Arguing against Prostitution

TRIGGER WARNING: This post is about sex and prostitution and includes words and images not necessarily appropriate for the self-righteous.

If this describes you, avert your eyes.

The Holy Water, It Burns

I stumbled across another blog site advocating the Nordic (anti-prostitution) Model, which in a nutshell makes it illegal to buy but not ‘sell’ sex.

On the positive side, the advocates of this model pretty much all adhere to the same talking points. On the negative side, there are only weak strawman arguments , moralising, and anecdotes. Any studies referenced are limited in scope and with dubious rigour.

In this case, I (again) pointed out that the core of the argument was one against Capitalism, and (again) the response was that it is (somehow) more than this—because, well, things…moral things.

Interestingly, the site is named Your Social Construct Is Showing, but it seems her complaint is not about social constructs in general; rather, she doesn’t appear to like any social construct she doesn’t agree with—and without recognising the irony in claiming to understand the constructed nature of society whilst also claiming that her construction is somehow better—because, well, things…just things. She’s got some subcultural metanarrative running through her head, and, by God, it’s got to be the only valid one.

I’ve written on this before, but the primary argument is that sex work is not work—otherwise, they wouldn’t have to label it as work. It sort of employs the same logic that oral sex is not sex for the same reason—because reasons.

The next angle is to conflate prostitution with sex trafficking, just hoping no one will notice the redirection. Then they try to muddy the waters with other issues such as exploited, underage subjects as if there is some parallel between these cohorts and women who choose this line of work.

Example of an advertisement by a sex worker

So, to be fair and not fight strawmen like Cammy, I’ll comment on a Logos blog she posted in a response to me. She seemed to be impressed with it. After a rambling preamble, the post gets to its points:

Worker safety: Sex Work does not comply with OSHA rules.

Sexual Harassment: ‘unwelcome sexual conduct that is a term or condition of employment’

Civil Rights: Slavery used to be illegal, and now it isn’t. Prostitution is like slavery.

Without devoting more than a passing moment to remind the reader that workplace safety and sexual harassment rules are social constructs that vary by place and time. OSHA is relevant in the United States of America and nowhere else. Let’s address these in turn:

The Logos post cites various OSHA rules and attempts to rationalise how sex work would be non-compliant.

1

Worker Safety

Mouth pipetting/suctioning of blood or other potentially infectious materials is prohibited

The author (attributed as Lori Watson) points out that ‘this doesn’t say is permitted with protective gear. It says prohibited.’ The line of argumentation here is seemingly that semen is a potentially infectious material and so is prohibited. What she fails to note is that suctioning is not the purpose of oral sex, and with a condom, no suctioning could happen anyway.

Gloves shall be worn when it can be reasonably anticipated that the employee may have hand contact with blood, other potentially infectious materials…

If the punter is wearing a condom, it cannot be reasonably anticipated that the employee would be in contact with [semen].

Masks, Eye Protection, and Face Shields. Masks in combination with eye protection devices, such as goggles or glasses with solid side shields, or chin-length face shields, shall be worn whenever splashes, spray, spatter, or droplets of blood or other potentially infectious materials may be generated…

Again: Condoms obviate this need.

Gowns, Aprons, and Other Protective Body Clothing. Appropriate protective clothing such as, but not limited to, gowns, aprons, lab coats, clinic jackets, or similar outer garments shall be worn in occupational exposure situations. The type and characteristics will depend upon the task and degree of exposure anticipated.

Ditto: Condoms

In the event of exposure, OHSA requires: “The source individual’s blood shall be tested as soon as feasible…

OK

This part of the post closes with a comment that many [note: weasel word] punters do not prefer condoms.

2

Sexual HARASSMENT

Since the definition and expressed purpose of prostitution is ultimately an exchange of sexual services for remuneration, it seems that a person waives this protection. There is much precedence of this occurrence.

