The State of Washington defines prostitution:
(1) A person is guilty of prostitution if such person engages or agrees or offers to engage in sexual conduct with another person in return for a fee.
(2) For purposes of this section, “sexual conduct” means “sexual intercourse” or “sexual contact,” both as defined in chapter 9A.44 RCW.
(3) Prostitution is a misdemeanor.
[1988 c 145 § 16; 1979 ex.s. c 244 § 15; 1975 1st ex.s. c 260 § 9A.88.030.]
Effective date — Savings — Application — 1988 c 145: See notes following RCW 9A.44.010.
Effective date — 1979 ex.s. c 244: See RCW 9A.44.902.
For purposes of prosecuting related crimes:
9A.88.010 Indecent exposure.
9A.88.040 Prosecution for prostitution under RCW 9A.88.030 — Affirmative defense.
9A.88.050 Prostitution — Sex of parties immaterial — No defense.
9A.88.060 Promoting prostitution — Definitions.
9A.88.070 Promoting prostitution in the first degree.
9A.88.080 Promoting prostitution in the second degree.
9A.88.085 Promoting travel for prostitution.
9A.88.090 Permitting prostitution.
9A.88.110 Patronizing a prostitute.
9A.88.120 Additional fee assessments.
9A.88.130 Additional requirements.
9A.88.140 Vehicle impoundment — Fees and fine.
9A.88.150 Seizure and forfeiture.
… or for federal prosecutions related to prostitution, sex work-related human trafficking for example, a “fee” can be any transfer of value whether monetary or in kind. It can be food, lodging, assistance in bringing family members into the United States – any transfer of material value.
To my mind prostitution is an honorable business transaction, to the extent any other business transaction can ever be truly honorable, as long as no compulsion on either side is involved.
Objections to prostitution come down to one very solid objection – it is transactional. Well, that objection can apply to all kinds of fee for service arrangements, so it’s not really that solid. What the objection really comes down to is putting sex into some kind of privileged category which alone out of all other kinds of personal service should not be transactional. That’s not very solid.
All that aside, it is what it is. Transactional sex is prostitution. And thank God for that; markets in everything. For instance, I hate mowing my own little lawn.
The Gendered Pay Gap – If really a gendered pay gap, then sexual contact and sexual relationships between men and women are inherently prostitutional. (This may be one reason some are so eager to characterized them as inherently rape, as a deflection.) You really can’t have this both ways.
Let’s look at a short list of different forms of prostitution.
The Pleasure of Her Company - “Hey, mister ….want a date?” We all recognize this as the standard come-on from a hooker, but the linguistic ambivalence is telling.
Dating only became respectable during my grandparents’ time. WWII probably had a lot to do with it. Back in the 1800s dating was something gentlemen did with courtesans. It was as much an expensive statement of a gentleman’s worldliness as it was about any kind of real romance, and it was an inherently unequal arrangement.
The only real change in dating in the 20th century is that it became respectable and socially acceptable. It was still unequal in both directions, it still retained elements of prostitution, it was a mess.
This was a major change from earlier, when dating was something rich men did with the courtesans they could afford. It was definitely part of the demi-monde, and no, it did not have to involve actual organ-to-orifice to count as what everyone knew it was, a form of prostitution. The Verdi opera La Traviata portrays this kind of relationship, right down to Alfredo throwing a wad of money in Violetta’s face after she breaks with him, which all present saw as a hideous insult – hideous because it was so apposite.
Let me repeat for emphasis: Dating not have to involve actual organ-to-orifice to be prostitutional. The social interaction is itself inherently sexual and when one party is paying for the other party, that makes it a transaction.
The dating culture was an important focus of feminists’ efforts back in the 60s and 70s and they did as much as anyone could to make it equal. Does anyone remember the ructions about women paying their own way on dates, and about how that ruined the ambiance, and all that? Well, they failed. This was something feminism got right but couldn’t make right.
These days more and more people report they don’t really go on dates, they just meet socially through friends and get to know each other that way. How refreshingly old-fashioned.
Lady’s Nights at bars – Bars discount drinks for women for one reason. That reason is to bring in male customers, with the bar owner counting on the presence of female patrons to bring in the male patrons – for the pleasure of their company. In this case the bar owners are pimping the women and paying them in cheaper drinks.
Babes on Display – Then of course there is the practice of hiring women servers and only women servers, the more babelicious the better, for some establishments. Hooters is by no means alone in this; the practice goes way back into the mists of time. It takes a lot of skill, tact and stamina to be a cocktail waitress, unless you have hooters that make all that other moot.
