Selling Yourself

I remember talking once about prostitution on my old blog, and coming down hard against it:

I’m familiar with all the “rational” arguments in favor of prostitution: freeing the police, freeing up jail cells, monitoring the health of prostitutes, whatever. They all have to do with saving money, but they all suck compared to the damage that would be inflicted on our society through legalization.

As you can see, I used to be quite judgmental about this kind of thing, and I still don’t agree with prostitution per se, but as I’ve got older, I’ve become more tolerant about it, with a few caveats.

The problem is that there are in essence three kinds of prostitution: the age-old “selling yourself on the street kind” — i.e. to all comers [sic] — and the more formal transactions, whereby women contract for sex on a more formalized basis, or marry for money. In all cases, the motivation is the same: women are trading themselves to men for financial support, only the first kind is frowned upon by society, the second kind winked at, and the last is pretty much the glue whereby society is held together. (As my friend Patterson* once commented: “All women fuck for money if they’re going to be honest about it, but they seldom are.”)

And, of course, as with all things, there is a murky area between these two extremes: the “contracted” kind whereby young women (and it seems to be mostly the young ones, for obvious reasons) rent their bodies out to wealthy men in order to pay off college loans, or get through some other adverse financial circumstance — hence the popularity of websites like Sugardaddy. This is what I call a “part-time prostitute”, and the exchange is quite cynical — as are most transactions of this kind. But this is different from the “brief encounter” or street-corner type of prostitution, because older men (usually older, because younger men don’t have the financial wherewithal to pay a young woman thousands of dollars a month just for “companionship”) set up an ongoing financial support system, buying Little Miss Hotbody expensive clothing, jewellery, cars and even sometimes a condo. (Note that I’m not saying that this is better than the street-corner kind of prostitution, just that it’s different. The process is the same — women having sex for money — but the terms of congress, as it were, are dissimilar.) If I’m going to be really cynical about it, I’d call this kind of prostitution a “halfway house” between street-corner sex and marital sex.

Of course, wealthy men have always done this kind of thing, but in the modern world, where shame and social opprobrium seem to have disappeared, these transactions are now conducted quite openly. We can argue all day about the morality (or lack thereof) of such an action, but I have to tell you, there is absolutely no way of ever stopping it.

In fact, if I become a part-time Marxist for a moment (shuddup, let me finish), one might almost view this as a “class” issue. Poorer men, who can’t afford to be sugar daddies, go for the “brief encounter” kind of prostitute because that’s all they can afford, and the street-corner prostitutes, who most likely are not candidates for the attentions of the Sugardaddy Set, offer their services. Needless to say, this is the kind of activity which attracts the greatest attention from legislators and morality guardians (e.g. the church, back when anyone cared what that institution thought), which means of course that the police become involved. It’s easier to crack down on street prostitution because the transaction is out in the open.

Now imagine a Vice Squad trying to crack down on the women and men who use to arrange their sexual / financial transactions, and I think we can all agree that their efforts would result in resounding failure. Take it a step further, and imagine a Vice Squad going after someone like the late Anna Nicole Smith marrying a septuagenarian billionaire — even though the transaction is precisely the same as both the other two kinds of prostitution — and the task is impossible, because at this end of the prostitution index, the transaction has become accepted by society and is even blessed by marriage vows. As with most things, the wealthier the people involved, the less law enforcement will be interested. [/Marxism]

We can argue all day about the morality of the activity of women selling their bodies for sex, and about the disappearance of public morality which allows to exist, nay flourish, but this is where we find ourselves today, for better or for worse. As the modern idiom goes, it is what it is, and it seems like we pretty much have to live with it.

Fine. Let us at least acknowledge that street-corner prostitution presents a greater danger to women — slavery, forced prostitution, human trafficking, violence and murder — than does the Sugardaddy- and Anna Nicole-style prostitution. (We can leave class out of it because, as with most Marxist thought, that’s just an overlay of political theory on an age-old situation, and no class warfare is ever going to “solve” or end street-corner prostitution.) I do think, however, that in this regard there is a real need for law enforcement attention, simply because of the many dangers to which poorer women are exposed. Honestly, though, I think that the law should go after the management of the street-corner prostitution industry — that would be the pimps and procurers of women — rather than the actual participants (the women and their clients), because the former are the ones who generally cause real harm to the hapless women under their control. I’m not advocating State-run brothels because both the concept and likely execution are going to be foul.  (To put it in perspective: imagine a State-run restaurant, e.g. managed and staffed by the same kind of people at the average DMV office, and you’ll see why I think State-run whorehouses are a bad idea.) Nevertheless, they are the lesser evil than those managed by the (illegal) private sector, who as a rule do not have the interests of their employees at heart.

