Sunday, September 26, 2004

Prostitution pros & cons (mostly pros)

The linked article (mouse over this post's title) is certainly fascinating and provocative, if not entirely work-safe. It certainly has an arresting first line.
I remember the first time I had sex - I still have the receipt.

The author, Briton Sebastian Horsley, has for his entire adult life, well, since 16 on up, been enjoying (and paying for) the services of prostitutes. He gives his reasons in the article, which is worth dipping into. I don't buy all of his arguments. I think, for example, that he short changes the possibility of true sexual satisfaction within long term relationships. Sure, the sexual fires don't burn as white hot as they did when you'd only known each other for two weeks. But there are advantages to the kind of intimacy that builds only over time, and even in the sex deparment there are advantages to having a partner who knows where all your buttons are and just when to push them.

But I totally agree with Horsley in his contempt for the social stigma our society dumps on anyone who works in the sex industry, especially prostitutes. I have always felt that an honest prostitute was worthy of more respect than a dishonest plumber. I have never personally hired a hustler, but that is because I have never felt any need to. If circumstances in my life changed and I wanted to try it, sure I would. I have known casually a few young men who I knew to be "rent boys," since we're talking British here, and I found them to be perfectly normal, nice guys.

When I was a much, much younger man myself I did visit gay bathhouses a few times. It's a different experience from true prosititution, though related. It's true you are paying for sex, but everyone there is both customer and service provider. Critics of bathhouses always said, "Oh, but it's so impersonal!" Well, yes, that's the point. You are able, as Horsley says, to fall into somebody's arms without falling into his hands. As with visiting a prostitute, the knowledge that there will be no followup liberates you to live this very moment to its fullest. That can lead to an immensely satisfying experience. It doesn't necessarily, but it can.

Prostitution seems to me to embody a basic core of irrationality at its heart. Consider these two scenarios:

A -- I fix your car because you're a friend of mine and I like you. I do a thoroughly competent job, and in gratitude you treat me to dinner. Everyone is completely satisfied.

B -- I fix your car, even though I don't know you, because you have offered to pay me my usual fee. I do a thoroughly competent job, and you pay me. Everyone is completely satisfied.

As stated, these are two totally ordinary events and society has no business interfering or even taking note of what's going on. But take out "fix your car" and substitute "have sex with you" and A is still legal, if a bit risque, but B has just become a serious crime. Is there any other subsitution for "fix your car" where this is the case? Any other human activity which is legal to engage in just because you want to, but illegal if someone pays you to do it?

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