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The attitude towards sex work is part of the hangover of millennia in which enormous emphasis was put women's faithfulness.

A Brothel for Women Customers: What’s Wrong with That?

It is little more than an irresistible newspaper story at the moment, but The Guardian, and just about every other media outlet on earth, is reporting that Heidi Fleiss, the “former Hollywood madam”, is planning to open a brothel with male sexworkers catering to female customers in the Nevada desert. Conservative newspaper editors will be lining up their “the world is going to hell” editorials now.

Even those who find the idea intriguing shouldn’t get too excited – a lot of things get announced in newspapers that never happen – but nevertheless it does provoke some interesting questions about the relationship between the sexes.

I think the general attitude towards sex work is part of the hangover of millennia in which enormous emphasis was put women’s faithfulness – however that was so defined (sometimes “close friendships” with women didn’t matter; sometimes it did) – that so much stress is put on “SEX” as something different to other aspects of life.

Why should it be perfectly acceptable for someone to have, or give, say, a deep tissue massage, in which the masseur or masseuse will use many parts of their body in close contact with their client, but as soon as anything becomes defined as “sexual” there’s a moral horror? (Indeed, as Bill Clinton’s impeachment case found, there’s by no means any clear definition of “sex”.”)

Of course the reality of sex work, for women, and men, at the moment is that it is often the last resort of the addicted, the disadvantaged, the trafficked, or those otherwise forced into it by circumstances. That sort of sex work is clearly unacceptable, as I’ve written elsewhere.

But what if it is a genuine job choice, gone into with open eyes and full understanding, and practiced in a safe way (in all senses)? (As presumably could apply in this case.) Why should society have any objection to this?

And what if using such services is regarded, in appropriate circumstances (i.e. not involving unfaithfulness to a partner), as just something that satisfies a bodily need. If someone at this point in their life doesn’t want a relationship, but does want sex, why not just openly acknowledge this and make appropriate arrangements?

What’s wrong with that?

About Natalie Bennett

Natalie blogs at Philobiblon, on books, history and all things feminist. In her public life she's the leader of the Green Party of England and Wales.

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