Case in point. In the United States, citizens are protected by the Constitution and its Amendments. These documents contain inalienable rights (as established by the Declaration of Independence), yet these rights are abridged (waived) in many instances—military service being the most notable, where members do not have the right to free speech, peaceable assembly, to carry a weapon (except as specifically allowed), due process, and on and on.

3

Civil Rights

The response here is a deluxe word salad, so I’ll break it down slowly.

If sexual autonomy is to mean anything, it has to mean the right to refuse sex with anyone, at any time, for any reason. 

Indeed. And the woman can refuse service and refund the fee. If I am a fast food worker, I can forego my wages and my job if I no longer wish to do it. Try to do that in the military. Indentured servitude, you ask? Why, yes. I do believe you’d be correct.

[As] a regulated commercial exchange, the “providers” are cannot be legally free to refuse clients in protected classes on grounds of their membership in the protected class.

Indeed. If I were a lawyer and refused to service a member of a protected class, I would likely be disbarred. This said, the sex worker could choose another profession. In my experience, many sex workers exclude various classes of people they do not prefer to service.

Below are some images I found whilst performing a Google search. Notice that the provider advertises her boundaries and limitations.

This one makes it clear that she does not provide unprotected services or anal sex and does not accept African-American (AA) customers under 35 years of age.

No BB – No Greek – No AA

This ad makes it clear that she only practices safe sex (No BB (bareback), including no BB oral sex) and will not provide Girl Friend Experience (GFE).

No BBBJ

Again, this provider does not service African American men of any age and does not require protection for oral sex, but she only services from her own location.

BBBJ Friendly – No AA

So at the end of all this, I stand by my original position that there is no argument to have beyond ‘boo hoo. I don’t like prostitution and neither should you. I can’t come up with a cogent argument, so I’ll shout into an echo chamber where my friends and allies will cheer me on, but critical thinking need not apply because reasons and things…lots of them.

Abolishing Prostitution

So, now I’ve gone and done it. I thought that my commentary on prostitution would be a one-off. However, in researching arguments against prostitution, I happened upon this blog, which led me to videos on Elly Arrow’s Youtube channel.  To be fair, she self-identifies as ‘a radical feminist from Germany’, and although there are many cultural similarities between the US and Germany, I could be missing some urgency not present here in the US. Please visit her channel and decide for yourself.

At the start, it seems we have many things in common. She Elly declares, ‘I am the humanist, atheist, pro-lesbian, sex industry-abolishing, gender-critical, radical feminist Liberals and Conservatives warned you about’. Whilst, I am not a Humanist, as I feel this is too narrow of a focus on the larger system, I am an atheist, pro-lesbian, gender-critical, and radical, though perhaps not feminist, as, like the term ‘terrorist’, it’s lost all meaning because it’s been coöpted by so many different factions. . I do have to ponder how one can simultaneously be gender-critical and pro-lesbian or a feminist, as both of these rely on gender identity, but I’ll save this for a possible future topic.

Specifically, she replied to a commented I made on her video, Arguing for Abolition Pt. 2 – Talk About Class. I also commented on How To Make The Case For Prostitution Abolition, so I’ll start there. I haven’t watched the rest of the series or any of her other videos yet, though I may if only to critique them.

Let me get the ad hominem stuff out of the way first. Perhaps she mentions on her blog or in other videos how she came to this place, but I’d like to understand her experiences and motivations that brought here to this conclusion. She says she used to feel differently, so I’d also like to know how she formulated that conclusion, too. It is apparent that she reads a script, which is distracting. Even the choice to read can be edited to sound more natural. It would also make the presentment more succinct. It would also be useful if she would upload her transcripts to the videos so we didn’t have to rely on the auto-translate feature. Pro Tip: This would also help with search indexing and findability.

How To Make The Case For Prostitution Abolition

In this video, Elly gives good advice on how to engage in a ‘debate’.

