L.B.: Bucky’s in love

Left Behind, pp. 364-375

Abruptly, we shift back to Buck’s perspective as he sees, for the first time, his Beatrice:

Buck was stunned. He loved Chloe’s name, her eyes, her smile.

He loved her name? I suppose a charitable reading could make sense of this as an attempt to show that Buck is so thoroughly smitten that he wants to halloo her name to the reverberate hills and make the babbling gossip of the air cry out “Chloe!” But it’s still kind of odd. He seems to be forgetting what any garage rocker could tell him: The name doesn’t make the band; the band makes the name.

Then again, this notion that names can be inherently attractive may help to explain Buck’s lack of interest in Hattie.

She looked directly at him and gave him a firm handshake, something he liked in a woman. So many women felt it was feminine to offer a limp hand. What a beautiful girl! he thought. He had been tempted to tell Captain Steele that, as of the next day, he would no longer be just a writer but would become executive editor. But he feared that would sound like bragging, not complaining, so he had said nothing.

So it’s not just her name, it’s also her firm handshake and … well, that’s it, actually. The portrayal of love at first sight here is trickier than normal due to Jenkins’ steadfast refusal to offer any physical description of his characters. Buck can fall in love with Chloe’s eyes and her smile, but he can’t fall in love with her long, wavy brown hair because we still don’t know whether her hair is long or short, curly or straight, light or dark. (Initially, I admit, the name Chloe had me reading with a mental image of Allison Mack, but that didn’t really fit — only serving to remind me that the Smallville Torch had better reporters than anybody who works for Global Weekly.)

We’re not really ever told why the lightning bolt of infatuation has struck our love-addled hero. What is it about Chloe that Buck falls in love with? He tells us about her eyes and her smile, I suppose, because these are unthreateningly chaste features to mention, but beyond the fact that she has eyes (two, one assumes) and is capable of smiling, we learn nothing about her here. What seems to have happened is this: She meets Buck and her eyes light up and she smiles. He thinks to himself, “I love her eyes and her smile,” by which he means “I love that she looked at me and smiled.” What first attracts Buck to Chloe, then, is the idea that she might be attracted to him. (That’s an accidentally realistic detail, because that’s often how it really works. Except for when it doesn’t.)

“Look,” Hattie said, “the captain and I need a few minutes, so why don’t you two get acquainted and we’ll all get back together later. Do you have time, Buck?”

I do now, he thought. “Sure,” he said, looking at Chloe and her father. “Is that all right with you two?”

The captain seemed to hesitate, but his daughter looked at him expectantly. She was clearly old enough to make her own decisions, but apparently she didn’t want to make things awkward for her dad.

“It’s OK,” Captain Steele said hesitantly. “We’ll be in here.”

“I’ll stash my bag, and we’ll just take a walk in the terminal,” Buck said. “If you want to, Chloe.”

She smiled and nodded.

This is, again, a Buck’s-perspective scene, so it’s Buck here who considers it natural to refer to Rayford as “Captain Steele.” Likewise it’s Buck here who conveys the authors own stilted sense of propriety in matters of courtship with the Captain’s adult daughter. And “courtship” is the right word there. Google it and you’ll find a whole creepy subculture providing the elaborate rules concocted to prevent young fundamentalist couples from coupling.*

There’s no reason why a thoroughly secular urban professional like Buck should be acting like he’s following Bill Gothard’s “Foundational Principles of Courtship,” so why does he? Why, for that matter, do so many of the supposedly unregenerate, unsaved heathens in this book behave so circumspectly?

Partly, I would guess, this is due to the need not to shock the sensibilities of the intended audience. But the authors don’t simply avoid dwelling on the details of the sins of sinners, they portray them as all-but not sinning. For both Rayford and Buck, the scenes in which they confess their sins read like they’re answering that useless standard job interview question about your “faults and weaknesses.” (“O Lord forgive me for sometimes working too hard and for being a perfectionist …”)

Or, more to the point, it’s like that moment in a bad preacher’s sermon, right after he’s said, “We’re all sinners,” when he suddenly loses his nerve and illustrates his point by confessing to some inconsequential failing. You can see the fear in his eyes — you can see that he’s thinking that if he honestly confesses to something more meaningful he will lose our respect or our love or our acceptance. This, then, becomes the message of the sermon. The congregation understands that they, too, must pretend they have nothing meaningful to confess. And the amazing grace the preacher was just trying to describe is stiff-armed away as we all go back to pretending we don’t need it.

This is hypocrisy, of course, but it’s a hypocrisy driven by fear rather by pride. This is another reason why I think the 12-step group meeting in the basement is usually a more authentic use of the building than the congregation meeting upstairs.

It had been a long time since Buck had felt awkward and shy around a girl. As he and Chloe strolled and talked, he didn’t know where to look and was self-conscious about where to put his hands. Should he keep them in his pockets or let them hang free? Let them swing? Would she rather sit down or people watch or window-shop?

There’s an awful lot of that. What there’s not a lot of is dialogue — the actual words they say to one another. Instead we’re told things like this:

He asked her about herself and where she went to college, what she was interested in. She told him about her mother and her brother, and he sympathized. Buck was impressed at how smart and articulate and mature she seemed. …

She wanted to know about his life and career. He told her anything she asked but little more.

So what is Chloe interested in? Smart, articulate and mature-type things, apparently, but more than that we’ll never know. The first line of actual dialogue is this, from Chloe: “Ever been married?” We get only a paraphrased summary of Buck’s response:

He was glad she had asked. He was happy to tell her no, that he had never really been serious enough with anyone to be engaged.

Those of us who have served time in conservative Christian youth groups recognize this theme from the many, many Why Premarital Sex Will Destroy You Wait lectures we heard. Your purity and innocence, the lecture always said, are the Greatest Gift that you can offer to your spouse on your wedding day. Setting aside the merits of this particular pitch for chastity, the strange thing here is finding that the inner monologue of jet-setting, secular, un-saved Buck Williams sounds like a True Love Waits seminar.

