes into the whole process in great detail.

    I think that prostitution is not exactly moral, but it is necessary.

    • http://www.facebook.com/lindsaychartman Lindsay Cross

      I think there are a lot of arguments to be made around the question of prostitution. And I’m really thankful to all of the commenters for joining in the conversation. But I completely reject the logic that prostitution is necessary to prevent rape.

      First of all, rape still happens even though prostitution is available. Secondly, rape is very rarely about needing sexual release. It’s a power and a violation issue. Third, that’s an insult to rape survivors, to say that their trauma could have been avoided if someone would’ve just slept with the poor guy who couldn’t get laid and ended up having to take it. And lastly, it’s an insult to decent men everywhere who would be able to control themselves whether they’ve gotten lucky in the last year or not.

      There are lots of people out there who would like to have sex, who maybe haven’t had sex in a long time, and don’t go out and rape people. To say that sex should be available to people, whether they have to pay for it or otherwise, simply so they don’t assault someone is really a horrible statement to make.

    • Kj

      “(it’s) an insult to rape survivors, to say that their trauma could have been avoided if someone would’ve just slept with the poor guy who couldn’t get laid and ended up having to take it.”

      Um, that’s not really what I said. No one should “have to” sleep with anyone. I am not trying to justify rape, nor am I saying that prostitution is the solution.

      However, sex is a human need and I think that as long as there are women willing to provide it for a price, men who are otherwise unable to get any should be able to buy it.

  • Sam

    I’m really glad you posted this because I think this viewpoint is one that is well thought-out and not patronizing towards sex workers.

    I personally answered the “What would it take for you to prostitute yourself” question with “Not much, actually.” It’s not because I want to get ahead or to achieve something through sex; it’s because:
    1) I love sex in most of its forms. I think it’s a beautiful, wonderful thing and–although this is usually not a popular opinion–is a great way of getting to know somebody deeply in ways that talking really cannot achieve.
    2) I love making other people feel happy and good. It makes me happy and feel good.
    3) I’m pretty sure I’m great in bed. I could be wrong, but I ‘ve usually been told I’m good at what I do, and doing things I’m good at makes me happy.
    4) If I could combine 1 + 2 into a job that was always safe, I absolutely would.

    In all seriousness, if not for the potential for STDs, pregnancy by multiple partners, and the inherent danger of sex work, I would absolutely go for it. But even so, I think your opinion is completely valid and I love that you said, “I just would never want my son to go to a strip club.” I think that’s just as great of an answer as what your friend said.

  • KeLynn

    I think there are two issues being discussed here.

    1. I don’t think prostitution is inherently immoral. It’s your body, do what you want with it. And I don’t think sex always has to be driven by love or in the context of a relationship, so I’m not morally opposed on those grounds.

    BUT

    2. Prostitution is not “empowering” and it’s not “feminist.” Prostitution is allowing someone to objectify you. They’re after one part of you and they don’t care about the rest. And presumably you wouldn’t put yourself in that situation of having sex with this person unless it was for the end result (money, power, etc.) – that’s what makes it prostitution and not a regular one night stand. And maybe it’s worth the end result – I can’t say. I’m sure I could be bought at a certain price. But I would have no illusions that it would be empowering. It’s the opposite of power. It’s allowing someone to strip away all your other qualities and use you as, essentially, a warm hole. Where’s the power in that?

    • Lindsey

      ” Prostitution is not “empowering” and it’s not “feminist.” Prostitution is allowing someone to objectify you. They’re after one part of you and they don’t care about the rest.”

      Devils advocate: wouldn’t this apply to dancers, as well? Actors? Models? Musicians? Really any performer? I don’t give a fuck about the actors when I go to see a play, and I am only after one part of them.

    • Martine

      Any position where you are someones employee is un empowering, because you are someones( your boss) lackey. Actually prostitution is probably less un empowering them menial labor.

  • ikea

    My view is that love and sex aren’t mutually inclusive. They’re totally separate things. Plenty of people confuse the two or see them as one and the same.

    To me being a prostitute is like being a masseuse… you’re using your body to give pleasure to someone, for money. There is more risk involved with STDs and whatnot of course, but as technology improves, risks are lessened or maybe even neutralized. Once an activity long longer poses a risk to the well being of others is when that activity stops being immoral.

    I totally agree with the statement that feminism is about a level playing field. Sleeping to the “top” just reinforces patriarchy. You can’t sleep your way to the top. Even if you’re second in command, I doubt the big boss man is going to sleep with you once and then hand over the company. Or, maybe there is no boss. Maybe a woman just sleeps with clients to bolster her own business. At that point she might as well be a prostitute.

