Dear Prude

Jessica has a post about a woman who sent a letter to Dear Prudie of Slate, asking whether she should stay with her boyfriend, who slept with a prostitute on a business trip. Now, sending a letter to a stranger, syndicated columnist or not, and asking her for relationship advice sounds like a very sheepish thing to do, but as usual, I’m going to ignore this and focus on the larger issue. Jessica says,

Ok, I have mixed feelings on people who have cheated–I think if you’re building a life together, forgiving someone for cheating is understandable. But that’s not what we’re talking about here. The big question isn’t whether he’s remorseful about betraying her trust. To me, it’s about whether or not you really want to be with someone who is fine and dandy about buying sex and commodifying women. Personally, there ain’t no fucking way I would stay with someone who bought sex.

There’s nothing special about sex. The idea that when you’re with someone you’re not supposed to have sex with anyone else isn’t normative; it’s a not particularly bright social convention. If that’s what a couple agrees on, it’s their choice, just like it’s their choice if they decide to put chastity belts on one another whenever they’re not in the same room. But I’ve yet to understand why anyone would care if his/her SO slept with someone else.

As for Jessica’s point about prostitution, her commenters have analogized it to Wal-Mart. It’s possible to support Wal-Mart workers’ rights without shopping at Wal-Mart, and similarly, it’s possible to support sex workers’ rights without buying sex. But I submit that someone who’d leave a partner who shops at Wal-Mart is an intolerable fanatic. Plus, if you don’t shop at Wal-Mart, you shop at other places, which usually employ more people relative to their size and pay them better; hence, if your actions contribute to Wal-Mart’s going bankrupt, then at least its workers will immediately get better jobs. You can’t say the same about prostitution.

What it boils down to is that you can’t expect people to live the left’s oppression-based morality any more than you can expect them to live any religious sin-based morality. The fiancé who had sex with a prostitute bought the woman a wedding ring, which probably had a diamond in it. If so, the diamonds were probably harvested from a mine in Africa whose labor practices make Nike sweatshops seem like the dream job. The business trip likely involved staying at hotels with underpaid workers.

So there is hypocrisy here, somewhere. Most likely, the woman who wrote Prudie is a prude who doesn’t give a damn about prostitutes’ rights but does think she owns her boyfriend’s penis. Less likely, she does in fact adhere to an oppression-based morality, but prefers concentrating on the obvious, instead of on the things everybody does.

8 Responses to Dear Prude

  1. gordo says:

    “I’ve yet to understand why anyone would care if his/her SO slept with someone else.”

    For many, there’s the humiliation factor. Some people can’t stand to think of themselves as a cuckold, and others are OK with it as long as none of their friends find out.

    For others, there’s the fear of having your lover fall in love with someone else.

    There are all sorts of other reasons that people find it vexing, including the fear of behavior that’s taboo. But I think that humilation and fear of losing losing your lover are probably the top two.

  2. Brad says:

    Wow, I so totally don’t really agree with you. I like your blog, I like most of the articles, and I even like this one, but I just don’t agree with it. It’s a weird thing for me too, because I’m torn between the differing opinions.

    On one hand, only a few years ago, I would have completely agreed with the notion that it wouldn’t really matter what was going on in a partners sex life outside of me and I wouldn’t really have cared. I would have stayed with them, and thought nothing of it. In the same notion, I, too, would have done my own thing and thought nothing of telling them or them caring about it. I’m sure they would have cared and been upset, but I really wouldn’t have cared at all.

    The other hand, the one you have to watch out for, is that after being married for a few years now, 6 or so to be more exact, and having children together, if the woman I married would go out and have sex with some other man, I would genuinely be upset. Unlike the story about not caring about the sex and trust thing and only about buying sex, I would really not give a damn whether it was paid for or not. I don’t think this would’ve changed in either scenario for me either. I mean, truthfully, we really end up paying for almost all sex, in one way or another.

    Ok, now about prostitutes rights, it’s illegal in most states in the US, but legal in some, yet you can make a hardcore porn in almost (i’m not sure about all) any state, what the hell is the difference, paid for sex, paid for sex. I don’t get it. It’s a job, if you want to do it, fine, I don’t really care one way or the other. Hell, legalize it, tax it, and shut the hell up about it, I’m sure there are more important, or at least more malignant criminals that the police could spend their time with.

    I guess I really do agree with parts of the post, if a couple chooses to swing, or be completely monogamous then it’s their choice and damn the world for interfering. The other part though, about why someone would care if their SO slept around, I’m not sure how someone wouldn’t be upset depending on the amount of time they’ve spent together, and how they feel about each other. A relationship becomes an investment after a while, it’s an investment of time, money, love, and a myriad of other things. Sex is one of those joys that have been invested, when your SO just gives that away, or even pays someone else to take it, it takes away part of that investment and makes it not so special to you, because it’s no longer just for you when they will give it away to just anybody.

    Ok, I probably made this comment too damn long, but I’m gonna comment on Gordo’s comment. I don’t think that I would be humiliated by my wife or significant other cheating on me, and I guess I wouldn’t really care about losing them either, I just wouldn’t want them anymore. I know that sounds counter-intuitive, how could you not care, but still not want them, but hey, feelings are complex creatures, and sometimes it’s hard to get what you really mean across in words

  3. Brad says:

    Hell, guess I should’ve read the other articles before commenting. Just reading the girls letter to Prudie, she asks if she should stick around with her man who cheated on her with an asian hooker. Somehow this gets read into how he should pay money into pro-hooker’s rights fund to atone for this, but that it’s cool to stay with him even though this upset her. That’s just stupid. Then it gets all wrangled into how the hooker he slept with could’ve been coerced into it, and there was human trafficking and all kinds of other human rights violations or some such crap.

    How does this get so contorted. A woman is upset that her soon to be fiance cheated on her with an asian hooker. I mean either she can live with that, or she can’t, bottom line. Then I read the other articles about pro sex worker’s rights, but not pro sex work or some crap like that, and that prostitution is ok, but solicitation is bad. Then this goes into African mineworkers’ rights because she doesn’t care about where the diamond in the ring she hasn’t even accepted yet came from. WOW, that’s just friggin’ retarded.

    And another thing, the guy bought sex from a seemingly willing participant, he didn’t buy a person. How does that get confused. Could it have been the worst of the worst, and that this girl he slept with was a sex slave and abused, and he was all the more evil for doing it, yeah, but the woman’s story doesn’t get in to all that. She writes about her own problem and issue, because that is what she had question about. If she then decides to write about helping out one-legged asian hookers, that’s her deal, but that’s not what she asked.

    This internet, that a simple advice column question that people have been asking time and time again, it’s insane.

  4. Alon Levy says:

    Well, it’s the main motivating example of my post about moralities. Everyone on Feministing, including me, subscribes to oppression-based morality, and proceeded to look at the situation from that point of view. Even pro-prostitution people like Avedon and me framed this in terms of oppression, only we argue (she much more vehemently than I) that prostitution isn’t a form of oppression, at least not more than other things.

    In contrast, the letter writer spoke from a completely different viewpoint, stemming ultimately from a sin-based morality. Sleeping with another person is a sin; even the point of making sex less special derives from the conception of sex as a sin. Again, if that’s what you and your wife agree to then it falls under “your bodies, your choice,” but it’s only normative if you assume very prudish things about sex.

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