Wednesday, 25 July 2007

I Am a Sex Addict

Down at the dvd store, the Sydney Morning Herald, and elsewhere, I've recently encountered more public representation of this taboo topic. With regard to De Brito's article, I would comment that it is interesting how closely he sticks to the conventions Randall Collins identifies in his "Interaction Ritual Chains". Using the microsociological theoretical tradition, which he applies to the case material on the World Sex Guide website, he demonstrates how even the seemingly most selfish, utilitarian sex acts, i.e. prostitution, can still be construed as an interaction ritual. It is thought to work best, from the client's point of view, when it is least like prostitution i.e. there is some experience of mutuality, without too obvious simulation by the sex worker. Given the difficulty of quantifying sexual pleasure, discrepancy between expectation and experience can help generate perceptions of the client being cheated by the sex worker, which leads to the accusation that the sex worker is "a whore" (i.e. this term is used in a very specific sense). Although De Brito stops short of deploying it in his account, his experience of a lack of mutuality is obviously very disappointing to him, but one suspects it may not deter him for too long from attempting to repeat it someplace else.

More importantly though, De Brito is interesting from a symptomatic viewpoint of juxtaposing his "natural" need for sexual activity, a temporal biological imperative, i.e. while he still has his hair and abdominal muscles [sic], with what he views as the conservative "wowser" view of prostitution, which denigrates it on the basis that it is "artificial", akin to a mechanical process. What goes unremarked in both instances, of course, is any of the possible feminist engagements with this topic, which cannot be neatly dropped into either of these categories. Therefore there is a link at the end of this post to an important piece by Barbara Sullivan, that has the additional benefit of retaining a strong, critical, conceptual edge, i.e. it is more theoretical than the polemical tone adopted by activists such as Andrea Dworkin, for example.

Let's get a full head around paying for it
Sam De Brito

July 23, 2007
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All Men Are Liars

Earlier this year I visited a prostitute for one obvious, practical reason and another less so: I'm sick of lying to women. Being single and in my 30s, I find it increasingly difficult to justify the lies and manipulation involved in having a sexual relationship with women who I'm not in love with.
Call it a gift, but I can tell within about two hours whether I could fall for a girl. Through weary experience, I estimate she comes along about every two years - and wears cool shoes.
That leaves a lot time between drinks and 24-month bouts of celibacy don't really appeal to me while I have a full head of hair and abdominals.
The problem I, and I wager many other single men, face nowadays is if you go on more than a couple of dates with a woman, the majority want to know where the relationship is going. If you're blunt enough to say nowhere except the bedroom, feelings get hurt.
If you've had sex before that conversation, it's often like you've reneged on an unspoken emotional IOU guaranteeing continued involvement in the partnership. You're a user. A player. A dog. I can show you the text messages if you don't believe me.
Having used prostitutes in my 20s, it occurred to me recently that the simplicity of a cash exchange would be a more honest, and I dare say, moral alternative to bullshitting women into bed.
Political correctness tells me I should be ashamed of visiting a sex-worker but I'm not.
Despite what some people would have you believe, men do not control the sexual spigot at my local pub.
Women are the guardians of that flow and while they may torture and bankrupt themselves with dieting, beauty regimes and cosmetic surgery to maintain that influence, men exhaust themselves accruing wealth and power with which to purchase their attraction in the marketplace known as matrimony.
Prostitution pares this transaction back to its base elements. An estimated one in six Australian men have at some point in their life visited a sex worker, according to the Australian Study of Health and Relationships conducted by La Trobe University.
But it is something blokes will rarely admit to and this stigma radiates directly from the prostitute, a woman whose career choice is sneered at by most and condescended to by the rest.
Critics of the sex industry, such as the US conservative Hadley Arkes, say that prostitution "inescapably implies that the intimacy of sexual intercourse need not be connected to any authentic sentiment of love and that it need not take place in a setting marked by the presence of commitment.

"In that sense it might be said that prostitution patronises the corruption of physical love: it reduces physical love to the kind of hydraulic action that animals may share, and as it does that it detaches the act of intercourse from the kind of love that is distinctly human."
The obvious reply to this is why does sex have to be so damn serious and why do I have to be in love to indulge in it? That's the rub, I guess, because though meaningless sex can be good fun, it's transcendent when you're in love.
The prostitute whom I visited most recently told me her name was Shannon and as she took her clothes off and I observed her body language, we fell into dismal syncopation; when I saw she didn't want to be there, neither did I.
Being wanted is perhaps the greatest turn-on in the bedroom, and though you can buy a prostitute's body, you cannot purchase her desire.
I'd speculate this is part of the attraction for many men who use sex workers; the knowledge the woman is more than likely doing something she'd prefer not to, and an entire soundtrack of mumbled bedroom cliches couldn't convince me Shannon was excited about our coupling.
It was, in short, the unsexiest experience I've had in about 10 years. But when I woke alone the next day, my conscience was clear.
I knew there'd be no midweek recriminations because I didn't want to see Shannon again.
Shannon didn't want to see me again either; in fact she'd probably forgotten me before I'd even reached the staircase of her Darlinghurst terrace.
In many ways she was the female mirror of a man who tells beautiful lies to bed a woman, then disappears before dawn. At least with Shannon, we both understood the deception.

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by Barbara Sullivan in "Transitions: New Australian Feminisms"
Men create and. maintain their sense of themselves - both as men and as women's civil masters - in heterosexual. intercourse. - Similar pages

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