Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Why Care About Sex Worker's Rights?

Unlike some people I've known (and respect), I don't have any real desire to solicit prostitutes. As such, being able to do so legally is not really a pressing concern for me. So why am I passionate about the debate over decriminalizing sex work?

Aside from the fact that it's a basic civil rights issue, and one that cuts deep into the issues of sexual dysfunction that are socially endemic in the current cultural climate - therefore making it a great position from which to address and hopefully treat those dysfunctions...

Aside from those very good reasons, I see it as an excellent example of how - particularly on the topic of sex - moral crusaders will attempt to outlaw consensual behaviors they don't like (in this case, sex for money), by focusing on non-consensual behaviors (trafficking and slavery) and arguing either that:

a) outlawing the consensual behaviors will reduce the instances of non-consensual behaviors ("no tolerance for prostitution will eliminate opportunities for the slave trade");

or b) that the consensual behaviors actually literally are the same as the non-consensual behaviors ("all prostitution is sex trafficking"), in spite of evidence and direct testimony;

or they might argue both at once (or in turns - whatever it takes to scare or confuse people into agreeing with them), when the rational facts demonstrate quite clearly that all their efforts to stamp out non-consensual behaviors actually do very little to accomplish that (on the contrary, those problems are just exacerbated) but instead are very successful at stigmatizing those consensual behaviors they set out to demonize in the first place.

What I'm wondering is, why do so many people fall for it?

And I'm thinking the answer is, too many people have internalized the sexual morals of the moral authority. There's just something untoward about prostitution, that we can't accept it into life and society - that would be like inviting evil and hedonism into the system. Totally ignoring all the celebrated evils that are already part and parcel of the system (politics, public education, the economy). But we've been raised to accept those evils, even celebrate them, while simultaneously being taught to shun our sexual selves.

That's why this is an issue for skepticism. People who just go along with what they're taught, whether it's about people, society, or God, aren't in a position to judge facts and evaluate truths for themselves. That's why skepticism is the path to the future, a transhumanist future where we can rise above our all-too-human flaws and become better than we've ever been before: to live better, feel better, and act better toward ourselves and each other.

That's the vision I have in my head, and that's what's pushing me to argue for a world with better sexual morals. Not everyone would feel better having more sex more often - and that's quite alright. But nobody is benefiting from the deep-seated shame with which we're taught to view one of our strongest and most rewarding biological urges.

I want a neutral approach to sex education, that gives equal weight to the risks (transfer of disease, unwanted pregnancy, interpersonal complications) and benefits (pleasure, intimacy, confidence, and self-actuation) of sexual activity; an approach that views sex as just as much a recreative as a procreative activity (if not more so - considering that most people will have sex more often for recreation than for procreation); an approach that does not in any way teach a person to feel ashamed of their sexuality and how or when they choose to express it.

People should not be made to feel ashamed of their decisions, they should only be made responsible for the consequences. That is a very important distinction. It's how you teach people to make good decisions, not just to parrot the decisions of others who have come before without critically analyzing them. That, on the other hand, leads people to continue making bad decisions generation after generation, often times while thinking they're good.

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