I’m really not sure what to make of that. It could be an attempt to imply some kind of natural law argument (even the heathen know that sex is dirty and shameful). Or it could be an expression of another theme from the saltpeter lecture series: You might be envious of people who are getting it on, but really, they secretly wish they were like you. Or, because the lecture’s whole approach is shaped by some disastrously romantic notions about The One Special Someone Destined For You, it could be an indication that saintly Irene’s prayers for her daughter’s future One Special Someone have cloaked Buck in an aura of divine protection from that most fecund ditch so that when they finally meet, as destined, he will be as pure and unspoiled as she is.

That last idea would also explain why the chaperoning angels have been so busy chasing away Chloe’s would-be suitors:

“How about you?” he asked, feeling the discussion was now fair game. “How many times have you been married?”

She laughed. “Only had one steady. When I was a freshman in college, he was a senior. I thought it was love, but when he graduated, I never heard from him again.”

Buck, who has already noticed that “she had to be at least 10 years younger than he was,” has to be a bit encouraged here to learn that Chloe’s OK with dating older guys. “His loss,” Buck says of the Stanford senior who broke her heart. “Thank you,” she says, and suddenly Buck turns into Anthony Michael Hall as Farmer Ted:

Buck felt bolder. “What was he, blind?” She didn’t respond.

How could she, really?

Buck mentally kicked himself and tried to recover. “I mean, some guys don’t know what they have.”

She was still silent, and he felt like an idiot. …

She stopped in front of a gourmet bakery shop. …

So it was window-shopping, then, and they’ve continued strolling this whole time. You’d think over the past two pages of conversation we’d have gotten some prior clue that was the case. That context matters for conversations like this one. Silently walking along through a noisy airport is a different kind of non-response to Buck’s clumsy overture than silently sitting there across from him in an airport coffee shop would be. But that’s just a quibble and there’s no need to get bogged down in quibbles when there are much more flagrantly awful passages to deal with, such as what comes next: Jenkins’ Attempt at Witty Banter.

She stopped in front of a gourmet bakery shop. “Feel like a cookie?” she asked.

“Why? Do I look like one?”

“How did I know that was coming?” she said. “Buy me a cookie and I’ll let that groaner die a natural death.”

“Of old age, you mean,” he said.

“Now that was funny.”

No. No it wasn’t. If this is Buck’s idea of flirting, then Irene’s prayers to preserve his virginity really weren’t necessary. After this we gratefully cut away from Mr. Benchley and Ms. Parker for a few pages. Sadly for the reader, however, those pages are filled with Rayford’s attempts to seduce Hattie into Heaven. We’ll skip that this week and get back to our young lovers, who are now mid-cookie, although there’s no way to tell whether they’ve resumed their stroll or have settled into a booth at the bakery.

“You’re gonna find my dad’s theory of the disappearances very interesting,” Chloe said.

“Am I?” Buck said. She nodded and he noticed a dab of chocolate at the corner of her mouth. He said, “May I?” extending his hand. She raised her chin and he transferred the chocolate to his thumb. Now what should he do? Wipe it on a napkin? Impulsively he put his thumb to his lips.

“Gross!” she said. “How embarrassing! What if I have the creeping crud or something?”

“Then now we’ve both got it,” he said, and they laughed. Buck realized he was blushing …

This scene reads a lot better if you picture the parts of Buck and Chloe being played by Leslie Nielsen and Priscilla Presley.

She starts to explain Rayford’s theory, but Buck stops her. “Don’t tell me,” he says. “I want to get it fresh from him, on tape. … That’s just how I like to work.” This is what separates the GIRAT from his competitors — he avoids all of that distracting “research” and “trying to learn about a subject before conducting an interview” business. He explains to Chloe that, for the story he’s planning:

“We’re going to get some college kids’ ideas, but it would be unlikely we would use two people from the same family. …”

“You just kind of categorized me there,” Chloe says, demonstrating again that she is, indeed, kind of articulate or something.

“Categorized you?”

“As a college kid.”

“Ooh, I did, didn’t I? My fault. I know better. Collegians aren’t kids. I don’t see you as a kid, although you are a lot younger than I am.”

“Collegians? I haven’t heard that term in a while.”

Probably not. At least not since she stopped volunteering as a candy striper at the Home for Pretentious Nonagenarians. Seriously, apart from its use as the intentionally institutional-sounding name of dozens of student newspapers or as the intentionally old-fashioned sounding name of dozens of a capella groups, have you ever heard someone say this? “I am showing my age, aren’t I?” Buck says, but he isn’t really — he’s showing someone else’s age.

The subject of Buck’s age, and thus their considerable age-difference, brings on an unfortunate second round of Witty Banter:

“How old are you, Buck?”

“Thirty and a half, going on 31,” he said with a twinkle.

“I say, how old are you?” she shouted, as if talking to a deaf old man. Buck roared.

“I’d buy you another cookie, little girl, but I don’t want to spoil your appetite.”

Emboldened by his charming dirty-old-man routine, Chloe hints at her affection and shows Buck they have something in common — a thing for names:

“I like the way you say my name.”

“I didn’t know there was any other way to say it,” he said.

“Oh, there is. Even my friends slip into making it one syllable, like Cloy.”

“Chloe,” he repeated.**

“Yeah,” she said. “Like that. Two syllables, long O, long E.

(That part of this scene plays better if you imagine the parts of Buck and Chloe as played by Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall.) I think this bit was included by the authors as a pronunciation tutorial for readers. Sadly, they don’t include a similar tutorial for Buck’s name. Instead, Buck switches from Bogie to Walter Brennan and they go back to the Dirty Old Man shtick:

“I like your name.” He slipped into an old man’s husky voice. “It’s a young person’s name. How old are you, kid?”

“Twenty and a half, going on 21.”

“Oh, my goodness,” he said, still in character, “I’m consortin’ with a minor!”

Mercifully, they wrap up this bit before this “character” gets any creepier. Buck stops trying to whimsically tease his collegian friend about her youth and reverts to deadly serious condescension:

“You play a lot older.”

“I’ll take that as a compliment,” she said, smiling self-consciously as if she wasn’t sure he was serious.

“Oh, do,” he said. “Few people your age are as well-read and articulate as you are.”

“That was definitely a compliment,” she said.

No. No it wasn’t.

- – - – - – - – - – - –

* Wife-beating apologist James Dobson provides this useful summary of “courtship,” which in turn links to an article titled “Lancelot Lives,” which is intended to help teenage boys become “knights in shining armor.” Memo to Focus on the Family: You might want to re-read the story of Lancelot.

