Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Spitzer, Prostitution and Choices, a Personal View

As you As you would sort of expect, the fall of a politician causes a national examination of prostitution as an institution. I'll leave aside the double and triple standards that are going on here, because examining that is a job for the overground political blogs. It's also not my place to talk about the socio-economic roots of prostitution, partially because that field is cluttered with people who have made up their minds about prostitution, and bend, break or bamboozle their way to conclusions. Equally good cases for complete legalization and complete prohibition can be made, simply because you can find anything in human nature. The search for one root cause to prostitution is dooo oooo ooomed to failure.

The internet makes this a comodity that you can shop for like any other.

Let me instead write about this from the perspective of someone who has, for the last year, taken money to roleplay being a prostitute, and roleplay acts of sex, from ordinary to extreme, that span virtually the entire range of available pornography. If you've read about it, with a few exceptions, I've typed it or spoken it into my microphone.

During that time I have met thousands of people involved in working in virtual prostitution, or searching for anonymous cyber/voice/camera sex. Not hundreds, thousands. An average of 10 contacts a day adds up.

My view on the roots of prostitution is not what could be called the bad bad men theory, that a few bad men want something and abused women are hopelessly enthrall to the call of their money, nor is it the fallen woman theory, which is really the same theory, only it starts from the premise that women are abused and spread their legs as a result.

The people who I have met circle the globe. I have had partners, or offers, or colleagues, from the Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, England, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Luxemborg, Mexico, Qatar, Spain and the United States. And that's what I know of. I have met men and women as whores, madams, mistresses, masters and clients. Since SL allows anyone to play both genders, some of my clients have done both genders with me, as well as shemale.

I tell people that you can do things in Second Life that don't have names in real life. There is no word, in any language, for double penetration by a centaur. I looked for it.
Because of this view I believe, absolutely and unequivocally that sex for money, or sex for association with power is not driven by sexual abuse, unless the incidence of it is far higher than anyone, even the most blistering pessimist believes. It is not driven by economics per se, because almost all of the people who I have met could be making more money by working in real life. You have programmers earning astronomical, at least to me, wages, who spend their evenings as a female with black stockings and a skimpy panty making come ons on the corner of Amsterdam for sex that brings about 1 USD per hour of activity.

The sex industry on SL is worse than RL, because the actual money is made by selling content that the sex is a loss leader for. 50% cut? If only the girls who worked most prostitution houses in second life made anything like that, or even the tier that LL gets for providing servers for this. The fees paid for sex services are a tiny slice of the money made. Prostitution in second life is purely exploitative in a way that RL prostitution cannot be.

The visibility of the direct sex industry, in which I will include orgy farms because they are profiting by offering the hope of 0L whores, in Second Life indicates that prostitution is more than an economic institution, it is a social one, and it exists in the subterranean realms of our minds and libidos first, and only then does it get translated into something else.

Not to be too overly analytical about it, but Senator Vitter, and Governor Spitzer, could have gotten sex, even their preferred acts, without any sort of monetary exchange. Paying for sex was the thrill. And the women involved could have been getting the same return on their time, once adjusting for risk, in many other ways. Being paid for sex, at some point, became most palatable alternative.

I've been in the latter position. I've spent a year as a virtual escort, and not just as a for free roleplay. I realized almost on impact in Second Life that the economy requires you to either spend a fair amount of real world money really quickly to get set up and going, or it requires you to provide escorting services to others, since that is virtually the only entry level position in Second Life. Virtually the only.

That's what makes me believe that prostitution is not driven by bad men who want bad things, nor by fallen women, but by a dynamic built into human beings, which we play out. Primates swap sex for favors, you can see it in Chimpanzees and Gorillas. That human beings have a more complex swap, from our more complex sexuality and ability to both bestow and take favors, isn't surprising, or at least, ought not to be.

The dynamic is that on one party's part, generally the man, there is a desire to subjugate. That is break the will of the other person so much, that the other person is a pliant tool to their will. On the other person's part there is a desire to manipulate, create a focus of desire so great that the other person cannot help but to hold on. This is a relationship that exists in consensual forms as well, and going both ways. Every partner in a sexual relationship, no matter how meek they are, has dreamt of having the other merely serve out of subservience. Every partner in a sexual relationship, no matter how dominant, has wanted to have the will and the pressure of looking forward erased into an all consuming craving to obey.

This then is the tension between client and escort. The client wants to subjugate, or the feeling of subjugating. The escort craves to manipulate. The thrill for the client is that there is someone, a person, feverishly typing or vocalizing to keep them happy. Organ rental is not it. Penetration is merely the highest proof of subjugation. They aren't renting an organ, they are seeking catharsis into another person.

What we are seeking, is the whoregasm. The payment the proves the other person had desire for us greater than the monetary payment. That for at least a moment it was better for them to play with us, than pirate a song off the internet, download a free porn picture, or some other activity of leisure that this digital age provides for.

