Recipe: Men Exploit Fems

There are many movies and documentaries about female prostitutes. While some focus on women forced into prostitution against their will, most of the rest vaguely imply that the female prostitutes are exploited by their male customers. The message seems to be “Don’t they see that the money they gain is just not worth their loss of intimacy, self-respect, etc.?”

The ’06 documentary The Great Happiness Space (reviewed here) offers an interesting contrast. It shows the world of a certain kind of male prostitute in Japan. And it vaguely implies that male prostitutes exploit their female customers. The message seems to be “Don’t they see how much money they lose for just an illusion of intimacy, respect, etc.?” Even though many of the female customers shown are themselves prostitutes, we are expected to see them as victims.

Of course the two prostitution practices differ somewhat, according to male vs. female fantasies. Men tend more to seek simple no-strings sex and polygamy, while women more seek emotional stroking and hypergamy. But it is striking that any for-pay male-female relation portrays men as exploiters and women as victims, no matter who pays whom.

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  • Buck Farmer

    This may be culture / time specific.

    I’m thinking of the many historical and modern cultures that punished female prostitutes much more harshly than her clients.

    In the Bible there’s the story of Jezebel as the prototypical woman who uses her wiles to turn her husband from virtue. Famously she is associated with prostitution via make-up i.e. “painted jezebels.”

    In contrast, the Venetian Republic boasted cortigiana onest who were famous not only as lovers, but as poets, political pundits, and cultural critics.

    In between we see the official Mistresses of various French Kings like Madame de Pompadour and Madame du Berry who were both admired and hated, but neither seen as exploited.

  • Sandeep

    Do you think the following could explain this kind of asymmetry and gynocentrism in discourse :

    1. Due to evolutionary-psychological programming many women have a fear of men – for in primitive society it was probably relatively easy for men to rape women. In contrast, men might fear other men killing them so as to usurp their mates. So the “generic man” is considered a threat, while the “generic woman” is considered victim, by members of both genders.

    2. As you said, men have “simple” wants, while women think more about relationship and emotional issue. As a result, the net amount of thought that goes in, on gender issues, from the side of the woman, is much higher than the net amount of thought that goes in from the side of the man. Thus, the discourse naturally becomes gynocentric. Given that there exists a gender based privilege structure that affects people of both sexes in different ways, and given the gynocentrism, it then follows that more thought would go into issues that affect women.

    3. “Apex fallacy”. This is best illustrated with an example. Consider patriarchy demanding that men find a career, while women stay at home. For most people, career is some uncertain, humiliating thing they have to pass through to somehow be able to eat. This aspect of patriarchy is thus unfair to males, and housework is relatively routine, and even pleasant. However, the role models people look forward to are those who enjoy their career, and this gives a false impression that men have it better.

    • Mercy

      The third point is an important issue but your first two are pretty silly, the image of the seductive, predatory wanton is more common historically than the exploited prostitute, indeed the notion of a prostitute being raped would be a contradiction in terms under many pre-modern moral systems. Likewise the idea that women spend more time thinking about relationships is entirely modern.

      In general seeking evolutionary explanations for parochial phenomenon is a sure path to confirmation bias.

      • Sandeep

        Look at literature and history – women are treated with way more tenderness than men are, especially in the victorian era literature. When Titanic sank they let the men die and the women escape. They may not have looked at prostitutes with compatible kindness, but that is no contradiction, since family was given considerable importance during those times, and naturally prostitutes were seen as those who threatened such a system. And even that is for (pockets in?) the west : here is an Indian law-and-politics book from around third century BC that formally recognizes prostitution and doesn’t condemn it at all.

        Likewise the idea that women spend more time thinking about relationships is entirely modern.

        Wrong again – there are any number of examples from old literature, including Sanskrit literature.

        Also, your comment further below that “so many posters have seized on this as yet more evidence of the inherently malicious character of women” is complete strawman. There is exactly one commenter as of now who has made a statement blaming women as such.

      • conchis

        To the extent that the third point hinges crucially on the claim that “housework is relatively routine, and even pleasant”, it it seems about as silly as the first two, if not more so. At best, the comparison with the sort of ‘real work’ that gets done by menfolk is massively overgeneralised, at worst it’s plain bullshit.

      • Sandeep

        Conchis : at home there is no supervisor to drag you to do more and more housework everyday. It is not humiliating. If you say otherwise that means you are too insanely successful and you don’t understand the travails and sweat of those who go through career. Get used to the fact – work at corporates sucks! On the other hand I haven’t come across *any* home maker who feels stressed out by the work – and I know many home makers very well.