    • ikea

      “no longer”, I mean…

  • Somnilee

    Everyone’s entitled to their own opinion, and if I’m honest I’ve been thinking the same thing about this Joan/Mad Men thing though I don’t watch the show either. To me, what she did isn’t feminist, I’m of your approach that exploiting the weaknesses of the system isn’t the same as being valued on a level playing field. I would not want to be known as the woman who slept her way to the top, I would want to be known as the woman who exposed that that was the way things were happening and who put a stop to it.

    On the prostitution front, I do think that if other people want to do it, if they’re safe and in control of their own body and emotions then more power to them. I, on the other hand, cringe at the thought of having sex with someone I wasn’t emotionally intimate with. My brain kind of screams “But what would you do? You don’t know what they like!” etc.

    That said, I’m personally learning to pole dance as a strength and confidence thing. I’m sure I look good doing it, but for me it’s challenging myself personally and not about using my sexuality or enticing men at all. Even when I get good to enough to actually perform with the girls I won’t be doing the whole “Look at me, I’m sexy!” business, it’s more “You can look if you want, I’m awesome”.

  • Cheri

    Amen! I also consider myself a strong feminist but using sexuality to get ahead has never seemed empowering to me. Don’t be embarrassed, morals are a good thing.

  • Amy

    I think straight prostitution- a willing prostitute selling protected sex in a direct exchange for money with low risk of harm to either party- is morally sound. I can’t see a reason to object to it.

    But I don’t think that what Joan did is alright. In fact, she was essentially a trafficked prostitute. This wasn’t pretty-girl-sleeps-her-way-to-the-top. She was basically pressured into it by her employers, whatever was said. In normal prostitution, both parties have something the other desires but doesn’t need and they’re willing to exchange or go their separate ways. In this situation, one party has all the power as they have something the other desires and maybe even needs. That’s demeaning on every level. Especially in Joan’s case where there were essentially three parties involved, and the other two were seeking to exploit her for their own benefits.

    But even if she had done it willingly in a more standard casting couch kid of way, I still think it’s wrong. But in this case because it’s immoral on the part of the woman. Sleeping with someone in order to obtain something you should be earning will always be wrong, in my opinion. Not only is it unfair to other colleagues who can’t or won’t do a similar thing, it’s demeaning to yourself because you’re essentially shouting out that you can’t achieve on your own merits. I wouldn’t be able to live with knowing I received a promotion over more capable colleagues not because of my abilities, but because I opened my legs.

  • MR

    I never slept with a prostititute and I never will. In fact on a side note, about 10 years ago I stopped getting invited to bachelor parties, cause I wouldn’t bring money and partake in the services being rendered. It’s a philosophical thing for me. I’m a disciple of ’70s hippie free love. Clearly there are enough sexually liberated women for one to take care of a man’s sex needs, without him having to hire someone. That said, there are men who are willing to pay for it. It’s not the women’s fault who provide the services to them.

  • Eileen

    I’m against what Joan did because – as some people commented – she didn’t do it freely but was essentially coerced: She wasn’t the primary person who profited. And I think there’s an awful lot of trafficking in the sex industry. There are a lot of prostitutes, strippers, porn actresses (or I guess they’re called “models”)…et al…who aren’t willingly selling sex but are doing it as a last resort, and there are a lot of men who think that paying for sex = purchasing the rights to a woman’s body (there are a lot of men who seem to think that buying anything for a woman = purchasing the rights to her body…).

    That having been said, I don’t think that it’s wrong to engage in a willing and voluntary exchange of services that are sexual in nature.

    But you know what? Women have been getting abortions about as long as they’ve been getting pregnant, and I still think it’s immoral, so we’re in the same boat.

  • Formerly Known As

    I’ve been a feminist for decades, and have worked in health care for decades. To me, there is nothing about the sex industry that is “feminist.” Close to 100% of the girls/women I’ve met in the sex industry were either abused as children or are desperately seeking a way to fund their drug habit or feed their kids.These are women/girls who have learned to look at their bodies as a commodity and it’s usually a sad and desperate act, not a “choice.” I see feminism as a movement to (among other things) help us feel comfortable with our bodies and safe in our society. I don’t “blame” sex workers for what they are doing, but I am not convinced there is anything happy or healthy about commodification of our bodies.

