Concubines and ‘biblical families’: Literalism, inerrancy, slavery and a great deal of money

So the Rev. Billy Ray, a third-tier televangelist, gets caught up in scandal when it’s revealed that the “tithes and offerings” he collected from his viewers went to support a lavish, decadent lifestyle.

The most damning feature of the scandal is Billy Ray’s “sex house” — a separate mansion from the one he shared with Mrs. Billy Ray. The sex house, it turns out, was where three of Billy Ray’s long-term mistresses lived. He provided them all with room and board and a generous “stipend” from his ministry. And he went there, regularly, almost daily, to have sex with one or more of these women.

Just to be clear, the Rev. Billy Ray is fictional — any similarity between him and any actual televangelist is purely coincidental (and, sadly, inevitable). But such a scandal is not difficult to imagine. Nor is it difficult to imagine the universal condemnation that Billy Ray would be subject to due to the audacious sinfulness of his “sex house” arrangement.

But this is a perfectly biblical arrangement. It is, in the pages of scripture, a common and a holy arrangement — one that Billy Ray has in common with some of the most righteous and revered figures of the Bible.

“Concubines.” Look it up. Get out a concordance and do a good old-fashioned evangelical word study.

The Bible is teeming with concubines. The Bible is filled with men who kept them, and whose keeping of them is presented as evidence of their prosperity and of divine blessing and reward for their righteousness.

“Concubine” is an archaic word and it describes an archaic arrangement. The idea seems so alien to our culture, our mores and values, that it’s hard for us now, in the 21st century, to read all those many tales of good men and their blessed concubines and fully absorb what we’re reading in those ancient stories.

A concubine wasn’t quite a wife and she wasn’t quite a slave. Wives and slaves were both considered “property,” and so were concubines, but they were a slightly different kind of “property” than either wives or slaves.

“Mistress,” I suppose, gets close to the idea. Yet we tend to think of mistresses as illicit and hidden and morally suspect, and concubines were none of those things. The arrangement was so unlike anything we’re accustomed to today that it’s hard to know even what sort of verbs to use to describe the arranging of such an arrangement. Did these men “have” concubines, or did they “take” them? Or maybe “take up with” them? The practice was formal, established, legally condoned and religiously sanctioned, but it was so different from anything we can imagine nowadays that we have difficulty discussing it.

And yet this practice, it turns out, is not all that distant from us historically. There do not seem to be any concubines or any system of concubinage in the New Testament, yet centuries later than that, here in America, the system was revived and it thrived for generations, once again enjoying legal and religious sanction just as it did in the time of Abraham and the time of David.

That’s an inconvenient bit of history. Concubinage is one of those things, like animal sacrifice or dietary laws, that modern Christians would prefer to dismiss with an inter-testamental hand-wave, mumbling something about “ceremonial law.” After all, Jesus and Paul and the other apostles never said anything to reaffirm the scriptural practice of keeping concubines. But American Christians did. And they did so as recently as the Buchanan Administration.

It gets worse, because this is not some obscure historical footnote, some mere tangent to American theology or American Christianity. This is the heart of the matter, the core of every ongoing discussion of Christianity here in the U.S. The explicitly biblical defense of concubinage — and of American slavery more generally — shaped the way we American Christians approach the Bible to this very day.

Turn again to Mark Noll’s important The Civil War as a Theological Crisis and you will find the roots of contemporary white evangelical hermeneutics — a prooftexting appeal to the authority of a “literal” reading of an “inerrant” Bible.

The key fact here is not that the approach to the Bible used by the defenders of American slavery was the same as the approach to the Bible used by contemporary white evangelicals. The key fact is that this biblical defense of slavery was the origin of the approach to the Bible used by contemporary white evangelicals.

Noll characterizes this face-value, “literalist” hermeneutic as one influenced by “common-sense” philosophy and by the anti-intellectual, pietistic, and anti-traditionalist strains he describes so well in his other book on The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind. And certainly those were all factors in the appeal that this approach to the Bible had for the defenders of slavery.