        And, even if you don’t agree with that consider this : I do my house-chores myself, being single, cook a lot, clean the house etc. – I find it a huge relaxation compared to the pressures at my university. Why should I be denied the “home maker” option just because I am a male? Why does no feminist **ever** bother about that? Because all you folks are gynocentric, period.

    • Lemmy Caution

      “Apex fallacy” can work both ways. Men think of relatively attractive women when they think of “women” and women think of relatively desirable men when they think of “men”. This leads to statements like “Women have no trouble finding sex partners” and “Men are dogs”.

    • kirk

      I think that the best explanation for the length of you comment is that you haven’t had a long term relationship with a prostitute. I did. It was fun for both of us. Lots of fun. It made us both happy. Happiness is a great destination. On the other hand, that could just be my cognitive bias.

  • JS Allen

    Most movies are written by men, and exploit women by presenting unrealistic plots where the women are eager and willing to play part to the man’s fantasies. The recipe of “they don’t see that the money they gain is just not worth their loss of intimacy, self-respect” plays into the theme of the men being the ones who get to define the interactions. Even when they’re exploiting the women, the men in the movies get to be white knights.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/1054626558129691997 Rob

    A recent interview with Catharine MacKinnon.

    • Anonymous

      I stopped listening when she used psychobabble to deny the existence of any voluntary prostitution whatsoever. Feminists sometimes have this tendency to over-generalize so wildly that they base their moral positions on easily falsifiable claims. A rather foolish mistake, considering they could just as well try to argue from statistical assessements of harm.

      • http://www.blogger.com/profile/1054626558129691997 Rob

        Yes, and despite her insisting I do reality.

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/1054626558129691997 Rob
  • Cyan

    But it is striking that any for-pay male-female relation portrays men as exploiters and women as victims, no matter who pays whom.

    Did you really mean to say “any”? I can think of a few examples of the opposite.

    To me this post seems to stop when it’s only halfway done. It’s “striking” — so what? More interesting questions are things like “to what extent are these portrayals reasonable/true to like” and “why does this asymmetry exist in pop culture”?

  • P

    Women are experts at shifting blame and squirming away from responsibility of all kinds, and many men are often too slow and weak-brained to put those attempts down with the ruthlessness required. Thus, the common narrative of women as victims doesn’t exist because people see it as morally right – it’s because most people don’t have a defense to that mode of warfare, and are simply overwhelmed by the force of the onslaught. Might makes right, as always.

    If anyone is curious, the correct response is *laugh in face*

    • Buck Farmer

      This blog is littered with examples of defenses and counter-attacks in social warfare used by both men and women. I’d hardly say men are too slow-witted to survive in the social arena.

      Moreover, there is I would argue sufficient coordination failure among women to prevent any sort of systematic matriarchal conspiracy (same goes for patriarchal conspiracies to put down women).

      • P

        I’d hardly say men are too slow-witted to survive in the social arena.

        Stick to arguing against something I argued for, so that I might respond helpfully.

        Moreover, there is I would argue sufficient coordination failure among women to prevent any sort of systematic matriarchal conspiracy (same goes for patriarchal conspiracies to put down women).

        No conspiracy necessary. Person A observes Person B working a nice offensive social maneuver without encountering any meaningful pushback. Person A tries it and rolls over the dimwit opposition. The offensive social maneuver grows in popularity as long as there is no effective defense.

        More generally, no coordination is necessary in using any type of tool when there is no incentive to “defect” to another tool.

      • Buck Farmer

        Your example of a propagating successful strategy appears to require a sufficiently large population of individuals unable or unwilling to offer meaningful push-back.

        But you may not be arguing that this is necessary despite:

        nice offensive social maneuver without encountering any meaningful pushback.

        And earlier:

        many men are often too slow and weak-brained to put those attempts down

        I might refer to Lewis Carrol to better understand your nuanced arguments:

        ‘I don’t know what you mean by “glory”,’ Alice said.
        Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. ‘Of course you don’t — till I tell you. I meant “there’s a nice knock-down argument for you!”‘
        ‘But “glory” doesn’t mean “a nice knock-down argument”,’ Alice objected.
        ‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.’
        ‘The question is,’ said Alice, ‘whether you can make words mean so many different things.’
        ‘The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, ‘which is to be master — that’s all.’
        Alice was too much puzzled to say anything; so after a minute Humpty Dumpty began again. ‘They’ve a temper, some of them — particularly verbs: they’re the proudest — adjectives you can do anything with, but not verbs — however, I can manage the whole lot of them! Impenetrability! That’s what I say!’

      • P

        I noted one particular area where men are pushovers. You reinterpreted my comment as a claim that men are incapable of competing in the entire social arena.

