Thursday, March 20, 2008

Buyer beware

Feministe blogger Jill Filipovic, a law student at New York University, disagrees with those of her liberal compatriots who argue that Eliot Spitzer did nothing wrong:

While I have no problem with women who choose to go into sex work, I have to admit that I do have a problem with men who purchase sex. Perhaps that comment is going to get me attacked, but I’ll stick to it: I don’t think that it’s immoral or wrong to sell sex or to work in the sex industry. I do think that men who buy sex are committing a moral wrong. Sex work is not a morally clear issue, and no, we most certainly do not all agree that buying sex is nothing more than a fun roll in the sheets without any ethical or moral strings attached.
She also writes in the same post:
Now, if Spitz and his wife had a deal where he could sleep with as many other people as he wanted, fine.
Since Jill has been known to read this blog, I would like to invite her to comment below to explain why she believes it is not morally wrong to sell sex, but it is morally wrong for a man to buy sex. (I ask this question using her own terms. She is speaking of morality, not what should or should not be legal, and she specifies it is wrong for a man to buy sex, leaving the question open with regard to a woman.)

I am particularly interested to know from her why, if a married man who has "a deal" with his wife may legitimately have sex with as many other people as he likes, it is wrong for him to pay money for his adulteries. What intrinsic value does the sex act contain that differentiates it from any other activity for which a man might hire a woman? Why is it any different from, to paraphrase Benjamin Braddock in "The Graduate," "shaking hands"?

All are invited to comment. Normal rules of civility apply—no ad hominems toward Jill, me, or any other commenter, please, on penalty of banning. With that in mind, commenters from Feministe and other blogs are welcome.