Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Prostitution Debate, Marilyn Chambers Departure


Intelligence Squared U.S. is hosting a debate tonight at 6:45 at the Rockefeller University right here on York Ave. on whether it is morally wrong to exchange money for sex.

This, it seems to me, is a much more tricky question than whether prostitution ought to be legal.  Presumably, if a law code (to remain minimal and generally utility-enhancing) must hew to the underlying principle that people can do what they want with their own bodies and property (so long as they don’t use without permission others’ bodies or property), then prostitution must be legal.

One could consider the activity legally permissible and still think it a terrible way of life, though, even if only because it is something that arguably makes already-shallow people even more callous.  On the other hand, there may be a lot of otherwise lonely men out there who would’ve committed suicide or ended up on antidepressants by now absent hired female companionship.

Arguing (perhaps along completely different lines than I have) in favor of the moral acceptability of prostitution — the “pro-ho” side, if you will — will be famous madam Sydney Barrows, anthropologist Lionel Tiger, and libertarian economist Tyler Cowen.

Arguing against prostitution — the “no-ho” side — will be authoritarian feminist (but then, “authoritarian feminist” is a bit redundant) legal scholar Catharine MacKinnon, psychologist Melissa Farley, and Wendy Shalit (a self-appointed expert at a young age on matters of modesty and proper sexual behavior but also an eccentric and a deadbeat when it comes to completing writing assignments she’s been partially paid for, apparently — that, though, is a story for another time, despite the temptation to ask up front why we think she’s qualified to give moral advice).

Combining the moral and legal defenses of (a different kind of) sex work, the recently-deceased porn actress Marilyn Chambers ran for Vice President on the Personal Choice Party ticket, sounding almost libertarian (like a lot of Playboy types, I suspect) — and she was interviewed about it by J.R. Taylor (who’ll soon be shutting down his great blog RightWingTrash and likely replacing it with a more all-purpose one).


Diana said...

Speaking of various exchanges of money for sex here is an article in the NYT about “sugardaddies” and “sugarbabies” and how they find each other in this crazy ol’ world


in some preliminary data I collected with my labmate we found that over 1/4 of respondents (college aged women at UT) answered yes to this question

“Is there a man, besides your romantic partner or family members, who you regularly spend time with and who buys presents for you, or pays for meals, etc for you?”

so, I think certain “arrangements” are so common that prostitution might as well be legal

Diana said...

Also, you’re plugging a public radio funded event on your libertarian blog?! for shame!

Gerard said...

Have you ever read “Brothel,” by Alexa Albert, Todd?

Todd Seavey said...

I have not.

Last night’s results were a bit muddled: The audience voted that it is (at least sometimes) morally OK to pay for sex, but more people switched their allegiances to the anti-ho side during the debate than switched to pro-ho, according to the before and after votes.

_However_, the massive cheering by females for the terrifying, authoritarian, humorless Catharine MacKinnon throughout the debate made it pretty clear that a huge portion of the audience — probably feminist Rockefeller students who think the patiarchy deserves to be fought with deception — were likely feigning “undecided” status at the outset in order to look like they were “won over” during the debate.

Virtually _all_ the “undecideds” were supposedly “won over” to the anti-ho position, despite MacKinnon and Shalit being lousy debaters who more than once dodged questions — such as whether mining is just as “exploitative” of workers as the vilified sex trade — so blatantly that there was uncomfortable laughter directed at them from the audience.

I strongly favor marginalizing _them_ regardless of what becomes of the prostitutes they were ostensibly speaking for.

Ken Silber said...

My impression is that the before-and-after voting format strongly incentivizes audience members to pretend to be undecided so that it looks like the sheer power of one side’s argument (the one they agreed with to begin with) swayed them. Of course, if polygraphs were used…

Todd Seavey said...

And the hissing! The waves of hissing alone were a good indicator that the ostensibly-undecided (and soon converted) audience was in fact filled with feminist shrews. For nearly two decades now, I’ve found that in New York at least, it’s generally rude leftists who hiss like little viper-sissies, not the comparatively civil conservatives.

But then again: they could all be right-wing Shalit fans. Best to distance oneself from both the MacKinnons and Shalits of the world by being libertarian, of course.

Gerard said...

Isn’t that a problem at the Intelligence Squared debates as well?

I can’t imagine that many people being persuaded to accept a position they were ambivalent about, or opposed to, prior to the beginning of the actual debate, even if the participants are particularly gifted from a rhetorical standpoint.

Ken Silber said...

Let the number crunching begin.