Healy and Sex

John Edmundson JWE21 at SPAMstudent.canterbury.ac.nz
Mon Nov 6 20:09:53 MST 2000

Anthony writes:

> No sexual relation between consenting adults is in the abstract
> oppressive, but many - probably most, really are.

This sounds dangerously close to the "All men are rapists" line
that radical feminism ran with in the early '80s. A local Marxist guru
in Christchurch at the time argued that all heterosexual
relationships were exploitative too (he was married with a child by
the way) because of the existence of patriarchy. I rejected that view
a long time ago, and I still do. The suggestion that the existence of
capitalism makes a perfectly normal expression of human
sexuality is "probably oppressive" gets us nowhere.

Lou Poulson also comments:

> However, is even the Nicolle Smith case really the pure
> counterexample of "female domination" which you appear to
> believe it is?  You apparently believe that it is a case of a woman
> enticing a rich man into bequeathing her a large amount of
> money for sexual services.

Actually, it's either that or she really loved him!

> Well, does the exploitative nature of prostitution within the
> capitalist patriarchy evaporate or reverse when the wage rate
> rises to a certain point?

When the woman involved, (Nicolle Smith), gets many thousands
of times the value of her labour power, I think it probably does
evaporate somewhat :-)

> Do we have to express our solidarity with oppressed aged male
> millionaires now?

If a rich old millionaire is prepared to sign over his fortune in
exchange for a few nights reliving his youth, that isn't oppression
either way. It's just an outcome of capitalism's capacity to deliver
up millions of dollars to one individual. If Ms Smith can get her
hands on it instead, that's another of the perversities of capitalism.
On an individual basis, good luck to her. On a bigger scale of
course, no one should have that big a share of the world's wealth to
begin with as we all agree.

> Or do we declare Smith to be a "freely contracting individual" as
> the libertarians are always telling us that all workers are?

Actually, on a purely individual basis, she probably is. Presumably
she was lucky enough to be beautiful (?) and, like the Playboy
playmates who lived with Hugh Hefner as long as his whim allowed,
but who walked away rich, they took advantage of their good
fortune. There's no justice in it of course, but it's not the same as
someone being forced into prostitution in order to live.

As the recent debate here on prostitution revealed, the left has (or
needs to) move on from a purely moral repugnance of prostitution
and look instead at the forms in which it actually exists in the here
and now. Equating a gold digging young woman in the US with
some East European woman being sent to work in a NATO
frequented Bosnian brothel does not help us understand anything.
It might make sense to the McDworkins of this world, but not to me.
John E

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