Hooker science

Are we still so Victorian that we think it's bad to pay large amounts for a few hours of skin-time?
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TECHSPLOITATION The outrage over former New York governor Eliot Spitzer hiring an A-list hooker makes me feel like throwing a gigantic, crippling pile of superheavy biology and economics books at everyone in the United States and possibly the world. Are we still so Victorian in our thinking that we think it's bad for somebody to pay large amounts of money for a few hours of skin-time with a professional? Have we not learned enough at this point about psychology and neuroscience to understand that a roll in the sheets is just a fun, chemical fizz for our brains and that it means nothing about ethics and morality?

The sad fact is that we have learned all that stuff, and yet most people still believe paying money for sex is the equivalent of killing babies on the moral report card. And yet nobody bothers to ask why, or to investigate past the sensational headlines. As far as I'm concerned, the one unethical thing Spitzer did was to hire a sex worker after prosecuting several prostitution rings. That's hypocritical of him, and undermines my faith in him as a politician.

But let's say Spitzer hadn't prosecuted so-called sex crimes before, and all he was doing was hiring a lady for some sex. Here is what I don't get: why is this bad? On the scale of things politicians can do - from sending huge numbers of young people to be killed in other countries to cutting programs aimed at helping foster kids get lunch money - hiring a sex worker is peanuts. It's a personal choice! It's not like Spitzer was issuing a statewide policy of mandatory hookers for everybody.

What really boggles the mind is the way so-called liberal media like National Public Radio and the New York Times have been attacking Spitzer's morals as much as the conservative Fox News types have. In some cases, they've attacked him more. The reasons given are always the same: sex work is abusive to women (male prostitutes don't exist?), and being paid for sex is inherently degrading.

Let's look inside one of those heavy economics books that I just beat you with and examine these assumptions for a minute, OK? Every possible kind of human act has been commodified and turned into a job under capitalism. That means people are legally paid to clean up one another's poop, paid to wash one another's naked bodies, paid to fry food all day, paid to work in toxic mines, paid to clean toilets, paid to wash and dress dead naked bodies, and paid to clean the brains off walls in crime scenes. My point is, you can earn money doing every possible degrading or disgusting thing on earth.

And yet, most people don't think it's immoral to wipe somebody else's bum or to fry food all day, even though both jobs could truthfully be described as inherently degrading. They say, "Gee that's a tough job." And then they pay the people who do those jobs minimum wage.

The sex worker Spitzer visited, on the other hand, was paid handsomely for her tough job. The New York Times, in its mission to invade this woman's privacy (though in what one must suppose is a nonexploitative way), reported that she was a midrange worker at her agency who pulled in between $1000–$2000 per job. She wasn't working for minimum wage; she wasn't forced to inhale toxic fumes that would destroy her chances of having a nonmutant baby. She was being paid a middle-class salary to have sex. Sure, it might be an icky job, in the same way cleaning up barf in a hospital can be icky. But was she being economically exploited? Probably a hell of a lot less than the janitor in the hospital mopping up vomit cleaning up after you.

Sure, there are hookers who are exploited and who have miserable lives. There are people who are exploited and miserable in a lot of jobs. But the misery is circumstantial: not all hookers are exploited, just as not all hospital workers are exploited.

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