Yes, it's true. I got into a heated debate about sex work.
It's kind of funny that as often as we get into fights defending groups of people that we may consider ourselves members of (sluts, single mothers, birth control users, people who say "happy holidays") we also get pretty heated defending groups that we do not 'belong' to (homosexual people, community organizers, pregnant men, Muslim airline passengers). And now sex workers.
In what had started as a relatively innocent online conversation about Natalie Dylan (the 22 year old woman who is auctioning off her virginity online), Jezebel and I ended up defending myself - and the sex work industry - from some pretty nasty comments.
I'm not going to post all of the conversation, because it was long and stupid and some of the stuff said was relatively tame or irrelevant to the points I want to address. So here are just a few general excerpts (both the stuff that bothered us and some other stuff to put it context). We were originally going to designate people as Dumb Bitch #1 and Random Person #2... but that got annoying and confusing. So we're just going to name them after Beverly Hills 90210 characters, which is probably also confusing, but much more fun. (The roles of Lilith and Jezebel will be played by themselves).
So there is a 22 year old woman using the name Natalie Dylan who is selling her virginity online. The transaction will take place in Nevada on the bunny ranch where this is legal. She has had over 10,000 offers with the top offer 3.7 million. What kind of society provides 10,000 men willing to pay serious dollars for this??
The same society that says it is OK for her to sell her virginity.
If she wants to get by on her back that is her choice. If someone wants to spend that much money on a fantasy then that is their choice.
Brenda WalshWow. I don't think I could do that for $3.7m. I don't get the fetish over virginity. I can promise, virgins aren't much fun.
Steve SandersShe takes off her clothes, lays on her back, and spreads her legs. Nothing more is expected from her.
Andrea ZuckermanOr on her knees, on top, on her side, her stomach, all fours...etc. You know for 3.7 million I would hope the person gets something exciting. Maybe a variety sampler.
Valerie MaloneCall me crazy, but I would almost consider doing that. I wouldn't make it my career, but making almost 4 million for something that I gave away doesn't seem like a bad deal. I'm surprised no one else has done it previously, of course it only works for her because she's pretty.
Kelly Taylor4 million? This is obscene.
Andrea ZuckermanImagine that...a story and thread about a hooker being obscene.JezebelRight, because everyone knows that all sex workers are just "obscene" every single minute of every single day.Steve SandersI didn't think the hooker was being obscene, not at all. I find it odd that other women haven't come forward for similar payouts in exchange for something they give away for free.
Andrea ZuckermanI didn't say she was. I'm shocked more people don't do this either especially considering that virtue isn't held in regard as it once was.
Thanks for clarifying. So sex workers aren't constantly obscene, they just have no "virtue". Got it.
I was using virtue in the definition of 3.chastity; virginity: to lose one's virtue.
Definition of "virtue"
I find it hard to believe someone that held virtue in this definition would sell it to the highest bidder to pay for grad school. And no, I don't believe society in general holds virginity in as high of a regard as it once was.
Maybe it's a geography thing - I don't think I've ever heard anyone use that word in that way in normal everyday conversation, so I assumed you were referring to the first two definitions.
As far as society valuing virginity less now, that's probably true. But I don't really think that a society should hold virginity in high regard. Responsible decision making, comprehensive and effective sex education, access to affordable health care and contraception? Sure. Virginity in and of itself? Not really.
I read that article the other day and all I could think is I bet her parents are sooo proud of their little girl!!!
Sex work is just a job like anything else. I don't have any moral objections or opinions about it. I think if it's legal and SAFE, then go for it.
But most sex workers are involved with illegal activities which makes this an un-safe job. Sure strippers are legal but that's not where the real money is made.
There are two main arguments as to why sex work shouldn't be legal: "it's not moral" and "it's not safe". If it was legal, it would be regulated, it would be safer. I don't think laws should be based on morality (nor do I find prostitution to actually be immoral).
While I agree with Lilith in theory, the practice hasn't gone so well. The Netherlands is closing down a lot of its red light districts because of this. There are still 'unlicensed' prostitutes who are able to fake their way through the system, many of whom are trafficked in. Trafficked persons are brought in via organized crime and are either already junkies (easier to grab) or forcibly shot up with drugs to make them more compliant. While I don't think that there's anything wrong intrinsically with sex work, it is constantly followed by a far more objectionable spectre.
Take a trip to Thailand some time - you may change your mind about not having moral objections or opinions about it.
I'm not sure exactly what you're referring to, but if you're talking about trafficking, that's not the same thing as sex work.
