Tuesday, August 7, 2012

So it's fine

Sorry I'm posting late again; have tuned back in to the Olympics for a bit.

Speaking of which, you may have missed this last week:

LONDON – The path to the Olympics is not cheap, something a New Zealander named Logan Campbell discovered upon returning home from his taekwondo loss four years ago in Beijing. He faced a mountain of bills from travel, equipment, and training, almost $120,000 worth in American currency, and he couldn't keep asking his parents to pay it.

London was going to cost him another $200,000. He needed money. He needed it fast.

So he opened a brothel.

Not surprisingly, the brothel, and the publicity it stirred in Auckland when he announced his intentions in 2009, did not impress his country's sports federation. The people in charge of protecting the nation's sporting image did not see an athlete talking openly about the selling of flesh to fund his trip to the next Olympics as a reflection of their values. The fact brothels are legal in New Zealand, as long as a list of guidelines is met, didn't much impress the country's sports ministers.

The New Zealand Olympic Committee sent him a letter telling him to stop linking prostitution to funding an Olympics journey or they would sue.

But something remarkable happened. Money came for taekwondo. More money than the country's taekwondo team had ever received. No longer desperate for funds, Campbell sold the brothel in 2011. This spring, New Zealand put him on its London team.

So the money came rolling in, and that made everything okay?

It gets worse, though:
Yet as he said this, there also seemed a perception he wanted to eliminate. He senses that people think he was a sleazy pimp selling women on the street corner. This, he said, was not true.

"It's a legal business in New Zealand," Campbell said. "It's completely different from other countries in the world. There was no – I don't know – no one was forced into the industry, and they're not doing it because they are in poverty because we have a really good welfare system."

He stopped for a moment.

"It's more of like a higher-class thing than you see around the world. I think a lot of people don't understand that. As compared … to places like Thailand [where] I know what it's like in the poorer countries, where people don't have a choice to get into that sort of industry. But in New Zealand it's completely different, so it's fine."

Think about that. Women in New Zealand aren't being sold on the street corner--so it's fine. Women in New Zealand have the legal right to sell themselves in order to pleasure men--and they get good benefits, so it's fine. Brothels in New Zealand are really high class, and the women who are being used as living sex toys have a choice about doing that sort of work, so it's fine. It's so fine, in fact, that an Olympic athlete can open a brothel and sell women to support his dream of a taekwondo medal, and nobody should object, because enabling johns to perform meaningless sex acts on women who get paid for that sort of thing (so long as she had other job options, and gets good benefits, and it's legal) is the sort of business venture we associate with good sportsmanship, athleticism, and the aura of a champion.


Prostitution is not fine, any more than torture is. Both reduce a human being to an object to be used instead of a child made in God's image and likeness to be loved, treated with honor, and respected. If this athlete thinks that people are judging him for doing something shameful, perhaps he ought to ask himself if maybe they are right, instead of defending his act of selling women to support his sport. We have the right to find disgusting things disgusting, so it's fine to judge this sort of vile "business" for the soul-crushing, body-destroying, human-wrecking sort of thing it really is.


John Thayer Jensen said...

It's actually pretty awful. This site:


has a lot of stuff. There has been a steady stream of foreign girls brought to New Zealand as indentured 'workers' - to be prostitutes. They never get free.

Some have said that we should use the Swedish model:


illegalise the user, not the supplier. No girl becomes a whore because she thinks it a cool way to earn a living.


Red Cardigan said...

John, thanks for the additional information. I was being a bit sarcastic about the idea that women "freely choose" prostitution. They don't. I think every prostitute is an exploited human being who needs great love and as much help as we can give her (or him) to get out of the life. So, so many of them drift into it because of drug use and other problems. No sane, healthy person ever thinks "Gosh, what should I do for my next job? I know--I'll have sex with random strangers who may abuse me (and there's not much I can do about it), risk disease and other evils, and make much less money than people promise I will. Oh, and be too "used up" to continue past my 25th or 30th birthday unless I'm willing to give quick services in alleys to drunk "clients" to get by..."

