When I think of equality between the sexes I think of the old reverse-a-roo ploy; if something’s truly equal, then reversing the roles of men and women in that situation would still result in the same outcome. Whether it’s flipping burgers, feeding babies, sailing ships or sciencing a space station, women and men are equally able to accomplish similar feats given the same opportunities in training, education etc. There are unique physical characteristics between the two that favour one sex over the other, but generally and practically speaking, much of what one can do can be done by the other, and reversing roles is a great indicator of that equality.
In prostitution, it’s often argued that women ‘working’ in this field do so under the premise that it’s a job like any other; they take customers, charge a fee, work certain hours, have reasonable expectations for safety and fully admit that like most jobs, there will be times when you don’t want to be there. This ‘sex worker’ mentality is, on paper at least, pretty straight forward. It makes sense in the working world, and even though ‘sex workers’ are routinely coerced, abused, violated and led toward drugs as a coping mechanism, they still perform a job. It’s not exactly 9-5, but it’s a job. That’s the prevailing mentality at least, that prostitution is sex ‘work’ ….and like flipping burgers, feeding babies, sailing ships or sciencing a space station, women and men both can accomplish many of the same feats. But can they though?
Many have spoken publicly on the harms to prostituted persons, to their families, to the families of Johns or to the communities dealing with the culture and aftermath. Safety concerns routinely fall on deaf ears though, violence is downplayed and blame often placed on the ‘sex workers’ themselves. However loud the cries and warnings of harm, we have a hard time breaking from the mainstream narrative that this is simply another job and that fairness, consent and an ‘awareness of the dangers’ are part of its description. Left out of the argument against prostitution is the practical, physical experience men and women share while preforming this task ….and when reversing roles as mentioned, I feel it becomes obvious that the experiences for one are definitely not the same as the experiences for the other. The reverse-a-roo equality test fails big time, and the idea that equal footing exists is an illusion promoted by those who have the most to gain. What is viewed as a regular ‘job’ by some, becomes something entirely different if the idea of ‘servicing’ was on the other foot.
So let’s reverse some roles….
Prostitution, from a naive and simplistic point of view, is about sex ….although not exactly about arousal. In a perfect world sex happens when two partners are aroused by each other, however prostitution flips this intimate experience on its head by sacrificing the arousal of one for that of the other. The prostitute is not aroused (99.9% of the time) for if she/he were as a matter of course, then the act of sex would be mutually beneficial and no ‘work’ would be necessary nor money need to change hands. The John however is aroused, and it’s the prostitutes ‘job’ to service the John’s arousal to the point of completion.
If roles were reversed and men had to service Johns (as regularly and under the similar, typical conditions as women do) they’d need to have an erection. They’d need to maintain this erection for the duration of their ‘work’ as well; putting it in any orifices that were required (vaginas, rectums/mouths of males and females) allowing it to be touched and roughly handled, to be photographed and filmed, to be subjected to a variety of different objects, substances etc. They’d have to maintain this erection in all sorts of environments (alleys, vehicles, hotels, brothels etc.) with all sorts of clients (demanding, frightening, smelly, morbidly obese, sweaty, rough, sickly, drunk, high, deviant, physically violent, repulsive etc.) for all lengths of time (instantaneous, hours in a row, multiple appointments a day etc.) and be expected to adapt to changes in routines on a moments notice regardless of safety or security.
The thing about the male penis however, is that an erection is predominately dependant upon the penis-holder being in an aroused state, and an aroused state is definitely not what the ‘sex worker’ functions in. They operate based on demands from the John, and a male ‘sex worker’ will not, through the course of a typical day, be able to arouse themselves given the often horrible circumstances/environments they’re forced to ‘work’ in. Certainly the male ‘sex worker’ can take drugs (orally or through injection to the penis) to maintain their erection, but this is not a practical solution given the daily, monthly or yearly expectations the prostitution experience demands from its ‘worker’. Prospective Johns would as well be turned off by any inauthentic penis (strap on, implant etc.) as such items are not part of the experience they’re paying good money for; if Johns wanted ‘fake’ then they wouldn’t seek out a real person.
Vagina’s are far simpler machines though.
Women as prostitutes need only their natural body as it is. They’ve no need to be aroused or take drugs or injections to make their vaginas work …they just simply have to be, and in whatever manner the John desires; wear make up (or not), dress nice (or not), be clean (or not), make small talk (or not), fake interest (or really fake interest) etc. etc. Certainly much of this ‘extra’ stuff depends on the John’s secondary demands, however, the basic requirement of any prostituted women is simply for her body as it naturally exists; to be groped, unwantingly fondled, at times assaulted, and to have its ‘holes’ penetrated. Noting else is needed …especially the desire to be there.
