Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Prostitution

Yesterday, I found out that an acquaintance was seeing prostitutes.

This left me initially quite perplexed-- this fellow is a reasonably good looking guy in his late 20s, popular, educated, a homeowner with a good job. I've known him to hook up with mutual friends, and he has a reputation of being a bit of a womanizer, but with a sensitive side.

In other words, the complete opposite of my stereotype of a john.

I'd always imagined that the only reason anyone would ever pay for sex is merely because they were unable to access it for free, or perhaps married men who were unhappy with the current state of their sex life, but did not want to have a formalized affair. It never really occurred to me that it would be something an individual would choose over sex with a willing unpaid partner.

Prostitution is not exactly a regular dinner table conversation for the most of us. It is almost the most taboo of all the unspoken topics. As the cliched "oldest profession in the book", it is likely more woven through our social networks than we would like to believe-- be it the users or the providers among us. And while I have had amazingly blunt conversations with friends about reams of usually off-limit topics, I don't think I have ever spoken at length with anyone about their involvement with prostitution (outside of some brief discussions within my forensics job, which are more factually based than theoretical inquiries).

Wondering if my view of the motivations for seeking out prostitutes may be a little naive, especially given this new development, I asked a friend who conducts academic public health research on prostitution in our city. Seeing my confusion, he told me that women often have a harder time grasping the idea than men, as we view sexuality in such dramatically different terms. He stated men do not only seek out sex with prostitutes for the more generic reasons (e.g. physical disabilities or traits that make them unable or unlikely to engage in more typical sexual relationships). Some men prefer the simple exchange of cash over the games involved in dating or one night stands. Others have no interest in relationships. Some have such unusual sexual tastes that their partners are unwilling to engage in. Some view it as a more moral alternative to cheating. Some view variety as paramount, never wanting to sleep with the same woman more than once. Some, as the tongue in cheek saying goes, pay for having their sexual partner leave once they are finished, rather than for the encounter itself. Some even see such encounters as an important part of their sexual identity.

I tried to keep an open mind whilst listening to this. After all, I like to think I fall on the liberal side of the spectrum. I don't have a profound aversion to the notion of prostitution in principle-- in terms of a business deal of sorts between two consenting adults. However, I do have problem with the way such encounters go on in practice, as exploitation seems to be more of a theme than an exception in many cases.
I also think I have a gender bias on this one. My friend was right, in that I have a hard time grasping the notion of being willing to pay for sex, and thus have a hard time accepting these motivations he has listed for me. I also find my sympathies going to the sex trade workers, rather than the johns, as almost a matter of principle.

Nevertheless, it was an interesting revelation that these encounters are not merely going on in the cars of strangers.

36 comments:

S. said...

Hmmm...interesting...this post really makes ya think. It's really cool that you kept an open-mind and not judge on the subject :-)

Alexa said...

prostitution is a billion dollar industry, i mean hell, it is even legal in some countries.

i've had a couple a-ha moments with guy that i know as well.

Bayjb said...

Wow that is quite a revelation. All you can do is keep an open mind and not judge, and I'm glad you did. IT's never cut and dry

Maxie said...

wow-- now all I can wonder is if I know anyone like your friend.

Shila Shila and Cult Jam said...

Plz share how I can get some comparable revelations out of MY friends.

;)

Kat from Tough Girl 101 said...

Some people have fetishes they don't want ot share with a female they actually "know" so I think that might be one of the reasons for why they go to prostitutes. But I really have no idea. I should think about a topic for my blog too.

Kiera said...

Interesting, indeed.

Although, I have been told by several men in the armed services that outings with prostitutes are all too common - though the motivate behind it is usually hormonal more than any else.

Still, I can quite wrap my head about paying for sex. I knew a guy in college that regularly enjoyed sex with prostitutes - just because. He was a handsome, well of fellow as well.

To each his on and all that jazz, I suppose.

Jocelyn said...

A revelation, indeed. I like to think my brain has played around with nearly every idea, from some angle...but I have to admit, I've never really thought about "Who do I know that would patronize a prostitute?"

It's kind of breathtaking.

Dexter Colt said...

Men are conditioned to pay for sex. A lot of the time it doesn't even involve prostitution.

Ant said...

After finishing with the umpteenth conniving, duplicitous woman I've been with a couple of months ago, I got to musing on this subject and the simplicity of a transaction where everyone knows what the deal is and everyone is at least honest about it - I've never done it, but morally I don't think I would have a problem with it, I guess as long as there's no exploitation involved.

My understanding is that there are broadly two levels in the trade, those that are exploited by pimps etc, and those that choose to do it for whatever reason (i.e. it pays well, they want to do it) A lot of people have trouble making that distinction so the taboo label remains. I think class levels follow these lines too - street-hookers are more often exploited, girls from escort agencies aren't.

dmb5_libra said...

isn't this the same as men wining and dining women and then having sex with them? they're just cutting to the chase with prostitutes. but i do always sympathize with the sex-workers as well.....except for escorts.

lspoon said...

I'm sorry but that just skeeves me out. I'm not sure I'd be able to look that acquaintance in the eye again.

I know that is absolutely close-minded of me. But I can't help it.

Z said...

Interesting, and something I rarely ever think about... And when I do, I must admit to also having a distinct gender bias about it...

t.k.foster said...

I think the topic is interesting and I would favor a system that legalized it only because it forces monopolies out of business since, in some ways, men and women can get access to the opposite sex without buying things that are arbitrary.

