Sex Work Threatens the Patriarchy*


Sex work is universally understood to be the oldest profession in the world.  But instead of the veneration that ancient history should lend, instead Sex Workers are marginalised, reviled by some segments of society, discriminated against, denied access to services, and their basic human rights.

That this situation exists is plain fact.  It is beyond deplorable.  Some of us will fight to change that.  But I’d like to understand why.  Why do we have a problem with Sex Workers?

The Patriarchy is Threatened by Sex Work

The advantages that men have in society are well documented.  Most women understand the level of discrimination they face, both casual and structural.  Not all men do.  But men do consciously and unconsciously enjoy the privilege that comes with their position.

Male desire is classically about conquest.  The desire to possess, to own, to objectify.  The male gaze, which all women have felt, is objectifying, disrobing, and aggressive.  Catcalls and pinches are physical manifestations of this.  In this narrative, we are animals, and men “eat what they kill” and enjoy the fruits that they can take.  

Throughout nature, men of greater physical stature, who are better looking, healthier, convey a sense of certainty about their genes, which makes a female confident of the chances of her genetic material surviving to the next generation.  In humans, these power dynamics extend beyond and include wages, social position, etc.  Many prominent academics have espoused theories that we are hardwired that way.

But sex work turns that narrative on its head.  First, when a man pays, he is ceding power to the woman.  He is no longer conquering her but becoming her client.  Paying a woman for sex levels the playing field.  Is it possible that male violence against sex workers is due to rage over this transfer of power?

And a man who enjoys the experience cannot fail to become attached to the person who gave it to him.  While a sex worker is seeing a client, a man who sees a sex worker, and who goes back, cannot fail to become somewhat attached.  She is not; he is.  That is a very pure and simple exchange of power.  It is also another source of male rage towards sex workers.  The social construct that a “man who has to pay has something wrong with him” can make some men who go to sex workers resentful.  This resentment can turn to rage.

This male rage is founded on feelings of impotence vis-à-vis women.  In society we are surrounded by a cultural narrative that puts men on top.  A female sex worker upends that narrative.  That is why the patriarchy is threatened.

If you are a sex worker and I got it wrong, please correct me.

*Disclaimer…this is about male clients and female sex workers.

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