There it is: catharsis of subjugation, against the ecstatic moment of manipulation.

Of course the greater the subjugation the greater the payment. This is why the top end of virtual sex services overlaps the bottom end of real sex: because visually subjugating a beautiful young woman who is otherwise free to pursue her own destiny, is more powerful a fall then physically subjugating an ugly woman who has no other good options in life that she has the agency to grasp.

This plays out in some different ways. One of the most common things escorts here on second life from clients or potential clients is "I want you to enjoy it as much as I do." What we enjoy, is the whoregasm. Almost by definition, we aren't going to enjoy theporn scene as much, because you are paying us to do what you want us to do, without worrying about our emotional or sexual desires. If you wanted a partner who would enjoy it as much as you do, Mr. Client, then you would be prowling the dance floors and engaging in that dance of men an women, with its warm rising tides that flush over the face, and urge the curtains to be closed as the veils of open. How well I know it.

Dominance games run this in reverse, the sub hopes, in general, to be a free sub eventually, but they are hoping that subjugating them becomes so tempting as to draw the domme in. However, many, many, many, male subs use it as pure ruse. They want the same thing any other male wants: my phone number so that he can plow my furrow, he's just willing to throw in a few words to provide a fa├žade.

What this means is that prostitution isn't the result of patriarchy, but instead is a stone that sits next to it on the same foundation. That foundation is that human beings are primates. Primates play dominance and submission games, as well as have subjugation and manipulation as part of the currency of the social fabric. That fabric is not made into some social construct, but is part of the basic grammar of personal relationships.

Patriarchy tilts the balance in favor of subjugation of women, it recognizes that dominance and submission are human currency, and then tilts this relationship by giving subjugators a free pass to engage in what would, in any other context, be called criminal acts. Banning prostitution doesn't ban subjugation and manipulation, murder, rape, incest, manipulation, extortion, or coercion.

So, like war and violence, there is no one evolutionarily approved way of playing this out. Prostitution, the institution, is different from prostitution, the response. Second Life has people playing prostitution, and many of the same emotional effects. Would that one day war be the same way: that people can get their fill of the emotional thrill throwing pixels at each other and taking trash on wiki pages afterwards.

So many people have asked me if I would "legalize" prostitution. My problem with the question is who would regulate it? Anyone willing to legalize is probably not willing to face the music of what that means in America. Anyone willing to regulate is not willing to legalize. Having a few small counties, ones otherwise in the sin business, legalizing prostitution isn't indicative of anything. It's impossible to have too many prostitutes there, because then prices would go down. Legalization, in fact, in Las Vegas and Reno, if you think about it, is a way of preventing other people from entering into a lucrative business, and regulating the size of that business so that it's operators profit.

I want to get back to the personal view: prostitution is a way of organizing basic drives that we are not going to soon eradicate. We practice prostitution in ways that present a socially workable face on drives which are deeply wound into our social fabric. This winds coil through our minds, and make it so that other choices are ripped from people, and they are forced, as I have repeatedly been forced, to go back to them. There are only two reasons people pay money on second life, to show status or make money. Since little money can be made from second life yet, it is showing status that is the driver of most transactions. If you aren't in the clothing or land business, and both of those are the sex business in large part, then you are in the direct sex business. People who ought to know better, who prattle about progressive and purer motives, aren't. Instead, they are involved in the subjugation and money game too. Merely, they hope the prattle will give them a big discount because they want a subjugation which is more socially acceptable.

It isn't really. At the heart of human society, and therefore SL, is a fundamentally ugly force, one which liberates us to greater pleasure by demanding and demeaning. A return, momentarily, to that edenic state of quiet monogamy without great social stress. The stress returns and we snap back to our more complex state. The subjugator seldom is successful in subjugating, the manipulator is seldom long successful in manipulating. This the subjugator moves on or piles force on force, the manipulator strives to more complex manipulations. And while this is going on, they decline to conjugate in the ordinary modes.

This may seem like a pessimistic assessment, but then, the topic is prostitution. In a real sense, people come to second life to play prostitutes, because that is the nature of our society, that is the roles we have. In the end, our work life understands only master/slave and client/slut. Once they know you are the first, they work hard to push you into the second. Whether they are a horny married guy needing to get off, or a respected institution that preaches something akin to social justice.

I would like us to get out of this mode, but I don't see it in the present time, because, I think, no society that is as a slave to its toys and distractions as ours is, and I mean around the globe, will ever be able to base its social interactions on anything else. Sooner or later we will want to subjugate people the way a teenage boy can finally master some first person shooter. Sooner or later we will want the pure reproducibility. Or, we will want the helplessness of smokers and their cigarettes, willing to burn every scrap of their health and free income on a burning weed.

When we toss aside that, perhaps, we will stop treating each other as prostitutes and clients, masters and slaves. Or at least, stop doing it so universally that it produces a miserable generation that feels chained to their cubicles.