If It’s My Body, Then Why Can’t I Sell It? ~ Mel Johnson

Via elephant journal
on Feb 22, 2013
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Source: saviirose.tumblr.com via Michael on Pinterest

“Pro-Choice” as “Pro-Prostitution”

Years ago I was thinking about “pro-choice” and what it means for a woman to “own” her body and not let the government tell her what she can and can’t do with it.

I then thought of how liberating it’s been for women—the ones who are burdened with pregnancy when it’s an accident—to no longer be ostracized by our culture, to have the law on their side. Just because some people think abortion is immoral doesn’t mean it is. I’ve also lamented about women being victims of men who take sex from them without their permission. Sex—something that’s very enjoyable. And then I thought about the oldest profession. Do these career girls have any friends? They’re criminals for using their bodies to make money.

Why is the government involved? It’s a business transaction.

I just got back from the Dominican Republic where I saw the most beautiful women for sale. They were sexy, confident and had huge bodyguards. They were also in plain sight and the resort obviously knew about them. All I could think of was “You go girls. Good thing you’re here because you’d be criminals in The States.” Sometimes our country’s uptight morality causes more damage than good.

If it’s my body, then why can’t I sell it?

A few semesters ago I asked that very question to a room full of feminists in a feminist theory class. Most of them looked at me like I was crazy. I expected this response, but I was prepared. I knew that a room full of women who fight for the “right to choose” would take issue with what I was proposing, but I’ve got a background in philosophy, not sociology.

“No, really. Let’s take morality out of it,” —something I fully believe is relative as hell—”and look at prostitution purely as a business transaction. These girls are criminalized for doing something that, let’s be honest, is quite enjoyable. I’m not talking about sex slaves who are obvious victims. I’m talking about women who love sex and want to make money having it. Prostitutes, as it stands in the United States, have enemies everywhere they turn: the cops, the johns, the wives and even their bosses are often horrible to them. If we were to legalize prostitution and get these girls 401K’s and some health care it would protect them and their clients. If we decriminalize “sex for money” then it won’t only be the white, upper class girls who have protection. It’ll be the ones who really need the money—sometimes maybe for college—and can use it as a stepping stone for a different life.”

One girl in class nodded her head in agreement. She mentioned that it would be a good way to “reclaim the body,” which happened to be the topic of discussion. This girl is a liberal Muslim. I was stoked to have her approval.

I know my view isn’t the popular view and I also understand that saying prostitution is okay seems especially shocking coming from a woman, but logically, it makes sense for prostitution to be legal.

What is so wrong with f*cking for money? What is so wrong with taking advantage of your looks or of your zest for fellatio? Why not protect these women who enjoy sex and be honest about how awesome sex is? Stop pretending that all prostitutes are insecure victims of objectification and admit that some of them might be having a ball.

Give these girls police protection, retirement benefits and health care. Make prostitution a taxable income—solutions all around.

mel johnsonMel Johnson: As a student of some fabulously—and sometimes brutally—honest girlfriends, world travel, my awesome adviser, various yogis and yoginis, yogic philosophy runs through my veins and lungs. I am a graduate teaching assistant at George Mason University, teacher of critical thinking and writing, yoga entrepreneur, paddleboarder, hiker, Buddhaphile, oenophile and smartass.


Editor: Maja Despot/ Ed: Lynn Hasselberger

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12 Responses to “If It’s My Body, Then Why Can’t I Sell It? ~ Mel Johnson”

  1. Jamie Kelly says:

    I share your opinion, and when I wrote about it for my women’s studies class, the sparks flew! I argued in favor of pornography as well, and it went over about as well. Weirdly, I was one of the few to identify myself as a feminist.

  2. Lisa Flower says:

    I'm all for the female power as well, but the sad truth is that the overwhelming majority of prostitutes aren't doing it by choice. The number and women in the sex trafficking industry that are forced into prostitution, forced by a pimp, hooked on drugs, etc etc, surely overwhelm the number that do it because they love their body and truly want to do it. Also it's very rare that a woman does it on her own, she usually belongs to a brothel or pimp who is taking a huge part of her wages. I think this article oversimplifies a complex issue

  3. sara says:

    Great post and about time. The final frontier: empowering women to break out of the horrible sex-as-criminal-act mind set.

