What Does It Really mean To Pay for Sex?

Sex work is the world's oldest profession. Although it has evolved into more of an umbrella term due to technological advancements and the development of things like camming, sexting, and porn, at its core sex work is still what it always has been--the exchange of sex for money or something else of value.

But what if I told you that sex has always been transactional? This probably comes as a shock to some of you, because in my experience the Venn Diagram of men who won't spend money on a woman without expecting sex in return and men who shame sex workers for their profession is a circle. Non-men aren't without blame in the perpetuation of violence against sex workers though. misogyny is insidious and we've all been bamboozled into thinking that buying into it offers us some sort of protection from its effects. it doesn't, especially when you add in other factors like race, social class, and (dis) ability.

I've touched on our society's control of women in previous posts, so rather than getting back into that, let's unpack our cultural aversion to admitting we like to pay for sex. 

Historically, women were "sold" by their fathers to the highest bidder via marriage. Whether it be for political alliances, land, money, or protection, women have always been a form of currency. Along with this exchange came the expectation that the daughter was a virgin, because who wants to pay full price for used goods? Puritanical, patriarchal ideas about women's bodies rooted in Christian doctrine had nothing to say about selling your daughter's pussy for a couple of acres and some livestock because everything is pure in the eyes of God since she's married, but it takes a lot of issue with a woman deciding those things for herself.

I'm on twitter fairly often and I see tweets like this all the time:

I didn't write this tweet, but I cropped out the username for privacy.

I didn't write this tweet, but I cropped out the username for privacy.

The first thing that annoys me about this post is that it implies that "prostitution" is something people should want to avoid. For many people, sex work is a lucrative and fulfilling career. More than that, this post fundamentally misunderstands how sex works...works. Dating someone who can provide for you financially is radically different than having clients pay you for sexual services.

Whorephobia aside, almost all of us have used sex in a transactional way to get what we want. If you've plied someone with gifts to endear them to you so they'd have sex with you, you've had transactional sex. If you've had sex with someone because they've given you gifts, you've had transactional sex. If you've accepted and/or given sex in exchange for something else (like weed), you've had transactional sex. This doesn't mean you're a sex worker, but I make this analogy to demonstrate that sex workers choosing to monetize the same thing we all do is just good business acumen. Ancient ideas about sexuality just make us regard them as not worthy of respect. 

Using sex transactionally isn't inherently a bad thing! It's just the nature of how sex has worked in our society forever and how we're socialized to engage with it. but trying to do mental gymnastics to justify how we're not doing just that perpetuates stigma that ultimately impacts actual sex workers. Let people (consensually) fuck in peace and get it how they think is best.