Do Men Need Prostitution?
D.E. Clarke

From: "R"@xplorenet.com
Subject: prostitution

i'm interested in your rebuttal of this argument:

unlike women men really do need sex. it's not as vital as food or shelter but if a man is deprived of intimate touch and real sexual outlet long enough, he'll gradually go crazy. some men can only get sex if they pay for it. womenkind has rejected them and they have no hope of love and long-term companionship. would you deprive them of any fulfillment? would you condemn them to a life devoid of sensual touch from a consenting adult? do you know what it's like to need love (physical or otherwise) so badly for so long and only be able to get it for pay? prostitution not only should be legal but subsidized by the government just like food stamps.

fightin' words? sorry but let's hear an answer.

sincerely yours, "R"

My first reaction to this text was quite primal; I wanted to whack "R" upside the head with the nearest blunt object :-). But I do believe that he is not just some random individual who happens to be a jerk. He represents here a very strong, persistent cultural belief -- one which may even have some foundation in biological fact.

This doesn't of course justify his conclusions in any way! But it does mean that we (sigh) have to go on engaging with this belief, and debunking the false conclusions drawn from it -- on moral, rational and factual grounds -- as well as responding to this brand of BS with appropriate outrage.

I've been wanting to expound on this topic for a while, so let me take "R" as my excuse...

"R"'s basic premise is the familiar one, that "men NEED sex" whereas women can take it or leave it. When I was in high school this was expressed as the Blue Balls Theory: "If you don't let me do it my balls will turn blue and I'll get sick and die." I can remember my Sex Ed teachers patiently debunking this tired old story, with much giggling from the girls -- and blushing and window-staring among the boys.

Now, IMHO, the thing that makes human beings human is that we can take or leave most anything, that is, we are more than the sum of our biological processes. Human beings are capable of actions and strategies and priorities that have nothing to do with the 3-F logic of the animal world (Food-Fight-Fuck, for those who have never heard this one before).

A tomcat for example is literally a genome robot: he has no conscious control over his need or compulsion to follow a female in heat, or his need to compete and battle with other toms to impregnate her. Human beings are different in that (in theory) we're capable of placing a layer of civilization, social convention, and individual idiosyncrasy on top of our evolutionary imperatives, even to the point of obscuring them completely.

So, on the strictly biological level I can agree with the guy who says "men really do need sex", but only to this extent: in the mammalian realm, including the larger primates of which we are one, the male generally demonstrates a compulsive reproductive initiative. Maximizing the range and number of inseminations does seem to be a common mammalian male strategy. Furthermore, mating behaviour among the Mammalia is so closely associated with dominance display (such that males will mock-mate with one another to express dominance orders), that it's very difficult if not impossible to disentangle the male's drive for reproductive success from his drive to express dominance and strive for higher rank. Dominance and rank seem to be a pretty powerful -- and related -- drive.

On the other hand, who wants to live like an elephant seal -- or closer to home, like a macaque or a chimp or even a gorilla? Yes, we are primates, and it's tough to explain some of our behaviour if you deny that (unless you credit demonic possession :-)) -- but we're also human, and humans are significantly different from most other species.

Oh heck, simple example: normal animals cling to life until the last possible moment regardless of suffering or hopelessness; human beings are capable of deciding that it makes more sense to die. A human can look ahead six months and say "I have liver cancer, I'm going to die in horrible pain inside a half-year if I don't do something about this; and shooting myself seems a better alternative to me." An animal doesn't look ahead that far, and never gives up -- a fatally wounded animal still struggles to escape, even though the struggle is meaningless. Shooting yourself in the head after a diagnosis of advanced liver cancer is a very human thing to do.

