Wednesday 4 April 2012

The Sex Issue

Prostitution is often referred to as the oldest profession. 
That seems like propaganda to me.  If you’re exchanging sex for currency, surely the manufacture of currency would predate the service industry, unless the first client promised to invent money the next day.
In any case, the sex industry has been going strong since the start of civilisation. 

Now, a lot of cultures throughout history have held that prostitution is a debasement of morals, and have decreed it to be illegal.  However, making it illegal has never caused it to stop.
Prostitution exists in all human cultures; it is inextricably tied to civilisation. 

Making it illegal means that less people will participate in it, but it also means that it is not regulated.  Sex slavery, child prostitution and violence are among the most crushingly terrible things on earth, and are all more common where prostitution is illegal, and not regulated to meet industry standards.  By legalising prostitution, the state can be charged to ensure the safety of the workers.

Prostitutes exist in this world.  Legalising their profession gives them human rights.

Not to mention, tax!  When I exchange money for a potato I pay tax on that.  I give the government some money to keep society running smoothly.  There is a truckload of money flying around in the sex industry; (I can't find the actual data, but I did read that the porn industry alone makes more than Google, Apple and Microsoft combined) if it’s legal it can be taxed, and the commonwealth gets a slice of the action.

In fact, as a member of society, I believe it is your right to demand that no (non charitable) industry should be exempt from being taxed.

I hope that these points can provide some perspective that even if you disagree with the solicitation of prostitution on moral grounds, there are still a lot of good moral reasons to support the industry’s legal acknowledgment. 

But the plot thickens!
When society makes prostitution illegal, it knows that it exists and that it will continue to exist, it just doesn’t want to publicly acknowledge its existence.  Interestingly, this exact same process happens to most people as individuals.
Almost everyone has sexual desires that they don’t want to acknowledge openly to themselves.  Many people are disgusted by their own desire to do things like masturbate, and would prefer to pretend that the desire doesn’t exist. 
I believe that the legalisation of prostitution creates a healthier industry that protects the safety of the workers.  In exactly the same way, when people acknowledge their own sexual desires as normal, and potentially enjoyable aspects of being a human, the result is less embarrassment, less self-loathing, less depression; less mental health problems in general.  In other words;

By legalising your own brain’s sex industry, you will protect the safety of its workers.

There is an argument that it is the ‘naughty’ aspect of sex that makes it so appealing, and a frank acknowledgment of all aspects of sexuality will take the fun out of it.
I thought this for a time, but I realise now that firstly, it would be radically difficult to take the fun out of something as enjoyable as sex/masturbation.  And secondly, that our imaginations are incredibly durable, even in the face of pure reason.
Take, for example, going to the movies:
We are all well aware that we’re not watching a window.  It’s a screen. We know this.  We know that the people on the screen aren’t regular people, going about their lives, unaware that they’re being watched by a bunch of bug-eyed strangers, grazing on popcorn.  It’s acting.  We know this.  Yet we still manage to engage with the film.  There is a side of us that we allow to believe that not only is the fantasy world real, but at some level we are the people in the film.

This is my favourite thing about being alive. 
And if the open acknowledgement that films have scripts and actors doesn’t take away the magic, then there is no chance in hell that accepting the reality and legitimacy of your own sexual desires is going to make sex mundane.

Some people feel that sex is inherently immoral, except between a man and a woman who are married to each other, and that things like masturbation are a sin.
Even people who aren’t practicing Christians often feel that masturbation is a character flaw; that it is a shameful weakness that must be kept a secret.  But why?  It’s a purely personal transaction that doesn’t involve anyone else.  How is it any different from playing a good game of pinball?

Some claim that masturbation is wrong because it is based on objectifying the sexual aspects of people, rather than being attracted to the qualities of their character.
It seems to me that society is founded on the principals of valuing selected aspects of different people.  I value police for their strength, I value primary school teachers for their patience, I value mathematicians for their calculations, parents for their compassion and writers for their insight.  Why shouldn’t I value models for their attractiveness?  Why should the system become invalid because sexiness is involved?

Porn addiction can be a problem when it negatively impacts your life, but that doesn’t mean that the existence of porn is the problem.
If someone wants to lose weight they might decide to eat nothing but lettuce.  While this diet will lose weight, it won’t make them healthy.  Your body requires small amounts of certain fats and sugars, if you completely cut out something you need, you will start to crave it.  The lettuce eater is setting themselves up to fail.  They will break their diet, and then they’ll binge because they’re unhappy and they’ll be unhappy because they binge. 
It’s the same with porn.  If you tell yourself that porn is immoral, but still desire it, then it’s likely that you’ll fall into the same shame-spiral where you will use porn because you feel bad and you feel bad because you use porn.  This causes the allure of porn to become its depravity, which naturally leads the consumer towards wanting things that also horrify them.
Dieticians recommend taking steps towards a healthy diet by acknowledging that high-fat foods are fine in moderation.
Porn is the same, moderation is the key, and the best way to achieve it is to stop beating ourselves up, for beating ourselves off.

In the spirit of acknowledgment I think it’s high time I acknowledged that when it comes to writing a new moral code based on rational values, my efforts are going to be eclipsed by the eloquence and wisdom of Stephen Fry.  This is from his autobiography Moab is My Washpot:

It is a little theory of mine that has much exercised my mind lately, that most of the problems of this silly and delightful world derive from our apologising for those things which we ought not to apologise for, and failing to apologise for those things for which apology is necessary.

For example, none of the following is shameful or deserves apology, in spite of our suicidal attempts to convince ourselves otherwise:

·         To possess a rectum, a urethra and a bladder and all that pertain thereto.
·         To cry.
·         To find anything or anyone of any gender, age or species sexually attractive.
·         To find anything or anyone of any gender, age or species sexually unattractive.
·         To insert things in one’s mouth, anus or vagina for the purpose of pleasure.
·         To masturbate as often as one wishes. Or not.
·         To swear.
·         To be filled with sexual desires that involve objects, articles or parts of the body irrelevant to procreation.
·         To fart.
·         To be sexually unattractive.
·         To love.
·         To ingest legal or illegal drugs.
·         To smell of oneself and one’s juices.
·         To pick one’s nose.

I spend a lot of time tying knots in my handkerchief reminding myself that those are things not to be ashamed of, so long as they are not performed in sight or sound of those who would be pained – which also hold true of Morris dancing, talking about Terry Pratchett and wearing velour and many other harmless human activities. Politeness is all.

But I fear I spend far too little time apologising for or feeling ashamed about things which really do merit sincere apology and outright contrition.

·         Failing to imagine what it is like to be someone else.
·         Pissing my life away.
·         Dishonesty with self and others.
·         Neglecting to pick up the phone or write letters.
·         Not connecting made or processed objects with their provenance.
·         Judging without facts.
·         Using influence over others for my own ends.
·         Causing pain.

I will apologise for faithlessness, neglect, deceit, cruelty, unkindness, vanity and meanness, but I will not apologise for the urgings of my genitals nor, most certainly, will I ever apologise for the urgings of my heart.