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Skills training


A friend alerted me to this statement by the philosopher Martha Nussbaum on the site of the NY Times:

“Feminist arguments about prostitution portray financial transactions in the area of female sexuality as demeaning to women. But all of us, with the exception of the independently wealthy and the unemployed, take money for the use of our bodies.The stigmatization of prostitution may be based on convincing, well-reasoned arguments. But it may also be based on class prejudice or stereotypes of race or gender.
When prostitution does not involve coercion or force or the use of children, the most urgent issue is the poor employment opportunities for working women and their lack of control over the conditions of their employment. The legalization of prostitution would likely make things a little better for women who have few options to begin with. The really helpful thing for feminists to ponder, if they deplore the nature of these options, will be to help expand those possibilities through education, skills training and job creation.”

Read the article here.

As I have said elsewhere, legalization is only half of the solution. Legalization without social acceptance won’t solve the problem.

And if you move to the higher classes the line between gold digging and prostitution is getting thinner and thinner.

This might be an indication that objections to prostitution are also based on class prejudices.


33 comments Last comment
lieve mensen,
waarom is de achtergrond van de website toch grijs?
Het wordt voor een oud vrouwtje zoals ik steeds moeilijker te lezen.
Gender crime
First of all and to avoid misunderstanding I absolutely love Martha Nussbaum for the inspiration she seeks in Greek and other tragedy to address moral issues. But here she focuses possibly too narrowly on the socioeconomical. There’s prostitution and its customers and there are (even more than) two sides to every story. To put it bluntly: even some psychoanalysts compare their profession with prostitution in that they let their ‘clients’ fuck with their mind. In our working life we indeed tend to lend mind and/or body. Catharine MacKinnon (philosophizing on gender crime) however argues pertinently for the questionable status of ‘free choice’ in prostitution. Besides brute coercion there is more often than not a history of (childhood and other) sexual abuse. Result is traumatophilia in an effort to work through and/or abreact trauma for example by exerting power or let men ‘pay’ for their misconduct. In this matter exceptions probably confirm the rule. Of course every desire is transgressive. But this implies no reason to legalize. In a loose analogy: look at the tolerant policy towards drugs in the Netherlands and what it has led to. For the views of MacKinnon see http://philosophybites.com/2011/03/catherine-mackinnon-on-gender-crime.html
Legalization = regulation
It is not clear that the rescinding of the "prohibition on brothels" (bordeelverbod) in the Netherlands has done much to improve the working conditions of prostitutes here. Amsterdam's Red Light District was a much more upbeat place in the 1980s when prostitution was "tolerated". Much of the prostitution seems to have moved to the "escort" business, which is very difficult to control. The window brothels are now often filled with Eastern-European prostitutes - some of them lured into "the business" on false pretenses or even traficked. Street prostitution has been banned completely (probably rightly). It is often forgotten that legalization often brings regulation rather than emancipation.

While prostitutes as such seem to be accepted. It is a different story if the woman is earning "a bit on the side" and possibily has a partner and children. It is hard for a sex worker to escape the label of "slut". Professional sluts seem to be accepted, but part-time sluts less so. In general, though, my neighbourhood has not reacted with moral indignation to the "massage parlor" several Thai women are running next door to me. However, there have been remarks about one of the women who is dropped off by her husband every morning and who has teen-age daughters.
One of the must-reads on this topic is 'Mother, madonna, whore' by Estelle Weldon see http://www.amazon.co.uk/Mother-Madonna-Whore-Idealization-Denegration/dp/1855753413
It is easiest to split these part aspects of womanhood off. Integration is no easy thing if not nigh impossible. Human sexuality doesn't come natural (anymore).
"But all of us, with the exception of the independently wealthy and the unemployed, take money for the use of our bodies." is an incredibily lazy statement. I can think of no other job where people sell acces to their bodies. Most jobs require physical presence, but this is in no way the same thing. Being the subject for medical testing might compare...