The solution, of course, is the free market: legalized brothels. Dennis Hof’s Moonlite Bunny Ranch (which is a legal business in Nevada) is not the norm in the current prostitution industry, but a statistical outlier. It and others like it may be “safe” establishments for both the prostitutes and their clients, but as a bookie might say, that ain’t the way to bet, in numerical terms. (I’m not suggesting that Hof be prosecuted for pimping, by the way: he runs a good business, everyone gets what they want, and nobody gets hurt. Would that all businesses were run that way.) What I am suggesting is that brothels should be legalized, but treated the same as (or perhaps even more strictly than) restaurants: licenses, frequent inspections, staff protection regulations, the whole enchilada.

Is there danger to the Sugarbabies and gold-diggers? Of course there is, but it’s orders of magnitude smaller than that to which street prostitutes are exposed. Law enforcement has no place in this area, and justifiably so. Is this “fair”? Of course not, but it’s not unfair because of the class of the participants; it’s a concern because of the dangers to those at the lower end of the scale. (Again with the ur-Marxism: the working classes are always exposed to danger in greater numbers and to a greater degree than the wealthy; but that’s not a class issue, it’s just a fact of life: oil riggers’ and Alaskan deep-sea fishermen’s lives are more at risk than those of doctors, architects or small-town bankers.)

Some time back, the prostitution topic was broached at Instapundit, and I made the following comment:

Maybe I’m just jaded, but I see little difference between anyone selling their talents to a willing group of buyers, and someone selling their bodies. If you can throw a baseball accurately at 105mph and end up playing professional baseball, how is that so different from a pretty woman selling her body and/or personality skills for an hourly fee? When I was a consultant, clients had access to my mind and business experience for $175/hour… so how is that different from prostitution? How is that different from a person who sells their time, attendance and skills to work in a corporation, for a monthly salary?
I know, this is about sex, and sex is SPECIAL. Sorry to say, but I don’t think that’s so true, anymore. Or maybe my advancing years have made me more cynical about the whole thing. But I see people like the Kardashian coven becoming fabulously wealthy by selling the intimate details of their lives to the public (via television), and I just don’t see the difference between Kim Kardashian and Air Force Amy [at the Bunny Ranch]. Actually, I find Amy less objectionable, come to think of it.
And yes, I know that prostitution is dangerous for the women — human trafficking being one danger, disease and violent death likewise. But it isn’t as dangerous at Dennis Hof’s places — certainly, the girls/women there seem to be okay — so maybe there’s a lesson there somewhere.
One thing I do know: no laws or police forces are ever going to stop the demand for contracted sex. So… [shrug]

By “contracted sex”, of course, I meant the Sugardaddy and gold-digger kind. I personally find both distasteful — I find all kinds of prostitution distasteful — but what the hell. It is what it is; and frankly, I have better things to worry about.

Finally, no article on this topic would be complete without a completely gratuitous pic of one of the participants. Here’s Amy:

I think she’s magnificent.

*Postscript: Longtime Readers of my scribblings know all about my friend Patterson. Newer Readers may not, so allow me please to post the original introduction to this splendid human being (and by the way, he is a real person and not my alter-ego).

