Common-sense morality is generally quite warped. It often seems to be nothing but a way for people who are the oppressors to maintain their position on the top.
One of the typical examples of this is prostitution. Why do we consider it bad and shameful? What are the effects of the context of morality that surrounds this the oldest form of occupation?
Firstly let us strip it down to its essentials. Prostitution is an act in which one person sells the sexual use of their body.
Concretely it involves two people being sexual and an exchange of money.
Just look at that on its own for a bit. Why does this activity garner so much moral attention?
It’s perfectly fine to sell yourself as a labourer, a masseuse and it’s even fine to sell yourself as a killer but the second you sexually please someone for money suddenly there’s something wrong. This seems very bizarre and warped to me.
If we wanted to trace this moral approbation historically and sociologically I reckon we could see the cause of it in the fact that systems of power have used repression of certain drives (predominantly the sexual drive) as a means of gaining power over the masses.
Orwell recognized the power this repression had in freeing libidinous energy for the service of the state by redirecting it towards veneration of a person in the anti-sex league of “1984”.
One of the effects of this is that the sex worker (and to a lesser extent the service user) is seen as something shameful, less valuable or even valueless. They become less than human in the eyes of the masses. This of course leads to the horrendous treatment they so often receive.
Also as a result of this the people in the sex trade are often the weakest and most vulnerable of our species. They see themselves as worthless and incapable even before entering the profession and that is why they become prostitutes.
It’s not that prostitution in-it-self is without worth but that because of the morality constructed by the elite it becomes the job of last recourse. Something that desperate people do because they are desperate and because of this there is such an atmosphere of mental illness and misery around it.
You could imagine a different social context in which the prostitute is respected. In fact only recently we had such an example in Victorian doctors. There was an epidemic of hysteria and the prevailing medical opinion concerning the cause of it was sexual frustration in women. So women would go to doctors to get fingered. The doctors were paid for this service though eventually they gave it up when the dildo was invented to alleviate strain in doctor’s wrists.
So when you strip it down the Victorian doctors were prostitutes but because there was a different social context and moral feeling around their action they didn’t feel guilty or ashamed; quite the reverse in fact.
To conclude I am saying that everything bad about prostitution (except STDs but risk of illness is present in almost all occupations) is caused by the moral feeling towards it and isn’t endemic to it.