And so the reverse-a-roo in this situation doesn’t work at all. Men cannot service Johns in the same manner as women can, and the idea of ‘sex work’ as an equal opportunity occupation denies the fact that the job as it stands biologically favours women over men. The act of prostitution is, by design, tailored primarily for females, and their unique physical ability to engage in sex (wantingly or not) without arousal, drugs or desires, not only places them in a position to be exploited, but disproportionately subjects them to acts of abuse and sexual violence. Of course there are situations where men won’t need to have an erection to complete the job; Johns may request a flaccid penis for example, or request only oral or work with their hands ….but women in prostitution experience these ‘easier’ demands as well, and if their jobs as a ‘sex worker’ were limited to oral or hand stimulation exclusively, their lives would be substantially better than what they are.
Male Johns are a demanding customer though – they demand penetration, they demand a satisfying outcome, and they demand it for as little money as possible. Male johns are aggressive and assertive and push boundaries all the time, and male Johns generally ‘get off’ on that inherent imbalance between them and the prostituted women. Power, and control, lies with the one in charge …physically and financially.
Finance is one of the main reasons women even consider prostitution in the first place, as well as being sexually abused as children which has normalized the idea that their body can be used for someone else’s pleasure. They’re usually powerless when they initially become involved and usually powerless still when they first leave. If ‘sex work’ was something glorious, empowering, liberating and regularly able to help one get ahead of or out of a bad situation, then ‘down and out’ men would be clamouring for the positions in droves. They’d be filling the Backpages with ads to help them establish their own businesses. They’d be lining up to work at upscale brothels or for some ‘high class’ escort agencies. Men would be accessorizing their sexuality for an opportunity to bring home some big money in a short period of time. But most men don’t for a few reasons; the majority of ‘prostitution services’ are not independent endeavours sought out by entrepreneurial females but instead regulated industries run and spearheaded by men themselves. Secondly, prostitution is largely about domination, and culturally men have been conditioned to be the ones dominating …not dominated. True freedom or independence does not exist in a dominating experience, no matter how wonderfully the available choices are portrayed.
Most men don’t prostitute because prostitution as a ‘choice’ for ‘work’ is a ruse. The demand is primarily for women because men demand it …they’re the ones in control, they’re the ones entitled, and they’re the ones often forwarding the view that women’s bodies as sexual objects is a form of ‘sexual liberation’. Certainly there’s a few success stories extolling the Happy Hooker mentality, but these are the anomaly and they’re happily shared/promoted by men (and others who deny the countless voices of women abused worldwide…) as ways to justify their desire for women to be sexually available. Prostitution exists because men desire to be satisfied ….after all, aren’t they the ones with the grand sexual appetites? The ones who require servicing? The ones with needs?
Unfortunately, I think that’s one of the larger fallacies of our time.
As a guy, I can honestly say our ‘need’ to be satisfied isn’t as big as we make it out to be. It’s somewhat of a myth. Sure it feels good, and sure it comes on fast, and sure it can feel overwhelming, and sure it can be over just as quickly as it came on ….but to place and burden the effective resolution of that ‘feeling’ upon women out of some animal-like physical necessity is – well, it belies what I feel is an uglier truth; that it’s as much about power and control as anything else. It’s about our needs. We require prostitution because we require women (or other males as women ….trans, young boys etc.) to be inferior. We require women to be sexless caregivers because for them to be otherwise would threaten the very thing we feel is special and distinctive about ourselves. It’s as if our emotional being has been summed up by one single organ and a few minutes of glory. We’re not animals, but it’s just easier to behave that way.
I don’t feel men have the grand sexual appetites we proclaim not because we don’t have grand sexual appetites, but because our sexual needs are most likely similar to those of women ….just made out to be a bigger deal. That men are more ‘visual’ in terms of arousal might have a small part to do with us staring at our junk for as long as we have; worshiping and grandizing its importance throughout much of our lives. And the idea that such feeling/emotion can physically grow – actually be seen and felt by our own eyes and hands, has probably contributed to the exalted status it holds. Let’s also not forget the entire ‘bigger is better’ myth; if something 4 or 5 inches gives us great joy, then surely something 8 or 9 inches would give even more. Women, as sexual creatures of their own, challenges our sexual importance, and the fact that our emotion expresses itself in such an obvious, physical form, has probably for centuries conditioned us to believe that we are the magical, gifted creatures on this planet. We are the ones with the sceptre or staff that has dominion over others, and the fact that prostitution (men’s dominion over women) is often referred to as the ‘oldest profession’ is most likely tied into this archaic belief.
And so perhaps it’s time to let that go.
Prostitution as ‘sex work’ isn’t at all an equal, empowering endeavour, but rather a thinly veiled attempt to convince our most vulnerable that they have power and choice of their own. Promoting this ‘sex worker’ mentality only benefits the men buying access to women’s bodies, and the fact that it’s both widely established and condoned throughout much of the world is testiment to the power of tradition, our collective blindness toward women’s sexuality, and to the pervasiveness of male control. Inequality between the sexes manifests in many different ways, but through prostitution it compels and ensures the abuse and sexual exploitation of women for the foreseeable future. The idea of it as a ‘job’ is not only demeaning and objectifying, but shifts the focus from its harms by reducing it to something commonplace and mundane.
It’s not a job ….it’s a form of modern slavery.