Thursday, October 16, 2014

Portraying prostitutes as "victims" just another societal and media scam

There was another story in the Seattle Times in the past week that once again tried to “explain” why women did not have a more significant presence in technology, science and engineering fields. Who is stopping them? The high school culture that coddles them at the expense of male students? No. Higher education institutions in which they represent the majority of students, and where there is great effort made to persuade them to enter STEM fields? No. The media which tells them that they are actually “smarter” than male students? No. Television shows where actors well represent them as “role models”? No.

Of course it’s none of those things. It is the “fault” of “male corporate culture.” Naturally, the reporter of the story doesn’t stop to ask the reasons why she isn’t an engineer; is it too hard, and being a reporter feeds into her ego and quest for “fame”? Furthermore, how does “male corporate culture” come into play before it even enters into the decision to enter a STEM field? It has nothing to do with it; it is just another lame rationalization. Why can’t we just be honest and say that female students base their “major” decision on other, more mundane factors—probably the same reasons that actors and media types have for not doing so themselves. 

The Times has devolved into a purveyor of the yellow journalism politics of gender victim mythology a long time ago, apparently because it believes such obviously slanted stories sells that pathetic rag on newsstands, and because attacking males is an avenue of expressing “power” amongst its female reporters and editors—and since when are females expected to take responsibility for their own actions? Today there is yet another front page story about how prostitutes are “victims” and their customers are monsters who are the real “criminals.” Are not prostitutes the ones who are trying to make money off what they are "selling?" A graph shows that most arrests now are "buyers" rather than the"sellers"--such is the coin that gender victim mythology has gained. That as women's power in society has increased only to see these victim myths increase in hysteria and hypocrisy deserves its own discussion

(By the way, the "reporter" in the Times' story, Sarah Jean Green, once responded to an email I sent her that revealed that she has absolutely no objectivity as a journalist, who believes that women are victims of society, and is on a personal crusade to expose men as monsters.)

Who cares about the truth? Certainly not Times readers, or the Times for that matter. In the never-ending battle of blame-game supremacy—between those who maintain that it is the individual who is responsible for his or her actions, or “society” is responsible for the wayward actions of its minions—The Economist recently published a lengthy editorial in which it opined that, in a careful examination of the available data, women engage in the trade of prostitution largely on its own “merits” as they saw it, upon which the gender advocates of Newsweek shot back with something to affect that women were “forced” into it by forces beyond their control. 

First off, what touched off this latest fracas. Why the editors of the Economist chose to touch on this touchy subject is beyond me, although if prostitution is technically a “business,” I suppose it does come under its purview.  It starts off with this basic premise:

STREET-WALKERS: kerb-crawlers; phone booths plastered with pictures of breasts and buttocks: the sheer seediness of prostitution is just one reason governments have long sought to outlaw it, or corral it in licensed brothels or “tolerance zones”. NIMBYs make common cause with puritans, who think that women selling sex are sinners, and do-gooders, who think they are victims. The reality is more nuanced. Some prostitutes do indeed suffer from trafficking, exploitation or violence; their abusers ought to end up in jail for their crimes. But for many, both male and female, sex work is just that: work.

The editorial goes on to blithely assert that it never found “plausible” the claim by gender advocates that all prostitutes are “victims.” “That fiction is becoming harder to sustain as much of the buying and selling of sex movies online. Personal websites mean prostitutes can market themselves and build their brands. Review sites bring trustworthy customer feedback to the commercial-sex trade for the first time. The shift makes it look more and more like a normal service industry.”

Indeed, outside of gender politicians and their media hacks, I suspect that most people suspect the same. “Field studies” have revealed that only a very small percentage of prostitutes—including those under 18—are “controlled” by a pimp; the vast majority is “self-employed.” We can certainly argue about why they choose to engage in the world’s “oldest occupation.” The most obvious one—and let’s be honest about this for a change—is that it requires no particular “skill,” only a willingness to “perform.”  Furthermore, there is no requirement for supervision or a “boss”; this is a “freelance” occupation that requires about as much aptitude as putting a fishing line in a pond full of stupid carp. 

“We,” the Economist opines, “have dissected data on prices, services and personal characteristics from one big international site that hosts 190,000 profiles of female prostitutes. The results show that gentlemen really do prefer blondes, who charge 11% more than brunettes. The scrawny look beloved of fashion magazines is more marketable than flab—but less so than a healthy weight. Prostitutes themselves behave like freelancers in other labour markets. They arrange tours and take bookings online, like gigging musicians. They choose which services to offer, and whether to specialise. They temp, go part-time and fit their work around child care. There is even a graduate premium that is close to that in the wider economy.”

