Exploitation, Academic Philosophy

Libertarianism and Sex Work- Continuing the Conversation

Sarah and Steve recently highlighted a range of views that libertarians can hold regarding pornography. Their point was that libertarians all hold that pornography should not be illegal, but people might disagree about the further question of whether pornography is good or bad. I liked their post so I thought I’d end my blogging break by continuing this conversation and highlighting some good online conversations about this topic.

First up, Maggie McNeill is blogging at the Washington Post now! I first saw McNeill’s work in a Cato Unbound symposium a few months ago. The Cato essay by McNeill is really insightful, but the best part of it is her responses to critics. In both forums, McNeill debunks myths about prostitution that keep resurfacing and tries to trace their origins. I hadn’t realized the extent that the feminist case against prostitution relied on discredited empirical assertions. McNeil not only carefully refutes each empirical consideration against the decriminalization of sex work, she convincingly explains why many of the problems that are often associated with prostitution are caused by criminalization and not the work itself. Seriously, anyone interested in this topic even a little should read her essays and check out her blog.

Another blog I would recommend is Tits and Sass, a group blog run by brilliant, witty, insightful sex workers about their industry. I first started reading the blog while researching the ethics of licensing requirements (every wonder why Portland has so many strip clubs?), but when I peeked into the archives I found some really great discussions not only about labor law and politics, but also about consent, feminism, police power, stigmatization, and emotional labor. They also run book reviews and some pretty sharp media criticism.

In addition to the political posts, Tits and Sass also covers other industry topics, such as music, manicures, workplace politics and advertising, and some of those posts are pretty entertaining. I wish more people who wrote in favor of prohibiting or limiting access to prostitution would read these posts as well, in part because they illustrate that sex work is, well, work. A lot of these women are entrepreneurs, and these posts show that sex-work is as much a creative and challenging industry as other kinds of work, if not more. These posts also show that philosophers who cite work’s formative role in the development of the moral powers would do well to look at the skills that sex workers must develop to succeed in their industry—which involves running a small business that requires specialization as an entertainer, therapist, accountant, and advertiser.

I’m highlighting these conversations because both McNeill’s essays and the posts at Tits and Sass bring a perspective that I think is missing from a lot of debates about sex work. McNeill especially calls on us to be attentive to the actual lived experience of sex workers, and she is well equipped with the empirical support that is needed to make her case. The bloggers at Tits and Sass illustrate McNeill’s point that sex work merits the same kind of legal treatment as most other kinds of work, and a lot more respect than it currently gets.

Like most feminists, I do think that the influence of patriarchy in the labor market is a huge injustice, but policies that legislate what female workers can do with their bodies only contribute to that injustice. I also think it’s a problem that some people need to do work they abhor because their other options are truly terrible. But this can be said of many forms of work (see e.g. Matt’s work on sweatshops) and it only harms workers when well-intentioned advocates try to take those jobs off the table.

  • michael

    This entire post is great but I particularly like the last paragraph. People often say “They aren’t doing this because they love it, they are doing it for money” as if most people just adore going to work everyday and sex workers are this strange exception. There’s also the tired “Selling your body is wrong” position as if we don’t sell our bodies every single day as dentists, construction workers, cooks, professors, etc etc. The idea that sex is the one single thing that can never ever be sold is so frequently assumed but so seldom argued for and when it is argued for the arguments are, to put it charitably, unconvincing.
    Anyway, I’m sure people like David Gordon will say none of this has anything to do with libertarianism but it’s always nice to see BHL exploring these types of issues.

    • Jerome Bigge

      Probably the great majority of working people are working for the “money”, not the pleasure of working. I think this applies to virtually every occupation under the sun.

      • michael

        Absolutely.

  • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

    Jessica:
    I think those bastards over at the patriarchy owe me a few bucks, but I haven’t been able to track them down or collect. Could you post some pictures, phone numbers and addresses? Are they by any chance members of the Trilateral Commission, the leaders of the LDS, or the Elders of Zion? I hate those guys.

    • michael

      As a guy who has been attacked by a great many feminists his whole adult life, I think you’re wrong here . A lot of the “evidence” for the patriarchy is largely or entirely nonsense: the pay gap for example. Also important is the fact that the greatest abuses go on in countries like Iran and many academic feminists simply refuse to discuss this because it does not fit with the narrative of “The West is the evil oppressor.”
      All that said, the idea that any and all patriarchal elements have been eliminated from our society is a complete and utter fantasy. For one thing, the tyranny of double standards is alive and well. Look at the way women who are “promiscuous” are treated versus men as just one major example. The slut shaming that goes on is extraordinary beyond belief. I’ve heard countless men call women dull prudes for not wanting to do X sexual act yet if another women does the same act with another men suddenly they’re sluts and derided accordingly. Women have to put up with that shit all the time. Again just one example.
      Libertarians have a healthy aversion to PC victimology but pretending there is nothing remotely about patriarchal about our culture and suggesting that anyone who thinks there is equivalent to the loons who people in the Elders of Zion conspiracy is more than a little off base.

      • Libertymike

        Your second paragraph is devoid of any actual examples of what you describe as the “tyranny of double standards”. I don’t doubt that you have heard some men and some women express the views which you ascribe to them. However, that is a general statement, not an example.

        • michael

          I’m not sure what you expect. A list of 50 anecdotes?
          It’s downright incontrovertible that there exist double standards when it comes to sexual behavior. I’ve honestly never heard anyone dispute that, even the most anti-feminist social conservatives just say “Well yes that double standard exists sure. In our view both women and men should cease being promiscuous.”
          If you think the tyranny of double standards doesn’t exist I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on that. Seems pretty damn obvious to me.

        • michael

          I’m not sure what you expect. A list of 50 anecdotes?
          It’s downright incontrovertible that there exist double standards when it comes to sexual behavior. I’ve honestly never heard anyone dispute that, even the most anti-feminist social conservatives just say “Well yes that double standard exists sure. In our view both women and men should cease being promiscuous.”
          If you think the tyranny of double standards doesn’t exist I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on that. Seems pretty damn obvious to me.

          • j r

            Sure, double standards exist, but I’m not sure that I see the “tyranny.” There is nothing tyrannical about judging other people by their behavior.

            As for the double standard part, well yeah, of course. Why wouldn’t people judge male and female sexual behavior differently? They are different. Success in the sexual marketplace for men is different than what it is for women. That’s a positive claim, not a normative one. You may not like it or you may find it unfair, but that’s the way it is.

            Certainly, I would support a normative claim on not being overly judgmental of other people’s personal behavior. However, when thinking about whether to get involved with someone romantically, I see no reason why a person’s sexual past ought to be off limits for consideration.

          • good_in_theory

            “Success in the sexual marketplace” exist only relative to one’s goals in the sexual marketplace. What is your strictly “positive” account of uniquely sexed goals in the sexual marketplace?

          • j r

            My positive account is simple: it is easier for a woman to get non-committal sex from a man of equal or greater attractiveness than it is for a man to get non-committal sex from a woman of equal or greater attractiveness. The relative social prestige associated with each situation flows from this simple fact.

            As for the double standard, this is a case where people often get causality backwards. Men aren’t rewarded for having lots of sex. For instance, a man who sleeps with lots of prostitutes or with lots of unattractive women, doesn’t get called a stud. He gets called a loser. Women tend to like attractive, charismatic, high status men, so it is more accurate to say that men get laid more because they are studs than men are considered studs because they get laid a lot.

          • michael

            If the judgments are irrational and create an oppressive climate for some group then yes they can be tyrannical.
            Okay but it’s not like sucess in the sexual marketplace is one thing for women and another for men. You’ve got men on, believe it or not, desperately want a gf and women who enjoy one night stands and friends with benefits arrangements.
            Hey I’m a libertarian, people have a right to consider whatever they wish for whatever reason, no matter how irrational. My core objection was that men who have casual sex are celebrated and women who do so are condemned as a rule. No guy is ever slammed for having lots of sex with many different people (well not never but damn is it rare) Do you defend that double standard?

      • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

        Michael:
        Wrong about what? In case it is not clear, I am mocking what I regard as the abuse of the English language. Since my comment includes no positive assertion, I don’t see how it can be “wrong.” Impolite, perhaps; “wrong,” I don’t think so.

        My dictionary defines “patriarchy” as “a form of community in which the father is the supreme authority in the family, clan, or tribe, descent being reckoned in the male line.” I believe it quite clear that the percentage of families that fit this definition in this country is rather small, and since they are almost all located in remote hamlets in Utah and Texas, I rather doubt that they are in charge of hiring software architects, electrical engineers, and so forth. I tend to think that market forces have a far greater impact on hiring patterns.

        So plugging the actual definition of “patriarchy” into the sentence in question: “Like most feminists, I do think that the influence of patriarchy in the labor market is a huge injustice…,” we get pure confusion. How exactly does “patriarchy” exert a material influence on the labor market? Here, I quote you: “A lot of the “evidence” for the patriarchy is largely or entirely nonsense: the pay gap for example.” If Jessica wants to make an argument with respect to the evil influence of “patriarchy,” with actual evidence, and a policy recommendation, I am all ears. Until then, glib references to “patriarchy” deserve to be mocked.

        • michael

          I’m not sure how much you read academic journals (it’s healthy to keep consumption of such material to be a minimum) but in that world patriarchy is used much, much more expansively to include a vast array of oppressive structures, norms, and attitudes which privilege men and undermine the welfare of women. I do agree, though, that clarity is always useful and that terms like “the patriarchy” are terribly imprecise. Better to talk about specific structures, norms, and attitudes that are problematic in one’s view and then have a discussion that is concrete.
          What I was challenging is the idea, which maybe you don’t subscribe to, that there no longer exist double standards regarding male and female behavior.
          “Injustice” is of course a hotly contested term. Most libertarians hold the view that discriminating against people based on immutable characteristics like sex or race completely unrelated to the job is wrong though some would argue that something being wrong is different from something being unjust. Think, for example, of the many libertarians who, while defending business owners right to discriminate and not hire or serve certain minorities, say “But I would never patronize such an establishment.” I would also point out that libertarians tend to be sympathetic to meritocratic thinking. So when private universities and companies institute affirmative action you see more than a few libertarians saying “It’s their right but I object to it.” Ultimately this comes down to what libertarianism is: nothing more than a philosophy of rights centered on the valid and invalid uses of coercion or something “thicker” to use the cool kid lingo.

          • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

            I agree that there are double standards, and that individuals and specific employers can and do discriminate against women, blacks, etc. I do think this is both morally wrong, and stupid from a purely financial perspective. The latter observation explains why I believe the actual extent of this is overstated. I don’t claim to be able to prove it.

            I do distinguish between what is “wrong” and what is “unjust.” The latter pertains, in my view, to things that would harm (properly defined) other innocent persons. In your characterization I guess I am a “thin” libertarian. Part of this is that I do not trust any government or other institution to correctly identify those categories of merely “wrong” conduct that should be criminalized. I don’t think we really disagree much, if at all.

          • michael

            Properly defined is, of course, where things get tricky. I think we can all agree that countless different forms of harm exist. I know a guy who was destroyed when the love of his life left him for another man. He was clearly harmed in that her actions inflicted an emotional injury. But as much as I sympathized I obviously didn’t think she had done anything morally wrong by leaving him.
            I think when libertarians talk about harm we are, more often than not, talking about rights violations. We acknowledge other harms exist (the harm of heartbreak, the harm that comes from drinking excessively) but we don’t think these things should be prohibited. It’s only when person A harms person B by violating person’s B rights that we think wrongful harm has occurred with wrongful conceived as something meriting the use of force in terms of prevention or punishment.
            I’m pretty comfortable with this but I can imagine scenarios in which the harm inflicted has nothing to do with rights violations but is so devastating to basic human welfare that intervention may be required (for example I think mandating public accommodating in the CRA, given the circumstances at the time, was probably justified).

          • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

            No argument from me here, and I agree that rectification by the state (e.g. the CRA) is appropriate when the state itself is responsible for previously treating groups of citizens unjustly.

          • michael

            Let me ask you this. Imagine aliens come to earth. They are essentially like us in terms of possessing all the qualities libertarians generally categorize as endowing a creature with strong rights (rationality, free will, etc etc). But imagine a series of horrible misconceptions existed about them leading to many, if not most humans, to shut them out of society (barred from working at most places, barred from going to restaurants, theatres, beaches, etc etc) Imagine that if by requiring that they not be discriminated against we could be confident that these misconceptions would disappear and they would be able to live decent lives. Imagine the alternative was decades and decades of continued baseless discrimination which caused great suffering. Is the guide to action here so clear?

          • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

            This is simply a variant on the old “would you torture an innocent person to death to save a billion other innocent lives?” hypothetical. The answer, of course, is “yes,” because rights are not absolute and must yield to sufficiently momentous consequentialist considerations. But, in my view, rights are very stringent, so the beneficial consequences would (1) have to be very substantial relative to the value of the right being overridden and (2) the benefits cannot be speculative (see, for an example, Joel Feinberg’s “Hiker” case). In the real world, the state has a virtually spotless record of turning noble intentions into horrible social policy, so the number of cases where rights would actually have to yield are very, very few.

          • michael

            How does rectification figure into this? For example, you said you supported the anti-discrimination portion of the CRA. Do you still support it today? How about something like affirmative action on rectification grounds?

          • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

            First question: no, see here: http://naturalrightslibertarian.com/2013/09/fredom-of-association-denied/. In the following post, I discuss affirmative action. If interested, you can find my views on a wide variety of subjects on this site. Forgive me for not wanting to repeat them all here.

          • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

            First question: no, see here: http://naturalrightslibertarian.com/2013/09/fredom-of-association-denied/. In the following post, I discuss affirmative action. If interested, you can find my views on a wide variety of subjects on this site. Forgive me for not wanting to repeat them all here.

          • michael

            I liked the post and oppose the NM decision as well. But I do think we have to take rectification seriously given that our history didn’t unfold along libertarian lines with voluntary exchange and individual rights ruling the day. I actually though Alan Keyes, who is pretty much a crackpot, had a good idea when he said that blacks should perhaps be exempt from paying taxes for a generation.

        • good_in_theory

          Glib references to patriarchy? You mean like your thoroughly asinine and stupid comment that “patriarchy” just refers to a certain form of family structure, therefore whenever anyone talks about patriarchy outside of the specific context of household family structure they’re speaking nonsense?

          Yeah, you definitely deserve to be mocked.

          • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

            Well done, clever mockery is not to be sneered at. But puerile name-calling by a guy who won’t even use his real name; well, that’s just pathetic. You must be a sad, lonely, bitter little man.

          • good_in_theory

            Nice internet tough guy act.

          • Sergio Méndez

            Thanks. My thoughts on Mr Friedman comment too. And anyways, seems Mr Friedman reading of dictionary is partial (and dishonnest). This is what Webster´s says about patriarchy:

            “social organization marked by the supremacy of the
            father in the clan or family, the legal dependence of wives and
            children, and the reckoning of descent and inheritance in the male line;
            broadly : control by men of a disproportionately large share of power

            a society or institution organized according to the principles or practices of patriarchy”

            “Control by men of a disproportionately large shar of power. A society or institution organized according to the principles of practices of patriarchy”

            Mark complains about “puerile name calling”. Yet his own posts are as pueril and idiotic as one can get.

          • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

            My dictionary, “The Random House College Dictionary,” revised 1984 ed., has exactly the definition I gave and only that one. As for the rest…whatever.

      • Al Bundy

        I agree with everything Jessica has to say about prostitution and everything you have to say here, but I have to go with Mark about the use of the word “patriarchy.” Clearly there are unfair double standards for men and women, but I don’t think it’s right to say patriarchy is the cause.

        For one thing, women “slut shame” other women just as much as men do. For another, as a young man, I would love for women feel as free to have sex as men do- then I’d be getting more of it!

        There are a bunch of factors that contribute to double standards- religion, biological differences, etc. To chalk it all up to a men working in cahoots keep women down (which is what I’d bet 90% of people think of when they hear patriarchy) seems lazy and a bit insulting.

        But i’ll chalk it up to different definitions here (like those endless capitalism vs. corporatism debates) and say great post otherwise.

        • michael

          I think your last sentence gets it absolutely right, it really does come down to definition. But I do think avoiding the use of patriarchy which, as I said in my reply to Mark, is terribly imprecise and can be misinterpreted, is a wise idea unless one really does believe that there is a systematic effort by men to subjugate women which few people, even among the folks at Jezebel, probably believe.

  • Doesn’t analyzing “sex work” from an academic lens pretty much miss the point of “sex work” in the first place?

  • j r

    I hadn’t realized the extent that the feminist case against prostitution relied on discredited empirical assertions.

    Yes, but there’s more. The feminist case against sex work, like the conservative case against all sort of sex-related behaviors, is also about controlling people’s options. If men have a legal, relatively riskless, and socially acceptable to way to purchase sex, women who are not sex workers will experience diminished power in the sexual marketplace.

    Traditionalists use the power to label women promiscuous and banish them from respectable society to limit their options and force them down a certain path. Likewise, feminists try to use the female position as sexual gatekeeper to influence men’s behavior. Access to sex outside of normal male-female relationships limits feminists’ ability to banish men from the pool of potential sexual partners.

