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John speaks out at Overcoming Bias November 7, 2010

Posted by Summerspeaker in Feminism.

After Robin Hanson makes a post about the inefficiency of anti-prostitution laws, commenter These days, those days defends buying sex at length. For instance:

I am a customer of prostitutes. I suppose that the typical customer of prostitutes is not some guy for whom the prostitution turns into a close personal relationship in an incredibly easy manner–nevertheless, that’s exactly what it’s like for me. And I definitely defend the idea that neither I, nor a more typical trick who never forms a close relationship with his hooker, is doing anything wrong. The fashionability (yes, Andrew, your opinion is quite politically correct rather than a truly unpopular one) of this condemnation is probably in large part due to a lack of pity for the sex-starved: Being deprived of sex is not seen as being an affliction that should be removed, it’s not seen as understandable that someone would take desperate measures like getting together with a prostitute.

He also describes prostitution as an essentially lower-class problem and then goes on to criticize the Swedish model of prostitution legislation as well as anti-trafficking activist Donna M. Hughes. There’s so much male supremacy here I don’t know where to begin.  In accordance with the framework laid out by Hanson, participants either ignore, downplay, or dismiss the radical position of prostitution as a horrific example of economic coercion and misogyny. (As the anarchist militia says in the film Libertarias when they take over the brothel, “El amor debe ser libre, no comprado. [Love must be free, not bought.]”)

I find the expressed male sexual entitlement and view of women as a resource especially telling. Andrew Kieran responds to These days, those days by joking that he’s “totally drowning in pussy” and thus cannot relate. The argument centers on the personal effect contracting a sex worker has on the dudely buyer rather than analyzing this patriarchal conception of  sexuality or the structural economic conditions involved. This whole sex starvation thing never fails to baffle me. It’s patently absurd to equate not engaging in sex acts with other humans as frequently as desired to lacking sufficient nutrients to sustain metabolism. Nobody ever died from not getting off, and most folks can orgasm happily without assistance – or would be able to without the silly taboos against masturbation.

In conclusion, I blame the patriarchy and await revolution.



1. Robin Hanson - November 9, 2010

Don’t you think it is possible that I might “reject” your “radical position” rather than merely “ignore, downplay, or dismiss” it? Why assume that if I seem to disagree with you it must be because I don’t understand you? Do you really think everyone who understands you agrees with you?

Summerspeaker - November 9, 2010

I think “dismiss” covers “reject” in this context (the two words are synonyms, after all). I wasn’t trying to imply that you don’t understand the radical position.

2. Summerspeaker - November 17, 2010

On the subject of sex work, Delianth recently wrote an excellent comment on another blog. The whole thing is worth reading.

3. AnonymousCoward - November 18, 2010

It pains me to say this, but I am “sex starved”, so to speak. (please don’t ridicule or condemn me) I am a highly socially avoidant autistic male. I am troubled by feelings of loneliness and low status. Thus when I read (Delianth)”So I reiterate to these guys: if no one wants to have sex with you, it might not be that you’re particularly ugly; you’re probably just a douche”, I find it hard to read. I wither easily from such talk. IMO, sexual frustration is a serious social/emotional problem which deserves a more nuanced treatment than you or Delianth have given. Which is not to say that I support prostitution. But would some sensitivity be too much to ask for? No, really I don’t know. :-0

4. Summerspeaker - November 19, 2010

Lots of us are troubled by such feelings regardless of whether we engage in sex acts with other folks. I would prefer to separate social and sexual frustration. The former makes sense to me while the later does not – especially not in the physical, biological terms it’s typical expressed in. That should get addressed with a hand, vibrator, or what have you. The problem comes from sex serving a status measure. In my view the revolution will only be complete when sex acts stop being both culturally compelled and culturally limited. Sex-neutralism.

5. Valkyrie Ice - November 23, 2010

Summer, as far as I have been able to tell based on other conversations we’ve had, you are probably incapable of comprehending what someone is saying when they describe sex as a need, one which masturbation DOES NOT FULFILL. The reason? It’s not a need for you, or you would understand the point being raised.

