I’ve recently had a debate on this blog post concerning the ethics of prostitution. Several people have a different opinion than I do on the matter. Here is my unified theorem on why I believe prostitution is wrong.
First, let’s address sex itself with regards to men. The power of sex is at once vastly understated in our society while at the same time referred to all too often. Modern society believes that sex is a toy. In reality it has the power to make people miserable both in its abundance and in its absence. Women especially, in modern society and in the age of sexual freedom are numb to the power that sex has over men. Oh, they know that men look at them for too long when they wear a low-cut blouse, but in no way is the power that sex has over men properly and formally explained to them. Mostly they gain their dim understanding of sexuality from pop culture. The women find that they enjoy the attention they get from men when they wear revealing clothing or are flirtatious, but this belies any wisdom about the matter. Some of these women paradoxically believe that sex is not important while believing that being in control of sex proves they are strong women. Some women use sex to punish or control their husbands or boyfriends. If they do this, they clearly do not understand the power of sex, and are asking for a good bit of trouble for themselves. It’s difficult enough for men to go without sex, but if he feels that a woman is so cruel as to use his weakness to hurt him, he may look elsewhere.
As most readers will know, I am a Christian and thus take a Christian perspective. I am admittedly bias on the matter. But I must also add that I am human and subject to the same biological forces as non-Christian men. I sympathize with them in regards to their argument that they want sex and believe that prostitutes offer a reasonable outlet for sexuality.
Let’s consider the libido, as like a hunger for food. When we grow hungry, we eat, and find satiety. Over time we grow hungry again. Suppose a person is very hungry. He or she has not eaten all day and has worked hard. Is it better that they grab a bag of chips, a soda, and a candy bar to assuage their hunger, or that they wait for a while until a proper meal can be prepared? They’re not in a situation where they are likely to starve to death. Most people would agree that a cooked meal at home is better than succumbing to the pull of junk food. I remember having a discussion with a friend of mine when we were in college. He said his professor told him that the urge for sex is greater than the urge for food. This is laughable and clearly shows the kind of people that in many cases are teaching the soft heads of college students. It reveals a society that has become soft, and thus thinks about sex, all the time, anytime. Anyone who’s been hungry, really hungry, knows the last thing on the mind is sex. We can go a day without sex. Try going without food for even 24 hours. Not only does the mind focus entirely on food in this case, but a person’s hormonal profile changes greatly. The procurement of food is far above sex on the hierarchy of needs. Join the military and find out.
I realize that I have not yet proven or even offered an argument that prostitution is sexual junk food; I will, though I suspect that even the proponents of prostitution will agree that sex with a prostitute is not the heights of possible relationships. Just keep the idea in mind as you read my article.
The primary argument from people that support the legitimization of prostitution is that in its pure form, no one gets hurt. The john pays for a service which the prostitute willingly provides, and as with all things in a free market both parties gain. But there’s a tricky thing about sex, I think. It can harm us even when we don’t know it’s harming us. The pleasure it provides masks the power it has over our conscience and sub-conscience mind. I refute the idea that no one is hurt. As a matter of observation, there are few people in America more emotionally damaged, generally speaking, than willing prostitutes. Marina Adshade writes:
Research suggests that promiscuity is not associated with increased happiness and, in fact, that the number of sexual partners needed to maximize happiness is exactly one…So if sex makes us happy then surely, if variety really is the spice of life, having more sexual partners must make us happier. Well it doesn’t. People with more sexual partners are less happy than those who have just one…Men who use prostitutes are also less happy. That is, promiscuous people are less happy.
There are several studies that show a relationship between promiscuity and depression, as well as other psychological problems. Promiscuity is not causative in these cases, but it certainly seems to be one ingredient in a stew of unhappiness. Now, take the unhappiness generated in a promiscuous life and turbo-charge it by making it one’s job to be promiscuous. The result? Women with the same psychological profile as soldiers suffering from shell shock:
In a study to be presented today at the annual meeting of the American Psychological Association in San Francisco, researchers interviewed almost 500 prostitutes from around the world and discovered that two-thirds suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder. In contrast, the condition is found in less than 5 percent of the general population. Studies of veterans of combat in the Vietnam War have found that the disorder may be diagnosed in 20 percent to 30 percent, about half of whom have long-term psychiatric problems.
”Essentially, we need to view prostitution itself as a traumatic stressor,” said Dr. Melissa Farley, a psychologist and researcher at the Kaiser-Permanente Medical Center in San Francisco who directed the study with colleagues from Turkey and Africa.