    Also,

    Like most feminists, I do think that the influence of patriarchy in the labor market is a huge injustice…

    I honestly have no idea what this is supposed to mean. There are any number of identifiable ways in which sexism works against women in the marketplace. And since they are identifiable, it is best to identify them instead of referencing the vague and amorphous concept of “the patriarchy.”

    • adrianratnapala

      I think we should give Ms Flannigan a break on the patriarchy thing.

      While I quite enjoyed Mark Friendman’s “thoroughly asinine and stupid comment” about it, I also understood original version to mean “Sundry real effects of sexism in this world.” Though now that I think about it, I see it also includes cronyism where the sex-discrimination is incidental (“old boys’ networks”).

      And I think everyone on this site understood something similar. So I see no reason to nitpick. Besides, if the Sisterhood is not allowed to complain about the Patriarchy, then we have no right to complain about them!

      • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

        1. I’m not interested in complaining about the “Sisterhood,” because this would be dumb. If I voice complaints, it is about the acts of the specific people responsible.
        2. The conclusion of Jessica’s sentence is, “…is a huge injustice.” I don’t concede that everything covered in your suggested amendment fits this description, so your amendment doesn’t work, or at least requires a lot of argument. Maybe Jessica should use more precise language, so we don’t have to guess.

      • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

        1. I’m not interested in complaining about the “Sisterhood,” because this would be dumb. If I voice complaints, it is about the acts of the specific people responsible.
        2. The conclusion of Jessica’s sentence is, “…is a huge injustice.” I don’t concede that everything covered in your suggested amendment fits this description, so your amendment doesn’t work, or at least requires a lot of argument. Maybe Jessica should use more precise language, so we don’t have to guess.

        • oldoddjobs

          Listening to Americans blather about “the patriarchy” is a source of endless amusement, so please keep it up guys (and gals).

  • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

    Let’s assume for purposes of argument (and I believe this to actually be true, although I disclaim any first-hand experiential evidence) that there is a far more intense demand for female sex workers than for males. Let’s further assume that because of this there are more job opportunities for women in this field than for men, and that they get paid much more (other things like attractiveness, sophistication, etc. held equal). Would this situation be hugely unjust, and would it be fair to attribute it to “matriarchy”?

    • Les Kyle Nearhood

      Yes, and I demand that the government subsidize my sex work at taxpayer expense!

    • Mark – I was just about to make the same comment. It’s interesting how this patriarchy thing works. Women pretty much exclusively run primary education from top to bottom. That Sandy Hook school where the Lanza shooting took place? Out of 420 souls in that school there wasn’t a single man between 21 and 60 in the building. The rest of education has a majority of female employees all the way through to higher education now. Please, tell me why the patriarchy isn’t a problem there? Perhaps the author is not aware that for example women now hold 51% of high paying management and professional positions in the U.S.? How could that be if the patriarchy is holding women back and controlling everything like an unseen puppeteer?

      What’s really so is that feminism (second, third and fourth wave) is a pile of nonsense, top to bottom. Whether its “rape culture theory” or the thoroughly debunked “pay gap” or it’s theories about domestic violence – the entire pedagogy is filled with lies, garbage studies and data, and hatred of men, masculinity, fathers and boys. Feminists are enemies of liberty and men.

      • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

        My problem with the indiscriminate use of “patriarchy” is that it refers to something whose existence and effects can never be proven or falsified. In response to your 51% statistic (BTW, do you have a cite?), the exponent of “patriarchy” can claim that the number would be 60% but for its evil effects. On the other hand, if we said that women are underrepresented in software engineering, because those in charge of hiring in this field unfairly discriminate against women applicants, we can test this hypothesis. We could, for example, randomly identify and examine job searches and look at the qualifications of the applicants, then see who was hired.

        However, even if we found that the person hired was the best-qualified applicant, who generally happened to be a man, this would not end things. Feminists would say that women are socialized against pursuing employment in this field in favor of worse-paying jobs in primary education, as you observed (this is now a different kind of “patriarchy”). But since mothers are at least as much involved in the socialization process of their daughters (and sons!) as are the fathers, this is a dangerous path for libertarians to tread.

        Assuming that the socialization process theory is correct (and even here I am a bit of a skeptic), we generally hold that people are autonomous agents, whose choices are entitled to respect, even if we would choose differently (e.g. the decision to be a sex-worker or a “slacker”). Once we decide to regard the socialization process as morally suspect, because young women are not inculcated with the values that we think are “correct,” where does this end?

        • Feminism, as do all of gender studies and much of the humanities now, leans heavily on a ‘social construction’ theory of how humans develop. Unfortunately for them, those theories haven’t aged well. Incredible advances in biology, biochemistry, genetics and related fields show us that in fact one’s sex (mistakenly referred to as gender in the first place) and sexual orientation are biologically determined. Google “post-op tranny regret” to see the horror stories of those who’ve taken these ideas to their absurd conclusions. It’s not pretty. Guess what? There is no such thing as a “man in a woman’s body”.

          I mean, to a good social justice warrior or any academic feminst or gender activist, gender is up for grabs. One can just declare oneself to be a woman, take some meds, get some surgery and whammo, you’re a woman. Your identity was somehow a woman’s so now you match. No, not a chance. It doesn’t work out well at all. And the entire idea of patriarchy and feminism, really from Bette Friedan forward, is that all of the aspects of femininity that a woman might find inconvenient or undesirable are being imposed on her by men and the male power structure. This is fundamental to feminism. The very nature of masculinity and femininity are shaped by the perverted, evil male power structure which is why we are created the way we are in the first place. Anyone who criticizes any of it is merely trying to hold on to this power structure that creates and controls all intersexual dynamics – automagically. Without any visible strings…

          And here’s the thing. There are reams of evidence to the contrary. Fyi, there is a great documentary on this out of Norway, here’s the link http://youtu.be/p5LRdW8xw70 In it, a Norwegian reporter investigates the issues of women’s participation in STEM fields and the feminist ideology that informs Norwegian public policy. He then tours the greatest minds in the world who directly contravene every thing the social scientists claim. Even more stunning is when the social scientists are confronted with truly disruptive evidence, they simply shrug it off and dismiss it.