Prostitution should be illegal for the same reasons it's illegal to sell a kidney, people should be protected from jeopardizing their physical integrity due to financial pressure. (I recognize of course that an outright ban would present many practical problems, this is merely an ethical value judgement).
Van der Eycken
"people should be protected from jeopardizing their physical integrity due to financial pressure"

There are lots of jobs in which there is a risk to one's "physical integrity" (miners, soldiers, divers, lion tamers). Are we to ban all these professions? Of course, we should then also ban alcohol, smoking, sweets, fast food, casual sex and most sports because these also jeopardize one's "physical integrity".

Does giving a handjob or blowjob constitute a risk to one's physical integrity?

Don't try to justify a moralistic viewpoint by raising health and safety concerns.
Legal versus illegal
It is not wise, I think, to ruthlessly eliminate the grey zone of prostitution, for example.
There are no solutions, at least no final solutions, only a modus vivendi for our precarious human condition.
Carlos Dee
By "physical integrity" I did not mean "physical safety". Maybe my English is not good enough. I meant that people should not be coerced to sell/rent out their bodies for use by someone else.
Manly goals
We all prostitute ourselves when executing our faculties, physical or mental, in exchange for money. Overarching as it is, the argument is empty. And of course, women should be helped to develop their life skills, to avoid the 'choice' of prostitution, no feminist would argue against this. (In itself it contradicts the stance that prostitution, well, is just a choice. Why then helping women, trying to avoid it?)

I invite Nussbaum and others that consider prostitution a choice like others, to invite prostitutes at their tea parties, to introduce them to acquaintances, not as a project but in their everyday lifes.

As always, the core of the matter is circumpassed. It is about power. Men want to have -unlimited- access to, and control over, sexuality, for procreation and, lately, amusement. Prostitution is no equal transaction. (Why else would manly protectors be needed?).

Reproaching the naysayers a class attitude, blurs the question. Is all that happens in the unfortunate 'classes' something that has to be propagated? Is it a class issue? As a last choice it is, in itself it is not.
Introducing the class argument, is leaving outside the scope, ones personal stance on the issue. It is using morals, without using one self.

Dear author of this blog, you just left, if everything went well, a duo discussion about 'writing for the markets'. A double act, one could say, working for money, while talking about it. Do you really feel this is the same as prostitution, in its value and type of relation?
(Another thing, not much female philosophers around there, eye. As long as the ideas of female philosophers are basically used to promote manly goals, it's just the other side of the coin, domination.)

I myself alerted myself to this article: 'Bordeel Duitsland', by Dick Pels.
Legalisation of prostitution has not diminished human trafficking, on the contrary.
I appreciate your sermon, but do you actually know any prostitutes? Not as a client, understand, but as a friend?

In truth, the idea of free choice is a fiction for all except the very privileged. Is it really a choice to go to that shitty job every day in order to pay off your mortgage?

For many, the choice is between the humiliation of poverty and the humiliation of subservience.

I think it is important to distinguish between two groups. Prostitutes who are not in a position to say no, and prostitutes (who prefer the term "sex workers") who would rather have sex with some (admittedly sometimes unpleasant) men and earn many times what they would in a factory or menial job. The first group must, of course be helped, just as any exploited group should be. The second group are fairly independent and even feminist.

I'm afraid that, in the end, it comes down to a "moralistic" belief that it is wrong for someone to put his penis into someone else's vagina or anus if this involves a financial transaction.

In view of moralistic hang-ups about penetration, it is interesting that most prostitutes are willing to be penetrated by their clients but won't kiss them on the mouth. Kissing is apparently much more emotionally invasive than penile penetration.

It is easy to see sex workers as "the exploited", but has it ever crossed your mind that they may well be exploiting their clients? It's not as if a good looking girl would give away her services. What is the going rate in Amsterdam? 100 euros for a 15 minute "suck and fuck"? Girls in the supermarket just around the corner earn just 6 or 7 euros an hour.
I agree that nobody should be coerced into prostitution. Neither should anyone be forced to go to work in a deep, dangerous coal mine. This amounts to slavery in the fullest sense of the word.