You have to give those Brits some credit. After a few thousand years of experience, they are under fewer illusions than puritanical Americans are in interpreting facts and figures. “Moralisers will lament the shift online because it will cause the sex trade to grow strongly. Buyers and sellers will find it easier to meet and make deals. New suppliers will enter a trade that is becoming safer and less tawdry. New customers will find their way to prostitutes, since they can more easily find exactly the services they desire and confirm their quality. Pimps and madams should shudder, too. The internet will undermine their market-making power.”

The editorial goes on to note that Internet commerce should make the occupation “safer,” since instead of hanging out on the street, dealing with seedy third-parties and motel rooms, “business” can be conducted and arranged in pre-planned and “verified” settings, and prostitutes can even “share” information about “johns”—especially the must to avoid. 

Interestingly, the combination of the abject failure of countries like the U.S. to stamp out commerce in prostitution and the intrusion of gender victim politics has led to the attacking the buyer rather than the seller. But, the Economist asserts, “This new consensus is misguided, as a matter of both principle and practice. Banning the purchase of sex is as illiberal as banning its sale. Criminalisation of clients perpetuates the idea of all prostitutes as victims forced into the trade. Some certainly are—by violent partners, people-traffickers or drug addiction. But there are already harsh laws against assault and trafficking. Addicts need treatment, not a jail sentence for their clients.”

And prostitutes’ intent on plying their trade are not as stupid as the laws make them out to be. “The understandable desire not to see clients arrested means they strike deals faster and do less risk assessment…The prospect of being pressed to mend their ways makes prostitutes less willing to seek care from health or social services. Men who risk arrest will not tell the police about women they fear were coerced into prostitution. When Rhode Island unintentionally decriminalised indoor prostitution between 2003 and 2009 the state saw a steep decline in reported rapes and cases of gonorrhoea.”

The piece concludes by stating that while governments should crack down on “modern-day slavery” and child rape, they should leave consenting adults alone without the phony, self-serving moralizing. But Leah McGrath Goodman, fuming for Newsweek, responded with the predictably hypocritical feminist indignation over the piece.

As usual, instead of admitting that most prostitutes are in the occupation by their own accord, Goodman skips past the personal responsibility part by jumping into “the dangers of sex-trafficking and violence against women” propaganda that permeates the discussion so that gender victim advocates can avoid answering the tough questions. Goodman reveals her feminist credentials by claiming that “third parties” are 87 percent male—without, of course, mentioning studies that reveal that about 7 percent of prostitutes in the U.S. have a “third party” go-between. 

Goodman’s piece runs down the list of the Economist’s data as if we are supposed to be “shocked” and “appalled” just because it had the audacity to commit it to print at all. How dare they—print the truth? Oh, and the Economist doesn’t mention why women enter prostitution. Unfortunately for Goodman, any discerning reader is better than she is reading between the lines: 

“Comments from female sex workers in the Economist cover story indicate their reasons for turning to prostitution had less to do with work preference and more to do with financial need. One woman quoted in the story (which did not use women’s real names) called ‘Melanie’ said she was considering selling sex on the side for a few months to pay off debts. Another woman named ‘Sarah’ said her escort work meant she could pay for her daughter’s dance and music lessons, which would have been unaffordable on just her ‘civvy job.’”

What is this telling us? I recall a song by Jim Croce, “Workin’ at the Carwash Blues,” in which the narrator believes he should be sitting in a swivel chair in an executive office smoking a big cigar, but instead is “stuck here rubbin' these fenders with a rag, and walkin' home in soggy old shoes.” He admits, however, that he still has to “get himself straight,” because, well, he’s not qualified.  A lot of people are in a similar predicament. Women are not the only people who find themselves unable to find their “preferred” job; they just have to accept what is out there—and no one is forcing them to choose prostitution. 

For some it all depends on what is the “easiest” way to make money. Some people buy a lotto ticket every week, others take jobs nobody else wants to do, and some take to crime. In this country, all you have to do is sign-up with a temp agency and you can get regular work, albeit without benefits. But some people don’t like “regular” work; in the 1961 film The Misfits, Clark Gable’s cowboy asks Montgomery Clift’s rodeo rider if he wants to help rope some wild horses. When Clift demurs, Gable convinces him by pointing out that it’s better than “wages”—meaning a regular job—and Clift agrees. “Anything is better than wages.” No doubt that is how some prostitutes view their trade. 

Finally the claim of violence against women in the trade, while it cannot be discounted, only brings up that nasty question of personal responsibility. Either prostitutes see this as a wildly over-dramatized by gender victim advocates (or a means of attaining “sympathy” to “explain” themselves), or are willing to “take their chances.” Either way, it is still a matter of choice; being a roofer, lumberjack or firefighter is dangerous work—no doubt much more so. Yet they willingly take their chances; shouldn’t prostitutes be given the same “respect” for taking responsibility for their own choice, regardless of what certain people may think of it?

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