          As for where this all ends, I’m not sure I get your point. All cultures have values and morals. Libertarians and anarchists have them too. However, the classical liberal tradition includes an idea about human solidarity and cosmopolitanism that is supposed to remind us all of the value of tolerance in the public sphere of differences of conscience. As long as we aren’t harming each other, we generally leave morality to the people to determine. But we may still have a public morality that objects to behavior that is tolerated anyway. Rudeness is a perfect example of this. However, just because public morality doesn’t have the right to use force, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a very strong feedback and constraint on human society.

          What’s most concerning to me is how feminism essentially rejects the classical liberal ideal in favor of a marxist victim/oppressor dyad that seems to have the primary purpose of aggrandizing one’s sense of righteousness. In today’s society, when I hear women emitting victim memes, I’m astonished at how selective their vision is and the absurdity of their claims – like many of the claims social justice warriors make. If one listens to our elite educator or politicians or business people, this is ground truth. Women are the majority of voters and citizens in the U.S. now. They control 80% of all household spending and they have free entry into any field. On the other hand men kill themselves 4 times more often than women, are more likely to be homeless and absorb 93% of all workplace deaths. Men and fathers and masculinity are regularly denigrated in both popular culture and academia. We are sentenced to far longer prison terms than women who commit the same crimes, die in the wars and do most of the menial labor. And we are held in contempt in a very real way. Just watch a movie or TV show, it’s palpable.

          I’m 51 and I came of age when the idea of “equal rights” or “women’s liberation” was universally agreed. Culturally and institutionally the roadblocks to women have already been swept away and women are doing what they choose to do now in the U.S. Just because I notice that we are also at the effect of sexual dimorphism and selective pressures and genetic predispositions and hormones and biology and sex specific proclivities, what, I’m supposed to turn myself in as a thought criminal? No thanks, I’m not buying. Ditto for “white privilege”, just for the record.

          Fyi, the 51% was a 2009 BLS number, think I read it in Forbes at one point, can’t give you the cite.

          • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

            Thanks for the information. I am not as well-informed as you are on the specifics, but nothing you said conflicts with my understanding of this subject. As for the rhetorical question I posed at the end of my last comment, I was trying to make exactly the point you made about tolerance. If a mother socializes her daughter to believe that having and parenting a large family is as valuable as becoming a software architect, I don’t think this is an evil effect of the patriarchy, or worthy of our criticism, much less governmental intervention.

          • good_in_theory

            Glenn is not at all informed on the specifics. But confirmation bias is a wonderful thing.

          • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

            Earth to GIT, just because you assert something, this does not make it so. I have lost track of the number of times that you referenced a source to support a factual claim, then it turned out that the source said no such thing, or could not support the claim. If I recall correctly, the last time was your reference to a blog post(!) to disprove the claim that conservatives gave more in charity. Then, it turned out that the blogger was challenged quite specifically and in detail on his methodology, and never responded. Do you remember? So, if you have FACTS, bring them on, otherwise shut your pie-hole.

          • Get some, Mr. Mark, well done. But no worries. I don’t play web academic and won’t swordfight the fart with the likes of that GIT (perfect acronym). I spent far too long reasoning with self-styled social justice warriors and now, well, they just make me yawn. Here’s their formula. Step 1. Call me ignorant. Step 2. Call me crazy. 3. Call me a bigot. Rinse. Repeat. Boring, we’re on to you now. Nobody takes these kind of claims seriously now outside of the “Progressive” echo chamber.

            Feminism = The radical idea that we can better understand sexual dynamics by looking solely through the perspective of women. Some feminist activists will acknowledge the very many institutional inequities men, fathers and boys face in today’s society – if they are honest – but they are quick to reply that “Feminism addresses the concerns of men. Patriarchy oppresses men too. Men should use feminist ideas and institutions to deal with their complaints.”

            That’s verbatim from the mouths of many academic feminists. A few words come to mind. Solipsistic. Narcissistic. Dimwitted. Laughable. When I consider the core ideas of today’s feminism: Rape Culture Theory, Patriarchy, Male Privilege, Male Power Structure, Violence being innate to Masculinity – and many other ideas which essentially posit that masculinity is violent and oppressive and that male sexual nature is innately aggressive and rapey, I’m literally stunned that any one could believe that nonsense.

            When I first tried to wrap my head around the idea of the social construction of gender roles and sexual orientation, I kept thinking, well there must be something I’m missing. When I heard about a “woman stuck in a man’s body” I had my doubts, but I figured, hey, there must be some good science behind it all. Nope. In fact, the entire practice of gender re-assignment surgery has become quite controversial in the medical field while the social justice warriors just ignore the science and wrecked lives, while claiming moral superiority.

            You might wonder why I bring up other gender issues when discussing feminism. First off, it’s how the issue is framed by them – LGBTQ, as a unified front. And feminism inherits from gender theory. They reinforce and overlap each other. Patriarchy is a social system of control, imposed by force by men upon everyone in society. It also colors all institutions in society. Conventional sex roles and differences all flow from Patriarchy and are used to suppress dissent for control. Without a “social construction” theory, the whole package falls apart.

            Yet huge amounts of data show that in fact sex and sexual orientation are biologically determined – genetically and/or epigenetically. If you take the time to watch the documentary I linked to above, you will be shocked. And you will also see the echoes of radfem ideas in our public policies and debates. In fact, it’s not an exaggeration to claim that these ideas drive public policy and are accepted as ground truth elite academic and activist circles to some degree across all of society now.

