ADULT CONTENT WARNING: IF YOU'RE NOT OF MAJORITY AGE, PRETEND YOU ARE
Prostitution has interested me since puberty. Not experientially, I hasten to add: in my goody-two-shoes teen years I considered hookers immoral, disgusting and shameful; in my adult years, I've never (he brags) lacked for a partner long enough to seriously consider employing one.
But the notion of selling sex intrigues me. So do the myriad of attitudes (mostly bad) surrounding the issue. I've written a spirited defense of sex workers here.
What changed my mind: Spider Robinson's Callahan's Lady. I defy you to enter Lady Sally's bordello and come out the other side with your disdain for hookers intact.
Imagine a whorehouse so entertaining that many go there and forget to have sex. Imagine a place where the "artists" have at least as much fun as their clients. Where intercourse is on many levels, performed as art, community service, therapy, and just for the sheer joy that's in it. Robinson is on record as saying "concerning whores: anyone who thinks it immoral or exploitative or dishonest to pay a 'person to pretend to care about you' has obviously never flown first class...or gone to a psychiatrist, or a hairdresser, or eaten in a restaurant...or talked to a bartender they didn't know." (Off the Wall At Callahan's, pp. 99
Another quote of his, and one I like a lot:
"We were not making love, we were fucking. Nothing wrong with that, just not enough right with it." (Ibid. pp. 57)
Of course, even the most cursory survey of Robinson's universe will reveal a vast gulf between prostitution as it ought to be practiced and how it (almost always) is. Streetwalkers in particular are usually hooking to supply an addiction; most of them are, in effect, slaves to their pimps. They are treated as holes; holes are filled with nothing; nothing is what they feel. Emptiness laced with contempt and self-loathing: pretty much the exact opposite of what they could be feeling.
Nevertheless, there are people out there who sell sex by choice, and who enjoy the hell out of it. One such is the Modern Hooker, whose column in Carnal Nation is linked above. She's an intelligent, strong woman with a keen sense of who she is, what she does and how it all fits in the world.
So: a poll on sex workers and their clients. Some fascinating stuff buried in all the numbers. Or at least I think so.
30% consider themselves middle of the road, politically. 31% say they're right wing. 19% say they're left wing.
See, this is the bassackwards of what I would have expected, since most right-wingers seem eager to eradicate prostitution or at least pretend it doesn't exist.
55% say they would marry an active provider.
There's a question missing: what percentage of those people would have no problem with their wife remaining an active provider? Well,
68% would not leave their SO if they found out she'd been a provider.
But an almost equal number (67%) say if they were caught with a prostitute, it would end the relationship. Which tells me men and women have very different attitudes about sex workers. Or at least men believe women's attitudes are different.
Here's another finding that surprised me. "33% of clients are single. 41% are happily married. 25% are unhappily married. There's this perception out there. Every comedian perpetuates it. "Don't get married, the sex will stale, then stop, and when it does, you won't be happy." Yet a plurality of clients claim to be happily married.
Prostitutes make a distinction, or at least this one does, between "porn-star experience" sessions and "girlfriend experience" sessions. Interestingly, 92% of clients say the "girlfriend experience" is at least somewhat important, and only 6% "just want to get laid". That utterly dispels yet another stereotype about men. Nice to hear that apparently we don't even see sex workers just for the sex. Maybe there's hope for us yet.