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Prostituted correctness

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SEX WORK is not work.

A virtual slap on the face of “political correctness” shared on Facebook by Ms. Sonia P. Soto. Is she into some new advocacy immediately after turning 60?

The euphoria over her Frida Kahlo-themed senior citizenship fiesta has yet to subside and already raising an all-too-sensitive issue…well, the essential SPS – championing everything and anything that’s right except the Right.

The dangers of rebranding prostitution as ‘sex work’ headlined The Guardian article (June 2016 yet) that Sonia shared, to wit:

“More than mere political correctness,” the NSWP [Network of Sex Work Projects] proudly states, “this shift in language had the important effect of moving global understandings of sex work toward a labour framework.” The fact that prostitution involves sexual acts and some kind of payment is a given. However, engaging with it first and foremost as a labour issue, using the term “sex work” as if it was an adequate and appropriate shorthand for what takes place in strip clubs, on porn sets and in brothels, serves a deeply political goal. Not only does this framework shrink the field of analysis to the seller (to the exclusion of men’s demand and its social impact), it hides what should be front and centre of our response to the transaction: the inherent sexual abuse.

Alas, I, myself, have been so hung-up of late on political correctness that I have virtually excised the words “prostitution” and “prostitute” from news stories that come Punto’s way, in favor of “commercial sex” and “sex workers.”

Perhaps the single most effective strategy hit upon so far is to pump out the myth contained in the term “sex work”: the myth that it is possible to commodify consent.

Aye, I remember this vaguely similar, if sophomoric, take on prostitution in the Feb. 9-15, 2006 issue of the now long-gone Pampanga News under the heading Vice as Virtue: The Paradox of Prostitution:

‘TIS PITY she’s a whore. I cast not the first stone here but I aspire to take a look at the ground touched by the Teacher’s finger.

Aye, nothing is sadder, nay, viler, to which any woman can damn herself to than prostitution. The damning most often not of her own volition but inflicted upon her by circumstances way out of her control, at times even way beyond her ken.

The poor barrio lass lured by city lights, promised some restaurant job; the desgraciada banished from home needing to feed her bastardo; starvation in the resettlement sites; desperation in shantytown – lachrymose tales at the initial telling in the bar, dulled at their retelling in the brothel, and at the noisy karaoke, hardly touching to move the tear ducts. So, who has heard of any bargirl who wanted, really, really wanted to be one?

Yet, some poignancy still stirs in the jaded reality of prostitution. It takes but a little sensitivity to feel for the most exploited of women. A brief passage on the subject from the English writer William Samuel Lilly, wrenches the soul:

“All the dignity of womanhood gone; all interests in life, save those of purely animal nature, extinguished; not even the power of repentance left, in many cases, for a career of animalism has degraded them to the level of the animal and the moral sense is atrophied.

“No; in place of repentance, merely regrets when their physical charms have faded; when diseases incident to their calling have made a prey of them; when destitution and desolation stare them in the face.”

As true today as in 1899 when it was written, but, perhaps, for that part “all interests in life… extinguished.”

A rage to live, precisely, is the given rationalization for prostitution, well premised on argumentum ex necessite: To live, if it be necessary, to sell the body and pawn the very soul. Indeed, what options has one “not so much born into this world but damned into it” to rise from the depths of a squalid existence?

Deprived of the rudimentary requirements of education and bereft of the all-too-important social connections, too fragile or too lazy to be a menial, one’s easy path to economic emancipation is prostitution. No matter its sudden bend to a road to perdition.

Sex sells. It may well be the only commodity that breaks the law of supply and demand: supply being always available and demand never waning. Ever bullish would sex be in the stock market, were it listed and gone IPO. Prostitution though is not pure, err, all economics.

The anthropological element being intrinsic to sex naturally gives a socio-cultural and – God forbid! – some salvational dimension to prostitution. The manangs will surely cringe at this but even St. Augustine – perhaps drawing from his experience as a rogue before his conversion – said something to the effect that “to abolish courtesans would be to trouble everything with lusts.”

I just can’t recall if it is in his Soliloquium Animae ad Deum, or most probably in his philosophical treatise De Ordine – in their English translations, of course – where the foremost doctor of the Church said this. So, they who just lie down and wait with open arms and open legs serve too a redemptive purpose?

Consider this paean to the prostitute of Irish essayist William E.H. Lecky in his 1872 History of European Morals: “That unhappy being herself the supreme type of vice, is ultimately the most efficient guardian of virtue. But for her, the unchallenged purity of countless happy homes would be polluted, and not a few who, in the pride of their untempted chastity, think of her with an indignant shudder, would have known the agony and remorse of despair.

“On that one degraded and ignoble form are concentrated the passions that have filled the world with shame. She remains, while creeds and civilizations rise and fall, the eternal priestess of humanity, blasted by the sins of the people.”

Prostitution – as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be. For prostitution as the oldest profession is the causation of sex as the oldest obsession – the single constant in human evolution. Taking cognizance of prostitution as a “necessary evil” then, it is for those in authority to regulate it and minimize, if not eradicate, its resultant rascalities.

And for all of us, to let go of our hypocrisies.

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