Our society suffers an epidemic of people seeking their own ends at the expense of others. Do not exclude the everyday folks outside of public view. Workaday people can make decisions or carry out boardroom choices that harm. When insurance companies deny a legitimate claim, some administrator cranks out the form letter. They probably know it is wrong but they have their life, debts or children to feed, meanwhile they crush an innocent or family. How many people have mourned on the account of such mercenary attitudes? Working people pollute rivers with mountain top mining. We know this because executives do not like that sort of work. Maybe a child that will never go to school excavated that diamond on your finger from a mine in Johannesburg. The list goes on. We should consider this perspective when making judgments about sex work.
I use three classes of agricultural work as a metaphor for prostitution.
- This is bad. Someone bound in chains and forced to labor is a slave. There lives are valued only as a means for profit. Landowners dismiss the suffering as irrelevant to the purpose.
This is cruel, selfish, violent abuse of power. We should end this practice..
- This is neutral. Someone may agree to sell their labor as means for an agreed upon price where a farm owner is also a means. Such exchanges are voluntary and each can choose to end the arrangement.
This is fair and by far better than slavery. Even when the parties hold each other in contempt, they are both free.
- This is good. Some people would like nothing better then to get dirty planting something, nurture it while it grows and then haul it to a farmer’s market. Passers by will be descended upon with little bites of the harvest such as cucumber or berries impaled on toothpicks. They say things like…
“You have just got to taste this! It’s certified organic. It’s good isn’t it. Here, try this too. You won’t get a tomato like that at Safeway. How many did you say you want? Here have one more on me. What’s that you want, pickles? No I don’t sell pickles but that lady with the big hat down the way has barrels that are full.”
These people love what they do. They may not be a majority but they certainly deserve respect because they really care. This work is not simply a means but an end. The grower’s happiness is palpable seeing the pleasure of a buyer savoring their work with closed eyes. The situation is better still when the customer feels gratitude for the effort that goes beyond just making a living.
Work is love made visible.
I won’t go all the way with Gibran but I will say work can be loving. The same holds for prostitution. There simply is no law of nature that forbids something genuinely good happening between a prostitute and client. Both are capable of human interaction and to think that the particular circumstance denies them that capacity is simply prejudice.
Example: A crippled teenage boy could not even pleasure himself. He came into the world without control of his body but he could feel like a healthy person. Over time, he and his massage therapist became very close. He trusted her and he risked asking her to make love to him. She freaked out, shamed him, and quit. Then he wept and wept, not only did he lose a friend but also the ordinary joys of life seemed unreachable. Like the punishment of King Tantalus, the fruit that would satisfy his hunger would always be close but still out of his reach. Nevertheless, this boy had done nothing wrong.
His father found a kind woman who was happy to help his son, a prostitute. May the blessings of a happy life be upon her! If sex work can be good in a single case then it can be good in some others too. Moreover, both men and women can be on either side of such an interaction.
I have never heard of a prostitute that fraudulently denied someone healthcare or destroyed a river.
Yet many in our society would confer respect upon “honest working folks” who do these horrible things yet deny respect to a sensual caregiver. I have something to say to those people. Check your attitude; perhaps there is more to prostitution than simple black and white ideals. Judge circumstances by their merits or lack thereof not by an overarching worldview. In other words, do not throw the baby out with the bath water.
By Todd Vickers
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Check out Dr. Brooke Magnanti, a former sex worker with reasoned opinions.