            You might ask why I’m focused on this issue. To me, it’s not about individual men and women being free to choose their own path in life without any state imposed constraint on them due to their sex or orientation – that’s agreed to by most Americans and is de facto how our society largely operates. No, it’s the destruction of the family. It’s the number of children growing up without their Dad’s in the house, or even involved. It’s that women initiate over 80% of divorces when young children are present. That single mothers are lauded as heroines in the culture – and govt showers them with benefits and cash – and father’s are considered unnecessary.

            Our low family formation rate and reproduction rate, particularly in the working and middle classes, is changing our culture rapidly. Boys are in big trouble in terms of many social issues and the trend is worsening. It should not shock anyone that a new generation of boys who are now men are looking around at the wreckage of the men of their father’s generations lives and saying, “Hmmm, do I really want to sign up for this?”

            Google MGTOW or look it up on Youtube. There is a relatively small but growing community of men out there who have decided to abandon women utterly. Grass eaters in Japan. Many men are looking around at the world and seeing the choice to be a Dad and husband and provider and protector as a really bad deal that can be taken from them at any moment.

            So when men aren’t trying to be “good men” anymore, what do they do then? Hmmm…

          • MARK_D_FRIEDMAN

            I find it interesting that Jessica, a self-described feminist, and user of “patriarchy,” doesn’t want to debate these issues with you. Nor, apparently, do the other feminists that troll this site. I guess they are just hoping you will go away…

          • They may detect at a distance my lack of interest. I don’t debate feminists as their views are unfalsifiable. That’s okay with me, but they shouldn’t expect to be taken seriously by thinking people then. I don’t, I’ve moved beyond it. Fyi, I’m not a MGTOW – but I get them. For me, I just like seeing the world clearly. I mean, either I’m an oppressive, rapey, privileged goon who the world must be protected from or I’m not – right?

            And I’m not. In fact, I hold those who see me in that way in contempt. Feminism axiomatically demands that men be seen in this way. Nah, I’m not playing nice anymore. What I do have in common with MGTOWs is that I’m done being a “nice guy”. I’m done with romance, chivalry, the courtly ideas of love and a million other bits of culture detritus that had me operate as a vassal to the women in my life. I’ve spit the bit of father, husband, provider and protector out of my mouth – I simply won’t do so for people who don’t respect me for it.

            That’s the world we live in today. Men are a joke. Feminst public intellectuals hold debates entitled “Are Men Necessary?”. Just turn on network TV and see how men – for the most part, it’s not 100% – are portrayed as stupid and lazy and incapable, it’s kind of hard to miss if you are looking even casually. I got the message. My masculinity isn’t welcome anymore. Got it. Just don’t look so surprised when I let the door slam into your face. Feminism has used the state to weaponize the assault on men from Duluth models of domestic violence, the loss of due process by male college students due to Title IX chicanery or the VAWA act which elevates violence against women as somehow worse than other kinds of violence and also breeches men of their due process rights.

            What they are lying about? Just one example. For more than 30 years there has been data which shows that women initiate domestic violence just as frequently as men do. I bet you didn’t know that, did you? Yet the entire system advantages women and their complaints over those of men – intentionally, at the demand of feminists. Do you know the most “risky” domestic situation there is for a woman to be in? In a same sex relationship with another woman. Lesbian relationships report higher levels of domestic violence than any other domestic arrangement.

            Of course, anyone who’s been up close to this stuff knows it. Cops have known for years that women start a lot of the domestic violence they get called about. Social workers know it – there is a woman, Erin Pizzey who was an early activist in the domestic violence movement who was essentially run out of the UK because she stood up for the men in these situations.

            People who would lie so blatantly are not to be dealt with as though they are acting in good will or faith. I won’t.

  • starchild

    As a sex worker** and libertarian activist, it’s natural that I should have something to say about this topic. 🙂

    “Libertarians all hold that [insert peaceful activity here] should not be illegal, but people might disagree about the further question of whether [said peaceful activity] is good or bad.” <— This is a very fundamental principle for people who want to understand where libertarians are coming from to grok!

    Once one is familiar with the basic libertarian principle stated above however, there are nuances which are highly worthy of further thought and debate. Here I will refer readers to Charles Johnson's excellent, and (in my opinion) extremely important essay on *thick* and *thin* libertarianism — http://www.fee.org/the_freeman/detail/libertarianism-through-thick-and-thin .

    As Charles defines the terms, "thin" libertarianism is concerned only with whether or not the Non-Aggression Principle is being violated, while "thick" libertarianism is also concerned with things that are in some way tangentially related to that principle.

    He identifies four distinct types of "thick" libertarianism, which you should really read the descriptions of in his essay to better understand, but I'll attempt to briefly summarize them here, following Charles's use of the term "commitments" to encompass values, projects, movements, actions, et cetera:

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    Thickness for Application – Commitments that contribute to the full and proper application of the Non-Aggression Principle

    Thickness from Grounds – Commitments that logically derive from one's foundational reasons for embracing the Non-Aggression Principle

    Strategic Thickness – Commitments that help move us toward a society generally organized in accord with the Non-Aggression Principle.

    Thickness from Consequences – Commitments that may be regarded as social evils for reasons independent of the Non-Aggression Principle, *and* for which government coercion is a precondition.
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    At a time when libertarianism itself still remains poorly understood by so many, the need for caution in discussing "thick libertarianism" should be clear. Its distinctions are subtle, and the entire topic risks further confusing non-libertarians. Another hazard of "thick libertarian" arguments is the ease with which they can go astray and lose their connection to the Non-Aggression Principle, without which they lack validity in libertarian terms.

