Sunday, 29 January 2006

Paying for Sex - A Debate (Updated)

It looks like I have started a debate of some sort with my previous post on the difference in paying for sex between straight and gay people. Two people left comments on that posts which I invite you to check out.

Thanks to both of them for commenting. I have left a short comment myself on MrHâf's post on the subject.

Before I answer to her comment, here is the Guardian article Marie is referring to: Secrets and lies (incidentally, I agree with what Max says in the article about the Oaten couple (and all other couple in a similar situation) being the victim of social pressures).

Marie, I am not sure if it is less problematic, or what you mean by problematic. Is it the fact that gay men pay for sex in general or is it the idea of paying for sex for gay men that should thus labelled or not?

I think again this all comes down to the different attitude towards sex between men and women. Most women can not dissociate sex from feelings of some sort for their partner (you illustrate that in your comment by linking having sex to being in a relationship) while most men can be much more selfish in their approach (to put it nicely). The woman in the article you refer to, puts it very well: "Men are more able to separate the emotional from the physical and are turned on by the idea of sex [...]" This means they won't care so much about the contingencies of the act as long as it takes place. And I think that there is indeed a difference between the relief gained from one's right hand and that gained from another body (and not just physically but also psychologically; this would be too long to get into details though).

Further more, I think that sex website, gay saunas, chat lines and probably rent boys and escorts too provide something for people who have something to hide: i.e. a quick and easy solution when for whatever reason (response to social pressures, lack of time, need for secrecy), a man decides to give in to his urges. I am not saying this is right, I am only stating the facts, I think.

While I have never paid anyone for sex, I have been to gay saunas and I am pretty sure that most of the men going there, even if they are not married, are in the closet still or at least non-scene. This is the only place they can feel secure enough to be themselves sexually. The same goes for escorts and rent boys I would imagine; again because it is easy and quick.

At the end of the day, men will be men and, while there might be cases of male prostitutes who are forced into these activities, my gut feeling (totally usubstanciated, I grant you), is that most men involved in the trade do it voluntarily and I think some of the them actually enjoy it, as it gives them an opportunity to join business and pleasure, so to speak.

I think the fact that people (gay or straight, male or female) are paying for sex is problematic because it is often a symptom of a problem within their lives or within society in general. Either, they are in a relationship they are no longer happy in (for whatever reason) but can not get out of or they are responding to social pressures telling them that sex is bad and should be hidden. As usual, human relationships (of any kind) are a mess.

I feel I am now rambling (it is the name of this blog for a reason) without making much of a point. I will end there... for now. Feel free to join in the debate.

Check out the comments below for more.

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  1. To clarify my earlier question - one of the reasons I find paying for sex of any variety problematic is the exploitation of the person whose body is bought, and my question to you was whether this is less of an issue in the gay sex trade because the prostitute is less likely to be exploited in other ways (pimping, trafficking etc).

    I think my general problem with buying sex is the idea that someone's right to sex is more important that someone else's right not to be bought and sold. Clearly some people enter into prostitution of their own free will, but others are trapped there through slavery, poverty, drugs etc.

    If there is no exploitation of the bought party, if they are entering into prostitution in the same way you might get any other job, then I suppose it's OK. I still don't like it, probably because I am a woman and, as you say, attached to the notion that sex and relationships, or at least other factors like feeling a genuine intellectual or emotional connection to an individual, go together.

    To be completely honest I think one of the reasons prostitution bothers me is that I don't really want to believe that men disconnect sex from emotion to such an extreme. It makes me feel insecure. I have a very strong need for sexual fidelity from my partner in order to feel emotionally safe.

    As I believe it has been said before, "Sometimes it's hard to be a woman..."

  2. I think we agree in all this to be honest (which is, let's face it a debate killer).

    I can call myself a specialist of the gay sex trade and I can only talk for sporadic observations but my feeling is that it is indeed less exploitative that the straight sex trade. There might be many reasons for that, including perhaps the fact that there is a long tradition of phallocratic domination and exploitation of the female body. Men have always been freer to do what they want.

    My fairly limited experience (by gay standards anyway) of anonymous sex with men is that most of them can indeed disconnect sexual gratification from emotion. Saunas are a good terrain of observation for this. While there are people who will behave socially, others are clearly not interesting in anything else than getting their rocks off and will leave as soon as they have had what they wanted with usually barely a word. It is also fairly clear that who they are doing with doesn't really matters. A rather frustrating experience when you perceive sex as a form of communication between two individuals.

    "Men! Can't leave with 'em; can't live without 'em!"


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