But they were not the only factors, nor the largest factor. The largest factor, I think, is what historian David Blight describes:

By 1860, there were more millionaires (slaveholders all) living in the lower Mississippi Valley than anywhere else in the United States. In the same year, the nearly 4 million American slaves were worth some $3.5 billion, making them the largest single financial asset in the entire U.S. economy, worth more than all manufacturing and railroads combined.

That’s $3.5 billion out of a total GDP of about $4.3 billion. We’re not just talking about a huge amount of money, but about most of it.

Am I suggesting that the protection and preservation of wealth shaped what was to become the dominant hermeneutic of white evangelicals?

Yes. Yes, I am suggesting exactly that. If it seems crass, simplistic or reductionist to suggest that money could influence the way Christians read the Bible, I would simply point out again that we’re talking about a staggeringly large amount of money.

But anyway, let’s get back to poor Billy Ray. The man is being vigorously condemned for a living arrangement that is identical to the arrangement the Bible offers as evidence that Abraham and David were blessed by God.

Is that fair? Is it fair to call Billy Ray immoral for something the Bible itself never condemns?

Well, our friend Owen Stachan says that would be unfair. Strachan says:

All that God teaches us in Scripture is right. Christ and his apostles do not indicate at any point that the Old Testament is immoral, and in fact say the opposite. To say otherwise is to indicate that God is not absolutely right, and his word is not trustable.

The Bible condones concubinage, so therefore declaring concubinage immoral is an attack on the Bible itself. That’s the logic of Strachan’s argument (although he’s not talking about concubines specifically there, but about genocide, actually).

Yet I’m not sure Strachan would stick to that argument if he were actually confronted with something like the Rev. Billy Ray and his sex-house filled with concubines. My guess is that logical consistency wouldn’t prevent him from joining in the chorus of disapproval over Billy Ray’s extramarital sexcapades. Billy Ray might be able to mount a strong “biblical” defense of his 21st-century concubines by appealing to the same hermeneutic that Strachan claims to uphold, but I don’t think even the most literal-minded inerrantists would be inclined to let him get away with that.

These days, unlike 160 years ago, there’s not a vast amount of money at stake in such a biblical defense of concubinage.

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LBCF, No. 181: ‘Meet the Steeles’
"I'm going to recite that speech next time I see a wedge-tailed eagle. Thanks."

LBCF, No. 181: ‘Meet the Steeles’

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  • Hilary

    Has anybody else read the Benjamen January series, by Barbara Hambly? It takes place in 1830’s New Orleans, and the main character, Benjamin January, is the son of a former placee and the brother of one.  The system of professional mistresses is a large part of these books, January is a classically trained piano player and often plays at the blue ribbon balls were wealthy white men and their sons meet up and dance with their placees, complete with an underground tunnel to the ball across the street where their wives are.  A beautiful, light skinned placee could create a life of relative prosperity for herself and her even lighter skinned children, if she managed her man and her affaires very cunningly and her man wasn’t the insanely jelous type.  They’re great murder mystories, and the cultural depth is wonderful and well researched.

    Honestly, I am not surprised at all that the primary motivation for the most literal reading of the bible was billions of dollars. 

  •  Mary Boykin Chesnut blew that one out of the water in the diary she wrote as an upper-class Confederate woman during the Civil War. To paraphrase, she said all slave-owning Southern ladies could tell exactly who fathered each mixed-race child at their neighbors’ places, but each one thought the white-looking offspring of slaves around her own home had “dropped from the sky.”

  • syfr

    That series is awesome; I highly recommend it.

  • There isn’t anything wrong with a consensual harem because  CONSENT. The rest of your post is Evo-psyche nonsensical bibble-babble. (Incidentally, I’m in a polyamorous arrangement with two women, they probably consider me to be pretty alpha when I feel like it, and I’m a pretty damned radical feminist if I dare say so myself. Chew on that for a while.)