I like the idea of arresting the "clients" and the suppliers instead of the women--it might create incentives for women stuck in that trap to turn their customers and pimps in to be arrested.

L. said...

I personally know a few women who have freely chosen prostitution. It's not something I would choose for myself, and I hope my daughter chooses a more stable and less risky way to support herself.

And I also know more women who fell into it, and were exploited and harmed by some of the people they encountered in that world. The potential for this is great, just because of the logistics of what prostitution entails.

But it's exactly like pron -- so long the person freely choices it, and had other job options, and gets good benefits (and access to contraception/abortion), and it's legal - then I just don't have a problem with it.

Red Cardigan said...

Gosh, L., I'm not surprised. Find anything sick, twisted, immoral, ugly, and harmful to women and there will be L. to tell us it's great.

Would you have a problem with your husband regularly visiting prostitutes, or does that go too far for you?

vera said...

Sigh. This is an awful dilemma. If it's illegal, it harms the women. If it's legal, it feels icky.

I tend to think that the women are better protected if it's legal. Neither is a great solution...

L. said...

My partner has no need to visit prostitutes, Erin. ;)

Seriously, I realize porn/prostitution are rife with exploitation and I don't like dishonesty in general, but otherwise I can't think of any way in which consensual sex between adults harms anyone.

John Thayer Jensen said...

I think the experience we have had in New Zealand is that making it legal does not reduce the harm to the woman - and I don't just mean the moral harm. Our legal prostitutes are being held captive by their pimps, beaten up both by client and pimp, kept addicted to drugs, diseased, the full monte. Legalisation is not, from what I have seen, a means of helping the prostitute. It is a means of financially helping the owners of the brothels.


vera said...

So why are they not busted for abuse? Surely these brothels are no more immune to that than abusive husbands?

Red Cardigan said...

Vera, you're not really that naive, right?

And no, the equation is not "Illegal prostitution hurts women, while legal prostitution is icky." As a Catholic, my take is: Prostitution is evil because women are objectified and valued merely for their ability to sexually pleasure total strangers and earn money for others (with a bit for themselves) while doing so.

I'm sure you don't agree--so tell me why you don't? Do you not think it's dehumanizing for a person to have sex for money, risking disease and abuse the whole time, to say nothing of emotional trauma? Or do you think selling one's sexual services is no different than selling one's accounting services, and so long as it's legal, who cares? Because that's not a Christian concept I'm familiar with.

John Thayer Jensen said...

Vera - I have no idea, and I have no doubt they are, at times. In fact I know they are, because occasionally you read about some horror in the newspaper.

But before legalisation, people who mistreated prostitutes were sometimes prosecuted as well. Legalisation does not appear to have made much difference, from what I have read.

But then I have no personal experience, either before or after legalisation :-) It is only that it seems to me that legalisation has not helped the prostitutes, and has added the problem of people making money off them in legal ways - whereas before such persons were, at least in principle, liable to prosecution.

I have heard it argued - plausibly to me - that the Swedish approach, which is to make prostitution legal, but to criminalise the user - and which provides state help for the prostitutes themselves - is preferable.

The point is that prostitution is not a victimless affair. The woman (or little girl, or man, or boy) is the victim. So I agree that by her selling herself she should not (necessarily) be made a criminal. I do not think the 'john' (which is also my first name, but then I capitalise mine :-)) is an innocent party.


John Thayer Jensen said...

I must add that I think it unlikely to do much good to criminalise the prostitute. Criminalising the use of harmful substances makes sense. There is an attraction, at first, in using them. Afterwards they cause the harm. Putting some pain in that first use, in the form of the sanction of the law, helps to counteract that. 'L' to the contrary notwithstanding, I do not think any woman simply and freely becomes a prostitute for any other reason than fear or need - or self-hatred: a kind of slow suicide.

So there is no point in adding pain to an already painful experience. But the customer is rather in the situation of a person thinking of first use of a drug, is he not?


vera said...

Red, have I somehow overstepped the boundaries of this blog, that you address me with such an aggressive tone? I think I'll pass.

