Friday, January 26, 2007

Don't Judge; We All Prostitute Ourselves
By Bashir Goth
When “prostitution” is mentioned, the first thing that comes to most peoples’ minds is sexual prostitution, selling one’s body for money. Next, we moralize, turning into preachers and issuing fatwas. We forget, however, that we all engage in prostitution of one form or another.

Sexual prostitutes who trade their bodies for money to survive, feed their children, or use it as a bridge to a higher career are not different from anyone of us who genuflects before his or her boss, toils under humiliating circumstances, and undertakes sometimes outrageous, dehumanizing and underpaid jobs to put bread on the table or get some favor to advance a career. Only we pride ourselves on not bearing a stigma because our prostitution is legal.

Politics, I say, is the highest paid job of prostitution. The two are synonymous, even replaceable professions. Politicians try every trick in the book to achieve their goal. They flirt with their voters using bodily gestures, sweet talk, and the charms of their personality. They offer grand promises and undercover deals. The only difference is while sexual prostitutes deliver their promised services in exchange for meager payments, politicians are rewarded with heftily, with unlimited power and high moral accolades, for services not rendered.

It is unfortunate that sexual prostitutes have to be ridiculed for selling their bodies, while everyone else is showered with praise for doing the same: selling their pride, their labor, their identity and their integrity. And at the end of the day, each and every one of us is trying to achieve the same thing: to survive in a
world without mercy.

I sometimes wonder how a woman tolerating domestic violence and forced sex for the sake of small kids who have no other source of income -- bound to a brute husband with legal marriage -- could call herself luckier than a woman who leads a comparatively comfortable life by choice but with the stigma of being a prostitute.

It is a fundamental economic rule that where there is a demand there should be a supply. Therefore, sexual prostitution has existed and will exist as long as the natural desire for mating exists. Well, opponents of legalizing prostitution may moralize as much as they please but we all know that morality itself is relative. In the West, polygamy may be scoffed at as immoral or even tantamount to prostitution while in the Muslim world cohabitation may deserve an equal disdain. But as Bertrand Russell once said, we have two kinds of morality side by side in every society, " which we preach but do not practice and another which we practice but seldom preach."

With all of us being prostitutes, each in his own capacity and profession, it is imperative that all should have equal rights in legal recognition, insurance coverage, trade unions, political representation, and, of course, retirement benefits.

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First published in Washington Post on January 26, 2007 2:30 PM