  • Ken

    I’m glad Fred clarified that Rev. Billy was fictitious, because my immediate reaction to the first paragraph was “Scandal?  That’s like being scandalized that the sun rose this morning.”

  • ohiolibrarian

     Is your screen name meant to be ironic?

  • ohiolibrarian

     Thus speaks a gamma, if not, delta male.

  • AnonaMiss

    It’s an imageboard-ism. Not a netlect I would usually use on Slacktivist, but sometimes it’s natural to speak to trolls in their own language.

    The abbreviation literally stands for “I Sure Hope You Guys Don’t Do This”. It has evolved to mean something like “I hope for your own sake that you’re trolling, because if you’re not, you’re a moron.”

  • Mroge

    “For me the litmus test has always been Abraham and Isaac. If your next-door neighbor did what Abraham did (namely, get all set up to sacrifice his son because God told him to), would it be good?”

    Many Christians just see that as a test of Abraham’s faith, so no big deal. God never actually planned to have him commit human sacrifice, which of course would be morally wrong.

    To me the litmus test is not this incident, but rather the human sacrifice of a young virgin girl, daughter of a man named Jephthah. He made a deal with God to sacrifice her in exchange for victory in a battle (Judges 11:29-40). In this story God does not intervene at the last minute. Jephthah is presented as a righteous man doing God’s will. The girl was so inconsequencial that we don’t even know what her name was. Funny that there are no sermons about that (at least none that I know of).

    I pointed out this story once to one of those “inerrant bible” fanatics and his reply was that it would have been wrong to not obey God in that matter. Frankly people like that scare me. That is why I don’t like fundamentalism in any religion, whether it be in Christianity or Islam, or any other.

  • 2 things:
    1) Please
    watch your formatting, because
    when you write like this, it gets anoying to read.

    2) I think you misunderstood the point of the family-a-day posts. It wasn’t that the bible is bad because David had 700 wives. It was that Chick-Fillet are wrong when they claim that a “biblical” family must be one woman and one man, and all the other crap they claim. It was, quite simply, proving the bible doesn’t say what they say it says, by quoting the bible.

  • flat

    You know I just can’t imagine a woman who wants to be a prositute by her own free will.

    I know what can lead somebody to prositution but I think it is impossible for somebody to do it out of her own free will if she had a choice.

    Or maybe I am completely wrong about it what do you people think?

  • Mroge

    I would point out the the rhetorical function the storiesof Solomon’s concubines – they lead him towards idolatry, awayfrom God, and towards ruin – reading the stories makes a reader ask”wouldn’t there be a better way?” “Wouldn’t Solomon hadbeen a better King if he was faithful, loving, and respectful to onlyone wife?” That isn’t your 21st Century enlightened brain beingmore moral than the text making you ask that question – that is theintended purpose of the text”

    Interesting idea, however I wonder if you are reading something into the story that is not there. The Jewish Laws were extremely strict in regards to sexual behavior  In fact they were very strict in all their laws and considered the laws to be straight from God himself. So why could someone be put to death for adultery and yet sexual slavery was considered ok? The answer is simple. Wives and concubines were property. Even the death penalty for adultery reflects that belief. The crime was not about having extramarital sex. The crime was about “stealing” another man’s wife (property). This kind of sexual morality in the Bible is also reflected in their laws about rape. A virgin girl who was raped was forced to marry her rapist, because once she lost her virginity she was worthless The rapist only had to pay a small amount of money to her father. If however, she was married, both the rapist and her were put to death.  As astonishing as it is to our enlightened views, RAPE WAS NOT A CRIME AGAINST THE WOMAN. It was a crime against her “owner”.

    So what is the “intended purpose of the text” of the bible in these cases? I just don’t see any moral lessons just popping out of these pages! Remember the Jews had a theocratic government, which means that all the laws came from God himself in their view. Their leaders were divinely placed and were considered the mouthpiece of God.

    Maybe you could also tell us how the human sacrifice of a young virgin girl (see my post above) holds some sort of “moral lesson” from God when in fact her father who made the sacrifice was rewarded by God.

