I've just had a look at Yahoo! Answers and what an eye-opener that has been! There were three responses that I found particularly interesting.
The first was that Rudyard Kipling refers to prostitution as "the most ancient profession in the world" in his book 'Black and White' (how very appropriate) back in 1888. I haven't read that book but I'm now just a little tempted to, mainly to see what the context was for his statement.
Then there was a reference to this fascinating research on monkeys conducted at Yale. Apparently, they trained some monkeys to use money to purchase various items such as grapes and treats like marshmallows. Before long, the male monkeys had figured out how to pay females for sex.
Now, I really wasn't ready to believe this. I mean, nice bit of imagination there, but really? So, naturally, I looked for the original source material i.e. something from the Yale researchers themselves.
I was disappointed that I couldn't find it. I did find this article, supposedly by a more reliable source than the one at Yahoo! Answers, which discusses some Yale research. It doesn't, however, mention any 'sex-for-money' or 'money-for-sex' transactions by monkeys.
The third response that I thought was worth giving some thought to (mainly because I'd already been pondering it before going on my search for answers) was that other occupations such as child-bearing, child-raising, hunting and gathering had all probably preceded the sex trade.
Now, appealing as I find this argument, the part that could be challenged is whether any of these other occupations involved payment of some kind, and importantly, whether the payment was of an explicit and formal nature in which the agreeing parties were clear about what they were agreeing to and what the 'payment' would be.
I'm suggesting that only when these conditions were present could one say that the 'occupation' (work which was not not necessarily compensated) was a 'profession' (work that was formally compensated).
According to that distinction, I would say that occupations such as child-bearing and house-keeping have not been, and are still not, considered 'professions'. On the other hand, prostitution of the body for money or some other agreed form of compensation might well have been a profession, albeit one steeped in controversy, from days of yore.
The thing is, while prostitution commonly refers to the trading of sex, the concept can be and sometimes is used more inclusively to refer to any transaction involving an 'unworthy' cause.
Right, I know. Define 'unworthy'. Well, I best leave that to each one of us to determine because, as you know, our ideas about what's worthy can be quite different. Besides, at least some prostitutes sincerely believe they are serving a very worthy cause indeed.
But you know, all of this is just a preamble, a pretext, if you will, for my real agenda. Oh, don't get me wrong. I'm not at all suggesting I've been insincere or disingeuous in making mention of it. Just that it wasn't my purpose to discuss prostitution in this post, at least not as as idea for debate. What really prompted me to write this post were two things.
First, that a friend, J, (yes, another of my many friends whose names start with J!), said to me recently:
"What you need to do is to marry a wealthy old man who would look after you financially, require no more than 15 minutes of sexual gratification per month, intense as that may be and which you would have to satisfy uncompromisingly, and whose date of demise is vividly foreseeable. "
To which I'd responded, "Well J, since you have what seems like an iron-clad plan and given your connections in political, philanthropic and social justice circles, I'd say you'd be the person to find me just the man".
You may be relieved to know that we both roared with laughter during this conversation. Then again, it's possible that you might be offended by our humor.
The second reason I wanted to write about prostitution is because, yes, I'll admit it, I had thought about doing it. I'm hesitant to say 'considered' it because that suggests rather more of a commitment to the idea than just a thought that I entertained as briefly and as unsentimentally as I could.
It happened during the time that I was really struggling financially. 'Scraping an empty barrel' woudn't describe my circumstances at the time nearly enough. It was dire. Two things came to my attention during that period.
One, I'd heard that an acquaintance, married with kids, was doing some nude modeling for a government-subsidized arts course. The other was a documentary I'd watched about lap dancers and prostitutes. It gave me an insight into how some women really do feel about a 'profession' that many people find loathsome or at least degrading and that many governments officially prohibit.
Some of these women actually see themselves offering a much-needed service which they happen to enjoy. Some, with university degrees, had made this their career choice over other more 'respectable' careers, citing the freedom and flexibility of being their own boss as important reasons along with the financial rewards. One woman spoke about how her husband and children were aware of her work and were quite comfortable about it.
So, I wondered, what would really be so wrong about me getting paid for sex. Yes, I am deliberately putting it bluntly.
Would I be taking a man away from his wife or would I be helping him stay in his marriage? Would I be helping a man build his confidence? Would I be helping him de-stress? Would I be helping him experience intimacy without feeling pressured into any kind of commitment (other than having to pay me, of course)? Might this be my service to humankind?
And, most important of all, how would I be paying for this choice of profession? Which part of me would it destroy? Or set free?
I realize this post feels like it's been stripped of all emotion. The truth is, I hate the very thought of having sex with someone for any other reason than the pure joy and passion of it and of him. Yes, I guess you could accuse me of being horribly old-fashioned and inhibited.
I do think it would be great to free myself from these and so many other inhibitions I know I'm trapped in. But for now, this is how I am and I'm okay with it.