      • Buck Farmer

        Ah, thank you for the clarification, P.

        So my understanding of pushover as used here is imperfect.

        Women are experts at shifting blame and squirming away from responsibility of all kinds, and many men are often too slow and weak-brained to put those attempts down with the ruthlessness required.

        So you’re position is that a sufficient large quantity of men are defenseless in the face of women’s ability to avoid both blame and responsibility?

        If this is so, is it only fear of other women that keeps women from completely ignoring law, social norms, etc. like Glaucon’s ring?

      • P

        So you’re [sic] position is that a sufficient large quantity of men are defenseless in the face of women’s ability to avoid both blame and responsibility?

        Yes. Worse, some men enable it in a misguided attempt to curry favour with the egg-bearing sex (I include these men in the “slow and dimwitted” category).

        If this is so, is it only fear of other women that keeps women from completely ignoring law, social norms, etc. like Glaucon’s ring?

        Who says women don’t ignore laws with relative impunity? You appear unaware of the kid-glove treatment women get in courts.

        Women habitually break my standards of social etiquette, but I’m afraid I can’t say they break the social norms of the slow and dimwitted majority, because the norm is to allow bad behaviour. Although, as the link above suggests, women are probably less likely to grant pussy passes than men.

  • rapscallion

    “any for-pay male-female relation portrays men as exploiters and women as victims, no matter who pays whom.”

    Feminists generally agree with this portrayal and have developed critiques of modern culture to justify and explain it. They basically see society as a big conspiracy of men against women and as such don’t agree that women’s observed behaviors are really evidence of rational choices, as classical liberals or libertarians would. They see culture as so deeply distorted toward a pro-male, anti-female point of view that many choices that women commonly make are effectively coerced. There are a number of empirical claims that are often used to buttress the legitimacy of framing prostitution as akin to sexual slavery: most of the time women begin prostituting as children; most prostitutes are in abusive relationships with pimps, who keep most of their profits; most prostitutes are desperately unhappy, etc. The basic claim is that prostitution is so horrible that no one would rationally choose to do it.

  • Douglas Knight

    It is possible is that the male prostitutes are condemned because their clients are prostitutes. By making the life of prostitutes better, they are encouraging more prostitution. “Exploit” is an odd choice of a word for such a complaint, though, but most words don’t denote anything. It would be interesting to see if there is a different reaction if the clients were not prostitutes.

    Probably double standards come from differential reproductive capacities of men and women. Men are disposable, while women are a limited reproductive resource. Also, a male prostitute can go straight with little cost, but a female prostitute has consumed valuable fertile years.

  • Mercy

    It’s disappointing but predictable that so many posters have seized on this as yet more evidence of the inherently malicious character of women, when as the first post hints, Hanson has got his framing completely backwards.

    The standard historical narrative is that prostitutes are exploiting their customers by preying on their lusts and dragging them to sin, an attitude that is maintained today for male prostitutes both in Japan and in the West: rent-boys are rarely portrayed as victims.

    The double standard is a result of ceaseless campaigning to reverse this perception, which has focused solely on women. Insofar as this was done by victorian anti-poverty campaigners there might be some merit in the ev-psych navel gazing but most of it was done by feminists whose bias is a bit more explicit. This can be seen by looking at all the media that portray individual prostitutes as manipulative jezebels eg: Desperate Housewives, Eastenders, etc

    • P

      It’s disappointing but predictable that so many posters have seized on this as yet more evidence of the inherently malicious character of women

      *laugh in face*

      Case in point, fellas. I point out the common tactic of blame-shifting and this (presumably) female commenter claims that “no, it is not that women blame-shift, it’s just that you commenters (mostly men) are disappointing and predictable.” LOL.

      • Buck Farmer

        So if we ignore the ad hominem bandying around…do you have any particular objection to using empirical data as counter-evidence to refute an empirical claim?

        I mean there’s always abandoning any pretense of falsifiability and us all becoming metaphysicians.

      • P

        Your reading comprehension is poor and your understanding of ad hom is bad.

        I’m happy to discuss empirical evidence under many circumstances. However, if a woman tries to blame you for one of her failings, you prove yourself slow and dimwitted if you analyze the evidence she presents. Her “argument” was faulty from the get-go, and no evidence could prove it either way.

        Let me use an actual example of ad hominem to illustrate an instance where evidence is not needed to dismiss an argument. If I were to say to you, “you are a scoundrel and an asshole and therefore you are wrong,” you needn’t consider whether it is actually true that you are a scoundrel and an asshole. My attempt at argument fails even before we get to the evidentiary stage.

