Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Sex Trafficking, Sex Work, and Yes All Women

My fiancee (if you've been paying attention to the promotion that I'm offering, then you'll know she's only my fiancee for one month longer) found this article and found it interesting: 9 Lies We Have to Stop Telling About Sex Workers.  I find it interesting, too, and so am commenting on it a little.

First of all, this article is about prostitutes.  The author, as far as I can tell, is what I call a high-end prostitute, and therefore doesn't really deserve the term of prostitute.  We generally think of prostitutes as people who stand out on the corner of a street and wait for clients.  Many prostitutes do that, but many prostitutes do not.  Those who do stand out on the street offering themselves up for sale are the definition of a prostitute: from the Latin for exposing and offering up for sale.  That is what the word means and it sums up what is going on quite well.  There are others, though, who put themselves out there, advertise and sell themselves with far more agency.  What the author of the article says applies to these sex workers more readily than it does to the stereotypical prostitute.  A high-end sex worker does have freedom, agency, and can earn a significant amount of money (shouldn't be surprising considering how desperately our cultures are wrapped up in sex).  With that said, this article is not about sex workers who are not working, who are forced into what they do.  What this author says about human trafficking in the article is understandable, but a little misguided: if you are not in the world of human trafficking, how can you properly use your experience as a measure?  Can I truly say, "Human trafficking isn't a problem where I live because I haven't met a single slave"?  No, I can't; I know human trafficking is out there, and I will find it if I look hard enough.  Indeed, my fiancee and I found it just a few weeks ago and we weren't even looking very intently.  This author's experience with a certain form of sex work should not suddenly derail all the hard work people are putting into making us aware of how massive human trafficking is. 

Before going any further, I do want to say that the general tone of this article is appropriate and much needed.  Sex workers, pornographic actors, and of course sex slaves, are all human beings.  Sex workers have lives with meaning, the same as all of us.  Sex workers have the right to choose and make a living how they see fit, the same as all of us.  This is a good and necessary reminder.  Often we get so caught up in talk of human trafficking and forget that we are talking about human beings; often we make philosophical decisions on pornography and prostitution and forget that we are talking about human beings.  At the heart of what we are doing is, or should be, the concept of full living: we are working to provide a full life to all people everywhere; not a life that is diminished or degraded by slavery or by the lack of appropriate choices. 

While I appreciate this article (especially No. 9, since the same could be true for slavery), it's my last phrase that catches me up: we do not want anyone having to live a life diminished or degraded by the lack of appropriate choices.  Yes, sex work can be work, but then what does that mean?  Can we really separate out "good" sex work from "bad" sex work that is degrading or under the umbrella of slavery?  Should we be okay with sex work, knowing that for at least some it is a choice of last resort, of only resort?  Should we be okay with sex work, knowing that for at least some it will be degrading and will mean that they can never find work that they feel is meaningful?  Or, perhaps more importantly, should we be okay with sex work, knowing that it's very existence and propagation are signs that our society is desperate for sex, meaning that our society survives without a center, without meaning, without sustained confidence, and without hope?  If we respond "yes" to this last question, or respond to this last question by saying, "hey, your question is misleading!" then we must also be okay with the fact that sex work leads to slavery, for it is in our cultural blood to want what we want at the cheapest cost, at the least effort; and if pornography or high-end sex workers are out there offering us more and more of what we want, then eventually we will find what we want for less, for the cheapest: slavery. 

At the beginning of the cycle that takes us to slavery is the lack of appropriate choices.  We must be able to create a world where people can find meaning and joy and hope without having to turn to sex.  The Isla Vista killer, Elliot Rodger, could not do that and so turned his rage on those that he perceived to be robbing him of his destiny.  Well, how great would it have been if he could see that women are not his playthings, that women are not around for his enjoyment?  How great would it have been if he could have found meaning without sex?  How great would it have been if he could have found meaning on his own?  Not all men are like Rodger, yes, but our culture breeds men (and women) like Rodger, who are incapable of finding meaning without sex, without power, without money.  There must be more opportunities out there, there must be a greater standard of living for all people so that we can spend more time on ourselves and being okay with ourselves.  Until that happens, the reality of Rodger and other men like him--indeed, the reality of slavery will haunt us.

Folks, we live in a world where slavery, in this case particularly sex trafficking, and fools like Elliot Rodger exist because we cannot come to grips with one simple fact: we are lost.  The #YesAllWomen hashtag is necessary because we are lost; I'd even go so far as to say the unique perspective in my book, 27 Million Revolutions for 27 Million Slaves, is necessary because we are lost.  And those who are so-called good people refuse to see how they are contributing to our cultural lost-ness by not doing anything.  Our very attitudes must change.  Sex should not be such a desperate goal, whether we are inclined to pornography, prostitutes, high-end sex workers, or murderous intentions.  Sex will not save us, no matter how much Rodger may have thought so, no matter how much those who knowingly and unknowingly contribute to slavery may think so; only God can save us.  And if we don't believe in God, then only we can save ourselves. 

Changing our attitudes toward sex and love (and power) while simultaneously putting an end to slavery and all related activities are urgent tasks.  There are human beings out there who are crying out for our help, and there are many women and men that we can preemptively save from bewildered idiots like Rodger.

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