“Would you want your daughter to be a prostitute?”

Corry Doctorow links to a defense of legalizing prostitution that, among other things, addresses the “Would you want your daughter to be a prostitute?” question:

I’m particularly aggravated, when I support legalizing sex work, and people say triumphantly: “would you want your daughter to be a sex worker?” as though that should matter. I’d rather she not be a lobbyist, or work in a sweatshop, or a coal mine, or be a malpractice lawyer, either. But it doesn’t have a lot to do with me, either way, and if she were to do any of these things, I’d like her to be able to call the cops on someone attempting to take advantage of her, and be able to use Turbo Tax at the end of the year to report her income.

The one thing I’d add is that the question plays on the fact that in English, “wouldn’t want X” is routinely used as an understated way of saying “want not-X.” I’m not in the habit of having vicarious career aspirations for the kids I don’t even have yet, but that doesn’t mean I want my future kids to not have jobs. If I had an (adult) child who was considering getting into sex work of any kind, I’d want them to know what they were getting into first, but I wouldn’t oppose an informed decision.

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  • Alverant

    How about instead of the legality of a job, one uses that arguement about the respectability of a job? I’ve read on other blogs about how being a prostitutue should be a socially acceptable job. So I ask if it one thinks it should be acceptable to be a prostitute, how would you feel about your daughter being on as opposed to being a malpractice lawyer or a preacher? That way we’re taking the legal/illegal aspect out of the job and addressing what the issue is really about, how we as a society sees sex workers.

  • http://motherwell.livejournal.com/ Raging Bee

    If I had an adult daughter, I’d rather she be a (non-enslaved) prostitute than, say, Newt Blingrich’s next wife.

  • coragyps

    I have two grown daughters. I’m perfectly happy with neither of them being a prostitute. Or a Republican.

  • http://giliellthinkingaloud.blogspot.com/ Giliell, not to be confused with The Borg

    I have two small daughters.
    I want them to be happy when they grow up.
    And I’m going to kick anybody’s ass who’s trying to stop them.
    Yes, tenured profesor of X would probably elicit more maternal pride than best porn actress 20XX, but I obviously don’t own them and I’d have much more problems if they went into a profession that harms people and deingrates them.

  • Sas

    Alverant, I’d much rather my daughter be a sex worker than a preacher.

  • http://www.facebook.com/Nyarlathotep101 ronstrong

    I’d rather my daughter be a prostitute than a politician. At least the prostitute is making an honest living.

  • mnb0

    I wouldn’t want my son to be a waste collector, exactly because of the lack of respect for this job. Still it is extremely important work.

  • Robert B.

    Another thing – the fact that the descendant’s gender is specified in the question is a warning flag. If replacing “daughter” with “son” would make you give a different answer, then something is wrong with your thinking. Even if switching to “son” would not change your answer, if it changes the reason you give that answer, then something is wrong with your thinking. So that word ought not to be relevant, which means it has no reason to be there. Asking the question that way is an intellectual trap. It’s not just an appeal to emotion – it’s an appeal to sexist emotion.

    (Yo dawg, I heard you liked logical fallacies. So I put a logical fallacy in your logical fallacy, so you can be wrong while you’re wrong.)

  • http://oldtimeatheism.blogspot.ca/ andyman409

    I wouldn’t be surprised if most people think of pimps beating hookers when they think of the word “sex work”. It doesn’t have to be that bad. Although I cannot speak for people who have sex for money, I do know perfectly happy people who became strippers in order to raise college tuition.

  • ik

    Besides all skills have their exemplars.

  • KH

    I wouldn’t want my daughters to become prostitutes, but if they do, I’d like them to be legal ones.

  • lordshipmayhem

    No, I would not want my daughters to become members of the world’s oldest profession, but I wouldn’t want them to become politicians either.

    If they did I’d like the decision to be theirs. I’d like them to be regarded as professionals just as medical staff and firefighters are regarded as “professional”, perhaps even as part of a guild or other professional organization. I’d like them to regard the profession as honourable and deserving of respect, and deserving of high standards of both skills and conduct.

  • http://vexingquestions.wordpress.com Daniel

    If I had an (adult) child who was considering getting into sex work of any kind, I’d want them to know what they were getting into first, but I wouldn’t oppose an informed decision.

    Well… so long as the decision is informed. Wait a minute. REALLY?!?! You wouldn’t offer so much as a voice of opposition to your child’s decision to become a sex worker, so long as he or she knows what he or she is getting into? What if your (adult) child, after much research, decided to make an informed decision to become a meth addict? Would you just sit there smiling and say, “Well, as long as you know how much pain you’ll bring to yourself and to you’re family. The most important thing is that your decision is ‘informed’”. Wouldn’t you want to help inform your (adult) child about how destructive and dangerous sex work can be?