A human being is also capable of actions that don't involve just our developed time sense and the evasion of future pain, disgrace, or humiliation ... that may even commit us irrevocably to all three. A human being is capable of:

  • setting himself on fire to protest the VietNam war;
  • renouncing wealth, sex, comfort, and worldly concerns -- for life -- in the name of an abstract religious belief;
  • sacrificing his/her life to save a stranger (even an elderly stranger, which is really counter-evolutionary behaviour);
  • going on a hunger strike, even unto death, to prove an abstract political point;
  • staying silent under grievous torture out of pride, theological conviction, or loyalty to non-kingroup individuals;
  • spending his/her last penny and enduring hunger and cold in order to acquire a first edition :-)
  • sprinting on foot into heavy machine gun fire under orders that he knows are idiotic, in the name of military discipline and patriotism

Well, you get my point. All of these behaviours are insane from the strictly evolutionary, biomechanical point of view. They involve motives far removed from the exigencies of daily individual or kingroup survival. An animal might chew its forefoot off to get out of a leg-hold trap, or take enormous risks to save a juvenile of its own species. Only a human would chew its leg off to uphold the doctrine of the Trinity :-) or risk its life to save a puppydog (oops, wrong species).

In other words, humans are capable of choosing priorities on which we base our actions. Some part of us is genome robot, but a lot of us is the squirrelly result of too much forebrain.

To argue that "men need sex" and "will go crazy without it" is to argue that men are nothing more than animals; we all know that a human can go without anything (sex, food, water, happiness, love, comfort, whatever) if there's a good reason. And a good reason is anything that human finds important -- including the doctrine of the Trinity.

So we know that e.g. a human male is quite capable of taking the moral/social position that women, as fellow human beings, deserve respect and politeness. Accordingly he is capable of suppressing, concealing, or sublimating his sexual interest in women around him, because his moral imperative is more important to him. Or perhaps, to be less charitable, because keeping his job is more important to him :-) Whatever --a tomcat couldn't do it, but we can.

But are men really human?

Are men in fact "more like animals" than women? Ah, such a comfy, familiar old theory -- but so many counter-examples are readily available (historical and contemporary). The male half of the species doesn't have to behave like animals... but sometimes they choose to do so.

They choose to do so when they are unwilling to recognize any other higher social priority. And often they choose to use the excuse that men are closer to the animal state, to duck their personal responsibility for anti-social (anti-human) behaviour. "I can't help myself" is second only to "She asked for it" when rapists justify their offences.

"I can't help myself" really translates IMHO into "my responsibility as a human being to behave reasonably and not injure others was way less important to me than my acquisitive or appetitive impulse." We're talking choice here, folks -- priorities -- decisions. We're conscious beings, not paramecia ["Stimulus, response, stimulus, response -- don't you ever think?" -- G. Larson]

As an aside... we could also argue that those behaviours in women which are cited as proving that women are "more human", more civilized, etc. are simply mammalian female behaviours directed towards nurturance and defence of young, education and cultural transmission, etc. All this would mean is that some female mammal behaviours seem to work better for living together in a state of civilization, which might not be so surprising. In some, but not all, primates you'll find that the basic social unit is a crowd of females raising their young semi-communally, while wandering males come and go.

Or we could argue that women have more at stake in preserving civilized conditions, because we're at a disadvantage when it comes to brute force. You can go around and around and around this stuff for years, and lots of people have :-)

Why bother? Is it even relevant? I don't think that biological imperatives are a suitable ground for anyone, male or female, to stand on when defending their actions or attitudes. What is "natural" to our species bears no necessary relationship to what is "right" for us to do as members of a human society.

Sometimes women (including lesbian feminists) have leapt eagerly to adopt the position that women are more human, more civilized, less animal than men (c.f. Bestializing the Human Female and related humour and theory). Despite the momentary glow of superiority to be gained by subscribing to this one, the downside is that it implicitly places responsibility for civilization more heavily on women than men (animals, after all, are not responsible in way that we expect humans to be). It makes women implicitly responsible for controlling male behaviour, which (when you consider that men have most of the physical mass and strength, almost all the weapons, and way more than half the money) is ridiculous. Men are responsible for their own behaviour. They are not tomcats.

