Making Peace With Prostitution

I’ve been thinking about sex. A lot. Specifically, I’ve been thinking about our sisters in sex—prostitutes. Whores, ho’s, working girls, escorts, courtesans—whatever you call them, the oldest profession in the world is not going anywhere, so it’s challenging to me that our attitudes toward the game seem to fall backward while some of us profess “progressiveness” in our overall sexual thinking.

Recently, The Guardian published an article entitled “Why Men Use Prostitutes” that highlighted a recent study of over 700 men in hopes of revealing the science behind the drive to pay for sex. The results were interesting to say the least and revealed a mixture of power-lusting, personal unfulfillment, loneliness and curiosity. Sensitive, yet applicable subjects like violence, trafficked and “pimped” women were discussed, but there was one answer that I expected that did not appear from any of the men interviewed: “Because I can/I want to.”

Men sleep with women for a variety of reasons, and men pay to have sex with women for an even more complicated set of rationales. So to ask “why do men pay for sex” will inspire a range of comments and views, but what the interviewers failed to explore was the mentality behind the action of shelling out the cash. Whether the “purchaser” is a shy, sexually-awkward type, or a confident guy with a cavalier demeanor, they both share the common thought that while not openly popular, a man paying for sex isn’t a taboo and their manhood is in no danger as a result. Five or five-hundred dollars later—he is still a man. For women, things get a little stickier. The popular notion of a woman paying for sex is a woman of lesser status, she’s homely, unattractive and unpopular—the lonely chick in the Caribbean looking for her two-day dark-knight in a net tank-top.

After reading The Guardian piece, I finally stopped ignoring my new Essence (I couldn’t get past the recycled Reggie Bush cover) and came across another piece…packaged like an “expose” of sorts on Black men going to the Dominican Republic to have sex with prostitutes, while on their “quick golf trip with the fellas.” This follows after Essence also “exposed” the same type of dealings in Brasil. In addition to portraying Dominican women, mostly fellow women of color, in a manner that is manipulative and man-crazy, the article failed to mention the different societal attitudes that the Dominican Republic has towards sex and prostitution. While technically illegal, unlike the United States, prostitution isn’t a taboo and is generally accepted as a part of society, addressed when there is a political motivation, or when a certain area starts to get overloaded with the business. Interestingly, in addition to falsely portraying this to be a new phenomenon (men-and women-have been going to the Caribbean, South/Central America for decades for trysts, and not just Europeans), the article also failed to address the hierarchy that exists in the matrix of Dominican prostitution: in the order of touristas—Black men sadly fall towards the bottom of the desirability totem pole. Tourist sex is not new, but it doesn’t matter if it is Santo Domingo, Rio de Janeiro…or Houston, Texas—he’s not gonna do it only because she’s so exotic, or it’s cheaper, or he’s had a few drinks, a man will pay for sex because he wants to.

So where does that leave us?  If anything, we are gonna have to deal with the fact that prostitution among consenting adults*, no matter what country you are in, is not going anywhere. It’s as much as a part of modern society as naughty politicians and bad fake fur.  It’s interesting that many of the same women that I have talked to about this are the first to tell you about their recent sex-toy shop trip, or divulge completely about their fantasies or latest trip with their man to the strip club, but regard prostitution as a business only engaged in by the poor, perverted and undeserved, on both sides.  If we learn to look at it for what it is, then maybe the big deal isn’t so big anymore and we can start to deal with it in a way that is productive and progressive to society. When you take the cloak off of anything, it loses it’s luster, so if we take the stigma off of prostitution, we take away it’s power. Am I living in my own laissez-faire fantasy? Let me know ladies.

*The context of prostitution addressed in this piece is between two consenting adults. Parlour acknowledges, and does not support, the issues of child and adult trafficking for the sex-trade, as well as violence against women and women being held against their will to engage in sexual acts via pimps, etc. We are not looking to make light of any of those issues as they are serious and in need of address.

PS. Murph, I love you.

Last 5 posts by Shannon Washington

  • great article. thought provoking.

  • Good article, I think one can take it even further. Why is it that the selling of sexual services should be any different from the selling of a therapist’s services, or a masseuse’s services? Why is it assumed that women do not have the ability to disconnect their emotions from sex work in the same way a psychologist (or anyone working in a ‘listening’ profession) does every day? Why should prostitution be a ‘last resort’? Maybe it has more to do with illegality, an unregulated industry, and the criminal activity that then surrounds it – rather than the selling of sex itself. I’ve written a bit about this on my blog, The Daily Transmission. Just a thought.