    I for one would oppose an informed decision. I would let my child know that I think his or her decision is dangerous, that I don’t approve, and I would advocate other career options. If I did any less, I wouldn’t be much of a father.

    • Yoritomo

      Part of “informed” means that your child already knows the decision is dangerous, but has decided it’s still preferable to the available alternatives. Unless you can point your child to alternatives it hasn’t considered already (thereby increasing his or her available information), all you’re doing is stating that, given the same amount of information, your judgment is better than your children’s and that you feel a duty to try and impose yours instead of theirs. I don’t have any children of my own, but I hope that if I had, even if I disagreed with their decisions I’d still be able to accept that ultimately it’s their decision, not mine.

      • http://vexingquestions.wordpress.com Daniel

        Part of “informed” means that your child already knows the decision is dangerous but has decided it’s still preferable to the available alternatives

        Is that so? “Informed” is a fuzzy word and you may be stipulating it to mean that, but it is not clear what Chris means by that. Perhaps he would agree, I don’t know. Still, though my child might have decided that it is the most preferable option, this does not mean that it really is the most preferable option. Parents are not just friends or strangers who offer their opinions on matters. A parent, at least a good one, should offer their best guidance based upon years of experience. There are very few situations where I would concur with anyone that this is the best available option. It is a dangerous job. Is there a possible world where sex-work is the best option available to a person? Sure. There are situations where the available choices are prostitution or starvation, abuse, and death. If those are my child’s available options, then I would be comfortable admitting that I have failed them as a parent (though perhaps through no fault of my own). I agree with you that the decision is ultimately not mine to make, but admitting this is far different from not voicing any opposition to the matter.

    • Robert B.

      Well, not wanting one’s children to be in physical danger is certainly quite ethical. I gather then that you would also oppose them deciding on, say, military service, or professional hockey or American football, or space exploration. And of course you’d be in favor of legalizing prostitution, which by all accounts would improve safety dramatically. Y’know, just in case. Right?

      • http://vexingquestions.wordpress.com Daniel

        Robert B.,

        I think we should try to improve the living and safety conditions for prostitutes. They have always been a part of society and they always will be. They are among the most vulnerable. So you are quite right to infer this from my comments. As for the other career options, it depends. My own parents discouraged me from pursuing certain activities (like football) that they deemed too dangerous given my health. I would want to know the risks. I happen to think the risks involved in sex-work are very high. If they are equally high in football/hockey, I would encourage my children to pursue other athletic alternatives. Athletics can be risky, but it doesn’t have to be. And generally the aim of athletics is quite good for a person, i.e. health, sportsmanship, perseverance, etc.

        As for military service, that is a bit of a more difficult analogy to push. Military service is inherently dangerous, but it may be necessary under certain circumstance. I don’t think the invasion of Iraq was one of them, but I do think military intervention was necessary in WWII. If my children fought a justified war, I would be worried for them, but be proud of them. They would be sacrificing for a greater good, and displaying great courage towards this end.

        Prostitution may require something like courage, but the end that it brings about, income, most likely could have been pursued by other means. Now you might say that certain circumstances conspire such that this is the last best option for my child. He or she lives in circumstances where prostitution is the only work available. In that case, he or she is not making an informed decision, he or she is acting out of necessity or compulsion.

        But what if your child could go into accounting or prostitution and decides that it is the best option for him or her, even after reviewing all of the information? Would you simply sit back and say nothing? Is the new liberal prime directive? You shouldn’t interfere with your child’s life in any way. Let her develop on her own. Let her explore all options and never step in to offer moral guidance. Let her fall into her own abyss. Say nothing–silence is golden. Welcome to our brave new world. “Alas, the time is coming when man will no longer give birth to a star. Alas, the time of the most despicable man is coming, he that is no longer able to despise himself. Behold, I show you the last man. ‘What is love? What is creation? What is longing? What is a star?’ thus asks the last man, and he blinks.” Nietzsche’s prophesy is fulfilled. This is what we should do when our children tell us that they have made an informed decision to become sex-workers. We should, with as little passion as possible, blink.

  • noway

    I would absolutely not want any of my children, nor grand-children, nor grand-greant children, nor any of my descents to be prostitutes, sex workers. And this male or female.
    First, it would mean that I would have failed my own children and descendants, and my own descendants would have failed their own children. Also , many prostitutes and pimps go on to not protect their own children from being molested at a young age. No way. I want the best for my children and grand-children and descendants.
    I wonder what is the percentage of children of prostitutes and pimps that are into prostitution.