Thursday, October 09, 2008

On Prostitution

Corollary to the BBC brouhaha, Jeg writes a post on the world's oldest "profession":
Not one to pass on the chance to defend scantily-clad women, I asked why is it sexploitation. Those dancers were not being coerced. They freely chose their profession and are being paid for it. And with that I think it is time to come to the defense of what is called the World's Oldest Profession, the prostitutes, those purveyors of venereal services that society has maligned; indeed our legal system considers their profession illegal. A prostitute is here defined as one who engages in sexual services for a fee.
A slippery slope we have here. I can only think of more questions in response to this post. Does anyone willingly choose to become a prostitute? As a worker who engages in the labour market, what does a prostitute offer? Sex as a service? Her body as a commodity for consumption? Both? Can we compare services rendered by, say, a call centre agent to that of a prostitute? A call centre agent sells his time, his expertise, his skills as service. This does not include his body for exploitation (i.e. use) and consumption.

A prostitute's body is a fictitious commodity. It is is not "produced" for consumption in the market. Like bags and tupperware. When her body is consumed - like agriculture, her value is "renewable." Her body as commodity does not disappear. However it "depreciates" because her customers put value in pliable, wrinkle-free flesh. Is her body a public good then? Like clean air and public order? A private good by definition must only be consumed by one.

And what about the value of her service? Why do societies around the world normally equate prostitution with women? Do women not require sexual release without strings attached as men? There is a stastic somewhere that in the US at least as many as 60 percent of men who hire prostitutes do not engage in intercourse. They talk. He confides in her. She listens. In this case, what kind of service is she offering? Care? Attention?

We go back to the issue of motivation - is it her own free will to engage in prostitution? Can anyone think of any other work where a human being sells both his service (i.e. labour) and the use of his body in a transaction? Hm...acrobats maybe?

Cross-posted at Filipinovoices.

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