The Price of Sex for Money
Well, that column about Victor Malarek's book and the decriminalization of the sex trade continues to reverb with readers.
Most of the reaction has been positive. I've heard from cab drivers who chauffeur call girls to their jobs, university students who plan to graduate debt-free because of their sex work and several men who, for some heart-breaking reasons, rely on paying women for their time and attention.
And as regulars here have seen, even the usual anti-Antonia suspects have agreed with the gist of what I wrote.
Which makes me wonder ... hmmm ... maybe I got it wrong?
Nope -- because so many feminists I respect, including Vancouver NDP MP Libby Davies, completely agree with me.
But, in fairness, I thought I would post this contrarian opinion, from the Vancouver Rape Relief and Women's Shelter. (I have edited out the writer's email address, as well as a certain sex act.)
From: Vancouver Rape Relief
Sent: Thu 5/14/2009 10:23 PM
To: Zerbisias, Antonia
Subject: In support of Malarek
Assuming that prostitution will be with us forever avoids important ethical questions like should sex be connected to money, should sex be consumed and is it possible to consume sex without consuming a woman's autonomy?
Ironically, if a man can purchase a woman's sexual autonomy it ceases to exist. A marker of sexual autonomy is its independence from another person 19s control. When men purchase sex they control a large part of the act. Prostitution is offensive because men put a price on something priceless and in doing so destroy it.
There is a prevailing notion that feminists cannot speak against the institution of prostitution because some prostitutes insist they want the choice. However, the real issue with prostitution is the unchallenged notion of men's entitlement to women's sexuality whenever and however they want it. Men are doing most of the choosing. When columnists like yourself, use a willing exception to a majority reality they use individuality to argue against a common good. Why can't Ginger just have sex? Why is money and sex, in the context of women's global inequality so rampant?
The reason feminists favor the Swedish model, which criminalizes men for purchasing or attempting to purchase sex, is because the Swedish government is challenging men's expectation to bxxx-jxxs on demand. This government acknowledges that the type of sex that prostitutes perform for johns rarely expresses their entire humanity. The type of sex feminists have in mind, be it in a one night-stand or committed relationship must include women's yearning for freedom and equality. That type of sex presupposes women's economic security. That type of sex is dependant on mutual respect. That type of sex is free and freely given.
Victor Malarek took a great risk by attacking men for their attitudes and behaviors regarding prostitution. Surely he is receiving hate mail and other attacks. He dared to be a traitor to his gender because he had good conscience. He deserves more consideration, because his ideas go after fundamental beliefs about gender, race and class and your column evades that.
Vancouver Rape Relief & Women's Shelter
And my reply:
Thanks for your letter with which I disagree on so many levels.
Leaving aside the very real issues of trafficking, child prostitution, sex tourism etc., your perspective totally robs women of their autonomy and hands it over to men. Sorry, I don't buy it.
For one thing, when it comes to sex, women hold the upper hand. Always have. That's why men have, for thousands of years, attempted to control women and their sexuality.
For another, I am astounded that you believe that, when a woman enters into a contractual and consensual sexual act, fully protected by the law, that she bestows entitlement.
Ginger -- and many other women I know, including dozens of university students who will graduate debt free -- are not having ''sex.'' They are performing a service for good money. They can quit when they please.
The notion that sex is ''priceless'' is positively Victorian in my view. Economic security will never come by abolishing sex work. And men will always expect bxxx-jxxs on demand.
Victor should have done more research, and written something more than a polemic.
That's my opinion and I ain't budging from it.