      • Buck Farmer

        Fair point. I misinterpretted your rhetorical flourishes as implying that because the commenter was a woman that male readers should assume her argument is not worth examining.

        Regarding empirical evidence, I fail to see how the second paragraph of commenter Mercy’s above comment is blame shifting. It seems rather close to asserting that the empirical evidence Robin is citing presents an incomplete picture of the situation.

        Perhaps it is just because I ignored Mercy’s expression of disappointment.

        Do I understand your proposition correctly?:

        If a women uses a rhetorical flourish that may shift blame for a misdeed real or imagined onto a man, it follows that any argument she presents whether related to said rhetorical flourish or not fails?

        As you mentioned my reading comprehension is poor, so I am relying on your continuing patience to help better my understanding of your writing. Hopefully in time my understanding will rise to the level that we can engage in substantive and not merely semantic discussion.

      • P

        Regarding empirical evidence, I fail to see how the second paragraph of commenter Mercy’s above comment is blame shifting.

        We’re on the same page here. But I would never proceed to engage an offending woman in logical debate until I’ve rubbed her nose in her misdeed and she has apologized. I love to chat with polite people, but I ruthlessly protect my time from being taken up by the poorly-mannered. I encourage other men to uphold similar standards.

        If a women uses a rhetorical flourish that may shift blame for a misdeed real or imagined onto a man, it follows that any argument she presents whether related to said rhetorical flourish or not fails?

        No. The blame-shifting argument itself fails no matter the evidence or what follows.

        As you mentioned my reading comprehension is poor, so I am relying on your continuing patience to help better my understanding of your writing. Hopefully in time my understanding will rise to the level that we can engage in substantive and not merely semantic discussion.

        Huzzah!

  • MattW

    I think the part of the reason for the view that men exploit women regardless of which way the money flows is that at the most basic level, species survival, an individual woman is more important than an individual man. In any given situation I think most people’s sense of fair would give more leeway, more resources, more protection, more choice to a woman than a man.

    • P

      <most people's sense of fair would give more leeway, more resources, more protection… to a woman than a man

      True, the feeling is “fairness,” but it’s tough to see it that way once you’ve pointed out the evolutionary underpinnings. The male sense of “fair” in this context clearly stems from the male sense of “I might sexually profit from helping women” and the female sense of “fair” clearly stems from “I’m happy to be helped (but don’t ask me to do much of the helping).”

      When applied at the individual level, the logic works even if the “fairness” of it is deeply uncertain (one man’s gain is typically another’s loss). At the societal level, the logic of personal gain completely disappears because the men doing the providing and protecting are too far removed to be identified as the providers and protectors and therefore don’t get any benefits. For women, that’s great. No strings attached support! For men, it’s idiocy.

    • Anonymous

      …at the most basic level, species survival…

      I wish I had a dime for every time I’ve read this particular misrepresentation of evolutionary theory. Species survival is not the most basic level of consideration, selection operates on individual organisms and their alleles, resulting in allele frequency shifts. This can even lead to extinction:

      http://lesswrong.com/lw/l5/evolving_to_extinction/

  • http://thecandidefund.wordpress.com/ dirk

    I don’t claim to know all the ins and outs of the hooker trade, but there are many cases in America where the money flows from hooker to pimp and “the ho gets nothing”. Or rather, what the ho gets is the hope her pimp loves her, which is similar to what that Japanese doc shows: the women pay the men and hope the men love them. So in both cases the money flows from females to males and the males get what they want (money and sex) whereas the females fail to get what they want (love).

    However, the female prostitutes in the HBO doc Cathouse aren’t portrayed as victims, as far as I can tell, so there seems to be significant variance in prostitute-pimp relationships — or in their portrayal. I’m not seeing the one-way street Hanson does. It seems to be the cheaper prostitutes who are portrayed as victims but not the expensive ones.

    And in the movie Intolerable Cruelty, Catherine Zeta-Jones plays a gold-digger exploiting men’s emotions for monetary gain, however it should be noted than one is much more likely to see this narrative in a comedy. We see men portrayed as victims more often when they are laughable victims. Perhaps male victims are more palatable to an audience when they are laughable.

    • http://thecandidefund.wordpress.com/ dirk

      In fact, the male hosts in the Japanese documentary are in much the same role as pimps. Many of the girls turn to prostitution in order to afford the host’s services, which consists mainly of showering them with attention, not sex. The prostitutes give most of their money to their host/pimp. The difference is mainly the business model. The legality of the service is probably part of the reason for the different business models, but I wonder what the other reasons are. Do (also legal) Brazilian hookers frequent male hosts? I doubt it. Perhaps it is because Brazilian hookers don’t make enough money to make the male host business worthwhile. Perhaps there are other cultural factors peculiar to Japan which creates the male host clubs.

