From The Technology Of Good
When employed in your job you sell yourselves into temporary slavery. You'll not feel like a slave only so long as you believe you can quit your job. In a society with rough economic equality, allowing you to quit your job, the exact amount of payment for work, so long as it is sufficient for a basically good life, you'll treat as a meaningless economic artifact, or the result of the gangsterism of criminal members of society who literally can be lived with. But the very second you know you can't quit you'll feel like a slave.
Prostitution is a special form of employment slavery that directs one human body into contact with another body.
People in a literal sense make their lives with each other by bringing their bodies close to each other. A society is composed of people who want to live near each other.* The life they make with each other is judged good or bad by how much they want to stay in each other's company.**
A home is made by the comfort people feel in each other's presence. You want to go home to your friends and family because that is where you feel good, which is a matter of the body, not of judgement. When your body is forced by economic conditions to be sold into slavery, the fundamental good of society and home can no longer be recognized because no longer can be acted upon: the body that should want to find or make a place in society cannot freely do either, and the home the body needs to find is confused by the false home that has been pretended to in prostitution.
Economic inequality both forces large numbers into prostitution and, by creating the acceptance of employment as slavery, makes prostitution seem acceptable as only another kind of employment, all of which is forced to one extent or another. However prostitution is not just another kind of employment. It is a kind of employment that by threatening the conditions of private life and of social development leads to destruction of all aspects of life not presently regulated by slavery. It is the economic actively at war with the personal and social.
- You say we're all slaves when we're employed: not complete slaves, we sell only some of our time, and sell only some of our freedom. But a prostitute sells the freedom to move her body towards those she chooses. And you say that undermines her ability to feel at home and to participate in a normal way in society. I am accustomed to thinking that part of being free is an ability to rise above the restrictions of the body. You obviously disagree.
- I do. What you are calling being free is really being deprived of a freedom. Many employers of prostitutes argue that the girls like their work, that their character suits their profession. In other words, the girls have the character that does not choose who to be close to so as to manage their lives in the best way. They don't know about the possibility of this choice.
- Well, I'm not a girl or a prostitute and I don't think I know about it either!
- Then let's go into it. The body is the beginning point of all politics.
- I said before that the body gives us our sense of home, and leads us to others we've chosen to live our lives with. Choice in the body is desire, home is habit. We are happy when our habits suit our circumstances and when we are fairly certain we are on our way to get what we desire, or know what to do to find that way.
- I'm sorry. It's too abstract for me.
- We are like each other in having bodies, which are alike in having habits and desires. If we want to work and live together we have to begin with respecting what we have in common. And what we have in common, if we combine both ideas of habit and desire, is power, the ability developed over time for us by our habits to get what we want. Follow?
- The first appearance of the golden rule in relation to democracy is in Thucydides, Pericles' Funeral Oration. Athenians love to be generous without expectation of return, because the idea of being in debt offends them. In The Melian Dialog the golden rule is argued to apply only between equals in power. Those without power must submit to inequality.
- What's your conclusion?
- Athenians, according to the funeral oration, thought of themselves like this:
Our love of what is beautiful does not lead to extravagance; our love of the things of the mind does not make us soft. We regard wealth as something to be properly used, rather than as something to boast about." "Here each individual is interested not only in his own affairs but in the affairs of the state as well: even those who are mostly occupied with their own business are extremely well-informed on general politics—this is a peculiarity of ours: we do not say that a man who takes no interest in politics is a man who minds his own business; we say that he has no business here at all.
- They are generous, but don't feel obligated to be fair.
- They are not hypocrites with each other. They tolerate each other with neither false acceptance nor with resentment. Their love of beautiful things and the things of the mind does not make them soft or extravagant with each other.
- So in some ways they are equals in power with each other? They are generous with each other only when they are equals in power? What is their power?
- Love of beauty, love of thought, attention to public life.
- That's strange.
- Thinking, making something beautiful, paying attention to what our neighbors say all are examples of generosity without expectation of return, and the result is supposed to be the golden rule, that you return the good conduct you demand of others.
- That's right.
- It means that people are fair without hypocrisy when they are of the character the Athenians claimed for themselves. Athenians follow rules because that works. They tolerate each other out of an act of generosity, as a self conscious respect for the power each has over the other in a shared public life. Equal power comes from a rough equality of political knowledge and willingness to act on it. From that comes generosity without expectation of return, because you don't make deals with equals in power. And out of that generosity comes the fact that we treat each other as we like to be treated. That we want to obey the golden rule. Obedience actually is not to a rule but to our own conclusions.
- A prostitute deprived of the freedom to use her body is deprived of political freedom. This in addition to lost personal freedom, her ability to feel at home.
- But we aren't Athenians! Aren't many, or most employees in the same condition? When afraid of losing their jobs, selling their time and activities, both within defined limits, they go further to selling political possibility? They keep quiet about politics, don't try to do anything with their personal lives, out of fear? Like prostitutes, as far as I know without exception, are forced into their profession by poverty or threats?
- The difference is that the prostitute is deprived from the beginning of both personal and political power, and the man who buys her, by entering into relation to someone deprived of personal and political power, himself is deprived of the same, unable to feel at home with people who are there with him only by coercion, and unable to cooperate in public life because unused to making a future out of shared power. Prostitution is fundamentally destructive.***
* On reason and desire being the basis of social life, not trade between enemies, see this dialog, and William Godwin's Enquiry Concerning Political Justice And Its Influence On Morals And Happiness
** See Killer Metaphysics
*** Prostitution both undermines private and public life, and is unthinkable to any man not already damaged in public and private life: no man pays for mere shows who is not already accustomed to take imitation for reality and to expect no better from himself and others. (And what should go without saying but doesn't, no woman selling herself as a prostitute takes pride in the image of her power over men except as an ameliorating recourse and a dulling drug.) See: How To Read Plato's Republic