** Chloe is a biblical name, sort of. It was a Greek name sometimes used for the goddess Demeter, and so it’s not surprising that it was also the name of a woman in the church at Corinth who briefly appears in Paul’s first letter to them (11:1). Here’s the entire passage: “My brothers, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you.” Those of us who disagree with Tim LaHaye’s wife about the leadership role of women in the church like to point out that Paul didn’t seem to think it unusual or improper that Chloe was both the head of her household and a leader in the local church.

  • Caravelle

    There must be some reason the spam filter is acting up all of a sudden. Did they recently tighten its standards or something ?

  • cjmr

    I don’t know what’s going on with the spam filter, but I just accidentally closed the text window where I’d saved my rejected comment until I could edit it. Without saving, damnit!
    It was about regulatory bureaucracy, though. It only had the word s3x in it once!

  • http://jesurgislac.greatestjournal.com Jesurgislac

    Geds: Or are you saying that a woman having sex with an infected man in more likely to become infected than a man having sex with an infected woman due to the mechanics of the whole thing?
    Well, depends on the STD. (Crabs and herpes are both pretty much equal time, I think.) But yes, for most STDs, transmission rates are not identical male>female than they are female>male – and I can’t think of a single instance where a woman with an STD is more likely to infect a man than the other way about.

  • Caravelle

    When you think about the mechanics it actually makes a lot of sense that men would be more likely to infect women than the other way around…

  • http://accidental-historian.blogspot.com/ Geds

    True enough, Caravelle.
    I just first read it as a random blanket statement, then re-read it and wanted to confirm that there was something supporting the notion.

  • Izzy

    ‘Hokay. (Pun not intended.)
    At the risk of getting into something vast–and I should point out that I’m leaving work right after I post this, so I’ll see any replies sometime tomorrow late-morning at earliest–I want to respond to:
    Says the man who thinks that when he pays a woman to make use of her sexually, this is the same thing as asking a barista to make him a coffee.
    Why isn’t it?
    Seriously. I’m a chick; I’m a feminist. I wouldn’t be a sex worker, if I have a choice–and I, thank God, do–but I also wouldn’t work in customer service. When it *did* come to the choice between working porn, one summer, and getting a food-service job, I chose porn, and I’d do it again. Hell, if it wasn’t for the whole STDs/alone with strange dude who could be the next Ted Bundy factor*, I’d probably choose prostitution over retail, given the choice. (Hey, at least prostitution is up-front about it. In America, retail workers are supposed to *metaphorically* bend over for the customer all the time…)
    Jesu and Ako: Do you disapprove of people going to restaurants with waitstaff, or hiring nannies/maids/other personal-assistant types? If not, what do you see as the difference?
    *Which I’d like to leave out of this, because, really, there are plenty of dangerous jobs out there. Unless you’re going to argue that it’s unethical to pay someone for *any* dangerous work–assuming all reasonable precautions are taken–I’m not sure what the difference is.

  • Izzy

    I should also add that I don’t think there’s anything fundamentally unhealthy about *not* buying sex. Y’know, do what you do, guy. But there’s also nothing really wrong with seeing it as a business transaction, if that’s what works for you and you treat the person in question well.

  • ako

    Jesu and Ako: Do you disapprove of people going to restaurants with waitstaff, or hiring nannies/maids/other personal-assistant types? If not, what do you see as the difference?
    Waitstaff, generally no. Maids, usually. One difference is this;
    I’ve known a lot of people who worked waiting tables, including a hefty dose of middle class teenagers and young adults who do it for spare cash (as opposed to necessary living expenses). So, while there are doubtless exceptions, waiters I have known generally tend to regard the work as sometimes unpleasant, but not degrading.
    From what I’ve seen of maids, and people keeping maids, it tends to be a nasty business. Especially live-in maids. There’s a whole mess with economically desperate people, and the privileged taking advantage to not only foist of unpleasant and undesirable chores, but to expect the person handling their mess to act properly appreciative. To play a role, and pretend to be grateful and cheerful that someone deigned to wave money at you to make their life easier. Plus, there’s all kinds of nasty immigration and trafficking issues, compounding the already skewed demographics. I have, however, known of a few (depressingly rare) situations where the maid who comes through the house once a week isn’t trapped by economic desperation into taking a job she wouldn’t touch if she had a choice, isn’t forced to play a role to ease the employer’s conscience, and is simply expected to do an honest day’s work for a fair wage.
    I don’t know of any prostitutes in these circumstances, and I’ve met a lot more prostitutes than I have maids.
    I also think paying someone to have sex is pathetic in the same way paying someone to pretend to be your friend is. It’s tossing money at your failure to get people to want to interact meaningfully with you, and treating the fake version as just as good as the real thing.

  • Ken

    (I’m a 52-year-old virgin FOR REAL (kid genius, late bloomer, and way too much the nerd to ever be attractive to women), and I can write more romantic than that! Come to think of it, I HAVE WRITTEN BETTER ROMANCE SCENES THAN THAT!)
    Jittlov? Is that you?
    — Cactus Wren
    No, but I DO like Wizard of Speed and Time

  • Jeff

    For the record I (like everyone else on this thread, apparently) favor legalization of prostitution, because it seems to cut down on the harm to the prostitutes.
    I think there’s at least one who doesn’t. This person seems not to think that legalization would change anything.

  • Bugmaster

    You could argue, I suppose, that technically a punter is employing a pimp who is employing a prostitute, if the punter makes the deal with the pimp directly.