  • reynard61

    “If you put an authority in the loop, they may be insulated from the consequences (Think of the people who say ‘Abortion doctors are murderers’ but never go to jail for shooting one) (…)”

    The problem is that I can’t because I can’t think of a single instance where someone who shot (or otherwise killed) an abortion doctor walked away scot-free because a jury found them “not guilty”. Can you please cite a case where this actually happened?

  • Zed

    Actually Eric
    the average woman tends to react to harem suggestions a bit more like  this.

  • vsm

    The problem with Solomon’s wives wasn’t their amount, but that some of them were foreigners who lured him into worshipping their own gods.

  • Carstonio


    Jephthah is presented as a righteous man doing God’s will. The girl
    was so inconsequential that we don’t even know what her name was.


    Seriously, it’s possible that the Jephthat story and the Agamemnon one are more than just the same archetype – they could have been descendants of the same root story.

  • Carstonio

    I suspect there’s an inverse correlation between a society’s amount of prostitution and things like gender equality and women’s freedom. My impression is that it’s usually a consequence of the lack of power and opportunities for women. But I’ll defer to anyone who is more knowledgeable about the subject.

  • Turcano

    That’s $3.5 billion out of a total GDP of about $4.3 billion. We’re not just talking about a huge amount of money, but about most of it.

     This reminds me of an article by Brad Hicks illustrating the fact that economies based on slavery all have little to no lasting substance to them.

  • Nothing, but that’s a GOOD thing. Accepting anything unthinkingly and uncritically is a bad idea and tends to lead to bad things happening.

    Particularly when we’re talking about a set of texts that were written about a hundred years after the events it describes, and have been translated multiple times.  Jesus was perfect but since He never wrote anything down, we’re stuck with regular people, with their imperfect memories and other flaws.

  • J_Enigma23

    I keep reading his name as “Owen Strychnine.” I know that’s not close to how it’s pronounced, but damn if that’s not close to his character.

    But on concubines – surprisingly enough, right-wingers get *angry* when you bring this point up to the, that their idea of a “Biblical marriage” of “one man and one woman” isn’t all that Biblical after all. Fancy that! The Religious Right is just as impervious to facts and reality as MRAs and PUAs, as Erik the Republican demonstrates.

  • The_L1985

     Do you even READ Fred’s posts?

  • The_L1985

     I think a lot of the reason prostitution is considered a nasty profession is because of the hang-ups our culture has about sex.  We view sex as dirty, so we view prostitution as dirty.  From this springs the ill-treatment of prostitutes, the idea of prostitution as a last resort for really desperate women, and of course, the legal bans on it in the US and many other countries.  This is also where international sex trafficking tends to come from–because prostitutes are looked down on and treated like garbage, they tend to die young, and you have to get replacements from somewhere, because there will never cease to be a market for sex workers on this earth.

    If sex isn’t viewed as dirty, then neither is sex work.  I personally see nothing wrong with a woman choosing sex work, be it prostitution, working at a strip club, or starring in adult movies.  I personally prefer my own profession, but I don’t see why people make such a big deal out of the whole sex-work field and how “scandalous” it is.

  • EllieMurasaki

    No shit, flat. ‘Prostitute’ has negative connotations, among them being ‘forced into this by circumstance’, see Fantine in Les Miserables and, to a lesser extent, anyone who’s stripping to pay for college because it’s the only job they can get that pays well enough to pay for college. ‘Sex work’, if and when we ever get to the point where it’s a legal and accepted service industry, won’t have those connotations, or at least not a lot of them.

  • Green Eggs and Ham

     I see no obligation to think that Jesus made no errors in his ethical reasoning.

    Let’s assume for a minute that the Bible is 100% inerrant.  In fact, we have all of the original manuscripts.

    Several were found in the Vatican Library, many more at St. Catherine’s monastery.

    Furthermore, we have handwriting samples from all of the original authors and every last handwriting expert agrees that the originals are authentic.

    Further furthermore, we have DNA samples from all of those authors and presto, we have their DNA all over the original manuscripts.