Sex Work, Trafficking: Understanding the Difference
I have some moral objections about the way certain food service companies are run, but that doesn't mean that I disagree with eating food. You need to learn to separate specific situations from an industry as a whole. Sex work - when it's voluntary - is just work. I don't know what you're referring to specifically, but nothing will change my moral opinion of sex work in general.
No, I'm not talking about trafficking. I'm talking about sex work. Pay for play. Women who choose that line of work. No one is forcing them into it. They see it as a job - a darn good one in fact.
Would you have a problem if your daughter at age 22 wanted to auction off her virginity or wanted to work at the bunny ranch???
I was thrown off by your mention of Thailand. Are Thai prostitutes, like, extra immoral or something?
I've already said that I do not have moral objections to sex work in general, so why would I have moral objections to it if I decide to "take a trip to Thailand some time"?
I wouldn't hope for my daughter to do that kind of work, but I also wouldn't hope for her to take a lot of other career paths that have nothing to do with 'morality'. I wouldn't want her to be in the military or law enforcement because I don't think it's safe. Just as I don't think that sex work is presently safe. That doesn't mean I think soldiers or police officers are immoral (well not all of them, jk).
I love my daughter and would support her in any of her life goals. I would hope that she had higher aspirations than to be in sex work - not because I think sex work is bad, but because she's mentally brilliant and I'd love to see her doing something where she'd use her mind, not just her body. In the same respect, I'd feel the same way if she was a dancer or athlete, not because I don't respect those professions but because I know she can do more. (And that's not "better" that's "more").
I would hope that by the time she's 22 if she did want to do that kind of work that it would be completely safe and free from legal/social stigma. But I don't anticipate that happening any time soon and it's obviously not now. So I'd be lying if I said "Oh yeah I'd be totally 100% cool with my daughter wanting to be a prostitute!" but my reasoning wouldn't be based on so-called morality.
You stated you had no moral objection to sex work. I suggested that you take a trip to Thailand and you may change your opinion regarding how you feel about sex work. The significance of bringing up Thailand is becuz I spent a fair bit of time over there and it changed my opinion about sex work completely. Even tho it is an illegal practice over there, a portion of their economy thrives on prostitution and it is everywhere. Not all of the 'bargirls' are forced to be there. Some choose it strictly for the money and the opportunity to travel. Even some of the university girls resort to turning tricks for extra money. Store clerks, massage therapists, hotel personnel --- the place is crawling with willing sex workers. The demand is great and so is the supply. Personally I found it quite immoral and sad. Not becuz I am prude or anything like that, but simply becuz it pissed me off that these women felt they had no other option.
I guess you answered my questions and you wouldn't have a problem with your daughter being a sex worker or auctioning off her virginity. And your reasoning isn't based on so called morality but due to the fact that you think she can do more with her life. (I too hope your daughter will have higher aspirations for her life when the time comes) I will say that I wouldn't want my daughter mixed up in sex work of any kind.
Quote: ...a portion of their economy thrives on prostitution and it is everywhere. Not all of the 'bargirls' are forced to be there. Some choose it strictly for the money and the opportunity to travel. Even some of the university girls resort to turning tricks for extra money. Store clerks, massage therapists, hotel personnel --- the place is crawling with willing sex workers. The demand is great and so is the supply.I don't really understand why that would change my mind. That is a perfect example of why I do NOT have moral objections to sex work. It is an industry, just like any other.
I do have some objections about the way the industry is run. In addition to the safety issues, there are often sexist and exploitative aspects. The fact that many women do turn to sex work because they have no other option is a problem and it isn't really the same thing as women who willingly choose it because that's what they want to do. (I do see the difference between 'being forced' and having 'no other option' and truly 'voluntary').
But I have absolutely NO moral objections to the idea of having sex for money.
I didn't say I wouldn't have an objection to my daughter being a sex worker. Just that I would not have a moral objection. (I guess it would depend on the situation for me to really be able to answer completely). I would have much more of a moral objection if my daughter was cheating on a significant other or sleeping with a married man or something like that, than if she was having safe, honest, consensual sex for money.
I would absolutely have sex for money if it was safe and legal and not likely to lose me custody of my daughter. I would. I wouldn't be on the street having unprotected sex with random gross strangers for $20 in an alley or anything... but in the right situation, with the right person, for the right money... if it was legal and not socially stigmatized the way that it is now and there was very little health risk, I would ABSOLUTELY do it. I have no moral qualms about it at all.