But what of the sex workers who are not coerced?
Carlos Dee
Thanks for your comment.

No, I do not know any prostitutes, not as a client, neither as a friend. But sex is just no ordinary transaction. I am not sanctifying it, and it might be executed very mundane, but it has to do with the core of human being. And, like i said, with power. Paying for it, covers this. (With the risk that the woman has to withdraw herself, emotionally like you said, with all mental consequences of it, and that the act itself still contains agressiveness. That some men are 'unpleasant' is no coincidence, it has to do with the sexual act itself and with the illusion that paying for it, gives control over the whole woman. )

Something as 'putting a penis in a vagina', without any connection to the woman as a whole, just does not exist.
And even this word choice, although not meant to be, shows the power inequality. A pedicure treats feet, a prostitute is someone that is 'being put penises in her vagina'. Okay, she might give treatments also, but in the end she is something that is 'being done'. No 'going rate' can veil this. (Nor the occasional blue eye.)

Oh, and yes, I do think that in the sphere of jobs there is a possibility of choosing. I agree that much is allowed to escape poverty, but in the how, there exists a choice. Even if you choose between given options, it stays a choice. And it is important to keep this feeling of choice, and to act out of it. I doubt that for a prostitute it is possible, to keep this feeling of free choice. Though it might exist.
Financial coersion is also coersion. For why prostitution is different than a "normal" job, I refer to the comment above this one, which makes a lot of good points.

To make a comparison: if someone wants to sell one of their kidneys, should we allow that? It's their "choice" after all... If not, why is prostiution different? Both cases are about people remaining in control over their own bodies, in my view.
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Arnold Grunberg's mening over expansiedrift van Israel
Sinds kort lees ik af en toe een kolom van Arnold Grunberg in de VPRO-gids.
Waarom heeft Arnold het beledigen en minachten van andere kolomnisten nodig om zichzelf te profileren. Heeft Arnold niets inhoudelijks zelf te melden?
Wat vind Arnold van de ongebreidelde expansiedrift van Israel? Is tot in lengte van dagen alles geoorloofd als je ooit geleden hebt als bevolkingsgroep in de tweede wereldoorlog? En gebruiken de landen in de wereld dit excuus voor het gedrag van de Israelische machtshebbers als vergoeilijking voor de rest van de komende eeuwen? Wie heeft de moed Israel een halt toe te roepen? Mag Israel wel kernwapens? En waarom doen ze zo geheimzinnig over hun arsenaal in deze? Hoe lang blijven de Joden in Israel bang voor hun vernietiging? En is dan alles geoorloofd? Het vernietigen van de psyche van jonge Joodse soldaten, het langzaam uitputten van de economische vooruitgang door ongebreidelde wapenaankopen, het isoleren van hun land in een vijandige regio door hen zelf in stand gehouden? Wat vind vaak betweterige Arnold van deze vraagstukken? Afgezien van het vraagstuk over prostitutie. Daarbij gaat het nooit over de klanten. Als er geen vraag is is er immers ook geen aanbod. Dat geldt voor drugs en drank ook.
Don't you think the comparison between selling one's kidney and having sex for money is just a tiny, tiny bit exagerated?
"Something as 'putting a penis in a vagina', without any connection to the woman as a whole, just does not exist. "

I take it then that you have never experienced "anonymous sex"?
Marianne van B
Arnold? Really?
I'm afraid, Carlos, that Flor once gave up a kidney in exchange for sex. Poor kid. Horniness is a terrible thing.
“Something as 'putting a penis in a vagina', without any connection to the woman as a whole, just does not exist.”

When was the last time you had sex?

A while ago a friend who teaches at a university pointed out to me that there is a connection between poor writing and poor thinking.

And have you never heard of male prostitutes?
That's a thought that makes me horny; me ordering a male prostitute around. I should definitely try it once, soon.
Carlos Dee
This exactly proofs the point I was making.

I never had anonymous sex, but even if i had had it, it would have touched me as a whole. You consider the topic from a male point of view, while I am considering it from a female point of view.

