September 21, 2009

Conversational Journal, or: I don't know who else converses about prostitution

Yeah you read that right.

Forgive me blog family for I'm about to sin. I actually have no earthly idea.

Some background: my Philosophy as Conversation class may or may not be exactly what you think. It's more or less a political philosophy class, not...classical stuff. We're still more or less in liberalism right now, going through Rawlsianism (I swear we made that up), utilitarianism, libertarianism and...yeah. I mostly use the class as an excuse to listen and lol at the white folks and their bootstraps and my teacher has a fabulous English accent.

But every now and then I have to do work. Really that's all the context for this journal. Now look here:

Sarah wants to sell her virginity to the highest bidder on the internet. She is a libertarian who makes the following argument from self-ownership: “I am the original owner of my body (I did not acquire it through force or fraud) and it is my right to enter into whatever consensual transactions with it that I judge appropriate for me.”

I don't know about you folks but I could spend half the day busting this up right here. Mind we're working with a really basic version of libertarianism while acknowledging, of course, that they're not a monolith.

So this is a specific argument. Me, having few objections to adults participating in consensual sexual acts for money, I'd have to agree that basically it's her body and she can damn well do what she pleases as long as it harms no one else. And if that is selling her virginity then so be it (sounding familiar?).

Here's the part where most of the room mutters, "where is her mother/father" or "well at least she's a virgin". I even heard some people muttering about how horrible this topic was because prostitution is wrong. Boooo. It goes on:

Hilary, however, is a Rawlsian who offers the following caveat: “Well, okay Sarah, that’s your right but only with a certain limitation set by the difference principle. After all, what about poor Natalie over there? (Natalie has degenerative brain disease, kidney failure and only has one arm and one leg). You should be allowed to sell your virginity but only on condition that we can tax your earnings from this sale to help out Natalie, who just got unlucky in the natural lottery through no fault of her own. I mean, isn’t that what you would consent to, rationally speaking, if you looked at it from behind the veil of ignorance.”

Okay don't even ask me about the Natalie character, I probably feel like you do right now. For some reason whenever we bring up Rawls & the natural lottery we HAVE to include someone missing one or several limbs. I DON'T KNOW. It bothers the fuck out of me too.

In any case I find this a pretty week argument unless we're just pretending this is all happening in a vacuum or something. It's not that I don't believe in taxes but why would the caveat for Sarah selling her body be to tax her for Natalie...? The obvious reason is so we can force a Rawlsian argument in. So I consider that aspect broke unless anyone has any other ideas.

Next, Megan, a social conservative chimes in, and says “Well, regardless of whether Sarah has the right to sell her virginity (and regardless of whether the state has the right to tax the proceeds from this sale,) she just shouldn’t do it. Sex outside of wedlock and sex as a commercial transaction violates traditional values which have held society together for centuries and which are necessary to ensure social cohesion into the future. At the very least, Sarah’s choice to sell her virginity should be morally condemned, questions of legality aside.”

I hope that was stereotypical enough for you but I think this is probably the most common argument against this...sort of thing. It's morally wrong omg! We've beat that horse to death because I wanted to know WHO'S traditional values are we violating here if we don't all share the same traditional values? I want to say this is a pretty Eurocentric point of view and you could argue that, but I know there's many cultures that would look down on this...sort of thing. Which you could say in itself is...Eurocentric...okay we're going in circles, the fact is even if we assume this is taking places solely in America your moral values have little to do with this.

And if that wasn't stereotypical enough for you, hopefully this will be horrible enough:

Finally, Tracy, a feminist, adds: “Well, I’m no conservative but sex as a commercial transaction demeans women, and whether Sarah realizes it or not, she’s buying into assumptions of male dominance that encourage women to treat their bodies as mere commodities to be sold for the pleasure of men. This kind of male domination of women has gone on for time immemorial and it needs to be strenuously challenged in all its present manifestations – including this one.”

What say you?

I say fuck you completely for going straight for the archaic man hating hair legged lesbian feminist argue. I tried to bring up sex positive feminism but noooo. Whatever. Sarah could very well be a pawn for patriarchy or she could be giving her virginity to a woman because, although we can just ASSUME she's a heterosexual woman we never said what gender/sex she was giving her virginity up for~

...You know I brought that up in class and the argument came to a screeching halt. YES, I DID IT.

I also brought up some minor points with class mates about how we know Sarah's a virgin. How do we check (eugh)? What defines a virgin? Does she own property? We could go on for several days, not even directly discussing the question here but just tearing it down for being so bleh-written and forced. Thanks, Dr A.

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