Monday, January 16, 2006

Sex Workers, Feminism, and Accounting

Please be tolerant while I pluck what look to me to be salient issues off this brambly thicket of a topic.

I am just thinking aloud, writing aloud:

Many women (and men) are not really comfortable with sex. In this day and age it is not really acceptable to be a prude, so I think that prudish tendencies can and sometimes do disguise themselves as PC outrage over sexuality of a particular kind. Professional sex, or power exchange sex, are today's targets whereas "yesterday" the targets were premarital and same sex activities.

Similarly it is easy to go over the top and be outrageous for outrageousness' sake. Acting out can be very fun, but it is not for everyone. Sometimes it is the right thing for people to do at that moment. If we don't like it, don't partake of it.

Any forced work or coercively induced labor/actions are types of slavery. Much sex work falls into these areas, so does much garment factory work throughout the world. Sex work need not be any more improper or exploitive than garment work. Garment work is most often sweatshop work, and sexwork and sweatshops often exist together as is the case in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands that Delay and Abramoff enabled as exploitation central with their lobbying and purchased votes. (Side note: As a US Territory goods made there can be labeled made in the USA. )

Oppressed can pivot into oppressor more easily than balance can be achieved. Binary on/off, black/white, good/bad dichotomies are artifacts of a Cartesian (from the philosopher Descartes) mindset that divides mind and body, flesh and soul, and the like. This digital divide truly divides us. I cannot think of any single process or issue that is exhibits true duality. Women need to be careful not to use the very tools that have kept us down to beat others down. We need to look for new ways of being by transforming our best into our most... putting quantity behind our quality.

Culture is a tyrannical domesticating force. Culture's job is to transfer non-genetic information to each new generation in turn. It does not attempt to preserve or encourage diversity. It tames us so that the species can continue. Group or individual rights advocates have to understand that we are working for a new level of organization that has never existed in any widespread fashion.

There are no unidirectional processes. It can be comforting to think of oppression as something that can be overthrown, but in truth that just sets up a flip flopping state, which calls for the creation of the next revolution. Transformation is what I think we are after. Transformation is real and its changes last, but as a real process, it has to grow. It cannot be forced. If we stop giving people and groups power then that power will diminish. It is slower and that can make it terribly frustrating, but the up side is that it like any real transformation it is insidious and once it starts, it is difficulteradicateuish or irradicate.

Calling attention to something can magnify or promote growth. Pointing out something horrible can point people toward preoccupation with that horror. Like a disturbed cancer, attempting to excise it can spread the malignant cells to areas that were previously cancer free. We need to be aware that control is a fabricated concept that gives people a sense of stability, but in truth we are parts of a system that is so much larger and more complex than we can hope to comprehend that our actions may always have inadvertent and counter-intuitive consequences.

This relates to many of the current corporate/governmental collusions where spirit of a law is ignored while letter of law is bandied about. Much of today's world relies on artificial checks and balances rather than cultural norms... "Yes, Virginia this is true of feminists, too." Knee jerks and litmus tests come to mind. Entrenchment is deadly. Corporations and governments both routinely sweeten their own pot through manipulation of minutea that are either technically legal but morally reprehensible or illegal but nearly impossible to trace. Normally I would never read accounting journals, but synchronicity works in mysterious ways, but while looking at this state of affairs in light of the culture of corruption I stumbled upon Professor Shyam Sunder's research and publications that discuss this phenomena lucidly even though it is strictly speaking PhD Accounting research. I strongly recommend reading his "Social Responsibility and Terror, September 2001" (PDF). He asks seminal questions and highlights essential points pertinent to the recognition that the mishmash laws, norms, and finances is a serious and pervasive muddle of a problem:

"How and why did written standards replaced norms and responsibility?
"Reliance on standards rooted in a misunderstanding of legal reasoning" that does not balance rule of law with cultural norms (that are laws of a different type.)
"Chasing objectivity without personal responsibility"
"Law, family, neighborhood, drug and alcohol abuse, workplace, dress, table manners, and sports all balance social norms and written standards"
Reacting against a muddle will do no good. We have to build a new system where norms for all groups are balanced with economic accountability that is honest and true to spirit as well as letter of a process. Only then will moralistic judgments that hide exploitation of the worst sort be replaced by peace, justice and a sincere positive morality. Another phrase in Sunders comes to mind: "Why is it that we do not trust ourselves to take the right action individually in circumstances when no government or organization can match our information and act on it?"

Action in and of itself has inherent totally unforeseen dangers. To act is brave.

Be kind and brave as you act my sisters of the world.


Melinda said...

Sex work does not need to be exploitative, dangerous work. Some of us have found ways to work safely and find the work quite rewarding. It's the illegality of it that makes it dangerous.

Artemesia Pax said...

I absolutely agree. But like so many things, there are more opportunities in the field if you are in a rich country like the U.S. There is still a great deal of exploitation and coersion and slavery in this profession. Any time something is illegal, much of it becomes the territory of real scum. Sex, dope, immigration... the problem is in criminalizing activiies to create weatlh for old white men and corporations.