Since I’ve already broached the hairy subject of the “female perspective,” I’d like to ask some questions about that perspective from my baffled male perspective. First, why is it the perspective of so many females that rudimentary social graces in men are a turnoff and that they’d rather be raped by thugs? Second, why is it the perspective of so many females that Nicholas Kristof is a total mensch?

Those were rather trollish ways to formulate my questions, but I’m not the one proposing collective rights on behalf of my entire gender. A friend insisted to me the other week that I, too, would be repulsed by prostitution if I “had a female perspective.” Another friend, also possessed of a female perspective, vigorously backed her up. I found myself fighting a lost cause, Robert E. Lee-style, in a debate that had been Godwinized on behalf of all womanhood. I had to wonder: most whores are women, so from what non-female perspective do they approach prostitution? It was uncomfortable to enlist as a proxy combatant in a bitchfest over the definition of womanhood, but intentionally or not, my two adversaries were playing dirty, and that provoked my inner lay attorney. Indeed, it was time for some Opposing Viewpoints: “Prostitution: if you like the idea of putting out for money, you might want to consider it” vs. “Prostitution: a terrible idea if you have a vagina, so stop betraying your sisters, you dirty whore.”

To be sure, you don’t have to put on the red light, and you’re certainly free to close the browser window when I start quoting turkeys by the Police, but that was exactly my point. It’s about self-determination. If you don’t feel comfortable working as a whore, don’t become a whore. Or, to quote an equally bad reggae ditty by the Conchords, “you don’t have to be a prostitute.”

The corollary, of course, might be ineloquently phrased, “you don’t have to not be a prostitute.” Although I presented it somewhat more circuitously, this was the assertion that earned me a two-on-one kick in the balls. My point was that some women are naturally promiscuous and comfortable with their promiscuity, that some of these women are comfortable with prostitution, and that women of this temperament are disproportionately represented in the trade.

Dumb Lordy, were the counterpoints specious.

There was the “female perspective” bit, two women telling me, a dude with man parts, that if I, too, had lady parts I would understand. Well, shit, I have no idea how I’d feel if I were a woman. If I were a woman, I’d be a different person than I am, and the same would be true if I were a different man. If I weren’t myself, I wouldn’t be me. Down a tautological rabbit hole we go.

These women both told me that they had a visceral discomfort with prostitution and couldn’t imagine prostituting themselves. And as evidence of other women’s comfort with prostitution, what was it good for? Absolutely nothing. Good God, y’all.

This “female perspective” thing apparently had a lot to do with being ogled by men. Their discomfort with being leered at made them uncomfortable with the idea of working as whores. But again, I was dealing with a sample size of two. Many, if not most, whores react to the same sort of leering in the opposite fashion. They enjoy having something that men want and being able to leverage it to their financial advantage. It’s an opposite reaction to the same circumstances. Basically, it’s different strokes for different folks. Getting all head up about the moral superiority of one reaction or the other is imperious. It’s an affront to self-determination, and a particularly reprehensible one when presented on behalf of all women as an act of war on the patriarchy. Prostitution is not a trade for the shy, the self-conscious, the monogamous, or the prudish, and any of these are likely to wash out. This is like saying that surgery is not a trade for those who are squeamish about blood (one of the reasons that Doc Martin is such a riot; also, my own countrymen just can’t compete with the English when it comes to comedy). It takes a special temperament to succeed as a whore, but just because most women lack it doesn’t mean that all women do, and extrapolating one’s own nonwhorish temperament onto whorish women is either foolish or abusive.

In this case, I think I was dealing with smallmindedness, not resentment, but in either event it was appropriate to put in a word for those women who enjoy prostitution, or at least find it tolerable and remunerative. Think of it as giving a voice to the voiceless; no whores were present to defend themselves and their profession, so it fell on me. It took balls to be the man who did that, and as my adversaries were quick to remind me, I have a pair. I mean that in the strict technical sense, of course. The arguments that I was permitted to make were circumscribed (hey, that sounds like circumcised! Tee-hee!) by the genitalia that I possessed. None of the three of us had ever been a whore, but my adversaries insisted, in effect, that they understood prostitutes better than I did because of their common genitalia.

And we wonder why people listen to Rush Limbaugh when he accuses feminists of being totalitarians who want to chill free speech.