    Uh… I guess it depends on what you mean by “employing”. When you hire teamsters to move your sofa, you make the deal with their pimp (i.e., the moving company), and in return for your cash, you get their bodies (which are applied to moving your sofa). A large portion of that cash goes to the pimp (i.e. the moving company); the teamsters get a small proportion of it — or, more likely, a fixed hourly wage. Which is quite small.
    As a customer in this transaction, you have a certain amount of power, but it is quite limited. You can’t, for example, start smacking the teamsters around when they don’t set the couch down in quite the right spot — ok, you can, but you shouldn’t, if you know what’s good for you, because jail terms for assault can be quite steep. The moving-pimp (mimp ?) has a lot more power than you, but even he can be replaced if he gets out of line, and he knows it.
    There’s no need for you to register as a customer with the moving company. Since all of the transactions are legal, the teamsters can reasonably expect you to behave in a professional manner. They are already protected from your crazy antics, by the law.
    The difference between legal teamsters and illegal prostitutes is that the prostitutes are not protected by the law, or, in fact, by anybody (unless you count their pimp, but that’s not really a lot of protection). This is not an issue of male power vs. female frailty; nor is it an issue of the innate immorality of prostitution. It’s simply a case of a service which is in relatively high demand being supplied without any legal oversight.

  • Bugmaster

    and treating the fake version as just as good as the real thing.

    Hey, if it works for McDonalds, I don’t see why it shouldn’t work for sex, too. *shrug*

  • http://jesurgislac.greatestjournal.com Jesurgislac

    Bugmaster: It’s simply a case of a service which is in relatively high demand being supplied without any legal oversight.
    Eppuor si muove.
    Or, at more length: for all your claims that the abuse of sex workers only happens because prostitution is illegal, sex workers are still abused where prostitution is legal. Just as workers in any shitty job, which they got into because they had to and they cling to because without it they can’t pay the rent or buy food, are abused by their employers: and trying to claim that the punter who pays and sets terms is not the prostitute’s employer is really just trying to push the blame off on to someone else. As George Bernard Shaw noted a century ago, it’s easy to condemn pimps and madams for abusing sex workers: less easy to acknowledge where the real abuses lie.
    Legalization is no automatic fix-it. As ako notes upthread, working as a live-in maid is legal, but people who do it are subject to abuse.

  • MerrySue

    Sorry, I’m not inclined to join in the prostitution thread, but want to express my appreciation for this discussion – I have been enlightened.
    *goes back to writing Chloe/Hattie slashfic*

  • http://mikailborg.livejournal.com/ MikhailBorg

    Jesurgislac: Accepting as a given that sex workers are abused whether or not prostitution is legal, would you see legalizing prostitution as eventually bringing a net benefit to the workers? Or to the clients? Or is the whole idea as useful as lowering haystacks off the lifeboat deck of the Lusitania?

  • Izzy

    Ako: There’s a whole mess with economically desperate people, and the privileged taking advantage to not only foist of unpleasant and undesirable chores, but to expect the person handling their mess to act properly appreciative. To play a role, and pretend to be grateful and cheerful that someone deigned to wave money at you to make their life easier.
    Interesting. See, I see that happening in retail/customer service in general–I think “the customer is always right” is one of the worst phrases in the English language; if I could go back in time, I would find the guy who coined it and run his genitals through a paper shredder–though it would naturally probably be more pronounced with live-in work. And that, yeah, is unethical.
    That said: one of my conditions, where having kids is concerned (as someone who dislikes many aspects of pregnancy and early-child-rearing, but likes older kids okay) is that I don’t deal with 2 AM feedings and I don’t change diapers. Which means I’d probably hire someone to do that. But as long as she wasn’t nasty to the kid, or out-and-out-bitchy to me, I wouldn’t expect her to be chipper: it’s an unpleasant job, I’d pay her well, and that’s the end of the story. I don’t think *that’s* particularly unethical, if I made sure that the immigration-type issues you mentioned were covered.
    Economic desperation is…interesting. Because there are a lot of jobs that people don’t do if they have a choice, financially; Hell, I would argue that those jobs are in the vast majority. Certainly I wouldn’t have served utterly vile deli meat to troglodytes in small-town Maine, or listened to a control freak PHB type blather about “customer trust”, or done any number of things if I hadn’t needed the cash. I like my current job a lot, but I don’t think most people feel the same way. Which–I’d be in favor of creating enough of a safety net that nobody has to take a job he or she *loathes* just to stay alive, but I don’t see employing those people, or patronizing businesses that do, as an unethical thing.
    I don’t know of any prostitutes in these circumstances, and I’ve met a lot more prostitutes than I have maids.
    I haven’t met any in person. On the Internet, I *have* met prostitutes who were all “Hey, it’s a job,” or even “Hey, it’s a job I like.” They were almost universally on the high-priced, call-girl type end, though, FWIW.
    I also think paying someone to have sex is pathetic in the same way paying someone to pretend to be your friend is. It’s tossing money at your failure to get people to want to interact meaningfully with you, and treating the fake version as just as good as the real thing.
    It’s not something I would do now, for the same reason I don’t have much casual sex (okay, the non-boyfriend reason): dealing with people, even employees, seems a lot of trouble for a result that I can provide for myself in three minutes. And a good, clean male prostitute is probably about five times as expensive as a decent vibrator. ;)
    But I don’t see anything innately wrong with, if I really thought that casual partnered sex was better, deciding that I don’t want to put in the effort of dating and pleasing the other person and blah blah blah *right now*. Maybe I’m too busy; maybe I’m coming off a relationship and need catharsis. It seems like the partnered-sex equivalent of buying a vibrator, actually.

  • Jeff

    Just as workers in any shitty job, which they got into because they had to and they cling to because without it they can’t pay the rent or buy food, are abused by their employers.
    I fon’t think anyone here feels that someone should HAVE to do a dangerous or disgusting job if they don’t want to (which then raises the question: are there enough people who WANT to work in the sewers, or mine for coal, or do the dangerous or disgusting jobs that need to be done?).
    Are you [Jesu] willing to conceed that one, just one person, of either gender, might WANT to be a sex worker (of any type). If you are, wouldn’t that person be better off if they were allowed to ply their trade legally and/or be able to band together to fend off bad customers?
    In other words, prostitutes have the worst of two problems: It’s a job many (probably most) are forced into (by various means). That shouldn’t happen to anyone in any job. But the fact that prostitution is illegal makes it even harder for prostitutes to work safely and because they want to.

  • Bugmaster

    sex workers are still abused where prostitution is legal. Just as workers in any shitty job…

    Yes, having a shitty job sucks, regardless of what it is you’re doing. However, if you think that legally working at McDonalds right now is as dangerous, and invites the same kind of abuse, as illegally walking the streets… Well, then I guess they have some kind of a different McDonalds over in Britain. Here in the US, the difference is like night and day.