    What does this prove?

    Nothing more than that we have the original manuscripts.  Each and everyone of us must still make a decision about the Bible’s truth, meaning and value.

    Inerrancy does not entail truthful or wise.

  • Carstonio

    The negative view of sex work may be more than just a cultural hang-up about sex in general. It may be inherent in the longstanding view of women as property, viewing the prostitute as degrading her value as marriage material. I see nothing wrong with sex work as long as it’s fully consensual and not exploitative. In societies where it’s a last resort for desperate women, the problem is not the sex work but the artificially limited options that the women face.

  • Let’s assume for a minute that the Bible is 100% inerrant.  In fact, we have all of the original manuscripts.

    Having possession of all the original manuscripts is not the same thing as inerrant.  We have the original manuscript of the US Constitution, but no one is calling that document “inerrant” just because we can go look at the original.

    When Christians claim the Bible is “inerrant” they’re claiming that everything in the Bible was either directly written by god or inspired by god to be written exactly as god intended.  It kind of depends on who you talk to.  Furthermore, the follow-on claim is that everyone who translated the Bible afterwards was also inspired or controlled by god to get it all right.  That kind of depends, though, since some will tell you that the KJV is the last, true Bible.  Others will pick and choose their favorite translation

    So, basically, you’re arguing against something than the Biblical inerrancy folks don’t say or believe.  To them the possession of original manuscripts is irrelevant, aside from making some really silly arguments about how many more copies of the Bible we have from ancient days than, say, The Odyssey or Diodorous Siculus’ history of Alexander the Great.  It’s a rather complicated argument that’s full to the brim of truthiness.

    Biblical inerrancy proponents don’t care about the originals.  They care about how god told all of the writers and translators exactly what to write and how to translate.  It’s not an argument that can be overcome with logic and reasoning, since there is neither logic nor reason in the assertion.

  • EllieMurasaki

    But the manuscripts are all different! Copyist errors! Copyists fixing things! The mere fact of the existence of contradictory translations–
    How can inerrancy be a thing if there’s no originals to know what the original inerrant thing was?

  • MaryKaye

    MaryKaye wrote:  “If
    you put an authority in the loop, they may be insulated from the
    consequences (Think of the people who say ‘Abortion doctors are
    murderers’ but never go to jail for shooting one) (…)”

    Reynard61 wrote:  The problem is that I can’t because I can’t think of a single
    instance where someone who shot (or otherwise killed) an abortion doctor
    walked away scot-free because a jury found them “not guilty”. Can you
    please cite a case where this actually happened?

    I am sorry, I wasn’t clear.  The person who fires the gun goes to jail.   The people who advocate firing the gun–who put up web sites explaining who you should kill and where to find them–don’t go to jail. 

    If you let someone else make your moral decisions, which is what authoritarianism is all about, there’s a disconnect between the one making the decision and the one taking the consequences, and that’s bad.  And I think we see this every time a doctor is shot–people whose actions were directed at making it happen get to walk away claiming their hands are clean.


  • Raymond

    And he ministered to each one three times a week.

  •  But the manuscripts are all different! Copyist errors! Copyists fixing
    things! The mere fact of the existence of contradictory translations–
    How can inerrancy be a thing if there’s no originals to know what the original inerrant thing was?

    Ah, but there’s the beauty of the inerrancy argument: we know the Bible is true because the Bible says so.  Ergo, the copyist errors don’t matter/aren’t even real errors because god made them that way because god breathed inspiration to the translators and copyists.

    And we know that because the Bible is inerrant.  And we know that the Bible is inerrant because the Bible told us that it’s the inerrant, god-breathed word of god.

    See?  It’s all so simple if you just look at it through eyes that have been properly opened by the Holy Spirit.  Also known as “without actually thinking about it too much.  Or at all.”  Since, y’know, thinking implies human reason, which is inferior to god reason.

    And how do we know human reason is inferior to god reason?  Because the Bible told us so.  And how do we know that the Bible is correct?  Because the Bible is god-breathed and inerrant in all things.

