On the question of prostitution
Prostitution, commonly said to be the world’s oldest profession, is an issue of which discussion brings about varied opinions. It is my intention to examine prostitution’s role in society, especially in relationship to money.
Putting aside pipe dreams of eliminating the so-called ‘vice’ crimes in current society, we must recognize prostitution’s necessary existence in any society which bases it’s value in money. Let us begin by examining the following passages by Karl Marx from The Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844:
“Money, then, appears as this overturning power both against the individual and against the bonds of society, etc., which claim to be essences in themselves. It transforms fidelity into infidelity, love into hate, hate into love, virtue into vice, vice into virtue, servant into master, master into servant, idiocy into intelligence, and intelligence into idiocy.”
So, in society, when money exists as the active representation of value, it has the full power of negation and validation. Money has the ability to turn the world upside-down, to invalidate the valid, and validate the invalid. As long as money exists, all human and natural qualities can be effectively overturned by its power, including emotion, physical attraction, and other qualities of naturally occurring sexual intimacy. Thus the nature of money guarantees the existence of prostitution for the duration of its own existence.
“That which I am unable to do as a man, and of which therefore all my individual essential powers are incapable, I am able to do by means of money. Money thus turns each of these powers into something which in itself it is not-turns it, that is, into it’s contrary.”
Money effectively allows its possessor to purchase abilities which he does not naturally have. Money allows the weak to be strong, by allowing its possessor to purchase the effects of strength. This quality of money is evident in the very nature of prostitution. Whereas sexual intimacy between people should exist naturally as an extension of emotion and mutual attraction, the existence of prostitution represents the negation of those qualities.
“That which is for me through the medium of money-that for which I can pay (i.e., which money can buy)- that am I, the possessor of the money. The extent of the power of money is the extent of my power. Money’s properties are my properties and essential powers-the properties and powers of its possessor. Thus, what I am and am capable of is by no means determined by my individuality. I am ugly, but I can buy for myself the most beautiful of women. Therefore I am not ugly, for the effect of ugliness–its deterrent power–is nullified by money … Do not I, who thanks to money am capable of all that the human heart longs for, possess all human capacities? Does not my money, therefore, transform all my incapacities into their contrary?”
Money essentially overturns the reality of one’s individual existence. The prostitute is effectively transformed into a product for sale, her sexual partner a customer, and the act of sex itself into a service. Sex in this case is void of any true intimacy, emotion, or physical attraction, other than the attraction of a customer’s want for a product or service. Through the overturning powers of money, prostitution transforms sexual intimacy into sex solely as a product, effectively negating its natural qualities.
Since prostitution is guaranteed to exist for the duration of the existence of money it would seem futile then to outlaw it. The state however, despite its empty rhetoric of ‘cleaning up the streets,’ has no false hopes of eliminating prostitution. Prostitution, like other so-called ‘vice crimes,’ creates a constant stream of arrests and fines which benefit the state financially while at the same time appeasing prostitution’s critics and strengthening the forces of “traditional” reaction. The irony, of course, lies in the constant proclamations by capitalists and their representatives in government and mouthpieces of the personal freedoms insured by representative democracy and capitalism which in the case of prostitution (in most places) are non existent. While you are free to have sex with as many partners as you choose, and you are free to charge for your company as an escort, you are not free to charge for sex.
At the present time the most effective steps for eliminating any negative effects of prostitution is decriminalization. This is already understood in some countries where this has already occurred. Many other countries , however, have become even more aggressive in their ‘crack downs’ on prostitution, pushing prostitution further underground and creating even more negative effects.
With the inevitability of the existence of prostitution in current society, should we come to the conclusion that prostitution must and will always exist? To answer simply, no. At a time when the proletariat gains class consciousness and unites, takes control of the means of production, and embarks on the road to a moneyless, and therefore classless society, prostitution can and will be done away with.
Let us examine another passage by Marx:
“Assume man to be man and his relationship to the world to be a human one: then you can exchange love only for love, trust for trust, etc. If you want to enjoy art, you must be an artistically cultivated person; if you want to exercise influence over other people, you must be a person with a stimulating and encouraging effect on other people. Every one of your relations to man and to nature must be a specific expression, corresponding to the object of your will, of your real individual life. If you love without evoking love in return-that is, if your loving as loving does not produce reciprocal love; if through a living expression of yourself as a loving person you do not make yourself a loved person, then your love is impotent-a misfortune.”
We can conclude that as long as money exists so will prostitution and in order to eliminate prostitution we must first rid ourselves of the burden of money, with its overturning power.