Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Women: not quite rational, free agents

I've a column in today's Canberra Times, 'Glamour can't disguise the fact that sex is still about power'.

Prompted by Karl Lagerfeld's explanation of the allure of his protege, Zahia Dehar--who was once a teenage prostitute--I'm looking into gender inequality: the flawed assumptions regularly made about women.  A sample:
That Lagerfeld's argument is dubious is to be expected. It is not really supposed to defend teenage prostitution. Instead, it shifts the goalposts from gender equity and social harm to romance, style, glamour, and France before post-colonial complications. It is, in other words, a defence of his brand. When it comes to gender violence or exploitation, the media is full of these pseudo-explanations. 
Take the recent characterisation, by British politician George Galloway, of sex without consent as ''really bad manners''. As Karen Pickering recently noted on the ABC, Galloway was not genuinely interested in analysing sexual assault. Instead, he was defending Julian Assange. Rape was an issue to be deftly avoided, as one steps around blood outside a nightclub; it suggests some violence, but best to keen one's shoes clean and keep walking.  
More fundamentally, the point is exactly what modern feminists have been arguing for over a century: women are, in the minds of many, not quite rational, free agents, with dominion over their own bodies and minds. They do not deserve the same recognition of autonomy and complexity. It seems absurd to have to write this; but many absurdities acquire longevity by becoming the status quo.


Rolly Christian said...

Hi Damon,

"...Likewise, the problem with teenage escorts is not that they are having sex, assuming they are mature enough to consent. The problem is that, in many cases, they are having sex for money, because that is the only way they are valued..."

You should really elaborate on why you do not have "a problem" with say your future teenage daughter engaging in prostitution with let's say males of a similar age or younger. (If the client's are older you have covered that base).

For me the physical health risks and damage including the likely social and mental / emotional toll leveled at a teen prostitute would not in any measure be worth the transaction(s). Would she be obliged to refuse service to a boy she deemed too emotionally immature. How's that going to work out in the real world? This is murky waters my friend.

Am I missing something obvious here?

Damon Young said...

Yes, you're missing something obvious.

I'm arguing that underage girls shouldn't be sex workers. My daughter included.

Rolly Christian said...

Prostitution does not gain appeal or recommendation with the passage of time for parents. (Only the latter by expedient “progressive” politicians – Yes, Mr Kennett that’s you.)

Culturally this anti-family practice is a social vice to be understood, minimised and its harm to be mitigated.

Australia likes to conceal its trade. Think of the “shopped” workers in an international red light district. How much is that consumer product / girl / woman in the window? Human flesh trading reduces people to a price. Such open vice degrades everyone’s humanity and local communities. Window or no window it’s the same vice trading.

What price can a person exchange for his or her soul? What’s left to feel, own or give from, if part of your identity, your sexual identity has been commoditised, used and sold down the river?

“So what does your eldest daughter do now?”, an old friend of the family asks a middle aged Indian-Australian couple over tea.

“Well actually, she’s a prostitute working in St Kilda. She works at the new Daddy’s Dirty Secret Brothel”

“Wow, that’s pretty open of you to share that with me... How do you feel about it?”

“Honestly, we were quite disappointed at first. We had higher expectations for her, but she making great money now for a 19 year old. We are so proud of her. Here’s a recent photo – You should pick her out and take her for a spin next time your passing through that part of town – She doesn’t use her real name of course – it’s to stop the sicko’s tracking her down.”

Politicians only legalise prostitution because it’s somebody else’s daughter at risk NOT theirs.

Kane Matthews said...

Hi Damon,

I read in your article that you didn't believe anyone would dream of being a sex worker as they we growing up. I just wanted to tell you that that is not true. I did.

As a young teenager, I'd heard about young male sex workers and very much wanted to leave home in order to become one. So I did, and I really, really loved it.

It's not the only job I've done, but one of the most satisfying and rewarding.

I started at the age of 15, nearly 16, and while most of the clients were older men with money, the boys and I all working on the street, we were the ones in charge, we were in control, and we generally respected by the clients far more than you would expect.

I can understand you don't understand sex work in detail, as I take it you don't have it on your PD, so i wanted to clear up that statement for you.


Kane Matthews

Damon Young said...

Thanks, Kane. I appreciate your account.

Can you point to where I say that I don't "believe anyone would dream of being a sex worker as they we growing up"? I don't remember writing (or thinking) this, but perhaps you're paraphrasing.