A topic which deserves some clarification in light of the recent resignation of New York’s Governor Spitzer is the different working conditions in various branches of the sex industry. In reality, sex work spans a huge industry with drastic differences in pay, the services provided and working conditions. Since many people have trouble thinking clearly as soon as you mention “sex,” I like to draw parallels with food. For example, an 18 year old kid flipping burgers at McDonald’s is doing the same thing world famous chef, Wolfgang Puck, does for a living. They both prepare food for people to eat. Yet no one would argue that these two individuals experience the same working conditions or “job” satisfaction.
When it comes to sex for money though, the media, second wave feminists and voters are quick to equate street prostitution, massage parlors, brothels, incalls, outcalls, escorts and courtesans as the same thing.
I will be the first to admit they are equal “morally.” And that IS the primary reason all prostitution is lumped together – because most people are more concerned with the “moral” implications of prostitution than any other factor. The amount of money you make doesn’t change whether what you do for a living is inherently “good” or “evil.” And if that’s the discussion we want to have, then let’s bring it out in the open and stop dancing behind smokescreens like “oppression” and “sexually transmitted diseases.”
Got you with that last one, huh?
Well, in the United States, the fact is that prostitution only accounts for about 7 to 10 per cent of all sexually transmitted infections. Those numbers are very different in other countries but in our country, condoms are inexpensive and readily available. And contrary to what “abstinence only” sex education preaches, condoms DO work very well if you use them properly. I should know. I used them for over 14 years with over 1800 clients and stayed perfectly healthy the entire time.
Although prostitution was once considered the “fault” of the prostitute, it has become fashionable to cast sex workers as “victims” and label the profession of prostitution “oppressive” and “degrading.” The only way you can make this stick is either by assuming sex is inherently degrading to women unless they do it for free; or by conflating drug addiction and domestic violence with how a person makes a living.
Street prostitution does have a very high incidence of drug addiction and domestic violence. It is woven into the very fabric of this sector of the sex industry. Domestic violence in particular is an accepted part of the street culture. But treating either domestic violence or drug addiction as part of any profession is stupid and ineffective. Educating street prostitutes to the realities of domestic violence and providing domestic violence shelters for working prostitutes would work far better. Incarcerating pimps for domestic violence would also be a good first move.
However as the laws are currently enforced, street prostitutes are regularly rounded up in so-called street sweeps where they are jailed for a few hours, fined and released. They then go back to take a beating from their pimps for not making that night’s “quota” due to the arrest. And they have to “turn” even more “tricks” to pay the fine. It is a ridiculous cycle which turns your local government into a pimp and costs you tons in tax dollars to accomplish nothing (a city like San Francisco spends more than $7 million annually to put street prostitutes through a never ending cycle of arrests and fines).
Additionally, street prostitution accounts for only about 20 per cent of all prostitution in the USA. The rest of it is on the Internet and by referral. Many independent escorts are college students, college graduates and women in their 30’s and 40’s who are fed up with the “glass ceiling” and/or want to supplement their income. These are neither drug addicted nor battered individuals. Instead they are simply people who have made economic choices which fall outside of the norm.
Some say that prostitution cannot constitute a choice because of the limited economic options available to a given population. That is certainly a discussion worth having. But let’s not label it a discussion about prostitution. Economic choice affects all professions but especially dangerous or unpleasant tasks which could include field labor, garbage collection, emptying bedpans and cleaning septic tanks.
I would much rather catch a plane to a beautiful resort and sit on some bored business executive’s face than do any of those jobs. And that doesn’t mean that the average street prostitute shares my sentiments. If she is getting beaten and raped on a regular basis, any other job might look like an attractive alternative. But what if she could catch the plane to a resort and be pampered? Is it really the prostitution which is repugnant? Or isn’t it the violence and hatred which kills the soul? Decisions such as this are really best left to the individual.
One final word. Governor Spitzer was a lousy client. His whining about using condoms illustrates immaturity, selfishness and short-sightedness. His nitpicking about cheap train tickets and mini-bars points to the fact that he wasn’t ready for The Emperor’s Club. But then again, anyone who would order brunettes, blonds and redheads from an agency with such a pretentious name as if he were ordering take-out, reveals himself as a pretender to the throne.