  4. thatmelchick says:

    Hey Lisa,

    I'm sorry if my distinguishing between trafficking and prostitution wasn't clearer for you, but my intent was absolutely to make that distinction. I don't believe I oversimplified prostitution at all, but I did simply say that women who make the choice for people to pay them for sex should not be criminalized. Victims are victims, and frankly, even the ones who are not prostituting themselves by choice are victims of a system that criminalizes them. Not fair and not okay.


  5. Nate Lee says:

    I think, from a standpoint of personal liberty, the logic of your argument is unassailable. Prostitution should be legalized because it's a voluntary, mutually beneficial transaction between two parties. The practical outcome of such a policy would probably be mixed. On the bright side, with legalized prostitution, a much higher percentage of the revenue would go directly to the prostitutes, rather than to the pimps and criminal organizations that control them. On the downside, prostitution would probably become a much more of a commoditized industry… with greater supply and lower profitability. Prostitution would probably still end up being a profession for the poor and desperate, though hopefully it would at least be cleaner and less dangerous.

  6. thatmelchick says:

    Hey Jamie,

    I totally agree with you that you're a feminist and a true feminist at that. So happy to read there are others in my corner fighting the lost feminists. 😉


  7. thatmelchick says:

    Hey Sara,

    And thanks for that. I kinda feel that way, too… like it's the final frontier of compassion. 🙂


  8. thatmelchick says:

    Hey Nate,

    I guess what I'm looking for is better than what we have. I definitely like the idea of "cleaner and less dangerous", but you're probably right that the outcome will be mixed. Prostitutes still have to overcome social stigmas. I do believe that legalization could only be beneficial.


  9. kmacku says:

    It's a very fascinating point you raise that challenges my previous view on the world (and I considered myself a feminist; still do, really). I'd like to counter with the idea (and maybe I'm just playing Devil's Advocate—I tend to do that with good ideas as a way of hoping to make them better) that not everyone loves their jobs. Not all waiters love waiting tables, but if they're good at it (or…not, even) and that's how they have to make money, we don't have a stigma against it. The point is that I wouldn't wish it on anyone to have sexual relations with another human being, even as a business transaction. To be fair, I wouldn't wish holiday retail work on anyone for anything but extra cash, either…

    Okay, I jest a little. More seriously, that's the distinction that I think many are making. Some of us can empathize—in this down economy, tips are getting worse for good service in the service industry, what were once "extra money" jobs are now becoming "pay the bills" jobs, and people are turning to getting a third, a fourth, a fifth job to make ends meet; while culturally we are okay saying it's okay if people hate their jobs when it's serving as a waiter, a flight attendant, a teacher, or any other number of professions…but to look at someone who has to/wants to sell their body because that's the only option they see; I don't know if I'm morally okay with that.

    To clarify, I agree with the main point you raised in this article: if a woman (or a man, for that matter) feels great having sex and wants to put themselves out there for money, who am I to stop them? Morally, I'm perfectly fine with that. But the legalization of that industry will come with possibly unintended, unpleasant and morally grey baggage as well, and I suspect that is where most so-called feminists like myself may raise an argument.

    Thank you for this article. It's good to see someone challenging popular beliefs with strong, supported arguments.

    P.S. I'm sure you've already heard of the movie "The Sessions." It's a semi-fictional take on a profession that offers an alternative to men/women who have sexual services to offer without it being prostitution. Sexual surrogates. I haven't seen it myself, but I remember them interviewing the woman it was based on on NPR.

  10. thatmelchick says:

    Thanks for the comment. I actually agree with your refinements to my argument in principle. I like that you replaced "prostitution" with "waiting tables" because that mentality is one of the ways I came to my "take the morality out of it" idea. Often people have to do work they don't always like, but my point in challenging the legality of prostitution has more to do with protecting women than anything else, and that includes protecting the ones who don't really like it. I entertain and ask people to entertain the idea of being realistic about prostitution. It isn't going away. Not ever. So, let's protect those girls who are out there whether they like being out there or not.

    I hadn't heard of "The Sessions", but I will definitely check it out. Thanks for the suggestion. 🙂


  11. […] I struggle to remember the exact moment I decided to hate my body, I suspect it paralleled my belief I was flawed—an outcast like Dylan—and far too sensitive for […]

  12. Sophie says:

    Here I was, thinking I was the only woman who asked myself "why not?" about this?
    Would I do it personally? No.
    Should that stop others? No way!
    Great article!