Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The World's Oldest Profession

They say that prostitution is the world's oldest profession.

Whether or not that's true, four of its practitioners in my hometown—as well as many of their clients—were arrested last week.  (Somewhat unusually, the johns were held up for as much public disgrace as the prostitutes; their names were published by several news sources.)  There's been a fair amount of pearl-clutching in the media and in the general public, and though there are also several people who are saying that it's time to do something more sensible and productive about the whole thing than just toss everybody involved in jail, the prevailing sentiment seems to be, "EWWW!!! PROSTITUTION!!!  They're all drug addicts!  They're too lazy to get real jobs!  Good girls don't do that!"

Good girls don't do that.

No censure directed towards the men who paid for sex with these women.  (And all of them were men; most of them were middle-aged, but there were a few seniors on the list, and only one of the arrested men was under the age of 38.)  No acknowledgement that no matter how well-educated or well-qualified for jobs you are, you may not actually be able to find employment.  (Even Dr. Roberta Bondar, known for being the first Canadian woman in space, had trouble finding work a few years after her famous flight on the Discovery.)  No acknowledgement of the fact that, as a recent Dinosaur Comic says, SHIT GOES FOUL sometimes no matter how well you plan.  It's all put on their shoulders.  And they're the ones blamed for hurting families, for bringing down the tone of certain neighbourhoods, for being such WORTHLESS DAMN DIRTY WHORES.  Apparently the men who paid for sex with them are completely blameless in the whole thing.  (I call bullshit.)

Few people think about the ones who didn't want to have to choose this way of life.  Fewer still think of the danger that these women are put into each and every night, whether or not they want to be there.  And very few people indeed think about why such a profession might be appealing to some women (or men, though the prostitutes arrested here were all female), except to look down on them like they're lower than the dirt on the bottom of their shoes.  It's the same privileged attitude expressed by the male speaker in a song that was popular about nine years ago, "What Would You Do?" by City High.  It's your fault.  Stop making excuses.  Get a real job. Good girls don't do what you're doing.

It sounds familiar.  It ought to; it's a criticism that people have thrown at those they perceive to be less-fortunate than they are for eons.  I got mine.  Screw you if you haven't got yours, you're probably just too lazy to go out and get it anyway!

Such a wonderful, compassionate worldview.  It's so fantastic that, although I am nonviolent by nature, every time I hear someone being so smug and self-righteous, I want to kick their ass.

You know, strictly speaking, prostitution itself is legal in Canada.  It's just that there are laws in place that make it illegal to actually do anything about it regardless of whether you're the prostitute or the john.  Theoretically, I'm not completely against the idea of allowing prostitution—but regulated, please.  Protect the workers and the customers.  And for Gods' sake, don't treat the sex workers as if they're dirty, shameful homewreckers.  If a home's being wrecked, it's the fault of the people who live there.  And don't tell me that you don't have to have compassion for them because of your religious values.  What kind of value is there in a belief that you're entitled to treat people like dirt just because you don't approve of them?

I'd muse about how the way prostitutes are treated by the media and the general public is indicative of the number of sexist attitudes, privileged attitudes and attitudes that state that "no matter how private you think it is, your sexuality is totally my business" that are widely embraced in Western society today, but quite frankly, this post is already very long and I'm too tired and stressed to bother with that kind of analysis at this point (and I think you'll probably find out why in an entry I'm sure I'll write tomorrow).  So I think I'll just leave you with a video of the song referenced earlier in this post:

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