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By Eric Oppen

Here's a bit of a cage rattler. I don't agree with the author's angry-young-man generalizations about women. But otherwise he's got a message that needs saying.

One part of libertarian thought that seldom gets much play is that, given that all sex acts between consenting, sexually-mature partners should be legal, prostitution should be as legal as marriage. One of the reasons that libertarians do not seem to spend much time on defending the rights of prostitutes and their customers is that such people have a "loser" image in our society. The unconscious assumption is that no real man should need to pay for sex, and that this applies doubly or more to any woman with a claim to even basic attractiveness. To pay for sex is to admit to being a loser, socially inept, or worse. I'll deal with this at more length later.

As for prostitutes themselves, most people's image of them is heavily influenced by the sight of the bedraggled street- walkers to be seen on the streets of any major city. To be sure, these women (and men) are not a great advertisement for the rights of prostitutes and their customers, but since when do we judge any market by the scruffiness of the bottom-level participants? Why not judge by the extremely attractive Norma Jean Almodovar (author of Cop to Callgirl), or the customers of the "Beverly Hills Madam?"

Actually, there are quite a few perfectly legitimate reasons why a man might prefer prostitutes to a girlfriend. Many men have had their fingers badly burned in relationships, whether through bad break-ups, divorces that resembled nothing so much as an encounter with an old-fashioned highwayman ("Stand...and deliver!") or just the residue of the rush of power many women feel when, between the ages of twelve and seventeen, they find themselves in a position to exert power for the first time. Many do not let this go to their heads, and most get over it...but unearned power generally has a bad effect on its users.

Another reason that a man might want to go to his friendly local branch of Madame Xaviera's House of Instant Happiness is sexual tastes that he believes will not be willingly catered to by his regular partner. Every prostitute's memoir I have read has included ironic asides to the effect that if her customers' wives and girlfriends had been less fixated on only doing what they thought "good girls" would do in bed, the prostitute's customer base would have been drastically smaller. Other men might want to patronize prostitutes simply because their lifestyles do not allow them to pursue normal relationships. In her first book, Sydney Biddle Barrows mentioned customers of her escort service who were, among other things, doctors on punishing, unpredictable schedules, a currency trader who had to be on the bounce at all hours, and other high-earning men who had sacrificed the stable schedules most women crave. On a more mundane level, men who have partners who are out of reach or ill might prefer a prostitute to celibacy.

Even if some men go to prostitutes because they can't get a woman in any other way, by what right does society condemn them? L. Neil Smith has pointed out that it is cruel to deprive such men of their only sexual outlet; I would go farther and call this the arrogant "let them eat cake," or "sod you, Jack, I've got mine" attitude that brands its practitioner as a slime and scoundrel.

I believe that most of the laws against prostitution would be repealed, but for women putting pressure on legislators and law enforcement. Most men, if asked off-the-record, feel that "there but for the grace of the gods go I" when they see the stereotypical prostitute's customer creeping off in his raincoat. Alan Sherman, in his book _The Rape of the A*P*E,_ pointed out that while a woman wakes up every morning knowing that she can get laid if she wants to badly enough, a man wakes up knowing that the possibility exists that he may never get laid again.

Why would women want to keep prostitution illegal? My theory is that this owes much more to fear for their own privileged position than to high and noble morality. Mencken pointed out in In Defense of Women that women at the time he wrote (1918) disapproved of those who were too free with their favors more because such behavior damaged their own bargaining position than because of abstract morality.

Well, as an opponent of privileged minorities holding monopolies through legal sanctions, and as a member of a similarly-reviled profession (landlord), my sympathies are with prostitutes and their customers, not with the "defenders of morality." My reaction to the lawmakers who posture as paladins of purity by persecuting prostitutes is a feeling of loathing and nausea, and a wish for a Barrett .50 sniper rifle to adequately express myself on this subject. After all, how much more intimately personal can anything get than one's own private sex life? I don't tell other people how to conduct this part of their lives, as long as their partners are willing, and if I did, I wouldn't blame them for slugging me right in the mouth! Who gave these people the right to waste public monies on suppressing other folks' sexual choices, anyway? If this is Constitutional, I'm the King of Romania.

One of the reasons I feel so strongly about this is because I lost my virginity rather later than average... in the Sauna Estoril in Macao, to a Thai girl named Siew Lien. Due to chronic cash shortages, I've never been much on dating; I am easy-going and good-natured...except on the subject of money. Kick me, hit me, chase me, yell at me, insult me, and I'll often take it calmly. Look cross-eyed at my money, though, and you'll wish you'd done something smart like rogering a wolverine. One of my best friends once told me to my face that I had a "cash-and-carry mentality." It's perfectly true.

I'm an old Ayn Rand fan (not an Objectivist; I don't consider Rand infallible) and one thing I picked up on was "withdrawal of sanction." This is where you refuse to continue to participate in an activity because you feel the whole thing is wrong or rigged. I haven't quite done that on dating and relationships, but I'm mighty close. If I want to pour my money down a rathole, I can do it perfectly well without assistance. I say dating is a scam, and I say, to hell with it! Better by far for my self-esteem to be a customer, than a beggar...or a mark!

(c) 1998 by Eric Oppen

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04 October, 1998