You're entitled to your opinion. I still believe you'd change your moral opinion about sex work if you went to Thailand.
If you still believe that then you are missing my point. Either that or you are defining 'moral' in a different way than I am. The situation in Thailand may very well be immoral, but that doesn't mean that sex work in general is immoral. Or that my or your version of 'morality' is necessarily the right one. I do not have a moral objection about sex work and I'm not to judge an entire industry and an entire concept based on a specific example (Thailand) because that is not what sex work is everywhere.
Maybe if you took a trip to Nevada or some else, you might change your moral opinion of it?
It does sound like a lucrative business endeavor, but what puts me off is the fact that usually, working in that business, you don't get to pick who you have sex with. If it wasn't bad for business to pick only the guys you are attracted (or moderately attracted) to, and if I was single with no relationship in sight, I think I would consider it, but that's not the case most of the time.
LilithWell, yeah that's why I said: in the right situation, with the right person, for the right money, if it was legal, if it was not socially stigmatized, if there was very little health risk. The state of the prostitution industry as it stands right now - I wouldn't personally want to get involved in that. But the concept of sex for money (instead of say, sex for love) ... I don't have a moral issue with that at all and would do it in theory.
For fcksake Lilith, I've been to Nevada, I've been to Rio, in fact I've been to every continent except Antartica which I hope to see this year.... regardless of my world travels, the sex industry is everywhere. I found it downright nasty in Thailand and that is why I made that reference. My definition of moral is standards of behavior, the difference between right and wrong etc....I don't think our definitions are different, perhaps our morals are different. You don't have a moral objection to sex work, you wouldn't object (morally) if your daughter chose that line of work. In fact, you've clearly stated you'd actually like to be a sex worker if it were legal and safe and you could choose your partners and the price.
Like I said, you're entitled to your opinion. Why the argument? I don't care if your morally void when it comes to sex work. In fact, most people involved in that industry are morally void on some level. My opinion on this issue comes from experience and I still think if you took a trip to southeast asia you'd soon change your mind.
Donna is very right when she says you don't get to pick who your customers are. They pick you. Big fat balding old men who haven't been able to see their dicks in years will pay big bucks to boink a woman 20 years younger than them ---- ick.
Wow, okay. The Nevada line was a joke. I thought it was an obvious allusion to your repeated comment that if I went to Thailand I would change my mind. Look - I'm not blind to the negative aspects of the sex industry. I know that it isn't all peaches and roses. It is those negative aspects that make me want to support sex workers rights groups and hope for the legalization and regulation of prostitution.
My comment about the definition of 'moral' was a joke, because it's ridiculous to suggest that I would change my moral code if I saw the real dirty truth about Thailand. I accept your opinion of prostitution, I just disagree with it. I could take offense to your suggestion that I am morally void or that most sex workers are morally void, but I'll just accept that our morals are very different. I'm not 'arguing', I just want you to accept that the specific situation in Thailand is not going to alter my overall belief system (that it's not wrong to trade sex for monetary compensation).
Quote: My opinion on this issue comes from experience and I still think if you took a trip to southeast asia you'd soon change your mind.And there it is again. My opinion on this issue is based on my personal beliefs. I do not have a moral objection to sex outside of marriage, to sex without love, or to sex for money. I don't. NOTHING is going to change my opinion on that. Nothing. Do I think that all aspects of the sex work industry are awesome? No, of course not. In fact, I think it's quite the opposite. But rather than that making me change my morals, all it does is make me want to fight for the industry to change. Not to cease to exist, but to become better.
I think you may have a closedminded view of what prostitution has to be. There are many different 'ranges' of sex work. There is a difference between a struggling, street walker and, say, a highly paid escort with opportunity to be more selective. Regardless, that's irrelevant. If I were to ever pursue sex work (I don't plan to, I'm speaking hypothetically) I wouldn't let men 'pick' me without having any say in the matter. I didn't say I would be a sex worker, I said I would have sex for money. (Now you can argue that they're the same thing, but what I'm saying is I would accept payment for sex. It doesn't mean I would put myself in a situation that I wasn't 100% in control of). Obviously it's not common that you would have that much control, which is another problem I have with the current state of the industry. But like I said, I wouldn't ever consider being a sex worker in the current state of the industry. I was speaking theoretically, duh.
It's sad to me that this is your personal belief system.
I don't think I have a close minded view of what prostitution has to be. It is what it is. What it has been for thousands of years. It just gets seedier and greedier as time goes on. duh.