One thing I do not agree with, however, is the assertion that it is different for women than men. That is what our culture states, yet male prostitution for females happens in many Eastern cultures and they are fine with it as are the men. Rather it is our culture that dictates that women should be not okay with prostitution.

Deutlich said...

Finding that out would totally blow my mind. I don't know if I could wrap my brain around it either.

Surfergrrl said...

i had a friend who told me that he slept with a lot of strippers. this was a good looking guy who could easily get a nice girl, but he choose the former. it think he does/still has commitment issues.

Princess Extraordinaire said...

When I heard that an acquaintance of my husband's had been to a *massage* parlor I automatically was full of judgement calls - I think it's a natural thing to do - especially if you know the individual - but your friends brings up good points..

Matt said...

I always wondered how many guys actually did that.

Nilsa said...

I completely fall on your side of the spectrum, though I'd add that it's a bit scary to think of the health hazards associated with this kind of sex, too.

Paula said...

As someone who can't even imagine even having a one night stand, the idea of sex with prostitutes is a terrifying one. The idea that someone does this out of CHOICE rather than necessity (in the context of not being able to get laid anywhere else!) is even MORE terrifying . . .

So@24 said...

These attractive, suave guys are paying for sex?

What the french?

This pisses me off for some reason. Injustice!

S'Mat said...

Interesting post this.
I'd like to take the deviant path here and approach the concept from the abstract plane: what is the intrinsically 'bad' thing about paying for sex? The dangerous, illicit climate it appears in exists mainly because it is illegal in the first place, no? These prostitutes are marginalized by society at large before they are exposed to likely exploitation.

And to pick on the thread that a few mentioned: isn't it worse to concoct emotional overtures and elaborate courtship rituals just to get laid? I don't think many people realize it, but we all do it... Some would argue even that ROMANTIC LOVE as we currently see it was an invention of the enlightenment to disguise and sanction such promiscuous urges. Paying for sex seems to just swipe the perfidy of love right off the table. Might even help preserve love... people who judge and condemn are usually doing so to defend their personal decisions and values. Prostitution must look positively nihilistic to a 25 year wedlock couple.

To get even more abstract, how can we open a debate about sex trade workers without hitting upon advertising? It's almost a cliche now, but it's not any less true: our media is our moral compass in these ages, but their construct allows for proprietary ownership of the IDEA (thanks mostly to Edward Bernaise). Making a giant leap of logic (as I'm rattling on here, sorry!) I think risky sex work is a symptom of a much larger framework of sexual predation.

Crushed said...

One in three men visit a prostitute at least once in their life.

I have, three times. One was because I was 18 and my cousin lived oposite a brothel, so I wanted to see what it was like.

The second was because I happened to be in Amsterdam's red light district, and I figured it had to be experienced.

The third was- well, let's just I had a very good reason for wanting a VERY quick fix solution.

Lauren said...

That's really interesting. Like you, I always figured those people to be faceless adults I'm not acquainted with. But it really makes you think.

Katelin said...

yeah i don't really know what i'd say either, but just keep an open mind and try my best not to judge. who knows how well i'd do with that, but i'd at least try.

sequined said...

That is kind of interesting to think about. I guess I think of it as sleazy, whether or not I have any basis for thinking that. So I guess if a guy I knew and respected were visiting a prostitute, I'd feel really conflicted about it. So yeah, a complicated issue, and it makes me (/us) confront some of our stereotypes.

Mrs4444 said...

We once had a next door neighbor who we suspected was a high-priced call girl. Among other things, she had numerous formal gowns that she let me try on. She also had thousands of dollars worth of jewelry and "traveled" for a living, often leaving with little notice. Very interesting...

Psychgrad said...

Yeah, I'm not sure how I would feel about friend going to see prostitutes. Some interesting insight into the motives from your friend. I recently heard about some profs that are current and former prostitutes. Not really sure about the full story, but clearly there are a lot of grey areas when it comes to prostitution.

Yoda said...

Another (obvious) reason is that some prostitutes can be simply HOT! :-p

Exploitation is everywhere, not just in this business. I think being charged $750 for a friggin' tetanus shot (in the US) is exploitation. How the fuck are the poor going to afford it?

Princess of the Universe said...

This a really interesting post PP- I may have to do some thinking on this topic...
xo

t.k.foster said...

S'mat is right on the money. It is quite hypocritical of our society to judge one, when just the other is the same.

Jamie said...

Can I first say I love that don't have partial feeds now!?

Second, I'm not sure how I would feel about that either.

Daisy said...

I'm not about prostitution at all but Australians have a different view on it. I had one guy explain to me that it's a much cleaner deal to pay for sex with a prostitute than to pick up a floozy in a bar. You either pay for her drinks - or you pay for her sex - but either way you're paying for sex. Their view was that regulated prostitution is safer because the girls are regularly checked and there is no funny business about it. Strictly business.

Therapeutic Ramblings said...

According to Charlie Sheen, "you don't pay for the sex; you pay for them to leave."

A different way to think about it.

eric1313 said...

I don't know what was better, the post or the comments.

Of course I liked the post better!

Ummmm... Strip clubs count?

eric1313 said...

I would say no, personally. But strip clubs do harbor those who seek and those who provide service, as well as supports other illicit businesses, such as drug dealers and other unsavory things.

People going to strip clubs, in my view, are paying to be immersed in a fantasy environment where all the women are naked and smile whenever they see you. It's rather simple. Everyone knows that it all ends when you get back to the parking lot.