One of my adversaries got scandalized and accused me of being seedy when I mentioned that I regularly read prostitutes’ blogs on Twitter: “Oh my God, Alien Watcher, that’s quite something to admit to!” The fact that I actively sought out firsthand information from people who had plied the trade that we were discussing had been turned against me as evidence of moral turpitude. Now, as I’ve mentioned before, if you want real turpitude, turpitude is a handy degreaser to use on James Carville and Joel Osteen after a “gymnastic” fight in Beaumont, and that’s just plain nasty. The whores’ essays that I usually read, those by Maggie McNeill and Norma Jean Almodovar, are downright clean and circumspect by comparison. Probably the edgiest stuff I regularly read in that genre is by Furry Girl, who is a pornographer, not a whore per se. I know, my head is in the gutter right now, and you’d like me to make some space for yours to roll past. Fair enough. But these women are all excellent writers. Why the hell should I be ashamed for reading their work, especially at a time when the “Fifty Shades” books are bestsellers? When I mentioned that I follow prostitute-writers online, it was as though I had said, “You know, I’ve been reading Jeffrey Dahmer’s memoirs, and they’re giving me a whole new appreciation for the cannibal lifestyle.”

The same woman suggested that reading whores’ essays might be making prostitution seem more normal and commonplace to me than it does to other people. Probably so. People are affected by what they read, so if reading prostitutes’ writings makes me more sympathetic of prostitution, reading generic feminist pablum must make other people more sympathetic to efforts to marginalize and restrict whores and their customers on the basis of gender theory. It’s reasonable enough to say that we are what we read, just as we are what we do. But shaming others for reading, or admitting to reading, controversial works that advocate unpopular positions is tyranny of the majority.

If you wonder why rights attach to individuals, not to groups, that’s why. The individual woman has a right not to be prostituted against her will, but womankind has no collective right to be free of prostitution because such a collective right inevitably infringes on the rights of individual women to sexual self-determination. If certain women are resentful or discomfited that certain other women choose to whore themselves out, tough titty to them. Collectivism is a hideous solution, but good luck impressing its awfulness on the left, or on the Christian right; more on these bedfellows below.

My other adversary brought an additional measure of gender theory into the debate by rhetorically asking what the status of prostitution as the “oldest profession” says about the objectification and oppression of women over time. (Actually, as some lawyers say, no way is prostitution the oldest profession, because to engage in prostitution you first have to contract.) Well, shit. For one thing, it’s the result of a mismatch of supply and demand. It isn’t a matter of imposing patriarchy on unwilling women; it’s a matter of a large number of horny men seeking sexual release from a much smaller population of willing women, and who the fuck do you suppose has the real bargaining power in that transaction? But even if we consider times and places where prostitution was (or is) a difficult or dangerous trade, how is that relevant to prostitutes in places where it’s relatively stable and safe? Saudi Arabia is a terrible place to be a whore, but that’s immaterial to a licensed German streetwalker. American whores are often ripped off by customers or blackmailed and extorted by cops with no meaningful recourse, but that’s immaterial to a Colombian escort who can, and will, call the local police when she gets shorted by a group of Secret Service agents.

And which is a working whore to believe: the gender theory peddled by amateurs who are squeamish about her profession, or her lying eyes? Calvinist Geneva was a terrible place to be a prostitute, but present-day Geneva is about as good a place as any. Arguing that a woman shouldn’t go into prostitution because it has historically been used by misogynistic men as a social control mechanism is like arguing that it’s a bad idea to plant a cotton crop in Wasco today because slaves on nineteenth-century cotton plantations had terrible lives.

One of the most overwrought assertions of the evening was the claim that prostitution “feels like selling my very body.” Fuck. Look, pussy may sound like a product, but it’s a service. If it’s a product, how are women able to charge hundreds, or even thousands, of dollars an hour for it? At that rate, it’s like selling the same worthless cliff in Shelter Cove over and over again. You don’t sell something and then get it back intact with no refund an hour later. O. J. used to disagree with that statement with respect to his fucking stuff, and he’ll be in Nevada for a while.

Here’s a better way to understand that. I’m straight, and I usually feel uncomfortable when gay guys leer at me or hit on me, but if I agreed to let a guy buttfuck me for money, I would not say afterwards that I had sold him my ass. It would just be a particularly distasteful job that I did for the money. No matter how awful it might be, I’d get my ass back afterwards. No matter how psychologically scarring it is, it’s not like being shot and sold for parts by the Chinese government, or even like donating a kidney. Nor am I too obtuse to recognize that some guys enjoy putting out for other guys for the money, or arrogant enough to presume that it’s my place to make that decision for them.

