Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Ho Hoo Hah!

I really take some exception to the term 'sex industry'.
Is it really true that anything that involves financial transaction, whether legal or illegal is worthy of the title "industry"?
While no doubt some can and, indeed, do make the case that there are the pseudo-components of industry...work venues, employees, employers, revenue, payments, clients, sales, purchases, advertising...etc....there is the question about whether sexual relationships should indeed be industrialised.
A case needs to be made for the idea of 'industry' being something that is socially beneficial.
This is more than an industrial question. There are pretty significant ethical issues. Do we feel comfortable for example talking about the drug industry, the burglary industry, the pornography industry...or (God help us) the paedophile industry.
All illegal, all profitable...but hardly socially beneficial.
This is not to say that prostitutes should not be protected. But my concern is that prostitutes should not be seeking "satisfactory working conditions", they should be seeking to be freed from prostitution.
Although those involved in the trade often declare that they are doing it by choice, and that it has no effect on them or anyone else. Both of those things would have to be seriously challenged.
Even if we were to assume that a person can be a prostitute and not be affected by it, the social consequences of allowing sexual relationships to become yet another commodity for our voracious appetites for anything would seem to me to be undesirable.
Do we really want to live in a society in which peoples' most intimate affections have actually become commodities that can be bought or sold? Is that good for us, good for them...and more importantly...good for our children?
So, let's try to support prostitutes by helping them to get out of the trade. This should be done by proper social and financial support and not by suggesting that industrial regulation would some how suffice.

3 comments:

Chris McLeod said...

Well said, Stephen. I agree totally. Making something an industry gives it the false impression of validity and objectivity. Do we call slavery an industry? Using people for sex or illegal work is just downright unethical and immoral.

John Nebauer said...

It is very easy to say 'they should be seeking to be freed from prostitution'. Perhaps, but then I've never had to resort to it.

It is terribly exploitative, I agree. That the aim should be to assist people moving into other sorts of work is what we need to aim for. But does that mean industry regulation should be ignored in the meantime?

There is already a 'drug industry' and a 'pornography industry' which are perfectly legal (the latter in the ACT at least). I would agree that an industry should be defined by it's social good. What do we say to the fast food industry or the tobacco industry, to me neither of are in any way socially beneficial. Do we make ban these? Do we say that help 'should be done by proper social and financial support and not by suggesting that industrial regulation would some how suffice'?

'Do we really want to live in a society in which peoples' most intimate affections have actually become commodities that can be bought or sold?' Absolutely not. But we already do. Advertising preys on our feelings, emotions, feelings of inadequacy. We should feel better when we buy, but we do not, in the end.

Does this not cheapen human relationships as much? It is worse because it is so insidious and we usually do not notice it. Do we need to change society then so that every aspect of our lives are not commodified? In my view, yes. In the meantime, despite our best efforts, people will turn to prostitution. Would industry standards help? Even if it all it does is prevent some people falling into slavery, which still occurs?

I don't mean to be overly critical because it agree with the intent of the article. I agree that there are significant ethical issues posed. But I think that the commodification of human relationships is broader than what is posed here.

stephen clark said...

Thanks for your comments. I don't disagree John with most of what you write here.
And I think that prostitutes should be protected to the full extent of the law. Their vulnerability is obvious
But I don't think that making it legal makes them less vulnerable to exploitation...probably more so.