  • http://jesurgislac.greatestjournal.com Jesurgislac

    Jeff: I fon’t think anyone here feels that someone should HAVE to do a dangerous or disgusting job if they don’t want to
    There are people on this thread who’ve argued that sex workers provide a necessary service and that it doesn’t matter that the women are faking enjoyment for pay. Therefore, yeah, there are people here who feel that someone should have to do a dangerous and disgusting job whether or not they want to.
    Are you [Jesu] willing to conceed that one, just one person, of either gender, might WANT to be a sex worker (of any type).
    I knew someone would bring that up eventually. I’m willing to concede that there are six billion people in the world and given that there are people who like to dress up as furry animals and eat animal shit, there are probably people who actively want to be prostitutes. But the likelihood that a man who goes out looking for a woman to use for sex is going to find one or know if he has (given that the stock-in-trade of a prostitute is to convince her temporary employer that she really does want him) is vanishingly improbable, and need not be considered in any serious discussion. Men who want to justify their use of prostitutes can have a wank over the idea.
    If you are, wouldn’t that person be better off if they were allowed to ply their trade legally and/or be able to band together to fend off bad customers?#
    Oh, duh. Of course sex workers should be able to work together, form a union, protect themselves and each other against their temporary employers. Legalization is not necessary for this – there are several “prostitute guilds” in the UK. It’s not relevant whether any sex workers actively wanted the job or not, any more than it’s relevant whether workers in any industry wanted to be there or not. They still deserve protection against bad employers, bad working conditions, harassment on and off the job: and – just as people stuck in any shitty, soul-destroying job deserve it – the opportunity to move on and do better.
    Bugmaster: Yes, having a shitty job sucks, regardless of what it is you’re doing. However, if you think that legally working
    Over 5700 people were killed at work in the US last year alone, Bugmaster. All working in legal trades.
    Is working at McDonalds really the shittiest job you could think of? My God, you’ve led a sheltered, pampered, rich-kid privileged life.

  • http://jesurgislac.greatestjournal.com Jesurgislac

    Izzy: . On the Internet, I *have* met prostitutes who were all “Hey, it’s a job,” or even “Hey, it’s a job I like.”
    You think that they’re going to admit anything else in front of people who are potentially their employers?

  • http://jesurgislac.greatestjournal.com Jesurgislac

    Mikhail: Accepting as a given that sex workers are abused whether or not prostitution is legal, would you see legalizing prostitution as eventually bringing a net benefit to the workers? Or to the clients? Or is the whole idea as useful as lowering haystacks off the lifeboat deck of the Lusitania?
    I think saying “Everything would be OK if only prostitution were legal” is an argument that works for only two groups of people involved in sex work: the punters and the madams/pimps. For those two groups, legalization is an instant panacea.
    For sex workers, it may not be. It might be – but if all the conditions that made sex workers vulnerable to abuse still exist, sex workers will still be subject to abuse. My guess is that for any given set of circumstances, it’s better to focus on the conditions that made sex workers vulnerable to abuse, and work on changing those. That may include legalization or decriminalization or no-arrest zones or public statements by chief prosecutors or chiefs of police about situations in which they will not prosecute or will not arrest. But that by itself is unlikely to be the fix-it.

  • Ember Keelty

    @MerrySue
    Seconded, and PLEASE let me see when you’re done.

  • Rosina

    Jesurgislac: There are people on this thread who’ve argued that sex workers provide a necessary service and that it doesn’t matter that the women are faking enjoyment for pay. Therefore, yeah, there are people here who feel that someone should have to do a dangerous and disgusting job whether or not they want to.
    I think it is possible that some people think that prostitution is a necessary service, but the definition of ‘necessary’ need not include forcing any particular individual to do it, whether or not they want to. Electricians are necessary, but I will only ask one to come and look at our lights if they advertise their services as an electrician. If there were no electricians, then we’d have to learn to live with the dodgy lighting, or do it ourselves. I admit though that attitudes to prostitutes are probably different, and I definitely don’t want an electrician who is ‘faking it’.
    But if* prostitution in all its forms is such a distasteful job that ideally no one would choose to do it – and if we had such an ideal world that there were no sex workers available – would the type of client who now beats up sex workers not take his violence out on other victims? Isn’t violence against sex workers just an outlet for violence, rather than something that exists only in association with prostitution?
    *I am not disagreeing with my twin that it is a distasteful job: but I do think that even if it is no longer necessary for survival, someone will do it for extra cash – or for other stranger reasons.

  • http://jesurgislac.greatestjournal.com Jesurgislac

    But if* prostitution in all its forms is such a distasteful job that ideally no one would choose to do it – and if we had such an ideal world that there were no sex workers available – would the type of client who now beats up sex workers not take his violence out on other victims?
    I like to think (and only time will prove me wrong) that if we have a world in which men no longer believe they’re entitled to sex, and so there are no more prostitutes, then men will also be less violent and hateful towards women. They will also smell nicer, be smarter, and probably be kind to little dogs, too.

  • ako

    But if* prostitution in all its forms is such a distasteful job that ideally no one would choose to do it – and if we had such an ideal world that there were no sex workers available – would the type of client who now beats up sex workers not take his violence out on other victims?
    I think there’d be substantially fewer assaults. From what I’ve seen, opportunity is a huge factor in the kind of assaults prostitutes normally get subjected to. The assaults I’m aware of tended to involve a distinct degree of calculation (ensuring they were alone, or in a room with people who wouldn’t protect a prostitute; making a point of leaving money after raping a waitress at that kind of bar so no one would believe she was just a waitress, and the police would take the crime less seriously; stuff like that). While you might get some people so bursting with rage that they go after female co-workers, or random women on the street, a lot of guys get violent with prostitutes because they know they can get away with it, or at least have it taken less seriously. So there’d be less overall violence, and I don’t think the average hooker’s any more deserving of getting beaten or raped than I am (neither of us deserve it, and I don’t have any right to better my odds at her expense).

  • ako

    Of course, the overall reduction in assaults is predicated on not having society designate some new class of women as acceptable, or excusable targets for violence. Because if you just shifted things so that some other category of women was considered fair targets, that wouldn’t necessarily reduce the overall level of assaults. I just don’t see any reason to assume there’s a fixed quantity of assaults.

