Say I have a friend, let’s call her Crystal. Crystal just graduated from college and is currently trying to move to a new city to find work. She has a little savings but is on the look out for some part-time work to smooth out the transition. She posts the following on Facebook “Hey friends! I’m really excited about my move to Chicago, it has been a dream of mine to live in that city my whole life. Unfortunately, money is a little tight (housing is expensive!) and I need to find some part time work. Does anyone have any leads for online work or need help with anything? I’m not looking for a handout or donations, I will gladly work hard!”
Now, I don’t own a business or have any particular need to hire someone. I also don’t know of any online jobs available. But, I do find Crystal attractive and I’m willing to pay money for nude pictures of her. Unfortunately, if I were to send her an offer to pay her money for nude pictures (that I would promise to never share with anyone else) that would probably be frowned upon by society. The pleasure I would be deriving from this exchange would be sexual, and that is seen as an unacceptable exchange among friends. Using her body in that way is bad, but if I asked her to use her body to shingle my house or pour concrete at great risk to her physical health that would be okay.
It is strange that we have this stigma around sex work, particularly sex work among friends (even “Facebook friends” which may exist between people who have never met). I recognize that sharing nude pictures can be dangerous if you don’t trust the recipient to honor your discretion, but let’s ignore that for now because I am not an asshole). We all use parts of our body to directly and indirectly provide value to others, and some of that value involves pleasure. When a chef cooks a meal that I enjoy, I get pleasure from their labor. When I accomplish a task for my supervisor I free up leisure time for him so that he can get pleasure from other things. Why are these things not stigmatized? Why are we afraid of providing sexual pleasure for our friends… it is a nearly universal pursuit of adults and I don’t think it should be shunned the way it is.
It makes me wonder how my Facebook friends would respond if someone offered to pay them money for nude pictures. Would they be less willing to provide them if they found the person unattractive? Would the price go up? Is a certain level of mutual attraction necessary for the transaction to be seen as non-creepy? Do we apply this same level of compatibility to other business transactions (I’ve certainly worked with some assholes but have been able to separate that in my mind)?
This is purely hypothetical. To my knowledge I don’t have any friends who are looking for freelance online work, and even if I did I don’t think I would be comfortable confronting them with this offer. Which kind of sucks, social norms are preventing people from having more opportunities, but I’d be afraid that I’d be stigmatized if I made this offer to someone and they became offended. I bet a lot more people would be better off if sex work in all forms was legal and non-stigmatized.
Note: This could easily apply to couples who want to make some extra cash or to single men. I just used Crystal and she pronouns for writing simplicity and on the assumption that the most common situation would be straight-identifying men buying pictures of women (though, I could be wrong on that).