No, NOT EVERY human being has a NEED for sex, because it is a bell curve, and you apparently fall on the far side of the need curve.

I’ve known too many women who CHOSE to be prostitutes to consider your views as even remotely close to reality. They are extremely biased to assume that sex = male exploitation of women.

Sorry to burst your bubble, but there are plenty of girls who enjoy sex, and who feel perfectly in control of their sexuality, and not dominated by men, and their are plenty more women out there who have the cynical view of sex as a tool to manipulate men.

Prostitution being illegal is what makes it dangerous. Legal brothels in Nevada have security to protect the girls, regular and extensive health care, and completely at will employment. The girls work by choice, make excellent wages, and don’t have to work for any customer they do not chose to work for. The prostitutes have the complete power and work there by their own free will.

But places where it’s illegal? That’s where the exploitation occurs, that’s where the girls have no rights and no safety. That’s where you will find “pimps” hooking girls on dangerous drugs, forcing them to work for anyone, committing violence against them.

You truly want to stand up for women’s rights? Get off your sanctimonious high horse and look at the reality. Legalization empowers the prostitute, and ensures that only those who wish to be prostitutes take the job, keeping it illegal for any reason ensures the further enslavement and exploitation continues unabated.

6. Summerspeaker - November 29, 2010

Almost nobody works out of their own free will under capitalism, Valkyrie. We must either fit within the existing economic structures, find an alternative method to meet our basic needs, or starve and freeze.

By any standard, the Nevada experience isn’t a good example of sex worker empowerment. I suggest you reconsider it.

7. Valkyrie Ice - November 29, 2010

*sigh* Summer, no experience is a good example right now, because it’s illegal in so many places. Legalize it, and FAR more prostitutes will have the ability to create far more advantageous work situations.

The ancient Greek Hetaera were in control of their own lives, not subjected to the male dominion of their husbands like most other females were. Illegalization of sex for profit exists solely to ensure that males control the women involved.

As for free will? I’ve known a dancer who was an an accountant. She preferred to dance because the pay was better, and she had to put up with less BS from her clients.

I seriously think you are letting your prejudices override reason here, Summer. Not everyone finds sex to be a male only pursuit.

8. Summerspeaker - November 30, 2010

To the extent that you define anarchism as prejudice, okay. As discussed above, prostitution has no place in society based on liberty and equality. Everyone – regardless of genitals or chromosomes – would be free to engage in whatever sex acts they desired without pressure from omnipresent economic coercion.

9. Valkyrie Ice - November 30, 2010

And if someone chose to “engage in sex acts for profit” profits being defined as any thing which benefits the person “selling” sex, what then? Is it not prostitution if it’s not “money” but “favors” or “jewelry” or “wuffie”?

There are women who would freely engage in prostitution now rather than work their current jobs provided it was legal, and regardless of what the “economy” becomes, there will always be a “medium of exchange” and there will always be people who will willing trade their “medium of exchange” for sex, and always be people willing to sell sex for the “medium of exchange” They may have no actual “need” to do so and under no “economic coercion”, but there will still be those who do. Whatever you may think, Summer, we’re a species obsessed with sex. Even if we have a society in which sex is freely available, there will still be people engaging in “sex for profit”, if you really think that anything else is going to happen, you have a very unrealistic view of the human animal.

10. Summerspeaker - November 30, 2010

Are you claiming prostitution to be a human constant? The anthropological and historical work I’m familiar with contests that notion. However, even if the practice had existed since the beginning that wouldn’t prove its inevitability. Behavior depends on the environment. Nobody knows the full range of possibilities available.

Motivations vary, but the sex workers/prostituted folks I know personally and most of the ones I’ve read about do or did it to attain a basic standard of consumption. With access to an abundance of food, housing, clothing, and entertainment they would stop selling sexual services.

11. Valkyrie Ice - December 1, 2010

Yes I am. Why? Because it exists in Chimps too.


And I’ve known those who only were sex workers out of need too, Summer. But the claim that EVERY SEX WORKER IS ONLY DOING BECAUSE THEY ARE COERCED is the fallacy you are supporting. I am pointing out that no, there are those who do so by choice, and with legalization those would be the SOLE people continuing as sex workers, and there would be no “sex slaves”, which the majority of current sex workers basically are.