Anyway, whether men are "more like animals" than women seems to me a pointless discussion, a time-waster. You can try to contend with an assertion like "R"'s by waving 300-page books around, but the argument will go on indefinitely (there's just as much text devoted to Tabula Rasa as there is to Sociobiology). Whether testosterone has a stronger debilitating effect on reasoning power or conscience than estrogen is really of no interest to me. What I do know, from my own behaviour and from observing others and reading history, is that as human beings, we (all of us!) are divorced from our biological imperatives to a degree uncommon in the rest of the animal world; and this means that none of us can hide behind our "animal nature" to justify our actions.

Well, time to bring out the devil's advocate. Suppose it's true...

Suppose we did buy the man = beast argument, suppose we were willing to believe that men really are intermittently out of their minds due to their raging male hormones... :-) What would be the ethical and logical implications of the "werewolf theory" of male violence and sexual predation?

To argue that women should be put at men's disposal for sexual use because men have an animal need for sex is about as rational as saying that men should be fed to sharks because sharks have an animal need for food :-) If our pre-cultural impulses are to be honoured and coddled, then we should eliminate immediately all human law (most of human law is about discouraging us from acting like natural chimps). If instinctive sexual appetite should be catered to by government decree then heck, why be bothered about muggers? They're just acting on a very similar appetitive impulse, as "natural" as "R"'s alleged "need" for sex.

There is no defensible reason why women's human priorities, like dignity and self determination and individuality, should be sacrificed to any biological imperative -- men's, or even our own.

Plenty of women have consciously resisted the impulse to procreate, knowing that it would contradict their political and moral (or personal) agendas. Why should we give one second's credence to the claim that men's biological imperatives have more social importance, or that the sexual impulse in particular should be privileged above the impulse to theft, public drunkenness, or territory marking (graffiti spraying and public urination)? Would "R" assert that the government should provide fast cars and free gasoline so that men can assert their "natural" urge to dangerous road behaviour? Jeez, maybe he would...

Hmm, I just said this was a time waster, and see how much time I'm wasting on it?

Bottom line: What "R" is asserting is nothing more than privilege. People with enough privilege can get away with behaving like animals. Not only that, people with privilege get to define their preferences and appetites as "needs", whereas people without privilege resign themselves to defining their preferences and appetites as "wishes" or "wants". People in general are very good at developing enormous, elaborate structures of rhetoric and symbolism to glorify whatever itch they feel like scratching; but people with privilege also get to turn theirs into accepted social theory, theology, psychology and history... as men have done very successfully for a very long time.

The winners get to write not only the history, but the theory. And to absolve their consciences and silence their reasoning facility they have to demonstrate that they have a "right" to what they stole. "R" is trying to demonstrate that men have a "need" that is beyond their control, i.e. a "right" (by virtue of being "the needy" in a welfare state) to sex. He's trying to demonstrate this by victim logic rather than winner logic, but it's the victim logic of a guy who thinks he had a right to be a winner, if you follow me. Just as the "angry white man" diatribes center on how victimized the white boys are because they were deprived of their "natural right" to dominance, control, and unfair advantage over others.

Well enough theoretical rambling.

Back to our man who fears he will "go crazy" if he doesn't get sexual access to women now and then. Back to "R"'s actual text.

First, he deliberately conflates "sexual outlet" (physical release and pleasure) with "love" and "intimate touch".

If orgasm is what he requires, then obviously he can provide that for himself any old time (unless he's living with some fairly extreme physical disability). Orgasm and love, as men (and "pro-sex" lesbians) are always pointing out, are not necessarily related.

If affectionate touching is what he hungers for, I'll grant that as a common primate need -- all our primate cousins spend a whole lot of time grooming and patting and hugging. But it's absolutely contradictory to seek affection or intimacy in a commercial transaction; the result can never be satisfactory. Primate touching behaviour occurs in a deep social context of kin group, age cohort, mate selection, etc. Without that social context it's an empty ritual.

