Prompted by a recent tildes post about vice, and also this from the bbc, and a conversation with a colleague who just went to a strip club, I keep thinking about this issue.
I have a stake in this, despite being cis male: I have mother, sisters, wife, and most importantly young daughter. And I am a feminist, on simple moral grounds.
My baseline position is that whether a woman chooses to engage in sex work is, and should be legally and socially supported as, entirely her own choice.
The only question I have any business answering, or participating in finding an answer, is whether my patronage of sex work is inherently exploitive, to either the woman whom I am patronizing* or to other women individually or to womanhood and general issues of gender.
And I just can’t come up with a good answer. I do look at porn, but increasingly, as with meat, the potential ethical problems of it are reducing the enjoyment. I have tried to ease my conscience by limiting myself to cartoons and stories, but those wouldn’t stop the harm that is caused by the mere existence of porn, if any exists.
As a purely practical matter, the existence of the industry leads to opportunities for exploitation of individuals, and the advancement of a culture of gender exploitation. But as the war on drugs has so ably demonstrated, any attempt at prohibition only increases the level of exploitation, while smart regulation decreases it. Regardless, though, there’s plenty of exploitation to go around the world, I heard there’s thing called #metoo.
I come from a sex-suppressing, fundamentalist “Christian” background. The quotes are there to indicate that I think much of the practices were anything but christ-like. The principles there swirl through the culture around me in varying degrees of intensity, and they inform and direct my choices (sometimes against my will and my better hopes and ideals). I have to be open to the notion that any objection I have to sex work, or my participation, is entirely a cultural construct. And while I don’t think it is true, I cannot dismiss the notion that morals themselves may have no possible objective existence, having relevance and utility (if at all) only in very time and space limited scopes.
It is what I believe the sociologists call a “wicked” problem. It involves really complicated normative stances, and there’s no data analysis that can provide any guidance. For myself, I expect my participation to continue to wane as I mature. I only hope that whatever I do only further enables and empowers the women in my life and everywhere.
- I almost stopped myself from using this word when I realized potential implications, but ultimately left it in because it (and the fact it was my natural inclination to select it) really highlights the issue for me and hopefully others
Bonus hypothetical: If porn is somehow wrong and harmful, even drawings and writings, are sex fantasies also wrong?