The fact that you cannot accept that reality is where you are allowing a prejudice to override fact and reason.

12. Summerspeaker - December 2, 2010

The chimp example stands as dubious and wouldn’t prove anything anyway. We’re not chimps.

Do you have any examples of legalization working as you describe? Not so much in Nevada.

13. AnonymousCoward - December 19, 2010

Sexual frustration describes the condition in which a person is in a state of agitation, stress or anxiety due to prolonged sexual inactivity and/or sexual dissatisfaction that leads him or her to want more sex or better sex, or a state in which he or she is perpetually sexually aroused. Most often it implies simply an uncomfortably low level of sexual activity, such as typifies sexual dysfunction or involuntary celibacy. The term can also mean some arousing stimulation without orgasm that is causing frustration over lack of orgasm.[1] Sexual frustration can result from a lack of sexual activity or by a lack of a desired activity or lack of a particular acted-out sexual fantasy, or a lack of variety in sex. Sexual frustration can be biologically relieved by sexual activity which leads to orgasm, including masturbation, but masturbation itself does not cure a long-term pattern of sexual frustration; in fact, the compulsive masturbation that usually results from long-term sexual frustration can have the somewhat ironic effect of making the frustration even worse.

It is claimed by some[who?] that a person who is sexually frustrated sends off “signals” in their personality, consciously or subconsciously, arising from their frustration.[citation needed] These cues can include frequent moodiness, over-eating, agitation, stress, lack of sleep, being easily sexually aroused, trouble paying attention to things, low self-esteem including the feeling of being unwanted, unloved and/or being physically or personally repulsive; and similar phenomena. The feelings of repulsive, unwanted, unloved and rejected can lead to manifestation or intensification of other unhealthy personality traits, such as severe depression arising from the despair felt, or even body dysmorphia. Ironically, such reactions as these often have the very consequences the person is implicitly seeking to avoid — a kind of Catch-22 where a person who “tries too hard” because of sexual frustration may in turn be seen as being “desperate” and thus will not gain access to sexual opportunities, leading once again to sexual frustration. Sexually frustrated people may therefore have a very hard time “curing” their situation purely by force of their own effort and will (see also the article on involuntary celibacy). – from Wikipedia

Are you saying this condition does not exist or that somehow it is not problematic? If the latter, please explain in detail.

AnonymousCoward - December 19, 2010

“Sexual frustration can be biologically relieved by sexual activity which leads to orgasm, including masturbation, but masturbation itself does not cure a long-term pattern of sexual frustration; in fact, the compulsive masturbation that usually results from long-term sexual frustration can have the somewhat ironic effect of making the frustration even worse.” This is the crucial point, I think. Prescriptions of masturbation don’t necessarily work, which undermines your argument. The real issue to me isn’t “relieving” the sex drive, it’s removing the distress. If you were a clinical psychologist, would you tell a patient who complains of persistent sexual frustration to forget about it and just masturbate? Do you realize they actually need help? Cause it doesn’t seem like it.

14. AnonymousCoward - December 19, 2010

Sorry for posting so much ;-0. Anyway… analogously, would you tell a victim of romantic frustration to just enjoy a romance story? That’s obviously not very helpful. Certainly I value romance more than sex, but others may have different priorities I suppose. The point is the that the distress from sexual frustration is no less real and should not be discounted because of moralism. Masturbation is understandably not always cure-all for this also. With this in mind, try and take this seriously.

15. Summerspeaker - January 20, 2011

Copying and pasting a Wiki article in a comment strikes me as poor form. That’s why superintelligence gave us hypertext links. I look with skepticism on supposed conditions and clinical psychology in general. We humans have the marvelous ability to get worked up about damn near anything. The existence of sexual frustration as a concept under current circumstances by no means makes engaging in sex acts with other people a necessity akin to food, shelter, and medical care.

Primarily I oppose the economic coercion inherent in the john-prostitute relationship. I have no problem with claims of sexual frustration if they can be disentangled from notions of sexual entitlement and addressed in way consistent with personal freedom.

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