John, what you report is disturbing, and confusing. I used to think that if prostitution were legal, then it could be regulated as any other business, and the women protected the same as workers in other dangerous lines of work. It sure does not seem to have turned out that way, from what you describe... And if NZ cannot make it work, then who can?

Sounds like the Swedes are onto something.

Red Cardigan said...

Vera, it was your dismissive sentence "If it's legal, it feels icky," that caused me to react somewhat forcefully--but my commenters are used to that. No intent to offend on my part--I was just really shocked that saying that legal prostitution simply "feels icky" is apparently your only objection to it.

Let's face it: if there's no such thing as immorality, if certain types of sex just "feel" icky to us (such as the kind someone gets paid to perform), then Christianity doesn't really have anything at all to offer the modern world to challenge the decadence of our culture. I was actually quite shocked to hear you use terms I usually hear in the gay "marriage" debate, where the other side accuses the pro-traditional marriage side of just thinking homosexual sex is "icky."

Morality is about a lot more than feelings, or visceral disgust. Christians have had a strong, 2,000 year old habit of discussing morality in terms that have nothing to do with our emotional discomfort for sin. Since you said you were a Christian, but then pretty much have no moral basis to oppose abortion (based on your exchange with Rebecca) and now, no moral basis to oppose prostitution, I can't help but wonder what your Christian background actually is--that is, do you belong to a church, etc.? I'm really sincerely confused about a Christianity in which sexual morality, at least, appears not to have been discussed much or at all.

Again, no intent to offend, though I may seem to be strong in my words.

John Thayer Jensen said...

Vera - for what it's worth, I don't think such a thing *can* work. The problem is that prostitution is evil. No legalisation can change that. Legalisation - acts of positive law - can only help to promote the good. When the law legalises prostitution, it doesn't change anything about the reality: an abuse of the sexual nature of man, and it must make things worse because it makes it *seem* all right for the money-makers to do their work. It's rather like artificial contraception. It doesn't really make sterile sex all right; it just encourages those who have an interest in sterile sex - the predatory male, particularly - to think that what they do is all right.


L. said...

Was my comment lost, or did you choose to ignore it?

Perhaps I was too flippant, so I will answer seriously.

I would have no problem with my partner regularly visiting prostitutes in certain situations -- if, for instance, I developed some medical condition and was unable to have sexual relations, and we were in a location in which prostitution was legal and regulated, and there was no exploitation or deception involved.

Coincidentally, my parents retired to a state in which prostitution is legal in some towns: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prostitution_in_Nevada

vera said...

I appreciate your comeback in a more moderate tone, Red. I think you are right... I was rushed and did not take proper care with wording.

I did not come here to discuss my religion, but if you must know, then Anabaptist. You know... the folks your folks burned at the stake or drowned for getting uppity and refusing to baptize babies. But let's not go there. It's an old quarrel.

I am merely pointing out that in my view, morality is how we actually treat others. And other people, often obstreperous and disagreeable as they are, don't make it easy to be good in simple and clear cut ways. And if we crack down "according to some laid-down stricture" we sometimes cause a great deal of evil to actual human beings.

Some women will choose to sell sexual services. How do we, as a society, best deal with it? That is the question that I would like to pursue, and pursue peacefully and within mutual listening-to-each-other.

Red Cardigan said...

L., I didn't see your earlier comment; I'll check my spam folders, but several people have lost comments lately and I certainly haven't been censoring--combox glitchiness strikes again, I'm afraid.

All I can say to your comment is: you're either the least moral or most amoral person I know (haven't figured it out yet), and from my perspective your morality is completely stunted and rather ugly--but hey, at least you keep the comment boxes interesting! ;)

Red Cardigan said...

And there your comment was, lurking in the spam folder! :) I freed it up.

L. said...

Ha ha, thanks Erin. I will take that as a compliment. I am only "interesting" in blog comment boxes -- if you met me in real life, you would find me to be an incredibly boring person.

But still, I think it would be best if our children didn't date each other. ;)