Let's take a less flattering look at what he requires. The men he describes (self-portrait, perhaps?) are "rejected" by "womenkind", "can only get sex if they pay for it", have "no hope of love or long-term companionship." That sounds like a gamma male to me; the average alpha or beta male can attract some kind of female companionship (just hang out at any yacht club, executive bar, airport, and you'll get the picture). Many women are on the lookout for an alpha or beta male as a partner -- regardless of looks or physique, financial and social success will qualify a male for acceptable rank. So the men in "R"'s picture are apparently the losers, the gamma males who were not selected.

What do losers have in common? Well, they are low in the pecking order. They get pushed around. They have little to no power. Alpha and beta males look down on them. They are daily reminded of their low rank. I think what "R" is really telling us here is that having low rank is intolerable to males, that males "need" an opportunity to express dominance, and that sexual use of prostitutes is a satisfactory substitute for dominance among peers.

Or, as the old "joke" has it, the boss chews out the foreman, the foreman chews out the labourer, the labourer goes home and hits his wife, the wife hits the kid, and the kid kicks the dog. The belief system inherent in this not-funny joke is that everyone has to dominate someone in order to have self-respect: if someone dominates or humbles you, you have to find someone else to take it out on. The dog (or in this case the prostituted woman) loses.

And this I think is the real agenda behind "R"'s specious appeals to biology, romanticism, and pity. What he's saying is that being a loser in a patriarchal society is hurtful, that he feels deprivation, pain, and anger at not being among the winners, and that therefore society should provide some sort of therapeutic welfare for male losers -- in the form of expendable females on whom they can vent their anger and frustration. Prizes for the runners-up, or something like that.

To me (personally, political theory aside) this is both childish and stupid. We are supposed to learn early in life that kicking the dog is not an acceptable response to getting a D in math -- furthermore that kicking and hitting and hurting others is not an acceptable response to any situation except immediate threat to our own safety. We're supposed to learn early in life that other people have real existence, personality, feelings, just like our own, and that we shouldn't treat them like things or furniture. We're supposed to figure out that the impulse to humiliate or dominate others is counter-productive, that it makes us unpopular in the long run, and that you shouldn't do unto other people what you would hate for them to do unto you.

"R" (along with many other males) appears to have skipped this step in his socialization. He has no problem with the idea that women should be provided to him by a benevolent government, like free Kleenex or public toilets, for him to dump his frustrations on. Whether this process is enjoyable or fulfilling for the women is irrelevant to him -- women are furniture in "R"'s world. And this is where the response of outrage comes in, and rightly so. "R" has just told all us women that we are furniture. I personally do not take kindly to this.

To regard other persons as furniture is to endorse slavery. It is the essence of slavery, that another person should be considered as existing for my or your convenience rather than in their own right as an individual. "R" is hankering after slavery, thinly papered over by "free enterprise" or "social welfare" (take your pick).

So "R", like many proponents of slavery before him, has to come up with an elaborate justification of "need," an invocation of pity, a sense of victimhood -- and entitlement -- mixed in with an ill-considered appeal to "nature". I hope I've succeeded in demolishing the specious arguments and dissecting the real one.

In summary (at last!):

If "R" does have a deep biological need to screw, well, too bad -- we're all human beings here, and our moral/social obligations to our fellow human beings are supposed to be a higher priority for us than obedience to our biological imperatives. If "R" wants to renounce humanity and claim the social status of an animal, then I'll be happy to heli-drop him into the nearest wilderness area and see how well he adapts :-)

Alternatively if "R" is just citing an empty claim to deep biological imperatives, to cover his desire to kick the dog, then I would say Grow Up, Get A Life. If you don't like being a gamma male, you've got very few choices: you can try to change the hierarchical nature of human society (good luck), you can learn enjoy other things about life than rank and power, or you can just grit your teeth and deal with it. That's what most low-ranking primates have to do -- welcome to the club.

Using prostitutes for a temporary power fix, to console yourself for your low status, is not acceptable. It reveals at heart the ideology of a slave-owner.

Whew. Excuse me while I climb off this soapbox, my feet are tired.

De Clarke is still a radical feminist.

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