    Should you respond to this with, “Pshaw!  That makes no sense!” that’s just an indication that you haven’t been properly indwelt by the Holy Spirit.  So you’re going to hell, heathen.  It says so in the Bible.  Somewhere.  Probably the Book of Revelation or something.  Or maybe there’s something in Isaiah.

  • EllieMurasaki

    How long does that last once they actually compare two manuscripts that differ only in that a copyist left out a line or a copyist fixed a thing?

  • Ursula L

    Courtesy of Bujold’s Vorkisigan series, there is the concept of “LPSTs” “Licensed Practical Sexuality Therapists.”  Requires at least an associates degree in psychotherapy, and the Orb, their highest-status place of employment, requires clients to undergo a psychological screening as part of their services (to help determine what a client will enjoy, and to ensure that clients who might have problems, such as psychological triggers, get appropriate supervision and support.)  

    One character describes the LPSTs as having about the same social standing as hairdressers – providing a personal service with attention and skill.  

    Which is probably how I imagine prostitution would end up in a best-case scenario – a setting safe for both worker and client, some training/certification required for workers, respectable working-class status, but ordinary and matter-of-fact, rather that exotic or mysterious.

  •  How long does that last once they actually compare two manuscripts that
    differ only in that a copyist left out a line or a copyist fixed a

    Probably until the cognitive dissonance gives out.  Depends on the person, really, and who that person then asks about it.

    Most of the rank and file will never hear about such things, though.  If they do hear about such things they won’t hear about the nuances of the difference.  It will be more of a, “We have X thousand manuscripts of the Bible going back to the year [whatever], so that means we know that what we have written in the Bible is accurate and exactly the same as the Bible that Jesus read whilst riding a triceratops into Nazareth.”

    What doesn’t come up is that those manuscripts are not all the same.  Some contain differing translations.  Some are mere fragments containing a sentence or a paragraph.  Some are recovered palimpsests from recycled materials were later used to record something else.

    I first heard the “X number of manuscripts” argument in high school.  I accepted it as valid (with some reservations, since the pastor was comparing the veracity of the Bible as we know it to the works of Homer, which were kinda-sorta fiction, but that’s beside the point) because it made sense.  It wasn’t until something on the order of a decade later, by which time I had a degree in history with a minor in religious studies from a secular institution and had stopped buying into most, if not all, of the Evangelical mush that I stopped and said, “Hey, wait a minute.”  This is, admittedly, anecdote, but considering that I’ve run into apologists who seem to think that a manuscript count is a winning argument for Jesus…

    By the by, this is why Evangelicals have it in for Bart Ehrman.  The stuff he doesn’t isn’t really particularly earth-shaking.  It’s not groundbreaking work by any stretch of the imagination, either.  It is, however, accessible and written in language that you don’t have to be a historian or theologian to understand.  He also absolutely understands the central point of the personal testimony to Evangelical culture and uses his own personal testimony to invite his readers to the table.

    Once there he doesn’t tell them that the Bible is wrong.  He doesn’t tell them that they’re idiots for believing in the Bible.  He simply says, “This is how the Bible came to be.”  And that story completely and totally destroys not the Bible, but the narratives of an inerrant Bible taught from the pulpit of so many churches on Sunday.

  • Consumer Unit 5012

    And there’s nothing acceptable about someone who’d sell their own children into slavery for any reason other than imminent starvation.

  • “I know what can lead somebody to prositution but I think it is impossible for somebody to do it out of her own free will if she had a choice.”

    Erm… there are plenty of women and men who choose sex work, enjoy it, and get satisfaction out of it. 
    I’m not saying it’s anywhere close to the majorty, and it’s for goddam sure that a lot of women are forced into it and have a terrible, abusive time of it – mostly because it _is_ illegal and condemned in our society.  But there do definitely exist people who enjoy providing sexual services and have managed a framework for it that works for them.

