Your soul is in your vagina.

03Oct08

For centuries, scientists have quested for the embodied location of the human soul. Clearly, if we have them, they have to exist in our physical bodies, right? Organs like the heart, the liver, and the brain have been studied as possible resting places for our eternal selves. However, it appears that modern day opponents of decriminalizing prostitution have located the soul. It’s in the vagina.

My rather facetious introduction frames what concerns me about arguments against decriminalization. It is one thing to personally decide that sex work is not for you. This is a position I understand. Sex work is not an occupation that everyone should engage in. Nor all are forms of sex work for all sex workers. However, it concerns me that opponents argue that sex work is inherently degrading because it is the sale of the body.

Some argue that sex work is degrading to women because of their historical social position subordinate to men. Because women have always been made second class citizens, sex work is a reflection of this, a form of men continuing to use and abuse women. I see the point behind this argument, but I do not agree with it.

Others argue that sex work is degrading because it is objectifying. Many people use this buzz word without understanding what it means. The be objectified is to be treated as an object, and used as an object. In this way, sex work is degrading because the sex worker is an object of sexual desire, and is paid solely to be a body. In a way, paid to be a warm hole to stick it in. So when opponents talk about sex work as selling the body and the soul, this is what they mean.

What I have never been able to understand about this argument (and maybe some day someone could explain this to me) is what makes sex so different from other ways people buy other people’s bodies. Restaurants servers are bodies bought and sold. Factory workers are bodies bought and sold. Just look at the history of scientific management. I find conversation to be a deeply intimate, bonding experience, yet I do it everyday with people I don’t really care about. Touching is a deeply intimate experience, yet nurses and health aides are paid to do it. What is different about sex work?

Our society has deeply Puritanical views about sex. If people did not see sex as somehow different, reserved to be between two people in a committed, monogamous relationship, sex work would not be framed as selling your soul. This goes beyond prostitution and adult film. In the case of exotic dancing, what makes breasts off-limits parts of female bodies, that can only be shown to nursing babies and intimate partners? What is so special about vulvas that only gynecologists and partners can see them? Why are penises forbidden? If someone touches another’s genitalia in an act of BDSM play, how is that different from touching someone’s genitalia to help them urinate? These are the questions I wonder what I hear people talk about sex work as selling your soul, or being rented as a body.

Capitalism is a force that turns people into bodies. Economic exchange commodifies bodies. The need for money to exchange for goods and services turns every human encounter into a possibility for profit. Is sex work selling your soul? I think that if it is, then all work is selling your soul.

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One Response to “Your soul is in your vagina.”

  1. Ohhh, THAT’S where I put it… I wonder where said opponents think men have put THEIR souls, seeing as how they don’t have vaginas. Or is it something only us fragile women have to consider?


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