For as long as we could remember, prostitution has been notoriously dubbed “the world’s oldest profession.” But, what used to be considered camouflaged prostitution (through pathways of stripping, pornography, escorting, etc.) are no longer taboo and are being substituted with more modern forms of prostitution. Prostitution, in this case, is spelled out in italics to illustrate the purpose of demonstrating that it may not be, but rather implied as a form of selling one’s body in these upcoming “sexy” jobs. Jobs that require their employees to dress and behave in a seductive matter, selling their sex appeal (or rather themselves) as commodities – much like the transaction of prostitution.
While the previous statement may be perceived as a hyperbole, allow me to explain myself. There is a recently exposed, if not potentially old, argument about any heteronormative communication between a man and a woman (in a more-than-platonic sense) to be classified as “prostitution.” It goes something like this…If a man is expected to pay on the first date, he is really indirectly paying for a woman’s “services” in exchange. While the old-fashioned, cookie-cutter family was expected to consist of a working father and stay-at-home mother, this standard could analogically represent the relationship between a “sugar daddy” and a “sugar baby”. The husband works to support the family and supplies the mother with money, necessities, gifts, etc. to survive; while she reciprocates with her love and companionship, which would obviously also include sex.
Basically, this goes without mentioning that any date, marriage or relationship would be considered prostitution. Prostitution then becomes this subjective matter that cannot be defined by a dictionary meaning or law. What is prostitution? Would attending a cuddling cafe in Japan mean purchasing the services of a hugging “prostitute”? Does the innocent fair favorite of a kissing booth resemble the charity-like auctions of dates with escorts? Is touching a stripper – or having a stripper touch you – like doing the deed using credit or cash?
As the lines become more blurred as to what’s deemed as the p-word, these jobs turn more and more glamourized as the latest way to make fast cash. But, what is this really teaching us as a society?
Just last year, Toronto opened up two locations of the American franchise Tilted Kilt – a “breastaurant” which features female servers dressed in kilts and not much else. While these servers may only serve food and beverages, their appearances are what attract and sell the Tilted Kilt’s concept and products as a company. As the old adage goes, “sex sells.” But now more than ever, this quote provides a more literal meaning.
Toronto was also rated the “sugar daddy capital of Canada.” New-and-improved sugar daddy websites like “Seeking Arrangement” and “What’s Your Price” allow women (mostly from Ryerson University) to profit from their “good looks” on dates and vacations. They put themselves out on social media and websites like these, hoping to acquire an affluent man’s “assistance” while giving him her “relationship” in return. The thing about these websites is that while this “trade of services” is ambigious and can imply a variety of connotations depending on each individual situation (a man may only be paying for a woman’s tuition in exchange for her just talking on their date), their mediums still promote the services of prostitution – much like backpage and internet ads do, but with more discretion. While their messages may be subtle, these “dating” websites still provide the medium for a man to pay for any form of service with a woman. While social companions may have existed way before any of these sites did, even the concept of a “dating escort” in itself still leads us to believe that a companion or “sugar baby” could be putting in more than just talking…
Let’s not forget to mention that the Supreme Court of Canada struck down prostitution laws and may eventually permit brothels. While the purpose of these possibly new laws is to counter the older unconstitutional laws which legalized prostitution but made almost any communication involving it illegal and therefore forcing prostitutes to hide working in unsafe conditions, the potential legalization of these ‘security-based” brothels may inevitably influence more people to work as prostitutes, thinking they will be safer in these so-called ‘controlled” settings. While these means may make prostitution less dangerous, they could also involuntarily sexualize our cities, states and countries further (aside from Nevada and Amsterdam).
Because what this really means is that pornography, prostitution and other pathways to the sex trade are becoming more mainstream. Not only are we teaching young girls and women to look and act sexy, but to employ themselves as sex-sellers in these sex-driven workplaces. Not only is selling one’s virginity online or stripping to pay for school now ritual, but it’s reinforcing the idea that prostitution isn’t merely the connection to trafficking, violence or poverty, but to the seemingly “carefree” means of covering tuition or retiring before the age of 30. What used to be opted as last resort is now a first thought. Because of our deteriorating economy, accumulating tuition costs and the expansion of the internet, women – on screen and off – are now focusing on these new, “safer” means of “selling themselves” – through webcam porn, sugar daddy websites, working at upcoming breastaurants or as promotional models, and the like.
While money’s an obvious motivational factor, what’s really driving women into these sexy jobs may translate into something more psychological. When we see scantily clad car-show-turned-Playboy models, porn stars or strippers, we automatically insinuate they suffer from “daddy issues” or sexual abuse – which may very well be the case. But more often than not, we visualize our bodies as baby-making masses with money being thrust upon us. Another reason for our sexualization leading to these professions is the correlation between the media (including social media) and our body image. We become so narcissistic and absorbed with our looks that we’ll post “sexy” pictures of ourselves all over Instagram and Facebook to prove to others that we’re sexy, which actually strips our vanity of the insecurity underneath. We shouldn’t feel the need to show others we’re sexy, if we actually believe we’re sexy. However, a bullied ugly duckling may resort to taking naked photos and distributing it as child pornography. Or she may grow up and take a job as a promotional model, stripper or porn star to subconsciously tackle the real issue: that because she’s never felt beautiful, she needs to make herself seem more desirable and label herself in public (or private) as sexy with these job titles to attain the attention or “love” she didn’t get before. Being exposed to these ideals as a performer at a young age (think child pageant queens or Britney) may further exacerbate this notion and coerce girls into growing up, thinking they need to be sexual like this already.
What this conditions us to believe is that we need to sell sex to get what we want; that women – stereotypically and specifically – need to mold their bodies into the most delicious meat served on a man’s platter. This idea is the basis of these issues and the root of our mental beliefs. Without this concept, we may not have as many women resorting to these “sexy jobs” as we would like to think.