    As has been mentioned in this thread, it’s not ‘selling your body’ any more than me working as a scientist is ‘selling my brain.’  It’s providing a service, and being paid for it.

  • Consumer Unit 5012

     At least it’s not the OMEGA MALE, whose arrival will DESTROY ALL GENDER FOREVER.

  • Consumer Unit 5012

     We have the original manuscript of the US Constitution, but no one is
    calling that document “inerrant” just because we can go look at the

    Some Teapublicans DO claim the Constitution is inerrant.

    They then misinterpret it in ways just as whacky as any Biblical ‘inerrantist’.

  • Consumer Unit 5012

    I know what can lead somebody to prositution but I think it is
    impossible for somebody to do it out of her own free will if she had a

    Or maybe I am completely wrong about it what do you people think?

    This woman, for one,  would seem to disagree. 

  • AnonaMiss

    You know I just can’t imagine a woman who wants to be a prositute by her own free will.

    I know this has already been jumped on to death, but it reminds me of a quote I particularly liked.

    A quick google of this is turning up less than savory results, so if anyone remembers the source of the quote I’m paraphrasing please speak up. The paraphrase: “The difference between a wife and a prostitute is that the prostitute can renegotiate her fee.”  Considering the history of marital rape laws, I don’t think I need to argue that this historically, this has been more accurate than not.

    Today, marriage is a choice which women (in the nicer parts of the world) can freely make; because we have alternate opportunities to support ourselves, and because even within the marital contract, we enjoy legal protections which our foremothers lacked.

    I see no reason why, given equivalent legal protections in that profession, women should not freely choose to become prostitutes.

  •  Some Teapublicans DO claim the Constitution is inerrant.

    They then misinterpret it in ways just as whacky as any Biblical ‘inerrantist’.

    Well, I was going to make a Scalia joke, but I decided that was a bit of a derail to my main point…

  • Jenny Islander

    I was just coming over here to mention this!  

    Somewhere floating around the Intertubes I ran across an article that purported to show that most American johns want to feel dirty and bad and hateful when having sex with low-priced prostitutes and this is the root of much of the violence prostitutes suffer on the job.  If prostitution were as well regulated as licensed practical sexuality therapy, prostitutes wouldn’t even have to deal with those people–the initial interview would have screened them out.

  • Ursula L

    In “Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance” it is mentioned that the screening doesn’t mean that the clients are turned away if there is a problem, but rather that there is extra supervision, and the services they are offered are shaped to their psychological needs.

    Perhaps using an explicitly luxurious/high-class setting to counteract feelings that the interaction is dirty and bad?  I’m not sure.  

    But the setting is far enough in the future, and the establishment of LPSTs is old enough, that I suspect the feelings that prostitution is bad or dirty is mostly gone from that society.  At least one character (Kareen Koudelka) has an LPST recommended by her boyfriend’s psychiatrist, with her boyfriend’s knowledge and support, for her first sexual experience. A place where that can happen is one where the cultural context of sex work is very far removed from what it is here. 

  • Rhubarbarian82

    Republicans love to talk about “small business owners,” but speaking for the people I’ve known, all of the people who started their own business started it in the sex work field. One started as a switch, and later quit and started freelancing on her own in addition to opening a porn site; the other started a different porn site. Generally speaking, porn is awful, and you can carve a surprisingly successful niche if you want to make non-terrible porn. And similar to what Jenny Islander mentioned with prostitution, non-terrible porn tends to attract the kind of person who would like to get their porn without all of the trappings that characterize stereotypical porn (bad music, ugly guys, fake boobs, no plots, etc) who tends to be a classier sort.

    Not to say that there aren’t people who go into sex work for the wrong reasons, but there are a lot of others who go into it for reasons all their own. And especially with porn, a big motivating factor is that the kind of porn they want to see just isn’t going to get made unless they go out and make it.

  • Jenny Islander

    True.  We are talking about a culture founded by scientists, who apparently decided to short-circuit the potentially explosive situations that can arise in a community that nobody can leave (non-Vorreaders: it’s a sealed hab on a hostile planet a long way from anywhere else) by having all adults wear earrings that clearly state their sexual orientation and relationship status.