I don't get why this is sad to you. If she thinks fucking for some cash is ok and in some cases, a good idea, why is this sad? Dude, let a girl dream, will ya?
I'm sorry that it's so sad for you that I think sex is... sex. And not something sacred. My bad. So much for respecting my opinion and all. Now I'm not only morally void but my belief system makes you sad. I'm sorry for the way that my lack of morals has saddened you.
Like I said, that is a closedminded view. Sex work takes many many many different forms. It's not all seedy and greedy. It's not all like Thailand. It's not all women on the street. It's not all "big fat balding old men who haven't been able to see their dicks in years" picking me. The fact that you can't even comprehend of a situation where a woman might have control over who she sleeps with, makes it clear that your view of sex work is very narrow.
When I said that I wouldn't have a moral problem accepting money for sex, that doesn't mean that I'd actually consider entering the sex work industry as it is today. I certainly wouldn't make a career of it. Not everyone who's ever had sex for money is necessarily a sex worker. (I may have mixed drinks at a party once or twice but it doesn't make me a bartender, lol).
Cindy WalshIt's sad to me that people in general have no morals. It's sad to me that this woman will pass these beliefs on to her child who will probably grow up more evil and more slutty. She can dream on all she wants - but of course only after a trip to Thailand!!!
And on that note, you can go fuck yourself. For free.
PS: If anyone else would care to educate themselves on the sex workers rights movement (that is, go beyond the stereotypes and judgment):
Bound, Not Gagged
Women, Rights and Change
But Cindy - don't bother. You seem happy in your ignorance and I'd hate to make you feel any sadder. How I choose to raise my child is none of your fucking business. I certainly would never take any parenting advice from you.
Oh what the fuck ever. 'Different morals than you' is not the same as 'no morals'. Get over yourself.
Awww, you took away my brilliant off-handed no-harm meaning comment of:
Quote: If she thinks fucking for some cash is ok and in some cases, a good idea, why is this sad? Dude, let a girl dream, will ya?and unleashed this catty viciousness of:
Quote: It's sad to me that this woman will pass these beliefs on to her child who will probably grow up more evil and more slutty.That's just evil. You as a mother know what it feels like when someone brings the kid into the picture and you went and did that. You totally overshadowed my comedic beauty. Bitch.
Really, you have no clue just how much you don't have any idea what you're talking about. Lilith's daughter is smart, talented, open-minded, funny, kind, understanding, mature, a good friend, and a good person. She could already teach you a thing or two about...well, everything.
Quote: Donna is very right when she says you don't get to pick who your customers are.At least in legal Nevada brothels, Donna is very wrong. Sure, the men come in and pick who they'd like to sleep with, but if the sex worker says "No" then that's that.
I wasn't talking of absolutes, I am not aware of the rules of the business everywhere, I can only assume that there's a very few (comparing to the world population of prostitutes), that can actually choose who they want to have sex with, and I didn't say they all can't choose who they DON'T want to have sex with either.
My apologies, I was wrong to bring the kid into it.
Truly, I hope the kid aspires to do great things with her life and doesn't become involved with sex work of any kind. I hope she will find sex somewhat sacred and not just think sex is just sex. I really do. I think that is sound advice.
As usual any kind of discussion between myself and Lilith has to end up with her telling me to fckoff.
I realized I was never going to change her moral beliefs (or lack of) nor was she going to change my mind about sex workers. She can be a sex worker cheerleader all she wants. I doubt it will make any difference in an underworld that has always been run by men.
We were this close to actually having a decent exchange of views on a very contraversial subject, its a shame it had to end up with name calling. Truly - I am sorry I said that about your child. I am not that vindictive of a person.
Quote: I hope she will find sex somewhat sacred and not just think sex is just sex. I really do. I think that is sound advice.I don't share those hopes. I hope that she will find the strength to make her own decisions and form her own opinions and not succumb to a bullshit society that does not value a woman's sexuality and choice.
The only kind of discussions that end with me telling anyone to fuck off, are those in which someone completely disrespects me (e.g., telling me I have no morals) and/or uses my daughter as an arguing point against me.
Quote: I realized I was never going to change her moral beliefs (or lack of) nor was she going to change my mind about sex workers. She can be a sex worker cheerleader all she wants. I doubt it will make any difference in an underworld that has always been run by men.1. You're still saying I have a lack of morals. So again, fuck you.
2. If you actually realized my moral beliefs weren't going to change, then why were you repeatedly insisting that they would change... if I went to Thailand?
