Schwyzer: Why Exchanging Sex for Money is Wrong

Hugo Schwyzer is a gender studies professor at Pasadena City College. His blog often explores the issues surrounding commercial sex. Yesterday he discussed the harm of prostitution, and the benefits of ‘naming and shaming’ (emphasis in original):

I want the names to come out because I am convinced that prostitution is never, ever, a victimless crime. Buying the bodies of other human beings for sexual gratification is soul-destroying to both parties in the transaction. Prostitution commodifies the bodies of women who are disproportionately young, poor, and non-white. Though the media invariably finds the occasional telegenic sex worker who apparently enjoys her vocation, those who advocate for women trapped in the sex industry suggest that the vast majority loathe what they do. Most are forced into it; many come from backgrounds of abandonment, poverty, and abuse. When men — particularly men in positions of power — choose to focus on their own pleasure rather than on the plight of the exploited, then I think these fellas forfeit their right to have their names kept private.

If the men on this list had robbed banks or committed crimes against property, there would be no debate as to whether or not they should be unmasked. If they were corrupt embezzlers, stealing from the public purse, we’d all see the justice in having them be “named and shamed.” Thus when we suggest that prostitution is a “private matter” and a “victimless crime”, we suggest that the women whose bodies were used are worth less than inanimate property. Whether or not these women were well-compensated has nothing to do with whether or not they were exploited (a view I am confident some of my more sex-positive feminist allies will find troubling); money is no balm for profound psychic and spiritual injury.

…it’s only when our secrets become public knowledge, only when we are stripped and revealed, that we can begin the long and difficult road to recovery and transformation. Honestly, the best possible thing that could happen for these men themselves is to have their ugly, petty, private misbehavior made public knowledge. As all the great myths remind us, the hero is only exalted after first being brought low. The day the truth comes out, in all its ugliness, can be the first day on a journey to justice and transformation.

See also:

Prostitution Research & Education: How Prostitution Works
Real sexual relationships are not hard to find. There are plenty of adults of both sexes who are willing to have sex if someone treats them well, and asks. But there lies the problem. Some people do not want an equal, sharing relationship. They do not want to be nice. They do not want to ask. They like the power involved in buying a human being who can be made to do almost anything…

Realities of Teen Prostitution Mock Notions of ‘Sex Work’, ‘Sex-Positive’, ‘Freedom’ and ‘Empowerment’; Media Glamorizes Pimps
The U.S. Department of Justice estimates that between 100,000 and 3 million American kids under age 18 are involved in prostitution and they’re often targeted by sexual predators…

Pornography Trains and Indoctrinates Prostitutes
In a study of 475 people in prostitution (including women, men, and the transgendered) from five countries (South Africa, Thailand, Turkey, USA, and Zambia)…92% stated that they wanted to escape prostitution immediately…

Salon: Atlanta’s underage sex trade

The problem isn’t restricted to so-called Hotlanta; Herbert notes, dispiritedly, that “the overall market for sex with kids is booming in many parts of the U.S.” But the city’s role as a convention and travel hub has given it a particular boost. And advocates say that the prevailing preference for ever-younger prostitutes — fueled by “the cultural emphasis on the sexual appeal of very young women and girls” and “the widely held belief among johns that there is less risk of contracting a disease from younger prostitutes” — has pimps and sex traffickers recruiting more at-risk kids than ever before.

Shame, Not Always a Bad Thing
We say that profiting from suffering, such as Capital Video and the Goldbergs are proposing to do at 135 King Street, is shameful, and should be publicly known and criticized. Movies and magazines that encourage viewers to use and dump women, to enjoy tying people up regardless of how they feel about it, are shameful. Movies that promote despair about marriage and celebrate cheating are shameful. Fighting a small town (Kittery) over a well-documented health hazard (private viewing booths) is shameful. Locating a large porn shop next to homes, schools, mental health counseling centers and houses of worship, despite the well-known risks of secondary effects, is shameful.

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