  • Rosina

    Jesurgislac: I like to think (and only time will prove me wrong) that if we have a world in which men no longer believe they’re entitled to sex, and so there are no more prostitutes, then men will also be less violent and hateful towards women. They will also smell nicer, be smarter, and probably be kind to little dogs, too.
    May such a day come soon, and may they learn embroidery. Of course even when prostitution was around in WW2 my father embroidered, there in the hell that was Sidcup and the Pay Corp Office of Foots Cray. As bombs dropped, he did daisy stitch and panel stitch and lots of others whose name I no longer wot of. He smelt nice, and used to bark some good advice to dogs who menaced me on our walks. Although I think it usually translated as “Shut up, I’m alpha dog here! And this is my puppy.”
    I was starting for the other end – cut off the supply, and see what happens to the demand. So in my world women don’t become sex workers, rather than waiting for men to change, and the “It’s my right” are going to be driven back to handicrafts. Shame I’ve lost the pattern for the flower pictures Dad did. We had them framed on the wall.
    And I have another confession – in my Nano I had a decently run brothel, with relatively comfortable and friendly girls, and a madam who is a friend of the slightly disreputable main characters. The girls are the type who listen to the punter’s tales of triumph and disaster, and bonk them just the same. Their dramatic purpose is to allow a window though which the repeated murder of and assaults on the less well protected girls are seen – and the lack of official action bemoaned. So I’m using a rare event to discuss much of what we’ve discussed here. Unfortunately it’s changed the Nano from its earlier plan, and I’ve now forgotten who the killer was going to be. Or why. Or how.

  • Bugmaster

    I’m willing to concede that there are six billion people in the world and given that there are people who like to dress up as furry animals and eat animal shit, there are probably people who actively want to be prostitutes.

    So, what, the people who flip burgers at McDonalds, or clean up your trash at the office, or even wade through sewage — they all wanted these jobs ? Ever since they were children, they looked up at the sky, and thought to themselves, “one day, I’ll flip sewer-burgers… one day, my dream will come true !”. Somehow I doubt it.
    The reality is that, while no one wants to do shitty jobs, no one wants to starve, either. Shitty jobs pay the rent. In fact, some shitty jobs pay quite a bit of money, proportional to the risk involved — though, admittedly, the low-paying shitty jobs are in the majority. I think you’ve lived quite a sheltered lifestyle if you think that money is not a criterion at all when picking your employment, and that your love for the job (or the pressure you feel from t3h Patriarch3z0rz) is all that matters.

    Over 5700 people were killed at work in the US last year alone…

    What, that’s it ? And how many people were killed in car crashes ? I don’t think anyone has claimed that legalization automatically makes the employee immortal while they’re on the job, though I can see how you, of all people, might interpret my words as such.

    Is working at McDonalds really the shittiest job you could think of?

    No, it’s just the most common one. But, once I get my riches(that Patriarchial check is in the mail, or so I’ve heard), I’ll make sure to lord them over you. So, stay tuned.

    like to think (and only time will prove me wrong) that if we have a world in which men no longer believe they’re entitled to sex…

    Also, one day women will learn that they’re not entitled to shoes. This will drastically reduce the number of underage child-slaves in Asia who are making all the shoes for the evil, spoiled women, and will usher in a new era of prosperity and ponies. One day…
    Really, is that what you believe ? That men hire prostitutes solely because they think they’re entitled to sex ? I mean, I know the answer is “yes”, but still…

  • Rosina

    ako: Of course, the overall reduction in assaults is predicated on not having society designate some new class of women as acceptable, or excusable targets for violence. Because if you just shifted things so that some other category of women was considered fair targets, that wouldn’t necessarily reduce the overall level of assaults. I just don’t see any reason to assume there’s a fixed quantity of assaults.
    We already have some new class of women as acceptable, or excusable targets for violence. In fact they existed alongside the sex workers all along – women who drink too much, who go clubbing, who (in my day) wore mini-skirts or hot pants, tight blouses, too much lipstick, not enough makeup, walked the dog in the morning, or nipped down to the shops in the evening, invited men home for a coffee, opened their front door to someone they didn’t know…
    I don’t know if there is a fixed quantity of assaults, but I think that men who turn to violence against women or those weaker than themselves will do so, and lacking one target will turn to others who are almost as unlikely to be believed by police, courts and juries.

  • Rosina

    And I forgot to mention wives, girl-friends, ex-wives, ex-girl-friends, women who turn down the offer of a quick shag (and must therefore be lesbians), lesbians, women who drive alone, women…

  • Nenya

    So, what, the people who flip burgers at McDonalds, or clean up your trash at the office, or even wade through sewage — they all wanted these jobs ? Ever since they were children, they looked up at the sky, and thought to themselves, “one day, I’ll flip sewer-burgers… one day, my dream will come true !”. Somehow I doubt it.
    Hmmm. I’d like to rephrase a question that was asked upthread–would you, Bugmaster, yourself choose to prostitute yourself as easily as you would chose any of the other shitty jobs you’ve listed?
    If not, I see a huge hole in your continuing comments implying that really, selling your body isn’t all that bad, and not substantially worse than working at McDonalds….

  • ako

    We already have some new class of women as acceptable, or excusable targets for violence.
    Is it going to become more acceptable to assault them if there are no prostitutes? Why?
    I don’t know if there is a fixed quantity of assaults, but I think that men who turn to violence against women or those weaker than themselves will do so, and lacking one target will turn to others who are almost as unlikely to be believed by police, courts and juries.
    See, I don’t. I think the easier the targets, the more assaults. And unless the end of prostitution specifically makes it easier for men who want to assault women to go after a different category, then the overall number of assaults will decrease. And I don’t think that no more prostitution would automatically make it more acceptable to assault other women, or make them easier targets. Stopping violence against women is a bit like stopping violence in general; you’re never going to get the whole thing, but shift social standards about how much people are allowed to take out their frustrations or desires on someone else’s flesh, and you can substantially increase or decrease how much people actually do.

