Rationally Selfish Q&A: Sexual Jobs

 Posted by on 25 August 2010 at 5:00 pm  Love/Sex, Psychology, Q&As
Aug 252010

Is it immoral to have a sexually-oriented job, such as stripper or pornography actress/actor? Is it wrong of me to enjoy having a sexually-oriented job?

Imagine giving a person the key to your home because you found him/her pretty interesting after an evening of casual chat.

Imagine allowing your co-workers to read you personal journal, including your doubts about your upcoming wedding, if willing to pay a few dollars.

Imagine posting your financial records on the internet for anyone to see — or exploit.

Imagine asking perfect strangers on the subway to inspect the infected wound on your shoulder.

Should that seem like revealing too much of yourself? Yes!

Would that invite nasty people to abuse and exploit you? Yes!

Would that be a massive failure to recognize that different relationships warrant different degrees and kinds of intimacy? Yes!

Unfortunately, many people don’t apply these basic lessons about intimacy to their sex lives.

By its very nature, sex is an intimate act, not merely physically but spiritually too. It requires exposing one’s most delicate parts to handling by another person, in pursuit of the most exquisite pleasure the human body has to offer. Sex can be an exaltation and celebration of life.

Yet sex can also be deeply degrading too, precisely due to its inherent intimacy. For example, the intimacy of sex is degrading when done with an unworthy person, e.g. someone abusive, callous, brutish, or even just dreary. It’s not enough for a sexual partner to be merely tolerable, however. The inherent intimacy of sex demands a serious bond and well-earned trust between two people. It requires a deep and mutual interest in the well-being of the other person. Without that foundation for intimacy, you might as well stay home and play with your own sex toys.

Obviously, such selectivity is precisely what sex workers — strippers, prostitutes, pornographers, etc — cannot exercise. Even if able to refuse the worst of the lot as clients, he/she engages in the most intimate of acts with merely tolerable partners. And to do that well enough to earn money, he/she must create the illusion of intimacy — meaning the pretense of concern for and trust in the other.

In so doing, the sex worker is deeply warping his/her own view of sexuality — such that the reality of sex is smutty and bestial, and the spiritual meaning of sex is mere pretense. A person who develops that view of sex closes off his/her capacity for truly deep and meaningful sexual relationships. Given the value of such relationships, I can’t but regard that as self-destructive.

That being said, I don’t condemn all sexual commerce. Instead, I celebrate what aims to enhance the experience of people seeking genuine pleasure and intimacy in sex, such as sex toys, lingerie, and erotica.

I’m sure that makes me a prude by some people’s standards, and a libertine by others. So be it!

Update: I’m now answering questions on practical philosophy and the principles of living well in my internet radio show Philosophy in Action. The Q&A broadcasts every Sunday morning at 8 am PT / 9 am MT / 10 am CT / 11 am ET. Each week, I select the most popular and interesting questions from the ongoing queue of questions. Please submit your questions, as well as vote and comment on questions that you find interesting!

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