Moreover, another study showed that prostitutes have a death rate far surpasses the norm. Indeed, female prostitutes die at a rate 5.9 times greater than the general population in the same age group. This rate is triple the rate for the most dangerous job (fisherman) listed by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The argument of course, is that the specific act of sex in exchange for money is not wrong, even of the surrounding facts show that prostitution in a dangerous trade. My retort is manifold: First, as I wrote prior, studies show, and my own anecdotal experience around women known to be promiscuous shows, that multiple sex partners damages us psychologically. Second, this argument is the result of a sickness in the thinking of the modern mind, a sickness that has infected even our sciences: It is the pathology of Cartesian reductionism. Reductionists believe that by breaking down complex systems into individual parts, they can understand the the system as a whole. This sounds good, but in practice, the more complex the system, the less rewarding is reductionism. The reductionist view assumes one knows about all the parts in the first place and fails to comprehend that individual parts are changed in nature by other individual parts. Reductionists also tend to believe their theories, real-world experience be damned. Many reductionists refuse to acknowledge that their inputs are inadequate, thus their outputs are faulty. In truth, complex systems must often be viewed in a holistic manner, acknowledging emergence.
Peter Corning, a systems scientist explains:
Even in a chess game, you cannot use the rules to predict “history” — i.e., the course of any given game. Indeed, you cannot even reliably predict the next move in a chess game. Why? Because the “system” involves more than the rules of the game. It also includes the players and their unfolding, moment-by-moment decisions among a very large number of available options at each choice point. The game of chess is inescapably historical, even though it is also constrained and shaped by a set of rules, not to mention the laws of physics. Moreover, and this is a key point, the game of chess is also shaped by teleonomic, cybernetic, feedback-driven influences. It is not simply a self-ordered process; it involves an organized, “purposeful” activity.[Corning, Peter, The Reemergence of Emergence, 2002]
To say that the compartmented act of sex for money causes no harm is not useful, because everywhere we look, we see that drug use, robbery, disease, and early death (among other things) are the lot of the prostitute. Separating the individual aspects of prostitution amounts to saying that being a soldier is easy, because marching is easy. There’s a quite a bit more to it, though. Human psychology and social systems are incredibly complex.
We can see that prostitution denies the prostitute as well as the john (unless the act is kept secret) access to the one institution that is perhaps more strongly associated with happiness than any other: Marriage. Despite our cynicism, the happiest people in the world are happily married people. Additionally, marriage has a strong impact on individuals’ economic status, and the well-being of children. In other words, the best way to be happy, keep your money, and ensure the success of your children is to get married and stay married. But who marries a prostitute, except maybe her pimp? The wife of a john is sure to be displeased and end the marriage if she finds out about his activities. Thus, prostitution prevents people from taking part in an important institution.
The easy argument against prostitution is that it spreads STDs. But yet again, many take a reductionist view and say that, yes, prostitutes should use protection, but that doesn’t’ make the act itself wrong. And yet, in a world inundated with access to condoms and the talk of their use, STDs among prostitutes even in first world nations runs rampant. One report states that 57% of prostitutes in Newark New Jersey are HIV positive. At one point in the 19th century, 75% of men in New York City had an STD of some sort. Is it difficult to imagine why historical societies frowned on prostitution, even if they tolerated it? Especially in the days before antibiotics. When promiscuity involves large populations being killed off, I’d say that’s a moral issue. In Thailand, a country well-known for its sex trade, the prevalence of HIV-positive people went from 100 infected persons in 1984, to 28% of all brothel-based prostitutes being HIV-positive. Even if 99% of all prostitutes used condoms every time, the disease would still spread fairly rapidly. One human vector is all that’s needed in a promiscuous population, and prostitution is promiscuity on steroids.
Prostitution is perceived as social chaos, even if only subliminally. Where there is open prostitution there will also be increased rates of theft, robbery, rape, and murder. Criminal minds sense the permissive environment in which prostitution thrives, and that disorder inevitably begets more disorder, as James Q Wilson explained in his Broken Window Theory. Most human beings know that paying for sex, and the subtle yet dangerous emanations that emit from prostitution is not the desired state of human existence. Even the paying johns view their act as a form of addiction, and a fatalistic surrender to the tides of blanched misery. this is true from Las Vegas, to Kiev to Bangkok. For no human, no matter the depths of his or her cynicism, can bury fully the knowledge that sex is important and should be treated as such. After all, we all exist because of sex.
I have shown that promiscuity is associated with unhappiness and that marriage and stable relationships are associated with happiness. We know that children are much better off with both parents present, and it’s easy to believe that prostitution cheapens meaningful relationships such as marriage. I have shown that prostitutes tend me be miserable and die a very high rate, that deadly STDs have been spread and are still spread through the practice. Also, that complex systems cannot always be understood by understanding their individual parts.
As such, prostitution should be discouraged by society, even if not criminalized. This is not an easy task in the post-sexual revolution period, in which sex was reduced to the mere mechanical interactions of body parts. The reductionists have had their day. But the damages wrought by the sexual revolution are beyond the scope of this article. Suffice to say we value marriage less, and the statistics and anecdote exists to support that children and thus society have suffered, and will suffer more. The acceptance of prostitution is viewed by the young as an argument from silence. It tells the next generation that the very kernal of human society–the family–is meaningless. And beyond a sufficient human society is Hobbes’ “state of nature”, the howling wildernesses that make up many of the countries of Africa and South America, where life is nasty, brutish and short.