Introducing Patterson
February 18, 2008
4:10 AM CDT

For the longest time, Patterson and I have been friends. He’s a little more politically-incorrect than I am, has (like me) been married three times, to (respectively, from oldest to youngest), Mavis, Agatha and Sheila. Unlike me, he has no sons, only four daughters. Perhaps because he is surrounded by women, he drinks a great deal more than I ever did. Last I heard, he was still married to Sheila, who is actually Agatha’s younger sister (his comment on this piece of frightfulness: “I’d do anything to avoid breaking in a new mother-in-law”). Luckily, he and Agatha had no children (the marriage lasted barely a year), so he’s been spared the “daughters as cousins” mess.
He has a first name, but everyone, even his wives, call him Patterson. He is as funny as the day is long, but with a hint of tragedy always lurking in the near background (and sometimes front and center, as you will learn).
Stories abound. Here’s a quick one.
Back in the day, if a refrigerator had a cold water dispenser in the door, it was not hooked up to a water pipe, but was fed by a reservoir inside the fridge. This meant that one would have to take the thing out and refill it periodically. It was a huge pain in the ass, except for Patterson. What he did was quite brilliant. (This was during one of his bachelor periods.)
He would fill the reservoir nearly to the top with spring water, and then top it off with Scotch: ergo, ice-cold Scotch & water, on tap.
Patterson is mostly drunk, and has absolutely no sense of shame or pride about the several embarrassing things which have happened to him over the years as a result of his many episodes of drunkenness and foolishness.
I am also ashamed to admit that over the years I have stolen from him many sayings and passed them off as my own. (One being: “Women have orgasms? Next you’ll be telling me they have the vote!”)
Anyway, I’ve always refrained from including him in the stories of my youth, because it would have required too much back-story and flashback. No more. Now that you’ve been introduced, he can take up his rightful place in the Pantheon of Heroes, and he will feature in many stories in the future.
He deserves no less.


  1. Hmpffff.

    I disagree that ‘all women fuck for money’. That doesn’t describe my marriage, is all I can say. The rest of it is true enough if you confine the discussion to the participants. Whenever legalization comes up – nobody talks of the families. They are in that transaction too, whether anyone acknowledges it or not. Classical marriage arose the way it did because it’s a good deal for men and women: it allows them to pool resources and divide labour while providing a stable home for the young. Prostitution works against all that which is why I am against it too. Cheating husbands break their wives hearts; young women in prostitution break their parents’ hearts. Who wants that for their kid?

    I would suggest the terms of the sex contract differ between the ‘sugar daddy’ version and the ‘pump-n-dump’ corner prostitute as well. The trophy wife assumes all the duties and obligations of a traditional wife – only the pay off is better. Morality wise – I think it is less ‘wicked’ than the street corner tire-biters.

    Finally, I might add that there has always been rape and murder too. Should we legalize that and tax it too?

    1. Sorry, Ferg, but I’m not going with the strawman argument. Forget the “rape and murder” analogies because they involve not only actual harm, but at least one unwilling participant — as is often the case at the street-corner end of the spectrum, where the unscrupulous prey on the innocent.
      I’m not going with the “cheating heart” thing either. If men are going to cheat on their wives, they’ll do it with Sally The Streetwalker or Susie The Secretary — in either case, the source of the infidelity is irrelevant, but the outcome is the same for the spouse. Cheaters gonna cheat, in other words, and I don’t care because there’s nothing I or anyone else can do about it.
      And yeah… Not All Women Are Like That (e.g. your wife). David also slew Goliath; but that’s not the way to bet, especially when it comes [sic] to sex. There’s a reason why prostitution is called the world’s oldest profession: that’s because it IS the world’s oldest profession. Good luck going against that part of the human condition.

      1. I might concede the “murder/rape=strawman” argument. But then the rotten wood started burning between my ears. Is prostitution a profession or a crime, Kim? Is it morally right to reduce sex as an affirmation of love and commitment – to a mere commodity? We punish rapists and murderers – why should we let cheaters off? No, I think the murder/rape analogy stands. I think a man’s wife or girlfriend would have something to say if she knew her fella was rolling in the hay with harlots.

        I’m not looking down my nose at you or your morals, Kim. Gawd knows, I’ve been married 32 years and during that time I’ve watched our nation’s morals and ethics circle the toilet and go gurgling down. I’ve been told that homosexuality isn’t a perversion, it’s a beautiful, healthy alternative lifestyle. Now the same crowd is telling me that we need to mainstream the pedos, trannies and about 26 alternate “genders” Everywhere ya look, messed up kids are being raised/neglected by single mothers, frivolous divorce is rampant, and young men are living in their parents’ basement playing video games rather than buying homes and starting families.
        I’m sorry, I just don’t see the legalization of pot, prostitution and most vices as a way to make life better for anyone other than the degenerates being consumed by them. YMMV, I suppose. For me, I choose to think that personal responsibilities are as important as personal freedoms and that doesn’t sit well with a lot of people.