  • P J Evans

    And also Biblical inerrancy means that you get to disregard any typos in printed copies, because God would never allow typos to happen to the Bible, right? /snark

  • Mroge

    I don’t know much about Greek mythology but I suppose it is possible.

  • christopher_y

    I’d think the Greek analogy to Jephtha would be Idomeneus. Whether the two stories come from the same original, I wouldn’t speculate. The children concerned are different sexes, but that isn’t necessarily definitive. Idomeneus was king of Crete, and Crete (Caphtor in the Bible) had a very old civilisation which was in  contact with the near east, so it’s possible.

  • “And the instant the sexual revolution started, the number of people visiting prostitutes started to drop — because when it’s possible to have sex with your girlfriend, you stop needing to pay someone else. Basically, if you’re wealthy enough to hire a courtesan, you’re probably wealthy enough to find a trophy wife.”

    Citation needed on the decrease in prostitute use? :p

    What I don’t like about this line of thinking is that it takes romantic relationships down to the level of ‘just for sex.’  Suppose someone wants sex but not a relationship?  Is he/she obliged to go out and get a girlfriend/boyfriend and pretend to that person that they’re interested in a romantic relationship – just to get sex?  I often think that legal prostitution would be a blessing to people looking for bona fide romantic relationships – not that everyone who plays a game would go to prostitutes, but it would take some of that pressure out of the equation.

    This is also why, although there are probably some people who just want to get off and would be happy with ‘fast food’ sex workers, there are likely a fair number who want a higher standard of service.  Eliot Spitzer wasn’t paying minimum wage to the Emperors Club.

    There are many men with trophy wives who also have trophy mistresses and trophy rentboys.   Just because you can ‘afford’ a trophy wife (gah) doesn’t mean you don’t want some NSA sex – and I personally prefer the image of a rich person out and out paying an escort in a negotiated business transaction, rather than all the trophy spouse-ness.

  • Nothing wrong with a consensual harem. God wired most women to be happier sharing an alpha male than committing to an effete gender apologist.

    You know what?  I am going to go ahead and (in part) agree with you here because there is nothing wrong with a consensual harem.  

    I am quite comfortable living with my girlfriend, her husband, and her other boyfriend, and we are all comfortably united by our shared relationship with one woman.  

  • LMM22

    Citation needed on the decrease in prostitute use?

    _Intimate Matters, Second Edition_ (D’Emilio and Freedman), pg 257-258. (Sorry. Book’s on the shelf, and I knew I had flagged the page for other reasons.)

    As far as sex goes without relationships, we already have that possibility available — one-night stands happen all the time, and plenty of people have fuckbuddies. This isn’t the 1950s — non-marital sex happens outside of the context of pre-marital relationships all the time. (*)

    What casual sex *doesn’t* guarantee, however, is that you (== male, natch) can hook up with a pretty woman (or man) regardless of your appearance or age. *That’s* the illusion that prostitution provides — that attractive young women will still be attracted to you. I’m not sure that removing that illusion is a bad thing; if there’s anything we need less of, it’s male entitlement.

    And yes, there are some men who would pay for high-class prostitutes. But I have a very hard time believing that they represent the majority of men. For one thing, most men can’t afford to pay for a high-end service — and the majority of those who might pay for a high-end service can’t afford to *continue* to pay for one. Spitzer is not a representative case here. The model here might be taxi drivers as well: Most people will splurge on a limo ride to the prom, but if you’re getting home at night, you’re just going to pay for a cab.

    I think there are legitimate arguments for legalizing prostitution, but claiming that prostitution will be liberating for *women* is not one of them.

    (*) Pre-marital sex happened pretty frequently in the 1950s — like I said, the sexual revolution happened with the flappers — but usually with the assumption that you were going to get married. If there’s any tradition we inherited from the Puritans, it’s the tendency to see youthful experiences as things we don’t discuss with younger generations.