  • Rosina

    Me (using part of ako’s earlier comment: We already have “some new class of women as acceptable, or excusable targets for violence”.
    ako: Is it going to become more acceptable to assault them if there are no prostitutes? Why?
    It is already an excuse that is made for assault with or without rape. It might be used as defence, or as mitigation. And it is often successful, reducing the chance of prosecution or conviction, or the severity of the sentence. In law, it is already absolutely wrong to assault a prostitute, or a burger-flipper, or your wife, or a traffic warden, or anyone.
    So I’m not arguing that it will become ‘more acceptable’, just that if a man looking to satisfy his god-given right to sex’n'violence can’t get it scratched by a prostitute, he will try to get it from some other source. Or is the disappearance of all prostitutes accompanied by a reduction in violent urges in those men (a minority) who have violent urges now?

  • Rosina

    ako; I think the easier the targets, the more assaults. And unless the end of prostitution specifically makes it easier for men who want to assault women to go after a different category, then the overall number of assaults will decrease. And I don’t think that no more prostitution would automatically make it more acceptable to assault other women, or make them easier targets. Stopping violence against women is a bit like stopping violence in general; you’re never going to get the whole thing, but shift social standards about how much people are allowed to take out their frustrations or desires on someone else’s flesh, and you can substantially increase or decrease how much people actually do.
    A woman having a good night out is nearly as easy a target as a prostitute. Even if she isn’t drunk, she may be walking home on her own, or getting into the bloke’s car, or feeling friendly enough to accept his escort. She might be slightly less inclined to go down a dark alley for sex – but then again, she might be quite willing. I believe such things do happen. Of course, provided girls never go out without their male protector as escort, and do not go to the sort of places that men frequent, and do not drink, or engage in flirting behaviour with men, or look for romance, they might be safe.
    And I can’t see why not having prostitutes (on its own) is going to cause the sort of social shift that makes violence against women suddenly so much less acceptable. I am not arguing that prostitutes serve as a useful receptacle for male violence and should therefore be encouraged by women who want to do their own thing in safety. Violence against women is expressed both in violence against prostitutes and violence against all other women. I don’t think you can stop the first part and expect that those men are going to become tame lambs where the rest of society is concerned.

  • ako

    So I’m not arguing that it will become ‘more acceptable’, just that if a man looking to satisfy his god-given right to sex’n'violence can’t get it scratched by a prostitute, he will try to get it from some other source.
    Yeah, I think this is where the fundamental disagreement is. I’m not postulating any overall reduction in violent urges; just an end to prostitution (I was thinking a change of jobs; for some reason ‘disappearance of all prostitutes’ makes me think of them all getting Raptured), and it not becoming any more socially acceptable to target non-prostitutes than it currently is.
    Supposing the same amount of men have violent urges, and have them to the same degree, there’s no reason to suppose they’ll have the same ability to fulfill them. There are a lot of reasons why prostitutes are more likely than the average women to get raped and beaten, and the guys who do this are more likely to get away with it. So if no women are prostitutes, assault victims will be in at least a slightly better position to go to the police (not that all of them can, or will, but a larger percentage will), and police will be at least a bit more likely to take it more seriously (again, on average). This results in more repeat offenders getting locked up for longer times after fewer assaults, decreasing their overall ability to attack women.
    Also, I do think that a lot of men who attack women take into account some rational considerations of risk and choice. Maybe not all, but you get a lot of opportunists. So, making it that much harder to get a woman to climb into his car or follow him home (again, not preventing it, but making it at least slightly rarer), having him know that there’s a fair chance most people will take it seriously and go after him for it, generally making it harder to get away with, will reduce the overall number of attacks.
    So I don’t think the men with violent urges will be gotten rid of. I think eliminating prostitution would diminish their ability to act on those urges.

  • ako

    A woman having a good night out is nearly as easy a target as a prostitute.
    Nearly. And unless you postulate that the number of women stumbling home drunk, or following a stranger into a dark alley for sex nearly every night is going to increase to the point where they equal or outnumber the streetwalkers, that’s still a reduction. Like I said, I don’t think eliminating prostitution would solve violence against women; I think there’d be some degree of overall drop.
    I don’t think you can stop the first part and expect that those men are going to become tame lambs where the rest of society is concerned.
    I’m not talking tame lambs, or men magically becoming better; I think having fewer women put into a particular category that’s both high-risk, and considered more acceptable targets by many, will reduce the opportunity for violent men to get violent with women, reducing violence. I don’t think it would be a huge drop, let alone a magic solution to everything. Just that there would be a decrease, and this would be better.

  • Rosina

    I think part of our disagreement because I see a continuum – with the most desparate street-walker at one end, and cloistered nuns (say) at the other. And if you take away the bottom of the range, there will be violence at the next rung – the girl who puts out for a vodkatini, perhaps, (or who doesn’t put out), the girl walking home in her high heels and short skirt who isn’t interested in the bloke who accosts her, the woman sleeping rough (or the man – some men are as assault-prone and unprotected as women). This type is already subject to assaults without much come-back. Since there are still more of this type of next-best targets than there are violent psychopaths, I don’t see why the psychopaths, robbed of their easiest targets, won’t just make do: the risks are still not great. Like fishermen now the cod-stocks are more difficult to catch – they move in on other still plentiful prey.

  • ako

    I’m not disagreeing about the continuum of safety (although I’m not sure who I’d stick at the top; probably not nuns. I just think that the practical difficulties increasing to any extent will decrease the total number of assaults (partly through deterrence, partly through repeat offenders getting caught sooner). Not necessarily a huge decrease, but any decline in assaults is good.

  • Rosina

    although I’m not sure who I’d stick at the top; probably not nuns
    These are cloistered nuns though.

  • ako

    Regardless, they’d still have regular dealings with priests, and, from what my mom told me about going to Catholic school, priests aren’t any safer to deal with than most men (and don’t exclusively target boys, either).

  • Rosina

    Hello, is that God? This is Rosina.
    Yes – that Rosina. How are You?
    Good – and the Boy?
    Great. Now. There’s a minor disagreement going on here on Slacktivist…
    Yes I know it’s not Thursday. Anyway. What we need is two worlds, one with prostitutes, one without. But otherwise identical…
    Oh. Thank you.
    ******
    @ ako. He says we’re already in the control world. And He can’t allow guinea pigs to run their own experiments.