        1. Ferg,
          In that prostitution requires legislation to be outlawed, but women do it for money either way, then it’s a profession. I’m not arguing the rightness or wrongness of turning sex from an expression of love and commitment into a commercial transaction, because there is no good answer. Some people, like yourself, see it as an unutterable wrong worthy of criminal prosecution, while others (not I, by the way) look at it merely as an exchange of services for money between two willing adult partners.

          And of course you’re looking down your nose at me and my morals, but I really don’t care. Like you, I deplore the fact that morality has almost disappeared from society, and certainly so as sex has become cheapened and commercialized. Unlike you, though, I see it as a fait accompli — once that toothpaste is out the tube, there’s no putting it back other than by severe measures, e.g. by something like the draconian Shari’a law, and I’m not going to go that far. Nor am I going to argue for an Eloi-type existence of 24/7 video games, legalized pot, prostitution and other vices, as you put it.

          But as I said in my post (and people really need to read the words I write and not impute them with their own interpretation): it is what it is. Here we are, with all that ugly stuff either socially accepted and/or legal.

          I’ve been arguing about freedom and responsibility for most of my life; I’ve inculcated the concept into my kids’ heads on a daily basis. It took with one, sorta took with another, and was completely ignored by the third. And these were my own, homeschooled kids. What chance does the average state high school kid stand against the modern permissive Zeitgeit?

          Far from promoting permissiveness, I’m looking at the thing as dispassionately as possible. You’re harrumphing about the loss of morality; I’m saying that morality is in the toilet: now what?

        2. I just don’t see the legalization of pot, prostitution and most vices as a way to make life better for anyone other than the degenerates being consumed by them.

          Vices, if allowed to run their courses, tend to be self-correcting (Darwin is a harsh taskmaster). The trick it ensuring that as the pack winnows itself, the auto-Darwinees don’t take the rest of us down with them.

  2. Part of me believes that if it’s a mutually agreed upon act between two consenting adults, with no coercion, then it’s none of anyone’s business but theirs. For men subject to wanderlust,it’s probably also less damaging than him having a girlfriend (or multiple) on the side, especially for the girl(s) involved. (I’ve seen this second-hand, I’ve known a number of women who were “the other woman”.) In my younger and single days I might have welcomed a safe and LEGAL, er, companionship (now that I’m married, I’d never consider being unfaithful to my wife, either for free or pay).

    The sugar-daddies and gold-diggers, well for the former see above, if he can afford it and they’re both willing, none of my business. For the latter, meh. I’d never be wealthy enough for either.

    Oh, I have to agree, she IS magnificent.

  3. While respecting your atheism: A woman is the most beautiful creation on earth. Man being a distant second. Legalizing prostitution legitimizes it and creates more of it. More women and men defiling themselves. Like legalizing dope. Now we have a generation of pot heads.

  4. I’ll start out by recommending the Karen Straughan video here:

    She discusses marriage, prostitution, and the dangers of feminism. Worth the time to watch IMO.

    As for legalized prostitution, I’m also of two minds about that. More and more men are opting for casual sex (if they can get it) or porn and Rosie Palm (which carries far fewer risks for the man) rather than marriage. Legalizing and regulating prostitution would put even more downward pressure on marriage, which is already a dying institution. I’d like Western Civilization to survive long enough such that I don’t die at the hands of the barbarians, but the more we undermine the foundations, the shorter the time-horizon I see before the Fall:-(.

    Calling marriage a version of prostitution is an old trick, and while marriage does traditionally involve an economic transaction (his surplus labor in exchange for control of her reproductive system [see the video above]), I don’t think the comparison to prostitution is really valid. Men pay prostitutes for sex followed by absence. Husbands support their wives indefinitely (ideally anyway) and also their wives’, and presumably their own, children as well.

    I suppose the argument could be made that *divorce* turns the wife into a de facto prostitute (she leaves the man and takes his money with her), but given that the man isn’t usually a voluntary participant in that transaction, that might constitute carrying the analogy too far.

