I've never slept with a prostitute and I've never paid for sex. I can't say this is entirely due to my moral principles, a good deal of my actions would have to be attributed to both a lack of opportunity and a fear of judicial repercussions.
One thing I will say is that if I was going to pay cash for a roll in the hay, I'd want it to be worth it. I work for my money and, what with the economic crisis and all, I'm certain I would feel upset if post-whoopie I hadn't been given my money's worth. However, while guys like me sit on the couch coming up with hypotheticals, governments like Brazil's take action. They have been running a website since 2002 giving tips and tricks to up the pay and lower the risk for the ladies who make up Brazil's legal prostitution industry.
The website has suggestions to help the girls negotiate condom use and encourages the denunciation of violence. Sex worker advocacy groups have claimed the site promotes the human rights of prostitutes, which isn't a bad thing to do. The site has even more to say though, like suggesting that the ladies-of-the-evening be willing to perform fantasies and other sexual specialties.
Something about this doesn't sit right, but don't get the wrong idea, we aren't talking about the private sexual experiences of grown women, we're talking business. This isn't the who-likes-who of high school halls or the I-love-yous of budding relationships. It has much less to do with happily-ever-afters and much more to do with a paycheque.
Of course, this isn't the way we think about sex. Up here in the north sex is a special thing that two people consent to. It happens in bedrooms, not boardrooms. Canadians don't want organizations like the government telling women how they ought to have their sex. Especially when it looks like a government is trying to use sex workers as hooks to lure foreign money into their state.
But at the same time Canadians seem to, with tongue in cheek, have no problem with women being paid to have sex while a director tells them to move their hair out of their face or look at the camera. The revenue of Canada's pornography industry was $1 billion in 2006, which is a lot of money being paid to watch people apply their carnal knowledge. There might be a few more intermediaries in our system, but Canadians are still paying for sex.
So what makes it okay for pornography companies to tell those in the sex business that they ought to perform specialties while hearing a government is doing it makes us cringe?
Prostitution's history doesn't help. For years women have been exploited and abused, both mentally and physically, and quite rightly no one wants to see it happen anymore. But at the same time, we want to allow women to do what they want with their bodies. If people want to make their money having sex on film, we've shown that we're willing (eager even) to let them.
This is a double standard that we apply to the pornography and prostitution industries, combined with a legitimate concern for the well being of women in a patriarchal, exceedingly commodified world. When it comes down to it, there are too many similarities in the two lines of work to denounce the actions of one while we ignore the other.
Reality is the government site is probably right, those girls likely would make more money if they did fantasies and specialties, but I'm sure the same goes for people making adult movies.