::esejas un dzeja::

Pornography and Human Dignity

In this essay I will try to give some reasoning about whether we can call pornography and prostitution dehumanizing actions, which undermine human dignity. It is my reply to some claims made in this letter.

Each person, who does a paid job, sells something. An artist sells his drawing skills. A security consultant sells his knowledge and problem solving abilities. A stevedore sells his strength. A whore sells her body. And of course in every profession you also sell your time.

At this point one could argue that it’s OK to sell your knowledge, but it’s not OK to sell your body. But wait a minute, a model is getting paid for letting fashion designers to use her body to showcase their clothes, basically she sells her body/good looks. And why is it OK to receive money for doing a massage, but it isn’t OK to be paid for doing a blow job?

A common argument I have heard about why it’s not OK to be a whore or a porn actor and fuck for money is that sex should be an act between people who love each other and thus are strengthening their love, bond and relationships. Therefore pornography “robs a central aspect of our humanity—our sexuality—of its dignity and beauty”.

But isn’t that the same for all professions? One could apply the same argument to other professions as well, and argue that taking care of your child should be an utterly selfless act, done because of your love for this little human being. That’s the most beautiful, fulfilling, and humane act a mother can do. So we shouldn’t monetize child care by hiring nannies! Paying a nanny for taking care of a child robs childcare of its profound, and inherent dignity. Nannies degrade, dehumanize, and corrupt that, which should be the most beautiful expression of love and care. It undermines parental love and selfless care for a child. It reduces a child to the status of an object, which isn’t loved, only fed and washed in a loveless and utterly depersonalized act of “care”. Nannies teach parents to settle for cheap satisfaction of child’s physical needs – food and clean diapers – rather than to do the hard, yet ultimately fulfilling, work of love and selfless care.

I could make the same argument for art too. Art should be an act of creativity, a manifestation of artist’s soul, of his urge to create. Commissioning an artist to paint a picture for you degrades art and robs it of it’s beauty, and dignity.

Another argument against pornography is that a porn actor settles for self-degradation and compromises his/her dignity and is “depicted as a sexual object in these movies, as nothing but a bundle of raw animal appetites whose sex organs are displayed to the voyeurs of the world and whose body is used in loveless and utterly depersonalized sex acts”.

OK, but what about a worker in McDonald’s who compromises his dignity, is forced to become an object, nothing but a bundle of hands, which are used in an utterly depersonalized act of cooking a hamburger? Let’s face it – whenever we do a paid job, part of our body (brain, hands, muscles, sex organs) is used in a depersonalized manner. Bottom line: if you do something for money, you can theoretically make a claim that the action loses it’s dignity. (I’m not saying that this claim is necessarily true, I make it for the sake of an argument. I might as well give reasons why doing a paid job is a good thing, which does not rob the job of it’s dignity, and therefore all paid jobs are equally good. I only make this argument for the sake of showing that all paid jobs are essentially the same. And even though I don’t necessary consider that a payment robs a job of any dignity and dehumanizes it, I really think that letting your hands to be used in a depersonalized manner isn’t any better than letting your sex organs to be used in the same manner when you get paid for these jobs. The only question here is whether a depersonalized manner is necessary a bad thing.)

Basically the whole idea that it’s not okay to trade sex for money comes from a subjective and arbitrary assumption, that sex is a profound thing, which, unlike cooking hamburgers, shouldn’t be exchanged for money. Why is it arbitrary? Because that’s just a matter of opinion. Just as well I might make a similar unproven claim that art or childcare shouldn’t be monetized. At the end it means that deciding which services are sacred and shouldn’t be sold is just a matter of personal opinion. If you consider taking care of a child sacred, you shouldn’t hire a nanny. If you consider sexuality a sacred act of love, you shouldn’t get involved in porn industry.

One might also say that fucking for money is a nasty job. Well, that also is a matter of opinion. I might just as well make a claim that cleaning toilets or working in McDonald’s are nasty jobs. Also it depends on how much you are paid. If salary is good, then one can choose to do a nasty job too.

What I have tried to prove with these arguments is that fucking for money shouldn’t necessarily be considered as selling yourself. If that’s the conclusion, then can a person sell himself somehow? I think yes. One sells himself when he betrays his values, his principles, his integrity, when one starts speaking or acting against one’s convictions. For example, I’m quite good with doing public speeches, therefore one way how I could sell myself would be by agreeing to preach Christianity in exchange for money (I am an atheist). In other words, if some girl considers prostitution bad and then afterwards becomes a whore, she has sold herself. If she considers prostitution a normal profession and becomes a whore, then she haven’t betrayed her values and haven’t sold herself.

Does this mean that a person without any integrity, principles or values can’t possibly sell himself (sadly there are such people too)? I’d say yes. If you don’t consider lying, torturing people or being a hired assassin to be bad things, then you can’t possibly sell yourself by agreeing to do any of them. For example, those workers, who tortured and burned “witches” in Middle Ages, weren’t violating their principles by doing that, therefore you can’t blame them for having sold themselves. Of course this doesn’t mean that all these things become good deeds, because one can prove that killing, lying or torturing people are bad things in general no matter who is doing them.

This means that if you want to prove that exchanging sex for money necessarily is a bad thing, you must prove that having sex for pleasure (without love for your partner) is a bad thing in general, therefore doing it for money would be a bad thing as well.


2 responses to “Pornography and Human Dignity

  1. Marcus Ranum August 4, 2012 at 21:30

    Good article!!!

    This is exactly what I was thinking of when I commented in my write-up that a humanistic argument against pornography would look like a marxist critique. If we’re willing to say that work is what you do for money, then being a porn actor is just another form of work and the question of whether it’s “degrading” or not is relevant only to whether the parties involved feel it’s a fair transaction. I’d clean the men’s rooms at a soccer stadium for $4,000/hr but not for $4/hr. If there’s “degradation” involved it’s a consequence of social injustice that makes some people rich enough that they never have to work at all, while they can implicitly force other people to do their cleaning for them because they have to work, and at a wage set by those on top.

    One can argue that pornography is exploitative because it tends to attract women who are economically disadvantaged because of endemic economic injustice in their environment and unskilled as a consequence of lack of education in their environment. That’s a totally legitimate argument but, to me, it becomes an argument for economic equality and equality of opportunity rather than an argument about pornography. If we’re saying “women should have a chance to be other than porn actresses” we’re missing the point that “women should have an equal opportunity to be corporate executives and world leaders” – which is the main point.

    • Avestra August 5, 2012 at 22:54

      It’s amusing how when you debunk all the ridiculous profane stuff about morality, the debate turns into the much more earthy question about whether it is OK to economically force some people to do nasty jobs.

      Many moralists are concerned that poor and underprivileged people are forced to start working in the porn industry or prostitution. But the same people doesn’t seem to be nearly as much concerned or even care at all when people are forced to do other nasty jobs like cleaning toilets, picking fruits in plantations etc for ridiculously low salary. Even though the underlying problem is exactly the same in both cases. And it’s bad that looking through their morality prism people fail to see the real issue. Although who knows – maybe if they did see the real issue, then they would stop caring about poor people, who are forced into porn industry just as well… Therefore morality might actually do a good thing, because I know of some charity sponsored institutions, which help women, who were forced to get into prostitution, to get out of it and start a better life. Yes, that’s a “if you don’t do the right thing knowingly, we will trick you to do it anyway” approach, but it seems to have helped at least some women (and disturbed lots of other ones, who just wanted to easily earn lots of money).

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: