It is time for a grown-up debate about sexuality, says Howard Jacobson, winner of the 2010 Man Booker Prize. Memoirs by high-class hookers may be cartoonish, but no less so than accounts that cast prostitutes as victims of rapacious male sexualityby Howard Jacobson / April 27, 2008 / Leave a comment
“The first thing you should know is that I’m a whore.”
Belle de Jour: The Intimate Adventures of a London Call Girl (Phoenix)
“A field study in nine countries showed that between 60 and 75 per cent of women in prostitution had been raped, between 70 and 95 per cent had been physically assaulted, and 68 per cent displayed symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder in the same range as combat veterans and victims of torture.”
Joan Smith, The Independent, 27th December 2007
“Another thing that distinguishes a ladylike working girl is her groomed and tidy muff. Clients know you make your money with your pussy, but a freshly waxed, beautifully maintained pussy sends a message: You spend money on your pussy.”
Tracy Quan, Diary of a Manhattan Call Girl (HarperPerennial)
Georges Bataille’s outlined sequel to his erotic novel Story of the Eye is pitilessly direct: “After fifteen years of more and more serious debauchery, Simone ends up in a torture camp… She dies as though making love… fever and agony transfigure her.” Pauline Réage, author of Story of O, likewise envisaged death as an alternative ending to O’s exalted degradation. But it isn’t really an alternative ending. It is the only ending. There is nowhere else for O’s eroticism to go.
You can’t mess around with sex, in life or in literature. It is never not serious. When a man denies the significance of an adultery with the line, “It didn’t matter to me,” and the wronged woman replies, “Then why did you do it?”, they both miss the point. Everything in sex matters, including the experience of its not mattering. Isn’t that what O pursues, the sensation of nothing mattering, least of all herself? And isn’t that why some men visit prostitutes, for the intense experience of abnegation associated with payment, for which next to nothing is given and next to nothing is felt?
So I attend to people like Joan Smith, as well as Fiona Mactaggart (see her debate on prostitution with Julia O’Connell Davidson) when they insist we treat prostitution as a life and death matter. Where I part company from them is in their smuggled assumption that what makes it so is the single-minded murderousness of men. It isn’t only to satisfy male sadism that Simone and O go where they go. Nor are the men who get to taste death from their bodies the only…