3. I never tried to change your mind about sex work, I just tried to get you to quit saying I would change mine.
If sex work is predominantly run by men (I don't agree that it always is) and exploiting women, that's exactly why people should support sex workers rights groups. Prostitution is never going to go away. What can change is the way the industry is run.
Much of the prostitution (at least in the states) has become run by independent females, if in doubt check craigslist. They don't need the man for protection because they are not protecting any turf. Business is done via cell phones and the internet.
Quote: I would have much more of a moral objection if my daughter was cheating on a significant other or sleeping with a married man or something than if she was having safe, honest, consensual sex for moneyI am curious how you would expect that, by being a sex worker, your daughter *wouldn't* be sleeping with married men on a regular basis. Anyone that's ever watched Cops or read a police blotter knows that a large percentage of men soliciting sex are married. Not sleeping with them would cut out a large amount of her earning potential. Not to mention, how would she ensure that a man isn't lying about being married? Even if she checked for marriage licenses in his name in her state, there is always the possibility that the marriage took place in another state or country.
And, what about men who are divorcing? That's even trickier -- there's a big market of lonely men looking for a pick-me-up, but how would she be sure she wasn't being lied to about the state of the marriage, only finding out months into the business relationship that (hypothetically, of course...) the man whose wife lives 1400 miles away is not, in fact, separated and preparing to divorce as he claimed initially. Would this business relationship cause you to decide your daughter is morally void, her opinion on unrelated moral issues no longer valid or appropriate?
Any thoughts why there is a market for lonely men and not women? I know there are lonely women but that doesn't mean they are willing to pay for play at least not in any large numbers.
Watching a recent CNBC report on prostitution - they brought up that there are two types of johns; the ones that want to talk (lonely), and the ones that don't want to talk (seek power). It's the power seekers that get all the fame in the media such as Spitzer.
I was speaking theoretically. I have no moral issue with the concept of receiving compensation (monetary or otherwise) for sex or sexual acts. Whereas I do have some strong opinions on dishonesty and infidelity (you're free to disagree with me, as those are my morals and I don't put my morals on other people). That's why I said "safe, honest, consensual sex for money". I do realize that in reality, it would be very difficult if not impossible to ensure those conditions, which is why my comment was meant to be theoretical. I should've been clearer on that point. As I've already said before, I would not be happy if my daughter wanted to be involved in sex work, but my reasons would not be based on a moral aversion to "sex for money" - it would be more so based on the state of the sex industry and the things that go along with it (which sadly, often does include dishonesty and infidelity, among a ton of other things that concern me).
Quote: Would this business relationship cause you to decide your daughter is morally void, her opinion on unrelated moral issues no longer valid or appropriate?I would think that my daughter's morals are perhaps different than mine, but I'd never think her 'morally void'. I disagree with certain acts/behaviors, yes, but what you're describing there is a potential gray area. I value honesty in relationships - all relationships, be they purely sexual or not. I would be disappointed if she got into a relationship with someone who had a wife/girlfriend/boyfriend/etc but I wouldn't blame her if she did so unknowingly.
Obviously I know that it's difficult to be sure that anyone you're sleeping with (be it a relationship or business transaction or something in between) is being completely honest with you. I know shit happens and people make mistakes but overall, as theoretical CONCEPTS... I morally disagree with cheating and lying. I do not morally disagree with sex as a commodity.
The conversation died down after that... leaving some points unanswered and some points over-answered. Maybe because she felt bad about crossing the line. Maybe because she realized she wasn't going to win the argument. Maybe because it's taking her days and days to come up with another response. Maybe because she just doesn't care enough to continue arguing over something like this. Or maybe there's some other mysterious reason, who really knows.
Regardless, this topic has made me remember how much I care about sex workers rights... The truth is, I don't even really know much about the sex workers rights movement. It's not an issue that is personally close to my heart. It's not something that affects me at all. The reason I care about it - despite being relatively ignorant (although not as ignorant as "Cindy Walsh") - is because, as we've said on here before... the issues of one group of women, are the issues of all women. Sex workers rights are women's rights. (In the same way that we can't relate to the idea that only gay people should care about gay rights).
And that's part of the reason that we decided to share this conversation - there's so much ignorance and judgment and so many misconceptions when it comes to the issue of sex work, and this experience has made us want to learn more and write more about it (Stay tuned). Oh, and please click the donate button at the top of the page if you want to help finance our upcoming trip to Thailand.