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» One Touch Football - Archive » World » Eliot Spitzer and changing my mind. aka Why is sex special? (Page 1)

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Author Topic: Eliot Spitzer and changing my mind. aka Why is sex special?
The Batebe of Toro Foundation
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On that thread, in response to JV's argument that prostitution was a normal transaction between consenting adults and shouldn't be illegal, I wrote;

quote:
If it could be isolated from a context of widespread exploitation, widespread drug dependency, widespread psychological trauma resulting from previous sexual abuse/maltreatment, aggressive commercialisation of the personal, aggressive depersonalisation of sexuality, epidemic levels of people-smuggling, and the exposure of women to tremendous risk of violence, you could make that claim.

Now, I'm not so sure.

I'm leaning on an argument by Ross Douthat here, though I'll try and be less Thomist about it than he is, because I don't like Thomism.

Let's suppose that there is, indeed no essential difference between sex and any other commodity/service/transaction between two consenting people. Accordingly;

A: sex can be freely traded economically under the same conditions as any other labour or commodity.

We customarily accept that parents can require their kids to do work under nonstandard economic conditions. Kids may legitimately be asked to do the ironing, sweep the house, or mow the lawn. This may be unremunerated, considered as remuneration for room and board, or remunerated via pocket money at a rate far lower than the minimum wage, and is exempt from child labour laws. Therefore;

B: Parents may reasonably request/require normal labour/services of their children in a manner not otherwise permissible under legislation regarding remuneration, willing consent, and age restrictions.

Now, it seems from A and B that we must infer

C: Parents have, at least prima facie, a reasonable right of request for the performance of sexual labour/services by their children, which is not limited by requirements of remuneration, willing consent, and age restrictions.

Now, that's quite obviously an unacceptable conclusion, even if we can limit it to the prima facie, theoretical level. So we have to drop A or B.

A looks by far the more likely candidate here. So sexual behaviour and expression is not a service/labour/ commodity like any other behaviour, and ethically saleable and purchaseable as long as freely consented to.

No?

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Wyatt Earp
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No, I don't think that flies. One can work as a wine critic, but you can't ask your kids to report on this year's Cloudy Bay before you decide to buy. Some activities are subject to specific proscriptions, but on its own this doesn't mean they can't form the content of sellable labour.
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The Batebe of Toro Foundation
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Nice example. It's not clear, though, whether the child can't do the wine review because (a) it's illegal for a child to drink wine, or (b) because he or she isn't competent to write the review - that's a particularly skilled job.

Now, as far as (a) goes, we tend to adopt a hands-off approach to that, don't we? Underage drinking is illegal, but I can't imagine that there has ever been a prosecution for allowing junior a glass of wine over dinner. That seems to be something we leave, or want to leave, to parental discretion.

As far as (b) goes, that simply isn't analogous. There is obvious room for skill in sex, but it's (fortunately) hardly a matter of specialism. Moreover, we can imagine the incest as having an element of "education" to it - is it alright for wine critic dad to give junior a glass and ask him or her to tell him what he or she thinks of it in order to develop his or her palate?

[ 18.03.2008, 14:10: Message edited by: The Batebe of Toro Foundation ]

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Dr. Hofzinser
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You also can't ask your kids to:

- Drive you to the airport
- Perform plastic surgery on you
- Perform a headhunt for the right person to run your company's sale team

...all of which are commodities or services that can be bought or sold.

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The Batebe of Toro Foundation
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All of those have to do with expertise. You can't ask an unlicensed person to do the first two, or an unqualified one to do the last unless you fancy a lawsuit.
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blackdogbeak
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the words 'same conditions' and 'any other' in point (a) are red herrings.

the conditions attached to trading in bleeding-edge military equipment aren't the same as those attached to trading in, say, cotton. or mars bars.

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The Batebe of Toro Foundation
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No, we need licenses for that, owing primarily to considerations of the safety of third parties. But there's no prima facie prohibition. Again, it's not analogous.

[ 18.03.2008, 14:29: Message edited by: The Batebe of Toro Foundation ]

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blackdogbeak
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do you not think that [licensing] could/should/would (delete to preference) be the case in terms of legalised prostitution? (<-------- edit: your edit has rendered this sentence obsolete)

also, i think this:
quote:
Let's suppose that there is, indeed no essential difference between sex and any other commodity/service/transaction between two consenting people.
is a faulty supposition, even if it is based verbatim on what people were saying in that thread.

either way, i think you're missing the point after the fashion of the somewhat amusing viz character mr. logic.

however, i have neither the grip of philosophy and logic that you do, nor the time, patience and willingness to bother arguing the toss about it.

have a nice thread!

[ 18.03.2008, 14:31: Message edited by: blackdogbeak ]

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Dr. Hofzinser
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That's a good point. Different types of labour and commodity are traded under vastly different conditions.

And for point B, I don't think it's at all clear that parents may reasonably request/require any sort of labour/services of their children, as they see fit. That's a hell of a contention to make.

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Reed
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I'm with blackdogbeak. We can "suppose" there's no difference but there usually is and their ought to be.
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Wyatt Earp
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I'd agree that sexual services aren't services "like any other", but uniqueness is not unique; we need to establish whether this particular "un-likeness" has a bearing on the ethical issue at hand (you know that, of course; I'm just stating the obvious as part of my chain of argument).

Now: the fact that children may not consent to sex, and may not refuse to consent to certain other "services", is sufficient to establish that a distinction exists between sex and those "services", but not (I think) to establish that distinction's relevance to transactions between adults.

The norms are that children may not consent to sex but adults may. Why may not adults consent to sex for monetary gain? On the face of it, there's no obvious answer to that that avoids, or is anterior to, a consideration of the consequential realities of prostitution. I can't make deontology work here.

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The Batebe of Toro Foundation
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Dogbeak - precisely what I'm claiming is that that's a faulty supposition.

Hof. - that there are different restrictions on different markets doesn't affect the prima facie right to trade in them, nor does it establish that that those commodities are in essence different from each other.

Point B is too sweeping as formulated, yeah. But again, I think it or something like it stands in principle, and any restrictions on it are comparatively ad hoc. I don't think that conclusion C can be acceptable even in principle.

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blackdogbeak
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wood for the fucking trees.
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The Batebe of Toro Foundation
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Reed - yeah, that's what I'm arguing too.

Wyatt - those are good points. The argument doesn't establish that sex is not a tradeable commodity, but nor does it try to. What it says is that we can't just help ourselves to the assumption that it is one. A positive case has to be made, and I can't ever remember seeing one. Usually, there's just a simple "it's the market, stupid" analogy made - which I take this argument to show doesn't hold up on its own.

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The Batebe of Toro Foundation
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quote:
wood for the fucking trees.
Heh. Tell me about it.
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