She asked me how I felt about websites where clients write comments about prostitutes and give them scores. I could see that it was a trap-question. Previously, I’d explained that I didn’t objectify prostitutes. Actually, I’d said that I didn’t subscribe to the notion that prostitution reduces women to three holes (a radical feminist construct). I’d explained that I saw the women I visit as people, as individuals with names and personalities and intellects. I saw them as women who have family and friends and relations and relationships. They are people with whom I talk and share experiences and personal stories. I don’t see them as body temperature dolls.
I went on to point out that the rescuers (mostly feminists) who play the objectification card are, ironically, the ones who objectify prostitutes. To them they are an anonymous mass, women to be referred to in terms of percentages and women to be labelled, mostly as victims: victims of rape and murder and victims of clients and pimps and gangsters and, if all else fails, victims of circumstance. And if the women protest that they are not victims they are simply relabelled as delusional or in denial or unaware that they are self harming and need to be rescued ‘for their own good’. And the worst objectification of all, I said, was to deny them agency; whenever there is a major debate or a fact finding commission or proposed legislation, the dissenting voice of the prostitute will be conspicuous by its absence.
I thought that was a pretty cool analysis.
However, I don’t have a problem with the websites that were the focus of the question. And I could see that all my good work would be undone if I said so. “He said that he doesn’t objectify prostitutes but here’s the proof that he does!!! And that gives us/me the right to ignore everything he has said and to abolish prostitution as a social phenomenon!!!”
I’m pretty good at thinking on my feet but I do have limits.
So I said, “I don’t have a problem with it,” and moved on to the next question.
Well, that’s true. It was an honest response. But there’s more to it in the sense that what I wanted to say was what I figured out after the event. The conclusion is the same but it’s the rationale that’s important.
At the time I had 46 women and 4 men in their early twenties (undergraduates) sitting in front of me. In retrospect, what I should have said was this.
Imagine that when you handed your passports over at check-in the photos were copied and found their way onto a Facebook site set up by one of the guys who work here. Over the next couple of days, all the male employees in the hotel log on and vote for the 5 prettiest girls, the 5 cutest arses, the 5 best pairs of tits and the five girls they’d most like to fuck.
My guess is that you would be appalled. So would I. We don’t expect that kind of thing from hotel staff. Some people might take a pragmatic, unemotional view: these guys were wrong to do this, they should be made aware of the fact and management needs to do something to make sure that it never happens again. Then move on. Others, especially the young women concerned, might feel very uncomfortable with what has happened and feel intimidated and want to check out. Others might be screaming-in-your-face mad. They will be so angry they won’t be satisfied unless testicles are removed with a blunt knife. Whatever, we all agree that the Facebookers were wrong to do what they did.
Let’s move on. Let’s consider check-out. We’ve all been offered the chance to feedback on the hotel experience. Just before check-out a questionnaire appears in the room. And some of the time we complete it. It’s never clear what purpose it serves or whether the hotel makes use of it, other than to parade an 8.6 customer satisfaction statistic on the website. But we generally just accept it. What we really like is Trip Advisor because that lets us say what we want to say and makes sure that the message gets passed on to people who are considering staying in the hotel. It beats the hell out of the hotel’s internal data gathering. Why do we like it? Well, if the experience is positive and can be described as, say, excellent value for money we like to say so. In a way it’s a reward for the quality of the hotel’s service and systems. We’re saying that having handed over a load of cash we’re very pleased with the experience. We might equally be moved to comment on a so-so experience: I don’t have any complaints but given what I paid, I’ve had better, so maybe you should shop around.
Then there’s the situation which really motivates us: I paid a load of money and the experience was poor in so many ways I really think you should think twice before booking into this place.
And, of course, Trip Advisor is good for restaurants as well as hotels. And I doubt that there is a person in the world who doesn’t think that Trip Advisor is a good thing. If there is a complaint it’s that the system can be manipulated by unscrupulous hotels and restaurants. That aside, feeding back on service is universally considered to be a good thing.
Which brings me to the websites that are so detested by feminists. How dare men grade women? (Feminists actually talk of degrading the women, seemingly oblivious to their own culpability.) How dare they set up the equivalent of a hotel Facebook account where employees rate the guests on their fuckability? Except, that’s not what’s happening. This is entirely different. Here we have women who are selling a service; it’s their job. They go to work in the morning and turn up at their place of work and then they sell sex, which is their work, and at the end of the day they leave work and go home, maybe stopping off at the supermarket to pick up some groceries which they pay for using money that they have earned at work …. and so on and so on. So why the client websites? Well, just like workers in hotels and restaurants, prostitutes vary in the service that they provide. Some are excellent, many are good, most are OK and some are less than adequate. And some (a minority, it has to be said) are crooks. Why would you not want to be an advisor after a trip to a prostitute?