Saturday, November 11, 2023


- What do you have there?
- One of our old conversations, six, seven years ago. I'll read it to you.

- Anti-sex trafficking organizations say prostitution is torture. What do you think?
- Obviously they are not identical. We might look at how they are the same and how they are different.
- How are they the same?
- Both the seller of sex and the tortured have force applied to their bodies.
- You mean forced sex? Don't sellers agree to trade sex for money?
- Assuming they feel no desire to be with those they have to be paid to be with, their bodies are being forced to act against desire.
- How is acting against desire torture?
- Buying sex like torture works to disable normal functioning of the bought or bound subject's body.
- Torture and buying sex are both about disabling the subject's body. How else are torture and buying sex similar?
- Both aim to force particular thoughts into the minds of their bound or bought subjects, or to imagine this happening. The torturer wants a confession, the sex buyer wants the bought to pretend to like the buyer.
- So we have two elements: disabling the body's functioning, and forcing into existence shows of certain thoughts. We know people torture for reasons other than gaining information, that in most cases torture is not done to achieve practical results. Do you think people buy sex also for no practical reason? That it is not about sex?
- I think it is about what we've said: sex buying constructs a social relation in which the body of the bought is disabled and the seller imagines he is desired by someone whose body is socially considered desirable.
- A matter of power and status.
- Yes.
- Ok. How are sex buying and torture different?
- Instead of being physically bound, the sex seller is subject to severe economic and social pressure. Because selling sex disables the body and necessitates lying no one voluntarily chooses to sell sex.
- Then why do some say they enjoy what they do?
- The same reason slaves say they accept slavery: they find security in the only way of life they know that provides some predictability. We've talked before* about how feeling at home comes from habit, and habit comes from the body. We want to be at home because that is the place where we know from experience we are safe and can move on to get what else we want. The tortured and bought body cannot easily feel anywhere at home. We also talked** about how in our societies we do things for the sake of doing them: another way of saying, we are a society of people without home. We are a people without home because we force each other to do what the bound for torture and bought for sex are forced to do: against our bodies, under threat of economic and social death to produce representations of our liking of each other, to constantly adjust our relations to each other.
-  Your point being that violence and sex are extremes of relation between bodies, but in our everyday life where our bodies keep more distance we see the same relations we see in torture and prostitution.
- Yes, but because of the physical distance maintained the effect is much weakened. Torture is still torture.
- And prostitution is still torture.
- Does this get us anywhere in trying to understand the murder and torture rampage of Hamas against the Israelis?
- In the torture there was no attempt to extract information, and obviously no imagined show of attraction. The mind to be adjusted to a new social relation of power was of the audiences to the torture: the live streamed families of the torturers and the families of their victims.
- Do you think this torture rampage was in some way a logical extension of prostitution, selling bodies and selling minds?
- I think the idea of forced show-making in torture helps us understand the glee, pride, exhilaration of the demonstrators in our cities and college campuses celebrating the torture-murder rampage.
- Torture as a public act has a history, public executions. Is this a fundamental difference between us and them, between people who mostly make a public show of torture and those who would hide it away?
- A forced relation of bodies, of physical powerlessness, creates in the mind of performers a social relation of power. The Hamas killer-torturers and the celebrating students seem to have forgotten their capacity as human beings to be unforced in body and mind. They are not ashamed of their moments of living in shows of social relation created at the price of destroying bodies. Rousseau wrote in 1750:
 Sincere friendship, real esteem and perfect confidence are banished from among men. Jealousy, suspicion, fear, coldness, reserve, hate, and fraud lie constantly concealed.
- Concealed no longer.

Further Reading: