Thursday, October 27, 2005

The Speaker in my Class

I just came back from one of my classes, where he had two speakers, former prostitutes, come talk to us about their experiences and their thoughts of matters of this nature.

The first woman, in my opinion, had a lot of good things to say.

The second woman was a bit more disagreeable. She wasn't actually a prostitute in her past, but worked at a "massage parlor" that served as a front for sexual acts, although rarely passing the line of actual intercourse. The jist of her talk was that she did not necessarily see a problem with sex work, and she is an advocate of the betrayal of negative viewpoints towards sex workers.

She started off the discussion by asking us (the students) to identify the most-commonly considered downsides to sex work. In no particular order, they were as follows:

1) Damage to the family
2) Damage to the worker
3) Enables sex addiction
4) Spreads disease
5) Immoral

The speaker addressed each point one by one. Her response to the first one, immorality, which she made quite assertively and emphatically, was that the government in America does not legislate morality. I tend to agree with that premise, at least to some degree, but my question to her was that if the government of the United States, not its citizens, was using prostitution as a business by which to make money, would we as citizens not consider that immoral and probably fight against it? Would we not hold up our government to proper morality? I didn't really agree with her response, but it nevertheless was consistent; she got this thoughtful look on her face and asked me, "Then again, who's morality?" I said, "Well, ours." Then she moved on to the next question.

Basically, I'm not going to go through each of her response step by step, more because I don't really remember them in detail, but the jist of many her responses was that, at least for "damages the family" and "damages the worker" were that there are many things that can damage the family and damage the worker, so why stereotype prostitution? Had I raised my hand in class, my response would have been something to the effect of, "Conceding that there are many other damaging elements in society does not justify one or the other. In fact, if we are dedicated to improving society and the human condition, then we have to concede that prostitution is just one of the damaging factors, albeit tied in with others."

As far as "spreading disease" goes, she was trying to tell us (and by this point, I wasn't buying much of it) that, according to a study, prostitution's spread of disease is "negligible" compared to disease spread by students in high school and college who are having sex.

Regarding the enablement of sex addiction, she said that if people are addicted to sex, they don't need to pay for it, that they can get it for free, and therefore it doesn't really enable sex addiction. Then she pondered the question for a while and basically conceded that yes, it can enable sex addiction, it is only one of the many venues for a person to express their sexual addiction, many of which are free. The pattern in her logic was a consistent avoidance of the view that prostitution was directly responsible for certain societal ailments (which relates to both the sex worker and the person paying for the sex) and attempted to take some of the weight off of it.

Generally, I would say that prostitution is sometimes a cause and sometimes it is an actually an effect of other things, and those things can be identified and those cases can be made, but she wasn't making them. Therefore, she ended up with quite an empty argument. It's interesting to note that, when a girl in the class asked her if she would be willing to let her (now 18 year-old) daughter become a sex worker, she became reflective and said that it wouldn't be her first choice, but it definitely wouldn't be her last, in the event that her daughter really wanted to do it. I couldn't believe my ears, and I have a feeling that many of the other students felt the same; the speaker was actually considering condoning her daughter's choice to become a sex worker if it was something that she really wanted to do.

Just a note, I saw a program on Cable Access where this speaker, a few years ago, gave a talk on freedom of speech in the media and things of that sort. I am not attributing this to her at all, but I got a real liberal political sense from her, and I can just imagine that, in the same way she is trying to whitewash prostitution, that she probably tries to whitewash terrorism, specifically Palestinian terrorism. It's just a part of the liberal political agenda that I've gotten really used to.

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