    • http://entitledtoanopinion.wordpress.com TGGP

      Street hookers need protection, since it’s a risky business.

      The person theorizing about the positive effects of prostitution on violence may be implicitly holding something like a “bare branches” theory, which is wrong.

      On the incentive of women to oppose prostitution (just as workers oppose scabs) see Baumeister et al’s Sexual Economics: Sex as Female Resource for Exchange in Heterosexual Interactions. I’m refraining from linking to avoid tripping any spam filter, but you can find it online.

  • Buck Farmer

    From the documentary review:

    Indeed, at least one appears downright self-delusional as she describes her game plan for winning Issei’s love: She’ll simply spend more and more money on him.

    This doesn’t bring to my mind the classical men exploiting women narrative. Instead, it reminds me strongly of Romantic Era stories of men frittering away their money for a female prostitute they’d fallen in love with, possibly she has a heart of gold, or possibly he is trying to buy her freedom.

    See “La Traviata” or more recently “Moulin Rouge”…the story also appears in the Imperial Chinese literary tradition as well…at least in the Ming dynasty of the young scholar going to Beijing to prepare for the Examinations only to lose himself in love with a prostitute. As I recall there was a mixture of disapproval for him abandoning the orthodox path and admiration of the depth of his love.

    To re-iterate, many recipes to describe male-female prostitution relationships have risen and fallen in popularity across history and culture.

    Arguably all of them can be well-supported with evolutionary psych and signalling stories…but to support this particular recipe, I think we need to look for something more specific to justify why one particular recipe should be more dominant now than the others.

  • Kayla

    Perhaps you’ve said this before, but why ‘fems’? Why not ‘women’?

  • conchis

    most of the rest vaguely imply that the female prostitutes are exploited by their male customers.

    I’m calling bullshit on this one. I think you’re just seeing what you want to see here. Lots of movies show prostitutes as exploited by pimps; but the customers are just as frequently portrayed as pathetic as exploitative.

  • http://theviewfromhell.blogspot.com Sister Y

    It is an accident of evolution that women have a hugely desirable resource intimately associated with our own bodies, a resource not greatly associated with productive effort. Men have no comparable resource. Male sexual services are oversupplied and have no value. It’s not fair, but there it is.

    Treating us as children in need of guidance allows both males and females to usurp and regulate the provision of this resource by individual females for the benefit of others besides the female whose body is being usurped/regulated.

    • dave

      If every guy could get regularly laid by a decent looking women without much trouble, women wouldn’t be able to get us to do all the shit we do. Hence, prostitution is illegal.

      I often wonder if we would see a dramatic decrease in violence and war fever if men could simply get laid instead of releases it out in those manners, but they woman wouldn’t get nice dinners on Valentines day and all that other crap in exchange for laying on their backs.

      • Buck Farmer

        Prostitution was legal or at least prohibitions against it legally and socially were poorly enforced throughout much of history. Violent death and war were also more common…more regular parts of people’s lives then.

        Arguably the correlation is positive then between prostitution and violent-death-per-thousand-people…

        …but like many correlations I suspect that any claims to causality are mostly spurious.

      • dave

        Violent war being common through history seems to be based on a lot of factors, chief among them resource competition in a scarce world.

        The current post WWII era of “peace” is mostly a function of rapid technological change.

  • Lemmy Caution

    Historically, men have systematically controlled women through cultural and legal means. Property restrictions, lack of voting rights, job and educational restrictions. It is reasonable to suspect that a certain amount of this is still going on.

  • Anonymous

    As a transhumanist, I firmly believe in technological solutions to social problems. We could use genetic engineering to alter the nature of women so that they experience pleasure, rather than distress, by being sexually penetrated by men.

    As a consequence, women would start consenting to sex with men for the sake of the sex itself, rather than out of coercion (rape) or socioeconomic dependency (prostitution, marriage).

    • GL

      Umm … women already are designed this way. Human females are unique in that they both desire and receive pleasure from procreative acts (including penetration) when they are not fertile. In fact nobody knows another use for the clitoris other than the fact that is it there to make a female feel good.

      So why is it that we don’t have women running around wanting to be pleasured all the time? Why do we get these kinds of comments from very intelligent and well respected men: “Men tend more to seek simple no-strings sex and polygamy, while women more seek emotional stroking and hypergamy. “?

      Cultural programming i would guess.

      • dave

        Men get off easier and have a higher sex drive. Everyone knows woman enjoy sex, but they don’t want it as often and aren’t as easily satisfied.

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