  • ako

    Yeah, it does kind of come down to how I think people would behave compared to how you think they would, doesn’t it?

  • Rosina

    Since we don’t have our other world. Yup. But I don’t think we are that far apart otherwise.

  • Ecks

    LOL, Rosina made a funny :)
    Anyway lots of experiments HAVE been done, if not on a global scale. And the first thing you find out when you look at them is that violence is NOT a fixed quantity. For example, the “catharsis” model of aggression doesn’t work at all. If you have people beat up one of those bouncy bobo dolls they don’t become less aggressive after, they become more. In fact, cues that even subtly suggest violence tend to increase it. There was a guy who discovered 50 years ago that if a gun is visibly present in a room (even just in a display case) people act more aggressively. It was largely seen as a stupid study at the time, but given everything we’ve learned about nonconscious cognition in the past 20 years it starts to make a lot of sense as a before-its-time priming experiment.
    If you don’t believe me, then why not compare different countries that have different rules for prostitutes, different amounts of social monitoring of behaviour, different norms, and so on. The striking thing is that rates of violence (against women and in general) vary wildly. It’s never zero, but some places are very dangerous, others are not. Yes there are always psychopaths, but they are actually quite rare – less than 1% of the population, and even psychopaths know something about when people are watching. A psychopath who is watched closely and never gets to do anything much doesn’t spontaneously combust any more than a 52 year old man who hasn’t had sex does*.
    On the personally considering prostitution front, I think sex with men would be somewhat disturbing to me, but that’s because I’m straight. The idea of me having sex with men really squicks me out. If prostitution serving women were a viable option, and were I in very different life circumstances making me desperate enough, I think i would consider it to be one yucky job among many. Keep in mind that the male prostitute gig here would not involve a string of hawt woman plunking down money and saying “do me.” I’d imagine you’d end up serving a lot of people who really are quite unattractive, who smell bad, and you’d have to put on a show of enjoying it, etc. Not fun, but possible on a par with sewer scrubbing – a shitty job I’d have to consider if disparate enough.
    Is it totally different for women to have sex with men than vice versa? I don’t know about *totally* different, but there are some substantial differences, certainly. Still, we’ve already had at least one woman posting on here that *she* would jst see it as a shitty job, too. Which woman, incidentally, has been roundly ignored by everyone else. How polite!
    *BTW, the idea that a middle aged virgin should go have sex ASAP to safeguard their sanity: Worst. Advice. Ever. I mean, lets say he follows it and everything goes smoothly according to plan. Yay. Fast forward two days, what’s really changed for him? Not much. I’ve gone through lengthy stretches of life with and without partnered sex, and really it’s not SO very different in the big picture.

  • Ecks

    desperate, hee hee, not disparate

  • http://jesurgislac.greatestjournal.com Jesurgislac

    Rosina: Yes I know it’s not Thursday. Anyway. What we need is two worlds, one with prostitutes, one without. But otherwise identical…
    Oh. Thank you.
    ******
    @ ako. He says we’re already in the control world. And He can’t allow guinea pigs to run their own experiments.

    I’ve always suspected that… ;-)

  • Ken

    Worst, the people I knew who listened to it, or tried to foist it on me, seemed to see it as some kind of safe haven from the scary, horrible, demons-will-come-out-of-the-speakers-and-infest-your-soul world of regular music. There was no sense that you could listen to a song and make up your own mind about its message, and certainly no sense that you could enjoy a song without necessarily believing its message. Christian Contemporary seemed to come out of this idea that instead of living in the real world you would create a whole separate world of God (TM) pop culture, where your ideas are never challenged or tested.
    LB is an obvious manifestation of that. And just like the music, it is horrible beyond the power of words to describe.
    — McJulie
    This is called “Of the World, but not In it.”

  • Phil

    Off-Topic but funny:
    Here is the text of this post filtered by Mark V. Shaney:
    # How old are you?” she shouted, as if she wasn’t sure he was blushing …
    # This scene reads a lot older.” “I’ll take that as a compliment,” she said.
    # No.
    # No it wasn’t.
    # – - – - * Wife-beating apologist James Dobson provides this useful summary of “courtship,” which in turn links to an article titled “Lancelot Lives,” which is intended to help teenage boys become “knights in shining armor.” Memo to Focus on the Family: You might want to spoil your appetite.” Emboldened by his charming dirty-old-man routine, Chloe hints at her affection and shows Buck they have nothing meaningful to confess.
    # And the amazing grace the preacher was just trying to describe is stiff-armed away as we all go back to the need not to shock the sensibilities of the sins of sinners, they portray them as all-but not sinning.
    # For both Rayford and Buck, the scenes in which they confess their sins read like they’re answering that useless standard job interview question about your “faults and weaknesses.” (“O Lord forgive me for sometimes working too hard and for being a perfectionist …”) Or, more to the Dirty Old Man shtick: “I like the way you say my name.” “I didn’t know there was any other way to tell Captain Steele said hesitantly.
    # “We’ll be in here.” “I’ll stash my bag, and we’ll all get back together later.
    # Do you have time, Buck?” I do now, he thought.
    # “Sure,” he said, looking at Chloe and her smile, I suppose, because these are unthreateningly chaste features to mention, but beyond the fact that she looked at me and smiled.” What first attracts Buck to Chloe, then, is the idea that she has eyes (two, one assumes) and is capable of smiling, we learn nothing about her eyes and her father.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=807845190 Cheryl Hopper

    Buck wiping the chocolate of Chloe’s face and then licking his finger seriously creeped me out.  If a guy I’d just met tried to wipe something off my face for me, I’d move to avoid his hand and say I wanted to get back to my father.  You just don’t invade someone’s personal space like that.  You hand them a napkin and let them wipe it off their face.  You have to have gonads the size of Australia and no respect for personal boundaries to think it’s entirely okay to pull something like that–and then licking it off your finger?  That’s not loaded with meaning and subtext or anything.  *rolls eyes*  

    The message here is that men being aggressive is fine, and women are supposed to just smile and simper and allow it because they should be flattered a man feels they’re worthy of his attention, and since women are supposed to be submissive to men and allow them to lead, men are going to know what’s best and what’s appropriate.  If she isn’t comfortable, she’s the one who’s in the wrong, not him.