Sex and Work

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).

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Wages, Workers, and Machines

Today the “Zero to Hero” assignment was to write a blog post that builds upon yesterday’s assignment, to comment on some blogs. I did’t do yesterday’s assignment because it was Sunday and that means a 40 mile bike ride along the beach, lunch at The Spot in Hermosa, on orgy in the living room, and curling up to cheesy horror movies. So, instead I will be elaborating on the comment section of a Facebook conversation that is currently going on.

I shared an article that discussed the further mechanization of low-paying jobs, in this case it is a machine that can make burgers without any human help. I’m sure your big-chain grocery store has “U-Scans” so that anyone who can scan their own purchases can do it themselves and get out of the store more quickly and there are some fast-food restaurants that allow you to order via touchscreen computer and pay without talking to a person… it was only a matter of time before other jobs are replaced by machines. Now, I don’t think this is a bad thing in the long run but I do recognize that it will hurt people in the short run.

One of the main forces encouraging businesses to turn to machines is labor cost, particularly pushes for minimum-wage increases. When the government enforces a minimum wage it forces businesses to either increase their prices or decrease labor (by firing or reducing hours). Large corporations can usually bear this a little bit but small, local chains rarely make large profits and suffer the most. A large chunk of the US economy is small businesses and when people lobby for an increase in minimum wage they are harming small businesses. In addition to that, increased labor costs means increased prices of goods… so everyone is now paying a higher price even if they didn’t get a raise. If the minimum wage goes from $7.50/hr to $8.00/hr the price of goods will go up, even for the person who made $8.00/hr the whole time. And of course, as the article points out, if labor costs go up then businesses will look for a way to replace labor with machines.

So, in the long run, is this a good thing? I think so, yes. Humans are not here on the planet to work at shitty low-wage jobs. I look forward to a Star Trek world where machines do everything while the rest of us spend our time pursuing our passions and just hanging out. Work is a means to an end, not an end itself. Work is a tool to earn money to exchange for goods. We are entering a new era where the economy is based on service, information, and entertainment. We must take steps though to not punish or discourage innovation and entrepreneurship. Raising the minimum wage is a band-aid that makes things worse in the long run. What we need to be doing is breaking down the barriers of entry into different fields. Why do most cities and states regulate hair stylists and other trades, and require accreditation through certain expensive schools? Why does it costs so much to get approved to start your own business? Why is the government wasting time and money shutting down lemonade stands and raiding barbers? If this world is going to advance we need to let people use their gifts, talents, and passions without a bureaucrat stepping in, demanding money, and threatening to send men with guns to their doors if they don’t comply.