    That being said, I believe there may well be some good "thick libertarian" arguments why libertarians should not merely oppose the criminalization of prostitution, but actively support prostitution as a good thing in society. Here are a couple of them.

    * * *
    Thickness from Grounds

    When defending free trade, libertarians tend to depict trade not just as something that should be legal, but as something that is good in its own right. "Peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations, entangling alliances with none." The Non-Aggression Principle is seen as good by many in large part because it enable free markets; free markets are seen as good in large part because they facilitate economic growth; and economic growth is seen as good in large part because it enhances quality of life. In other words, many people support freedom because it enhances quality of life.

    Prostitution is a subspecies of trade. And the line between prostitution and other forms of trade, if it can be discerned at all, is very dimly lit. Miley Cyrus twerking while on tour is definitely a form of sex work as far as I'm concerned (see e.g. attached concert photo). To paraphrase H.L. Mencken, the trouble with fighting for sexual freedom is that one finds oneself arguing that Miley Cyrus enhances the quality of life. 😉

    Yet having been a slut prior to being a companion, I can say that my quality of life *is* greatly enhanced by having the opportunity to make a living doing something I love. And what about my clients? Having also been a client of sex workers myself, I believe that their quality of life is also greatly enhanced by having the opportunity to live out their sexual fantasies, with people and in ways that might not otherwise be available to them.

    While I genuinely enjoy being with the vast majority of my clients, the plain truth — and I hope no current or prospective clients are offended by this should they chance to be reading — is that had it not been for the commercial circumstances in which we connected, most of them probably never would have found themselves with me *in flagrante delicto*. This is especially true regarding female prostitutes, as women are less sexually promiscuous than men on average. If you are a straight male, the overwhelming majority of times you see someone you find sexually attractive and would like to have sex or even just do a little french kissing or spanking or whatever with, you will *never* have the opportunity to do so, unless (a) you resort to sexual assault (something I obviously do NOT condone!), or (b) she makes herself sexually available as a prostitute.

    The amount of money spent on prostitution even in its most unadulterated form — never mind Miley Cyrus and her many colleagues in entertainment who push the envelope of sex work — was estimated by one recent study of the trade in just 8 major U.S. cities (Atlanta, Miami, Seattle, Washington D.C., Dallas, San Diego, and Denver) to be around $1 billion a year combined (see http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2014/03/12/220903/sex-trade-in-eight-cities-worth.html ). Clearly people put a lot of value on prostitution, and have throughout human history, as the well-known appellation "world's oldest profession" bears witness.

    This is a side point, I think, but at its best I believe prostitution is not just commerce, but honest friendship, too. Some of you may snort and scoff at that, but I am serious! "Friends with benefits" works non-commercially when sexual desire is roughly equal on both sides, but when it is not? Why then money naturally enters the equation. With prostitute and client, both parties are openly and honestly about getting what they want in the relationship, rather than hiding it under artifice as is sometimes the case with many non-commercial "friendships". It has frequently been observed that marriage and dating, what with expectations of drinks, meals, diamond rings, and so on, are often little different than prostitution, only less straightforward about it.

    While I don't for the most part hang out with my clients as friends when not with them for a massage session or on a date (although it has been known to happen), when they are engaging my services I want them to have fun and feel close to me, and I want to have fun and feel close to them. In such an intimate context, it is natural (if one allows it to manifest) for a deeper connection to form more quickly than is generally the case with other professionals like doctors, hairdressers, instructors, and so on and their clients.

    * * *

    Strategic Thickness. Most libertarians are aware of the horrendous cost that banning things like drugs, gambling, and prostitution have on society: The violent crime that black markets attract; the destruction of families and ruining of lives that result from arrests and incarceration; the costs to taxpayers in stolen resources of governments trying to police these activities.

    Clearly prostitution is not going to go away no matter how ruthlessly the authorities seek to eliminate it, any more than drugs or gambling are going to go away. Even most of those who favor criminalization will readily admit as much. Yet drugs, gambling, and prostitution remain widely criminalized. Why? There is the financial motive of those in government who profit from the criminalization, of course, but that alone cannot explain it. The bans would collapse and be unenforceable if it were not for social stigma. Let's face it, it's harder to ban things that are popular.

    Given the amount of harm caused by prohibition, as long as we live in a world where prostitution is criminalized, or at threat of being criminalized, libertarianism has a significant strategic interest in seeing the sex trade flourish and become more socially accepted, so that the harmful ban on it will end.

    * * *

    **When people ask me what I do, my usual answer of late is that I am a *companion* (in a nod to the sensitive and respectful portrayal of the profession in the excellent and libertarian-ish TV series "Firefly" created by Josh Whedon), but I also identify as a sex worker. That term (coined by my fellow San Franciscan Carol Leigh aka Scarlet Harlot) has done much I think to legitimize sex work and create sympathy/empathy for its practitioners, while also being useful in the sense that it encompasses not just prostitution but porn, phone sex, exotic dancing, pro-dom and pro-sub work, and so on, allowing sex workers to publicly proclaim their status in at least a general fashion without necessarily admitting to engaging in a banned activity.

    • Les Kyle Nearhood

      I enjoyed reading your post as I had very recently.been engaged in an internet discussion with someone who was against legalization. This woman could not imagine that some sex workers might actually enjoy their profession. And she could never wrap her mind around the argument that it is the illegality which brings in danger and pathologies.

      • In fact, she revealed something that comes out when actual sex workers are surveyed. First off, the incidence of women who are coerced into prostitution is incredibly low, as is sex trafficking in western countries. I read a great study that came out of some Scandinavian country and the female sex workers reported that they were promiscuous or “slutty” (i don’t like the pejorative tone) before becoming sex workers.