  1. Make sure your opponent really wants to debate.
    • Emphatically, yes.
  2. Don’t try convincing an opponent all at once. This is a complex issue, and it is unlikely that you will succeed in countering all facets in one conversation.
    • Yes. This is the basis for propaganda and marketing alike. Chip away and win small battles before you worry about the war.
  3. Assume the other side has good intentions. 
    • Good intentions are not necessarily relevant; rather, assume they have a reason for their convictions without recourse to good or bad intentions. What would be an example of bad intentions in this arena anyway?
  4. Don’t antagonise your opponent.
    • Indeed. This is likely to lead to escalating commitment, where they dig in their heals and double down.
  5. No ad hominem attacks: Attack the view, not the person.
    • Solid advice. Continue… 
  6. Change minds on the fence.
    • Sure. If you are in some context where you’ve got onlookers or evesdroppers, make your points, and take wins where they fall. 

In the midst of this setup list, Elly slips in some irrelevant commentary about pimps. This is a related but distinctly separate side issue. Later, she tries to conflate sex trafficking and prostitution, which is again a tangential concern but can be resolved independently. In policy, this is known as scope or specificity. This is an intentional misframing of the argument. Don’t fall for this ploy and adopt this frame. You’ll lose the debate by not recognising that she’s switched domains.

Allow me to illustrate this:

We start simply with a canvas of all work.

Slide1
Venn Diagramme: All Work

Then we add ‘sex work’ as a subset of ‘all work’.

Slide2
Venn Diagramme: Sex Work

Then, let’s add prostitution as a fully contained subset of sex work (and all work). Again, clearly, this is not to scale. Although sex work can be subdivided into categories besides prostitution, cam girls, phone sex operators, pornographic actors, and so on, and some women may operate in more than one of this subcategories, I will ignore them for the sake of this illustration.

Prostitution can be future subdivided into categories of streetwalkers, escorts, call girls, and so on, each sharing aspects whilst retains distinctions. Besides distinctions in services and autonomy, the ranks comprise of women from different socio-economic classes.

Slide3
Venn Diagramme: Prostitution

Next come ‘pimps’, but before we get to them, let’s recognise for the moment that these people—for better and for worse—provide a supervisory or managerial function. ‘Managers’ exist outside of prostitution, inside the sex industry and out.

Slide4
Venn Diagramme: Managers

Within the sex industry, and particularly within the subset of prostitution, these managers are called pimps, so we’ll focus our attention there. As depicted, not all and perhaps not most prostitutes have pimps. Presumably, there are pimps, if even by some other name, who ‘manage’ sex workers who are not otherwise considered to be prostitutes.

Slide6
Venn Diagramme: Pimps

Now that we’ve established that pimps are not involved in all prostitution, let’s step back for a moment before bringing all of this together. First, let’s recognise that there exists a general category of human trafficking. These humans might be domestic workers, manual labourers, or sex workers.

Slide7
Venn Diagramme: Human Trafficking

But for the sake of discussion, let’s limit the scope to the subset that is human sex trafficking, again noting that not all prostitution involves human sex trafficking.

Slide9
Venn Diagramme: Human Sex Trafficking

Finally, let’s look at the final diagramme. Here we see the overlaps among the entities, and we can see that, theoretically, we can formulate a policy solution that addresses the deeper exploitation without disrupting the broader order of things.

Slide10
Venn Diagramme: Complete

In the end, one cannot simply conflate either human sex trafficking or pimping with prostitution. This is an attempt to win an argument by playing slight of hand with a language shell game. But at no time does Elly create a compelling argument as to why prostitution somehow does not fall into the category of work.

I am not going to enter into debate at this time the issues that Capitalism and Colonialism introduce into the world at large, though I feel that the real debate lies there.

Moreover, looking at the length of this post, I am going to address my response to Arguing for Abolition Pt. 2 – Talk About Class in another entry, hopefully, either today or tomorrow.