Tuesday, December 19, 2006

on prostitution and the debate about prostitution

'thay say a black man is a pimp
Well let me tell you the biggest pimp
on planet motherfuckin Earth, is her momma
It's her MOMMA that told her,
"Get a man that got a good job girl!
Make sure he got a good car girl!
Make sure he can take you out and buy you somethin girl!'

I do not usually turn to Dr Dre for political instruction yet i think that this well written passage is very relevant to the current dicussion on sex work. With these words Dre shows that sex work does not merely exist because of the immorality of a small number of outcasts. Instead he shows that certain aspects of prostitution exist very widely within society at large. We may not be a society if pimps clients and sex workers. However, when we use conspicuous symbols of their wealth in order to attract the opposite sex, or alternatively when look for those symbols as a criterion for choosing a sexual partner, our behaviour is not a million miles away from those practices which we condemn as prostitution.

The point here is that prostitution is not something that emerges out of the personal immorality of a minority but out of the social structure. It is in the context of massive inequality, of economic insecurity that people turn to sex work. And what of the clients? Well if people can use their economic power to jump the cue for healthcare, or to have someone else scoop the shit out their toilet, then why expect them to feel morally obliged not to use their money to pay for sex. My aim here is not to exonnerate the clients, but to suggest that, like CEOs and debt collectors, clients are a product of the way things are.

Max Horkheimer, i believe, once said that those who are not prepared to talk about capitalism should remain quiet on the subject of fascism. On this matter i would suggest that politicians whose governments are not prepared to do shit about capitalism and inequality (that means you harriet harman) should remain quiet on the matter of sex work.



Renegade Eye said...

I thought that was a good point.

Sex workers exist because they fill a market, bigger than outcasts.

AN said...

I don't agree Reuben, you are confusing the sale of labour power as a commodity (for sex), with the role of sexual relations in wider non market relations of production and reproduction.

Prostitution involves the commoditisation of women in a rather more direct way than wage labour normally doies - as their sex work cannot exist independently from the bodies, and they therefore have to sell themselves as commodities, not just their labour power.

Reuben_the_communist said...

this is not the case. A prostitute does not sell her body - she sells a service. If the woman was selling her body ass you put then she would only be able to do so a particular number of times before her body 'ran out'. This is clearly absurd (hence the joke 'What's the difference between a prostitute and a drug dealer? a prostitute can wash her crack and sell it again' - distasteful i know). Im not sure what you mean when you say that her labour power does not exist indpeendently of her body. If you mean that it does not go towards a finished product that continues to exist once her bodily work has ceased, then surely this appleis to a whole nuymber of service sector workers...

AN said...

I agree that prostituion is a form of wage labour, which is why I carefully say: "Prostitution involves the commoditisation of women in a rather more direct way than wage labour normally does "
But this is a bit of an obscure difference between us that is not worth teasing out.

More importnat is my other point, which is that you are confusing the sale of sex on the market (prostitution)with non market relations of reproduction. Which is why dr Dre does not stand in the marxist tradition on this issue

Dani said...

Capitalism is NOT the problem.
Don't you guys know that Marxism was proven to be an utter flop over 60 years ago?
When you get rid of Capitalism, you get things which are much worse - Stalin and Hitler!
We have known that marxism is an empty and worthless paradigm since Capitalism as you call it was attacked and we saw the worst fascism come in instead!
Millions and millions of innocents were murdered because of Marxism.
cut it out!
Marxism does not allow "workers" to in fact control the means of production. It steals the rights of workers, and hands it over to an ignorant arrogant state.