Friday, March 21, 2008

What's The Worse Job? Paid Sex Worker or Janitor?

Author Annalee Newitz of has a great column this week in which she points out that Spitzer Did Nothing Wrong by hiring an escort for sex. And it is hard to see what all the fuss is about when there are so many more pressing concerns in the world (war, homelessness, child abuse, domestic violence). You should read her column in full, but the key point she makes and with which I agree, is that this is a case of simple economics and our capitalist system . . .That and a sad case of ever rising puritanical sensibilities in this country.

Newitz notes that: "The reasons given are always the same: sex work is abusive to women (male prostitutes don't exist?), and being paid for sex is inherently degrading.
"Let's look inside one of those heavy economics books that I just beat you with and examine these assumptions for a minute, OK? Every possible kind of human act has been commodified and turned into a job under capitalism. That means people are legally paid to clean up one another's poop, paid to wash one another's naked bodies, paid to fry food all day, paid to work in toxic mines, paid to clean toilets, paid to wash and dress dead naked bodies, and paid to clean the brains off walls in crime scenes. My point is, you can earn money doing every possible degrading or disgusting thing on earth.
"And yet, most people don't think it's immoral to wipe somebody else's bum or to fry food all day, even though both jobs could truthfully be described as inherently degrading. They say, "Gee that's a tough job." And then they pay the people who do those jobs minimum wage.
The sex worker Spitzer visited, on the other hand, was paid handsomely for her tough job. The New York Times, in its mission to invade this woman's privacy (though in what one must suppose is a nonexploitative way), reported that she was a midrange worker at her agency who pulled in between $1000-$2000 per job. She wasn't working for minimum wage; she wasn't forced to inhale toxic fumes that would destroy her chances of having a nonmutant baby. She was being paid a middle-class salary to have sex. Sure, it might be an icky job, in the same way cleaning up barf in a hospital can be icky. But was she being economically exploited? Probably a hell of a lot less than the janitor in the hospital mopping up vomit and cleaning up after you.
"Sure, there are hookers who are exploited and who have miserable lives. There are people who are exploited and miserable in a lot of jobs. But the misery is circumstantial: not all hookers are exploited, just as not all hospital workers are exploited. It's basic labor economics, people.
"Audacia Ray, former sex worker and editor of the sex worker magazine $pread, has pointed out that the public doesn't even seem to understand what exploitation really means. The woman who did sex work for Spitzer has had her picture and personal history splattered all over the media in an incredibly insulting way. Nobody seems to realize she's being degraded far more now than she ever was when Spitzer was her client. And she's not getting any retirement savings out of it, either."

If you ask me, the real sin here is that more of our politicians ought to be having better (even if they have to pay for it) sex. If they were at least getting laid regularly maybe we all could be making love not war!

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