When was the last time, you had good sex?

You needed an university teacher, to tell you this? Let me tell you, that in itself it's undoubtedly true, and let me tell you that I - if this is your suggestion - not always think well, write well. Some times I do.
But le me tell you also, that this paradigm is often used as a weapon, strategically, in made up wars, f.e..
Let me tell you also, that inferring a conclusion - indication of class prejudice - from a metaphor -the gold digging argument - is, well, nicely put, but argumentatively not too well elaborated.

But it's getting tiresome, these responses of you. (I must admit, I almost forgot the last one. But now it pops up, cristalclear. And again I ask myself: 'What the f**?'. But let's not become repetitive.)

Oh, and doll, good sex, with me, you never will.

Yours sincerely,
Angélique Derks.
“Let me tell you, that in itself it's undoubtedly true, and let me tell you that I - if this is your suggestion - not always think well, write well. Some times I do.”

Don’t flatter yourself.
I often read this blog and some times reacted to it, because I found the topics funny, and because I thought the comments to be wise or at least original. For the 2nd time, I find out though, that the author is not in for discussion. Which is no problem in itself, but the reactions are below level, without humour, and only defensive.

(With regard to the last comment: It was no flattering. Again leading away the discussion.)
Don't read this blog too often. It clearly doesn't do you any good.
A hot issue & a mercy f*ck
Insofar I know, for prostitutes, the sex is not the mean problem, it is the repeated intercourse in combination with the behavior of the clients.
In fact, i found the conversation quite interesting. But I wonder what you're trying to keep at bay. In any case the topic, it didn't move an inch.
I suddenly came up with an idea. Why not invent a prostitute robot. With the material currently available, one could develop some kind of rubber vulva, with the feel that gives the merciful treatment that B.F. asks for. These puppets then could bend, smile, and would be endlessly flexible. Wouldn't that be just wonderful?
The investment would be worth a penny, in comparison to what is needed for the nurturing of living creatures. The speech software of the Iphone 4s suffices. One could even make this optional, because what lots of men, and certainly the robot visitors, really really don't like is when those creatures, the ones with the vulva, talk too much.
The possibilities just begin to unfold. Sweet dreams, my babies! Don't try to hide that upcoming smile!
Plastic people
@A. Derks
They already exist in more or less the way you describe and they are called Real Dolls (check this out on the internet)
The same technology is used to create nurses (male or female) for the elderly or for pets, etcetera.
Maybe an implanted chip will make us more or less talkative too, at somebody’s service.
The cheapest version of this Real Doll is the understanding shrink. You can put him behind the couch and he just murmurs Mmm once in a while. Comes with a slit to put in your bill.
Sorry but a doll would be ... how should I put it ... just too clean. It wouldn't smell right in any of its places. And the only perversion would be having "sex" (in reality masturbating) with a machine. And what is sex without a little recreational perversion, shame and guilt?

Is a life-size iPhone-powered male sex doll your fantasy? As such, I find this a terribly boring concept. On the other hand, it might be great fun to watch.

Try anonymous sex some time. You'll love it. It's a way of life. And if it touches you as a woman, all the better.
To you three guys
First I laughed, then I cried a short while, and now I am completely soothened. This was the first real answer that i got from guys in, i don't know how long, time. Thanks! You made me very happy.

@bernard f. Thanks for the information, apart from the old plastic airdolls my mind was blank.

@Mark Kinet. Sounds a bit like a horror tale, but I feel the attraction!

@Carlos Dee. You responded to the question that i didn't mention: 'If this doll would not suffice, then what is the xtra?'. But why shame, why perversion? (I can feel the attraction of, say, Blue Velvet, but in a passive way, actively having sex is something different.)
Thanks for turning my head around!
(No, the i phone man is not my phantasy, mine are not that concrete, i'm afraid. It's more the how than the what.

Anonimity seems to me somewhat boring, i must say.
But if it makes you feel alive, i wish you all the best!)

Thanks again, you all, and hugs.