Saturday, May 31, 2014

I Deal In Ideals

Heather Mallick of the Toronto Star has written an article--actually, most of the Star's Insight section for today--that hurt to read. It's not available online as of yet, or I'd link to it, but let me give a summary. Because Canada's laws are about to change regarding prostitution, Mallick took a trip across Europe to see how various countries there deal with sex work and sex workers. What she found changed her mind about prostitution and it's caused me to question my beliefs on...quite a lot of things.

She believed, before she embarked on this trip, that sex work was, or at least could be, a job like any other. That legalization would offer some protection for women whom our society has chosen to marginalize. She found otherwise. In Germany, one brothel has flat rate specials, anything goes, and German net forums are flooded with complaints that the women there are "unfit for use" after a few hours. None of the many women she interviewed, in three countries, wanted to be photographed; many were hesitant to even talk to her. They seemed to exist, she wrote, entirely for the men; the idea that they themselves might have sexual desire wasn't even an afterthought. In most cases, while lip service was paid to the ability of the workers to refuse clients, reality suggested that would be, shall we say, an unwise career move. And so on. Basically, in the course of four pages, Mallick rubbed my nose in reality, and how it differs from my ideals. This really bothered me, because reality differs from my ideals in many, probably most ways, and I hate to be reminded of that.

I have this fault: I insist on seeing the world not as it is, but as I think it should be. It's not a pretty fault to have. When presented with irrefutable evidence that reality doesn't measure up to my ideal, I'm apt to withdraw from reality entirely rather than exert pointless effort trying to change it. And in the meantime my ideals blind me to the way things actually are.

Prostitution is one example. I've written on it here, here, and here; that last entry was even framed as a clash between my idealistic view of the trade and how it actually is. I suggested there that we could change the way sex work is viewed with a few simple paradigm shifts. After reading Mallick's exposé, I'm no longer sure about that.

The overwhelming takeaway from the article I just read is that men--it seems like all men, although I know otherwise--think women in general and prostitutes in particular are holes. Receptacles. The thought sickens me. It's not just that I do not and have never thought that way, but my heart aches that any woman--any person--should be thought of that way. It's not just one man thinking this about one woman, however. It seems like it's endemic. How the hell do you find the vaccine for a disease like that, and where do you apply it?

It's by no means just sex. My thoughts on love are unconventional, to say the least. I've been mocked online every time I've dared to bring them up. My sexuality has been questioned, repeatedly, because my claims that I find women beautiful regardless of their physical appearance are apparently impossible to believe, despite being true. (You'd think that my loving so many women would qualify me as heterosexual, but you'd be wrong.)

Politics--I'm forever looking for consensus, trying to drive people towards the center and get them to respect each other's points of view. That's so old-fashioned it's laughable: everyone knows right wingers are evil and left wingers are stupid. Or maybe it's the other way around, but c'mon, Ken, get with the program.

Religion: I'm really not keen on proselytizing, because if you feel the need to do it you view yourself as superior and everyone else as inferior. I have my own spirituality that works for me, and I'll talk about it here and if someone asks me about it--but I'd never suggest for a second that you adopt it. "Mine is not a better way; mine is only another way." Again, weird. I mean, if you listen to the militant atheists, any belief in God or gods is self-evidently infantile; evolved human beings, by which they mean them, have no time for fairy tales. You know what? I ask two things. One, examine your beliefs. If they work for you, great. Two--don't presume to make them mine. Beyond that, believe in one God, or seven, or none--makes no difference to me.

My thought processes, in short, are so uncommon that I often feel the need to defend them. But sometimes--like today--I get to wondering if I should just let these uncommon thoughts go. It looks from here like it would be so much easier to row with the current.

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