“Sugar Daddies” – dungone contributes this:
There’s also the recent “Suggar Daddy” trend for college women. Here you have privileged young women (i.e. they attend schools such as Columbia) using online services to hit up older men for money while claiming up and down that they are nothing at all like prostitutes. Seriously, does anyone actually believe them?
And yes, numerous women have already tried to portray this as the sexual exploitation of naive young women who have no idea what they’re getting themselves into.
Ah, yes, the Sly Inversion I mention below – this CANNOT be “stigmatized” as prostitution, this has to called something! anything! else – preferably a damseling attempt to portray the young women as victims – so then calling this prostitution would be victim-blaming, right?
At the same exact time, numerous other women have chanted “you go girl!” and accused the men who are offended by it as being intimidated by strong independent women.
As dungone says, this is all the same Sly Inversion:.
That’s how it is in a nutshell – the same exact thing is portrayed as exploitative when it makes women look hypergamous, but as liberating to women when it makes men look like they’re being exploited. Same exact thing.
The same exact academic institutions that launch endless campaigns to portray it as rape when poor men and poor women engage in it then turn around and take in tuition money that was obtained through sex work by their very own highly privileged students.
Marriage – A traditional marriage, where both partners bring equal economic power to the relationship either in the form of land, a cash dowry, a trade or labor. These days plenty of wives make more than their husbands and during the “mancession” it kept a lot of families in their homes. And in the days before washing machines or driers, or packaged meat or readily available vegetables or prepared food in general, before ready-made clothing and electricity to replace firewood that had to be collected or chopped, the labor of a housewife was day-long and irreplaceable. Working men could not live without the labor of their wives and their wives could not live without the labor of their husbands, and when either was impaired, it meant real hardship.
Well, that was then and this is now. A great deal of that labor has been industrialized in this consumer society out of relevance. That doesn’t mean that marriages where one spouse brings in more than the other is necessarily prostitutional. Hardly. Childcare is pretty near impossible to replace and when you do get help, it costs a lot and is still not a real replacement. Look at the rates for nannies in the UK, and who would claim that a nanny is any replacement for what a parent does?
Still the possibility is always there – the wife who decides she is just fulfilled at work, she’d just like to stay home and bake cupcakes and do scrapbooks, go to lunch with her friends, put the kid in daycare….. Like that ever happens…..
When someone has a standard of living that their own income could never support, someone is making up that difference. Perhaps their own labor in the home is equivalent to that, but one has to ask how much housework, childcare, etc. a person can do and how far it goes to a lifestyle that includes multiple cars, large houses, dining out, expensive vacations and the like.
A variation on this is the young lovely marrying the old lecher, who then proceeds to drain his blood at night a la Anna Nicole Smith. We had a couple of these cases here recently – women in their 50s marrying feeble old men and somehow running through every dime they had. Fortunately that is punishable as a form of financial abuse.
Alimony – Alimony is a transfer of value pursuant to a sexual relationship, just in the form of a deferred payment. There are of course other explanations, or justifications, or pleadings, but not one of them changes the fact that it is a transfer of value. And here is more support for the contention that alimony is a form of prostitution- when it stops being a form of deferred payments for women, because for instance they outearn their husbands, they turn against it and want it reformed.
The Live-In Arrangement – Here I am thinking of these boyfriend/girlfriend arrangements where he is always somehow between jobs, she’s carrying until he gets on his feet…. I am aware that this happens in reverse, and of course men have already provided rent and more for their mistresses, but I get the feeling these days it’s more the first way.
Palimony – Palimony is a portmanteau word and a portmanteau concept based on marriage and alimony. It is in effect an attempt to reinstate common law marriage after the fact in states that got rid of common law marriage or never had it. There was a spate of these cases 15 or 20 years ago and then they seem to have tapered off.
So there are some forms of prostitution that come to mind. Please feel free to nominate more. There’s something else to discuss too:
The Cover Up/Sly Inversion – Just ask yourself how many of these examples of prostitution have been characterized as rape – marriage as inherently rape, date rape, prostitution as a form of human trafficking, and ask what utility there is to characterizing them a rape culture. It seems to me it has the effect of denying any of this is prostitution. Perhaps that is the intent also.
Let me make this very clear – every piece of supposed evidence adduced to prove the reality of the “rape culture” (as appropriated by feminists from gay men) :
- The presumed availablity of women’s bodies (but only after the man has paid for it, in deeds of heroism to prove his worth or in cold cash…
- The presumption that men are measured by thier usefulness to women and have aduty to protect and provide for them…
- The notion that men have a duty to find women attractive and that it is insulting when they don’t and when they rebuff women’s advances (“Slut-shaming!!!”, “Misogyny!!!!”) - because otherwise the market collapses and women are being denied marriage validation or whatever they are due from men…
…these are all transactional and are in fact equally good evidence of a prostution culture.