'Intelligent discontent is the mainspring of civilization.' -- Eugene V. Debs

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Liberation or Commodification? (Part 2) 

For the first post on this subject, see this entry on Friday. Here are a couple of comments, and my further elaboration:

Talking about sex workers as an example of capitalism's ability to market anything -- like cell-phones or SUVs -- misses the point. These affluent, white, middle class, politically sensitive men are all committing adultery. That will really bite you in the ass, in the end.

I'd be more interested if you had said "capitalism's NEED to market anything", or what Debord refers to as "the colonization of individual consciousness."

plato's cave | 05.24.08 - 12:57 pm | #

if they are single, they aren't.

I'm not sure what relevance this really has to do with capitalism per se, since while I can agree that how sexual desire is expressed can be affected to some extent by capitalist modes of production; the basic human desire to have sex is mostly hotwired into human beings as a basic human desire and need.

Challenging and ultimately replacing capitalism with a more egalitarian system certainly would change sexual relations and allow human beings more resources to express themselves sexually....but I'm not so sure that even a socialist society would go so far as to eliminate the need for a sex media or even the desire for sex work. Capitialism didn't create sexual desire, it just exploits it for the gain of the few.

But then again, I happen to be a libertarian socialist who happens to be more of a sexual progressive who defends sex work and sexual expression....so perhaps my views are peculiar. VMMV, as the saying goes.

Anthony Kennerson | Homepage | 05.24.08 - 4:55 pm | #

It would seem to me that the fantasies and role playing involved, which seem to have evolved to a very high level in places like the Bay Area, are directly associated with the privileges of success in the region's capitalist, entrepreneurial economy. Wealth engenders an urbane rejection of middle class familial morays, and the ability to pay to gratify the desires of a such a lifestyle.

If Brecht were alive today, he would probably recognize the primacy of entertainment and communications technology in such an economy, a postmodernist view, of course, and how the creativity and imagination required by its participants necessarily crosses the boundary into their erotic lives, not to mention the influence of entertainment products upon consumers. So, it raises a question, could the world described in this article exist in a different kind of society, and, if so, in what form?

The article provides a clue elsewhere in the interview, in an answer not posted here. Reid later talks about how SF is really a small place socially and how you have to deal with the challenge of encountering your customers in more conventional settings. Of course, in a socialist or anarchist society, this would not be an issue, as sex work would be respected, as would be the gratification of sexual desire, and there would no reason to be embarrassed or discomforted by encountering one of your clients.

And, this gets to a more central point: sexuality in such a society would not be transacted through the mechanisms of commodity exchange. As a result, there would not be sex workers and clients, as they are currently understood, because the gratification of sexual desire and the playing out of one's fantasies would not be based upon your ability to pay to do so. Something which requires a lot of money in the society in which we currently live, only a few can afford to do it.

There is a well known dark side to the commodification of sex, and it periodically emerges in the Bay Area. For example, a man was extradited from Mexico a few years ago for having sex with young boys. Prostitution involving minors is common as it is in many places. Sex for money is invariably non-consensual, even for adults, because the number of people who would perform sex work without being paid is probably pretty small compared to the those who do it for money.

And what about the fantasies and role playing? Wouldn't they be different in a non-capitalist economy? Probably, but we can't say to what degree. Dominance and submission would appear to be human universals, but beyond that, who knows?

Richard Estes | Homepage | 05.25.08 - 8:11 am | #

And, what about the fact that the sex workers seem to be women and men serving men? Are there markets with women and men serving women? Are they anywhere near as substantial as the one serving men? If not, what's up with that?

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