    1. “Calling marriage a version of prostitution is an old trick” — I’m doing no such thing. What I’m saying is that there is a base commonality between prostitution and marriage, but the one faces legal censure while the other is a social highlight reel.

      Seriously: if you think that women, or even most women marry for love without the slightest hint of calculation in their decision process, you’re living on a different planet.

      1. I’m doing no such thing.

        I wasn’t trying to imply duplicity on your part. Probably should’ve said “analogy” or “tactic” rather than “trick”.

        And sure, one can always draw comparisons between different situations. Unfortunately doing so is often used as a means to obfuscate the differences between those situations (again, not trying to that you’re doing so). Arguably the social institution of marriage started out as purely a quid-pro-quo arrangement, but the long-term nature of it, as opposed to “real” prostitution, is a qualitative difference IMO. Like buying a meal versus learning to cook. Prostitution is generally (I gather) a one-and-done deal. Marriage was supposed to be a lifelong commitment. The differences substantially outweigh the similarities.

        Anyhoo, I agree that there is, or used to be, far more than “love” factored into the marital decision, and not just on the part of women. Nowadays though, with no-fault divorce and post-marital support decrees, women have far less incentive to consider the long-term when deciding to marry. They get to be Princess-for-a-day secure in the knowledge that if they decide they’re no longer in love, they can opt out fairly painlessly, and even be rewarded for it. Hence my prior point that divorce, especially no-fault divorce, brings marriage and prostitution much closer to one another than they should be:-(.

  5. It’s always easier to wag fingers and whine about the providers of vices, than to take a serious look at what it would take to make the wholesome alternatives more accessible. That might require effort.

    1. What takes effort is deciphering elliptical writing styles and obscure allusions. Pray tell, what are these “wholesome alternatives” of which you speak?

      1. Sorry, I was over-generalizing and drifting off to think about drugs and gambling. Also I have a bad habit of turning anything over two paragraphs into twenty. One thing they have in common is that they tend to provide a guaranteed package. People expect to get exactly what they pay for, and I’m not sure many among the would-be morality police really grasp that transactional honesty is a moral quality often lacking in polite society.

        It does seem to me that if we want to consider the goal of a virtuous society, it would be more effective to look at the root factors in creating the demand for prostitution and porn than to fixate on attacking the supply. I.e. if young adults are despairing of normal relationships in large numbers something might need to be done about their fitness for normal relationships.

  6. Hey Kim;

    I have several ideas on the prostitution thing, when I was in the service stationed in Germany in the 80’s, I did frequent the legal establishments, they were set up and licensed by the State, the girls got checked out and everything was on the up and up. I have a libertarian mindset on it, what 2 consenting adults do in their bedroom is their business. I see more men not getting married because of the social aspects of it. the deck is so stacked against them, if something goes wrong, the women leaves, takes their kids and their assets and to fight them in court when the deck is stacked against them by the judicial system and the support groups that are out there. Even when the women is in the wrong, it don’t matter she is still a victim in the eyes of the court and you have to have special circumstances to win. I remembered reading that marriage was the basis of the nuclear family and the stability of it helped to form the civilization that exist today. I don’t know how to fix the marriage issues in society except to say people get married and have no idea what to expect or have unrealistic expectation. That being said, I am married for 21 years and people think that it is a big thing that I am still married to the same women and wouldn’t trade mine for anything. I tell people “just communicate, and talk and spend time together, that is the secret.”
    As far as the class issues, that has always been that way, the well heeled have the resources to keep a mistress, some of their wives know of it and don’t care because their standard of living isn’t impacted, whereas the middle class guy unless he meets some women that is married and they have a mutually beneficial arrangement worked out will have to visit a “lady of the evening” and there is more risk here of disease, robbery or death or getting picked up by the Police in violation of the “blue laws”.

  7. Implicit in the “socially-sanctioned marriage-as-prostitution” argument is the placement of sex as the main exchange of value within marriage. I think we can all agree that time spent indulging in sex within marriage is a relatively small proportion of the whole, whereas the proportion spent in more businesslike relationships is far greater.

    There is also an implicit assumption in your thesis that women view sex as a commodity to be “sold” and men view it as a commodity to be “purchased.” What, then, of the woman who enjoys sex for itself, with no other transaction taking place except for a furtherance of bonding?

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