Legalization of prostitution is about helping johns, not women.

Lori Watson, in Logos, discusses why “sex work isn’t work,” and what the consequences of such a view would be in the real world.

Consider further that Courts have found the presence of “pornographic magazines.” “vulgar sexual comments” “sexually oriented pictures in a company- sponsored movie and slide presentation,” “sexually oriented pictures and calendars in the workplace,” all relevant to hostile work environment claims.[44] In Barbetta, “the court held that the proliferation of pornography and demeaning comments, if sufficiently continuous and pervasive “may be found to create an atmosphere in which women are viewed as men’s sexual playthings rather than as their equal coworkers.” How could such a ruling have effect in a brothel: where pornography is used as an accompaniment to sex? Where “vulgar sexual comments” are the eroticized language of clients? Where sex is the job?

Of course, these rulings and regulations are premised upon the fact that sex isn’t the job itself. If the sex is the job, what sense can we make of the claim that treating (unwelcome) sex as a condition of employment is an instance of sexual harassment, and so sex inequality? Legalizing prostitution is not compatible with the legal recognition of sexual harassment as a form of sex inequality. And, supposing advocates argue for a carve out, an exception, for this form of “work,” what message does that convey? Some women are deserving of protection from, or legal recourse in the event of, unwanted sexual harassment while some women are not? And those that aren’t are the least advantaged of all “workers”? This reeks of the all to common view that women that prostitute themselves are whores by nature and deserve whatever they get…

If sexual autonomy is to mean anything, it has to mean the right to refuse sex with anyone, at anytime, for any reason. We may think in one’s personal life refusing to entertain the possibility of dating or becoming sexually involved with someone solely on the basis of their race, religion or disability is an undesirable preference, especially if such preferences are rooted in prejudice or animus more broadly speaking. Nonetheless, everyone has the right to choose their sexual partners on whatever grounds they subjectively judge to be relevant, including the sex and gender of any potential partner. If someone thinks they absolutely don’t want to have sex with anyone over 65, it is absolutely their right to act (or refuse to act) on that preference. We are under no obligation to have sex with someone who might be interested in sex with us. The right to refusal for any reason, whether an “admirable” reason, or not is absolute.

However, where sex is a commercial activity, considered to be work just like any other form of work, its hard to see any rationale for defending the “rights of workers” to refuse service to someone based on their subjective preferences. Should “clients” have the right to sue brothels or particular women for “refusing service” based on their membership in a protected class? If this sounds absurd, consider the evidence New Zealand’s Prostitution Reform Act (PRA) offers: In a report following up on the PRA, five years after its passage, the Review Committee queries, among other things, the ability of “sex workers” to refuse sexual services to a particular client. They found that 60% of “sex workers” felt more able to refuse sex with a particular client than prior to the passage of the PRA, which, of course, means 40% did not feel more able to refuse sex with a particular client.[46] In interviewing both brothel owners and “sex workers”, the Committee reports that although “workers” have “right” to refuse a particular client both “workers” and owners held that refusal was acceptable “only with a good reason.” One brothel owner is quoted as saying, “We won’t allow nationality to be the reason—they [the women selling sex] don’t have a right to discriminate.”

4 thoughts on “Legalization of prostitution is about helping johns, not women.

  1. Independent Radical June 20, 2016 at 07:40 Reply

    If they are going to condemn women (both those inside of and those outside of prostitution) who refuse to have sex on the grounds of “prejudice”, then they should just as harshly condemn those who agree to have sex because they favour certain groups or characteristics. In every other situation liberals harshly condemn prejudice in favour of a group (such as giving a job to somebody because they are a male or white) to the point where they declare the fact that white people can walk past police officers without fear of arrest to be a form of “white privilege” (instead of a basic human right that non-whites are deprived of).

    So by their own reasoning they ought to be condemning men who decided to have sex with a women because they’re attracted to her white skin (which might seem strange in the West, but in other parts of the world white skin is regarded as an attractive, exotic rarity) or her big boobs (not strictly a racial trait, but again associated with Westerners, I’m also annoyed by the fact that appearance based prejudice is only condemned when race is involved, I think it’s just as wrong to be prejudiced against white women for being small breasted), but they also believe that the decision to have sex must never be condemned, even though most sex acts (especially, but not only, casual sex acts) that occur nowadays are based on positive prejudice (in favour of big boobs, tight asses, six packs and whatever else).

    Judging based on appearances is wrong, except when it comes to sex! Prejudice in favour of a group is just as bad as prejudice against it, except when it comes to sex! No worker should be made to do anything they don’t want to do, except when it comes to sex (and can we use accusations of racism, ableism, etc. to silence feminist objections.) Liberal inconsistency drives me nuts.

    • Francois Tremblay June 20, 2016 at 14:27 Reply

      Turning sex into work makes my head boggle. I don’t understand how liberals don’t get how incredibly stupid it is.

  2. John Ratcho August 1, 2016 at 20:21 Reply

    “Work” is performing an act that creates something that someone else values in order to earn the means to buy whatever it is that you value. If that act happens to be the creation of a sexual service it is work in the same way that an artist who makes paintings that people enjoy enough to pay for is working. How could it be that a woman who massages a man’s legs and back for money is working while moving her hands a few inches over to massage a penis would mean that she is not working? The irrationality is blinding.

    • Francois Tremblay August 2, 2016 at 00:18 Reply

      ““Work” is performing an act that creates something that someone else values in order to earn the means to buy whatever it is that you value.”

      In an ideal scenario, sure. In reality, not that much.

      “If that act happens to be the creation of a sexual service it is work in the same way that an artist who makes paintings that people enjoy enough to pay for is working.”

      Are you seriously so stupid that you can’t tell the difference between making a painting and being raped?

      “The irrationality is blinding.”

      I agree with you on that one. The irrationality here is blinding. We may disagree on who’s displaying it, though.

      HINT: It’s probably the idiot who can’t tell the difference between painting something and getting raped.

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