The trope about women being forced into prostitution by poverty predictably came up, doubly so because the conversation started with an aside about Thai prostitutes in Pattaya. One of the ladies had traveled in Thailand and said that she had found Pattaya extremely weird. She had seen a number of teenage girls working for guys with walkers, and she couldn’t see how any woman would agree to such an arrangement except as a result of dire poverty. I agree that it’s an awfully weird arrangement, but that doesn’t prove that the women involved have no agency. Some Southeast Asian prostitutes have reported in surveys that they enjoy working for old foreign men because they’re kind and considerate. (Accounts from Thai military brothels sadly tend to bear this out.) Plenty of Western prostitutes work for elderly, infirm or disabled clients as well, and they make more money at it than they would wiping the same guys’ asses in a nursing home. Do people become nurse’s aids out of financial desperation? Sure. It’s literally and figuratively a shitty job, but one hears little about the desperation of those doing it, even though they arguably have less agency and worse working conditions than many streetwalkers.

The absurd thing about so much of the rhetoric about prostitutes being helpless victims is that they’re granted less agency precisely because they’re working for the money. Some of them must not care for their jobs, but that doesn’t make them different from people in any other line of work, and they’ve probably considered the available alternatives. When I argued that many prostitutes in Thailand were working to better themselves and their families, my friend who had been freaked out by Pattaya said that the solution was to provide development aid so that Thai women aren’t forced to work as prostitutes to improve their own lot. That isn’t necessarily a bad idea, but it won’t end prostitution in Thailand any more than equal career opportunities for American women has ended prostitution in the United States. Some women will always go into prostitution because they prefer it the available alternatives, and Thai whores won’t desist solely because they discomfit American women they’ve never met by taking on old, decrepit American clients who went abroad for the exchange rate. The idea that Americans can eliminate prostitution in a foreign country where it’s more or less socially accepted is naive and patronizing. Certainly, some Thai prostitutes would leave the trade if they could get small business loans or scholarships, but others would rather keep supporting themselves, and some would take the help but stay in the trade for even more income. If some Americans gladly work as whores to put themselves through medical or nursing school, why the hell shouldn’t Thais, and why should they tolerate prejudiced Americans implying that they aren’t competent to make their own decisions?

That’s Nicholas Kristof’s shtick. He mounts a white horse, rides into lawless places, mostly Cambodia, and proudly lifts up the White Man’s Burden. Cambodia has a swarthy Asiatic people who don’t speak English well enough to disabuse bigoted Westerners of the notion that they’re meek, helpless and in need of external salvation. It’s also one of the closest things to a failed state in its region, so it’s a lot easier to pull brazen shit there than in Thailand, Vietnam or Burma. Kristof’s favorite trick is to join the Cambodian police or military on brothel raids that result in prostitutes being brainwashed and impressed into textile work in de facto prison labor camps. Actually, Cambodia isn’t as lawless as Kristof, Somaly Mam and their allies would like; in at least one case, there was a government counterraid to free women who had been removed by the police from a brothel the previous day.

Kristof and Mam’s allies in this enterprise include textile magnates, who appreciate the cheap labor, and the kind of “Christian aid” organizations that would rather regard whores as helpless victims than competent adults who don’t give a damn about the sexual repression that they would like to impose on the world. These are some sick fucks.

Their house of cards seems to finally be faltering, but not quickly enough. Kristof in particular has a legion of devoted followers in the United States. It apparently makes no difference to them that he didn’t lift a finger when his employer, the New York Times, threw its foreign employees under the bus. They can’t imagine how he might have ulterior motives in denying agency to poor women in foreign countries because, after all, he’s married to a Chinese lady and he says such heartwarming things about how women hold up “half the sky.”

The two questions that I posed at the beginning of this piece are related. I aver that an unctuous, condescending creep like Nicholas Kristof would not have nearly so large a following if there weren’t so much ambient misogyny in the United States. Every time an asshat like Todd Akin spreads self-serving falsehoods about gynecology, Kristof’s stock rises. Every time some “bro culture” dipshit obsesses about pussy in one breath and makes fun of women for menstruating in the next, Kristof’s stock rises. Every time a concerned white guy rescues a Cambodian teenager from a brothel with great derring-do, Jesus Kristof’s staff rises. Okay, that wasn’t entirely necessary, but there is a very weird sexual dynamic to the guy’s fixation on Asian girls. This prissy, haughty, hypocritical cutthroat convinces a great many women that he is on the side of women, all women, because his platitudes stand out in stark contrast to the belittling, abusive and openly coarse things that other men, and some women, say about women. Kristof comes across as a mensch because he’s too smooth to say anything overtly misogynistic and the things he does say are superficially so much more supportive than either the gotcha bawdiness of the bro culture knuckleheads or the “quiverfull” rhetoric of people on the religious right who want to turn women into professional breeders, like something out of The Handmaiden’s Tale.

If these are our models of manhood, we’re fucked.

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