There is, of course, another potential post that would be “Knowing when to leave it (ideas)”, that would talk about knowing when a cool idea is just not going to work out neatly (I’ve had to drop a few like that). But this is about the arguments, debates, politics and values that sometimes I just don’t have the energy to get into when everyone else does. The fights that I have to avoid for the time being. Five or ten years ago, it seems, I was eager for them – perhaps too much so. Some days, I still am and I love those days – a good verbal barney is great fun. However, I have to stay aware of my mental health and this week has been a struggle so I’ve ducked out of responding to a few things.
Be that as it may, I will have just a couple of words on a couple of things that I left alone. I would have more to say, but I will get wound up if I try to put my frustrations over these issues into words. No doubt, I will have further opportunities in future to lay out my manifesto on these and other matters that matter to me.
~ The “Vicky Pryce Jury Debacle“. Personally, I feel that the jury did a responsible thing in asking for guidance from an expert – the basis of the jury system is that it requires the law to be understood by ordinary folks. “Reasonable doubt” is not an easy thing to define or understand in a legal context, whatever Mr Justice Sweeney seems to think, and the jury wanted to know the proper boundaries of their deliberations – again, showing an anxious wish to do the job properly that that had been assigned.
~ Yet another round of “Sex work wouldn’t exist under feminism“. I read the original Jill Filipovic piece and winced. Basically, I disagree with the premise of the title. I really struggle with both figleaf and Filipovic’s contention that “sex work wouldn’t exist in the feminist utopia.” (or, in figleaf’s terms, “while it won’t go away any more than ballroom dance instruction has gone away, it will no longer be considered the necessity (literally the “necessary evil”) it once was.”) This is premised on the idea that, “as legal, social, and economic barriers to women’s equality have fallen women have been more able to choose to have sex when they want to, without worrying about ruining their ‘chances.'” (figleaf) or Filipovic’s version:
Because sex wouldn’t be this commodified thing that some people (mostly woman) have and other people (mostly men) get. Sex would be a fun thing, a collaborative thing, always entered into freely and enthusiastically and without coercion. While that view would leave room for some types of sex work — sexually explicit performance, for example, if that performance were no longer primarily a looking-at-women’s-bodies-as-stand-ins-for-sex thing, which is what it mostly is today — it doesn’t leave room for offering money in exchange for sex, especially as we see it now, with men being the primary consumers and sex being seen as something you can buy.
My problem with this view is summed up as follows: That’s lovely if everyone who wants sex can find someone who wants to have sex with them for the fun of it, but what if they can’t? Given that in any community there are likely to be people who fall into the category of “wants sex but not wanted for sex” (and there are plenty of reasons for that that would be beyond the control of the person, so don’t start with “they’ll just have to learn to get fit/eat less/scrub up properly/wear nicer clothes bullshit) then we can posit that there will be a demand. Now, either we can say that there are no “social status, commitment, ongoing financial support” desires remaining – and I’m a good Communist, but really, I think that those things would remain (well, except the financial support part) even in the purest Communist society, and in fact would be harnessed to advance that society. We can throw a few more in, that are perhaps more relevant to sex work: material gain (again, impossible to prevent even in purely Communist society), self-affirmation (e.g. “Am I desirable?” “Yes, this person desires me enough to pay for my time and my services”), and other rewards. Even when the needs of the body are satisfied (we’ll assume that the potential whore in the feminist utopia is getting hir sexual needs fulfilled elsewhere already) there are those who just like having “extra”. One might look at the “sugar daddy” phenomenon (typically, women who seek out sugar daddy relationships do not like to be called sex workers, although it is still an exchange of money for sexual services) as a way in which that might work. There may, of course, also be folks who just want to do sex with people they don’t find sexually desirable, as acts of charity or kindness. But the thing is, it is likely that there will be (a) people whose sexual desires or “needs” are not met in the ordinary course of freely-exchanged fun, collaborative, enthusiastically consenting sexual relations. And there are likely to be people who are willing to give them paid-for fun, collaborative, enthusiastically consenting sexual relations. (Which is to say, “I wouldn’t choose you as a partner normally, but you paid and I am enthusiastic about this being a fun and collaborative experience” is not something that I see as in any way contradictory.)
In short, there will be demand, it is certainly well within the range of humanity that even in this feminist utopia there would be those willing to provide a supply, and when these two conditions exist, a trade usually can be arranged somehow.
I do think that there is a lot of value in figleaf’s “sex work will stop being problematic from a feminist/gender-consciousness perspective when as many women hire sex workers as men” – in the above I tried to avoid gender-specific terms for that reason. There is also some value in noting that Filipovic has a point that, “it doesn’t leave room for offering money in exchange for sex, especially as we see it now, with men being the primary consumers and sex being seen as something you can buy.” (emphasis mine) Definitely, sex work would look completely different in a feminist utopia. I just don’t think it would disappear and I think (or at least, hope) it would be a valued and even praiseworthy calling.
Okay, that one got away from me a bit – but if this is just my “couple of words”, imagine what my full-length discussion of the issue would have looked like!
~ Emily Heist Moss hits the nail on the head by acknowledging that “Online Dating Sucks For Men Because Of Women Like Me. It’s interesting that one or two of the comments echoed what I’ve seen from women saying why they don’t approach men: “I tried it once and got rejected, ergo men don’t like it when women approach.” When in fact, “The first 1,000 approaches don’t count” is a mantra that PUA trainers teach their students. Men know you have to send squillions of messages before you get a realistic idea of your chances.