    • Amy

      You work in healthcare. Why would you meet the prostitutes who aren’t being abused/absuing their own bodies with drug addictions? To cite your personal experience and not point out that it was obtained in a very narrow field is slightly misleading.

  • Amy

    When consenting adults agree to have sex, it is none of my business how they arrived at that agreement or under what context.

    I think we should probably make a distinction between viewing something as “immoral” and conceiving it as distasteful. Huffing aerosol spray, trading handjobs for concert tickets, and tanning salons are things I find distasteful, but that certainly doesn’t make them immoral.

  • Jamie Peck

    You cannot say that something “is” immoral, “for you”. The moment you include that universalizing “is” in there, you make a value judgment about people other than yourself. There’s also a difference between something being un-feminist, anti-feminist, and immoral. You can certainly make the argument that prostitution is not advancing equality between the sexes (then again, neither does working at the movie theater or what have you). But that’s different from imposing your own personal sexual wiring on others and saying anyone who differs from you in that way is doing something “wrong.” Sorry to write you a novel, but I care a lot about this issue. For more writing from the sex worker POV, check out the website tits and sass. I am convinced that 99% of otherwise reasonable people would see the light on this issue if they were to actually interact with sex workers, either online or preferably, IRL.

  • Catherine

    I really hate that our culture has “evolved” to the point that people feel so ashamed about their personal beliefs and such a compulsion to be politically correct all the time. The writer has every right to hold the opinions she does, and she very obviously does NOT want to violate anyone else’s rights to disagree with her. She expressed herself in a way that both gave some insight into her own perspective and simultaneously acknowledged awareness of other perspectives. I think THAT should be the standard for communication on difficult issues… respectfulness and authenticity. My fear is that our culture is driving us toward complete conformity, because people are so afraid to publicly differ from the politically-correct status quo of the moment… and that isn’t a victory for anyone.

    I’d love it if we could all work on hesitating and apologizing and hanging our heads less, and instead speaking honestly and with kindness, respect, and an acknowledgement of the diverse world we live in. It’s a dangerous world when unpopular and/or minority opinions cannot be expressed without fear of backlash.

    • Martine

      I agree. I personally think less and less of the choice people make when they decide on homosexual feelings. I really don’t say anything, but I simply think its wrong to put your own desire ahed of societal values. But these dayd we can’t say so.

  • Sydney

    I think the problem with calling prostitution as a whole immoral, or even anti-feminist is that your view that sex must always be a precious act between two people who care for each other is not always an accessible reality. A lot of women come from environments in which they do not have the luxury to view sex this way. I know you are interested in improving the system, but realistically, I think that there will probably always be women with life histories that prevent them from viewing sex the way you do. For women in male dominated communities, unfortunately, choosing sex work as an occupation may give them more independence and empowerment than any other kind of work, or entering into a “traditional” relationship does. The ethnography “Politics and Passion” by Gloria Wekker, gives an account of sex work in Suriname that supports my point. “Travesi” by Don Kulick is another ethnography on transgendered Brazilian prostitutes who arguably get more authentic joy from the interactions they have with clients than their own boyfriends. I suggest you read them.

    I think the problem with your article is that it seems as though you are using feminism to give your discomfort with the violation of your conception of the ideal sexual exchange legitimacy. I’m sure there are plenty of women who can enjoy the pure physicality of sex, without the need to get to know someone first. Is their casual sex immoral to you, or does it only become so when money is thrown in? What about the dominatrix, who invites men into her den and enjoys completely dictating the interaction, often without any sex, and gets paid while doing it? Is that immoral in your eyes? To me, the ideal sexual relationship has passion as well as love and trust, but I can also recognize that my ideal isn’t universal, so I am in no position to declare that behavior that deviates from that ideal is immoral. Because your logic works off the basis of your ideal as universal truth, you are perfectly fine with calling prostitution, in all cases, wrong.

    You are perfectly entitled to your opinion, and you may well never think of sex as okay, but declaring that you will never change your mind (with the explanation you’ve provided) suggests to me that you probably aren’t particularly well informed on the subject and/or that your reservations come mostly from your emotional response to the subject.

  • Penny

    I don’t think you should be embarrassed about your opinion. You have every right to it and I’m thankful that you’ve shared it. Myself I think it depends on how you define prostitution. If you mean a sex worker who does it safely and by choice then I’m fine with it. But if you mean prostitutes on the street who were forced into it either by abuse, poverty, or addiction, then no I’m not fine with it at all, and I think that to claim this is feminist is stupid and naive, and pretending it’s not a problem pushes us much further back than forward.