        This all flies in the face of the even the supposed ‘sex positive’ narratives on offer by feminists. Prostitution, to them, is best seen as just another aspect of the patriarchal power structure exploiting poor women for sex. Porn is more of the same. Women pretend there isn’t a sexual marketplace that men and women aren’t free agents inside of this maret, and that their “romance novels” aren’t just another form of porn. Or that women have rape fantasies much more frequently than men do (50 Shades of Grey – wtf?)…Between chivalry and romance and courtly love and religion – and now feminism too – women have been sainted. The modern man is born with a bit in his mouth for a women to grab hold of if he doesn’t wake up.

        Tell me, who is most exploited in a strip club or massage parlor? The poor man, parting with cash, to get what he knows will only be a mere facsimile of the desire he wants to feel from a woman, or the woman who pretends to be attracted to take his money? But hey, we can’t have an honest conversation about any of this in today’s world.

  • starchild

    A few observations about feminism and sex work…

    Feminism is poorly named. It seeks to be two things at once — two things which are not entirely contradictory, but are merely overlapping, not contiguous, circles in a Venn Diagram.

    On the one hand, feminism is a movement for women’s rights, on the other hand, a movement for gender equality. Sometimes these goals are in concert, but other times they are not.

    An inconvenient truth for feminist-identified sex workers who want to achieve gender equality by fighting for *women’s* rights, and swear allegiance to leftist causes like gender equity in the workplace, is that the gender disparity in wages among sex workers is probably greater than in just about any other industry these days — and women aren’t the ones getting the short end of the stick.

    With the dual circumstances of men typically wanting sex more than women, and most men being straight, there is much more demand for sex with women and sexy images of women, than there is for male sex or eye candy, and market rates and work availability both reflect that imbalance.

    Don’t feel bad about it though, sisters. This is a perfectly logical and predictable consequence of supply and demand, and there’s little any of us as individuals can do to change it. No need to demand that our “sexist” clients who hire you over me just because you’re a woman be forced to practice equal-opportunity employment, or start adhering to the doctrine of “equal pay for equal work”. It wouldn’t work. On the bright side, the larger human ecosystem is slowly correcting itself to bring supply and demand into something closer to equilibrium. Gay sex is becoming more popular, and more men are taking advantage of the opportunities offered by modern technology by voting with their feet (with their genitals?) to become women. All I ask as someone who is (according to the Marxist theories too many of you still subscribe to in watered down form) “underpaid” or “exploited” relative to you, is that you not try to interfere with these equalizing developments.

    In situations where women are oppressed relative to men, as they often have been in the past and sadly still are in many parts of the world today, both a believer in gender equality and a female chauvinist would wish to advance women’s rights. But only a female chauvinist would wish to elevate women’s rights over other people’s rights or maintain unfair female privilege where it exists.

    One reason feminists are so acrimoniously divided over sex work is that both types of feminist can be found on both sides of the question. Both the man-hating Andrea Dworkin type who cries that all prostitution is exploitation or even that all sex is rape, and the pro dominatrix who enjoys exercising power over and humiliating her male clients, may be female chauvinists (though only the former typically seeks to violate the rights of others via government), while both the proverbial lusty lady who simply enjoys her promiscuity the way men more commonly do, and the sincere (if often sadly misled) activist seeking to rescue girls from being sexually trafficked, may be fighting in their respective ways for gender equality.

    Here are a couple inconvenient truths for the anti-sex-work feminists, who like to call themselves “abolitionists” in an attempt to equate their cause to the anti-slavery movement, but don’t deserve the label:

    (1) Lots of prostitutes freely choose their work and enjoy it, and as pointed out by another commenter on this page, those who don’t are far from the only people in society who dislike their jobs, and on the whole I think their job satisfaction compares favorably with working at McDonalds or WalMart. Certainly the pay is a lot better.

    (2) Lots of prostitutes are male or transgender, and some clients of prostitutes (whether male, female or trans) are female. The anti-sex-work feminists — who are almost invariably anti-SEX feminists when it comes right down to it — rarely have anything to say about male prostitution.

    The Melissa Farleys of the world like to pretend people like me don’t exist, just as they like to pretend no one freely chooses prostitution. (Okay, I exaggerate a bit. They do acknowledge the existence of male sex workers, of course; they just almost never talk about us. And Farley did grudgingly admit, in a presentation I saw her give as part of a dog-and-pony-show on sex trafficking at the San Francisco library recently, that a few people do choose to be prostitutes — her estimate was 2% of the total.)

    Anyway, “feminism” seems to me like a fine term for a philosophy that seeks to advance the interests of women no matter what, but a poor name for a philosophy that seeks to advance the cause of gender equality. It’s about as apropos as generically using the term “man” to refer to all of humanity.

  • Audrey T Benjamin

    “Like most feminists, I do think that the influence of patriarchy in the labor market is a huge injustice,”
    Stopped reading right there.

  • DesmondRavenstone

    People often argue for decriminalizing sex work on grounds of autonomy or free exchange. There is also an even stronger consequentialist argument, rooted in Mill’s harm principle. If someone is willing to provide sexual services for money, that is not harmful in itself for either provider or client — but criminalizing this exchange *does* lead to harm, hence the need to decriminalize and assure the same transparency and accountability as other commercial exchanges for services.

    Some would argue that too many people enter sex work out of desperation, and are therefore not suited to engaging in it. That may be true, but the same could be said of working in restaurants, housecleaning, or working in a telemarketing boiler-room. Do we outlaw those industries, or find ways to make them safer, as well as give people in the workforce greater opportunities for choice? (Indeed, one of the arguments for a Basic Income Guarantee is that it provides the economic breathing room for people to choose the work best suited for them, as well as encourage employers to provide better pay, benefits and conditions.)

    Finally, there is the question of trafficking. Again, labor trafficking happens in every industry, yet we don’t argue to abolish those industries. Similarly, outlawing commercial sex only robs both consenting sex workers and trafficking victims of access to the resources necessary to achieve recourse and improve their circumstances.