After reading PÖMZ‘s idea for building a better brothel via the video game system (The Happy Escort Studio), I began thinking that the problem he is attempting to solve transcends a simple brand reboot. While the idea of combining the oldest profession with one of the newest is sound, the root of the problem is not prostitution, but how society views the trade.
At the time of first watching the video, my views were also influenced by the New York Time’s The Disposable Woman by Anna Holmes about how Charlie Sheen’s abuses of women are written off due to the professions of and the way society views the women who accompany him. In the article, Holmes talks about Charlie Sheen’s abusive behavior toward women being ignored and somewhat condoned by society because the recipients of these acts were deemed lowly (i.e. “sluts”). There is a certain amount of dehumanization that we, at some point in time, have been trained to call upon when reacting to those women in the line of sexual business such as porn stars, strippers, or prostitutes. While there’s no doubt that there is a stigma involved with women who sell their bodies, the odd part is where we, as a society, draw the line. This mindset is much more removed in response to other realms of the industry such as lingerie models, cam girls, or your mainstream pop stars.
The part of this video that didn’t appeal to me was the focus on the youth of the girl in question. The fundamental issue of today’s sex trade is sex trafficking, which tends to prey on underage girls. One would hope that anyone who argues for the legalization of prostitution would be against such atrocious acts. Despite the glorification of youth that constantly pervades our society, there is no fine line between sexual titillation and pedophilia. An important part of legitimizing the sex trade would involve separating the trade’s image from all of the nasty stigmas it possesses, including its link to the young girls it currently victimizes. This would take place after the trade was put under strict regulation to ensure there was no longer any real world basis for these assumptions.
Vegas does it right. The porn industry does, too. To make prostitution a viable product in the United States, there needs to be strict oversight. Pimps would have to make a strategic move up in the world, as well–give up the pimp lifestyle and learn how to manage people and money in a respectable manner. STD tests and protection need to be commonplace. And, of course, paying for a woman’s services should not be the financial equivalent of going grocery shopping. For many years, a prostitutes talent was based on how much she charged, but the affection of a woman, be it real or faked is an expensive item and should be treated as such. Hell, maybe these women could even unionize.
I think part of the problem is the disassociation between the actual women and the hyper-sexualized beings they’re presented as. “Our job requirement was to be someone unreal, a hyper-sexualized girl who danced and deferred, but in the dressing room, we could be ourselves, neither distorted by fantasy nor brutalized by judgment. We could fix our makeup, wiggle our toes, count our money, goof around and just talk,” says Lily Burana in When we were strippers. The whore-madonna complex is so pervasive in our society, that it’s easy to marginalize women in the sex industry. Men are not the only ones at fault.
The only defense these women have against the fictionalized world society creates for them is their co-workers. “What made that dressing room so special was that it was infused with the sex industry’s scarcest commodity: trust….That trust fortified us against the seamier aspects of the job: the cover stories quickly conjured to sustain a double life, the burnout, the dirtbag customers who thought it was OK to show up for a lap dance with reeking hair and wandering hands, management favoritism, and ever-changing, ever-more-demanding club standards.” Through one another, these women are able to create a defense against the weapons their customers and jobs fire against them, but what happens when they leave the safe space they’ve created? In marginalizing this group of people, society has made it even more dangerous for these women once they leave the club, the street corners, the studios where they gain their reputation.
It’s no secret that violence happens in the sex trade, specifically within the field of prostitution. There seems to be a correlation between the perceived amount of regulation behind the deal and the amount of violence that occurs. According to “Solicitation: Part Four,” by Rachel Rabbit White, both Scott and Atchinson [sex work researchers] report that violence is more common in unregulated venues, like the street.” The article is full of first hand accounts of violence against sex workers, as well as acts from tricks that hurt these sex workers business (bad reviews on Craig’s List, ect.). The sheer suggestion of someone regulating the deal that is being made cuts this type of behavior down, perhaps due to perceived repercussions.
But there are no repercussions. In a system with no legal repercussions, the only threats one faces are those enforced by those in charge, and those in charge care nothing about these women.