Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Chester Brown: I'm Not Martin Luther King Jr!


The Forms Of Things Unknown (2017)
art by Chester Brown

I'm Not Martin Luther King Jr!
by Chester Brown
(first posted on Patreon, 1 May 2017)

My April 15th post titled Sex-Worker Pride was reposted on A Moment Of Cerebus on April 17th.

Erick had argued that prostitution is morally wrong because it’s like slavery. I shot that idea down in my April 15th post. Erick didn’t bother to defend the prostitution-is-like-slavery analogy -- instead he came up with a new one: prostitution is morally wrong because it’s like smoking:
“[M]ost who [smoke cigarettes] find it enjoyable and addicting, but it is proven to be long term deadly or debilitating.”
Someone going by the name Culpa Direct similarly compared prostitution to bestiality.

Because Sean Michael Robinson had complained that I was a "self-interested" advocate for sex-worker rights, I had, in my April 15th post, pointed out that Martin Luther King Jr and Harvey Milk had also been self-interested advocates for their causes. Robinson stated that I was comparing myself to King:
"No one’s going to bring up a john advocating for prostitution, comparing himself to Martin Luther King?"
In pointing out that I'm like King in ONE small way (that he had a self-interested reason for being committed to his cause), I wasn't saying I'm like him in any other way. I'm certainly not one of the leaders of the sex-worker rights movement. Those would be actual sex-workers -- people like Savannah Sly and Maggie McNeill, who've given more and risked more for sex-worker rights than I ever have.

A Fake Name also had a problem with my reference to King:
"I can’t believe you’re using MLK in a discussion about prostitution. I’m actually flabbergasted. You’re talking about women who have sex with strangers for money. It’s a business transaction."
A Fake Name seems to think that it’s not possible to violate someone’s human rights if they’re making money. Let’s say that the government started to censor and burn books. Would the fact that writers and publishers make money from publishing books mean that their rights weren’t being violated by having their words censored and their property burned? The laws targeting sex-workers and their clients violate their human rights -- the fact that money is involved is irrelevant from a rights perspective.

Culpa Direct wrote:
"If there’s no moral argument against prostitution, then I guess there’s no moral argument against it becoming Big Business either. Store-front brothels, appointments and walk-ins. Lunch-time customers served in 15 minutes or less. Drive- throughs eventually. BJs could even be an option at drive-thru car washes. TV commercials, billboards, trade schools, recruitment programs for young women. 'But Mom, I wanna be a sex-worker like Granny!’"
No, I don’t have a problem with sex-work becoming a big business -- with storefront locations, television commercials, and billboards -- as long as we’re talking about a genuinely decriminalized system in which there are many options for doing sex-work and individual prostitutes would be able to choose the type of work-place that would suit them, which would include more discreet work-places in addition to flashy storefront brothels. In such a system, few if any workers would choose to work in the brothel equivalent of a fast-food place, with high volume at low prices. In a decriminalized system of genuine sex-worker choice, it would be highly unlikely that a minimum-wage brothel-equivalent of a McDonald’s would be successful. I can imagine a big brothel franchise chain developing under decriminalization, but ONLY if it pays well. The reason why the vast majority of sex-workers do the work is because it pays well (and usually better than well). Who’s going to do the work if it doesn’t pay well?

A Fake Name objected to a passage from ex-sex-worker Virginie Despentes’ book, King Kong Theory, that I had quoted. I’ll again reproduce that Virginie Despentes passage here:
"[W]hen you hear that prostitution is an 'act of violence against women,’ we are supposed to forget that it is marriage and other things we put up with that are ‘acts of violence against women.’ We cannot ignore the fact that far more women die from domestic violence than from engaging in sex work. Women who are fucked for free must continue to be told that they have made the only possible choice, otherwise how can they be kept under control? Masculine sexuality is not in itself an act of violence against women, as long as they are consenting and well paid. It is the control exercised upon us that is violent -- the power to decide on our behalf what is dignified and what is not."
A Fake Name’s responded:
"Marriage as an act of violence? What? She’s comparing marriage with domestic abuse. Two different things! Most men want a happy marriage, still want love, family and love doing things for their family. That’s beautiful. It’s not violence."
What A Fake Name is missing is that Despentes is turning the logic of anti-prostitutionists against them. The anti-prostitutionists who’ve been posting on A-M-O-C insist that sex-work is morally wrong even when it does not involve violence, even when individual sex-workers like their work and their clients, even when it pays really well and benefits both sides of the exchange. But to prove that sex-work is wrong, they continually retreat to talk about violence and disease. If it’s legitimate to condemn ALL sex-work because SOME sex-workers SOMETIMES encounter violence and disease, then it’s legitimate to condemn ALL marriage for exactly the same reason. Yes, some sex-workers experience violence as a consequence of their work, but some wives also experience violence as a consequence of getting married. If you think marriage as an institution should be judged by the best-case marriages that result in loving relationships, then you should be judging prostitution by ITS best-case situations.

If Tim does post this on A-M-O-C, then I would ask the anti-prostitutionists on A-M-O-C to explain why one particular sex-for-pay relationship is morally wrong: the one I have with Denise.

Denise is not a desperate, underage runaway; she was around thirty when she began doing sex-work, and is in her forties now. (I’ve been seeing her for fourteen years.) She’s intelligent, educated, and has a regular (non-sexual) day-job. She wasn’t forced into the work and doesn’t have a pimp. She wasn’t “trafficked” from the former U-S-S-R, or anywhere else in the world -- she’s a Canadian citizen. She’s not in “debt-bondage” to anyone. She wasn’t sexually assaulted as a child. She never experienced violence with any of her clients, and certainly never did and never will with me -- I’ve never even raised my voice in anger with her. She’s not drug-addicted, and never was. She’s not mentally ill. (She’s actually extremely rational.) She always used condoms with her clients and continues to use them with me; we even use them for oral sex. (She uses a variety of flavoured condoms.) I’ve been tested for S-T-Ds and am clean so, even if a condom did break, she still wouldn’t get a disease from me. (And I’m not having sex with anyone else, so I’m not about to catch something from someone else and pass it on to her.) The sex we have is completely vanilla, and I’ve never ejaculated on her (or even suggested the idea of doing so). (I don’t necessarily disapprove of all of the things that this paragraph implies disapproval of. For example, as I’ve made clear before, I have no problem with consenting adults ejaculating on each other or engaging in non-vanilla sex, and I don’t think it’s necessarily wrong to have consensual sex with someone who’s been diagnosed with a mental illness. I’m just trying to think of things that A-M-O-C commenters have disapproved of.)

Denise and I are two friends who genuinely like each other and often hang out for reasons that have nothing to do with sex or money. If some confirmation is needed that a sex-worker can feel positively about a client, I refer you to a blog entry by the sex-worker Brazen Lee:
"Amongst the many things I never expected [from escorting…] forming long-term connections would have been way at the bottom of that list. But it’s dawned on me recently that some of the best relationships I have with men outside of my social circle are with clients. […] I love the client-hooker relationship. It’s straightforward. For all of my hiding of parts of myself, clients are typically open with me in a way reminiscent of a therapist. […] I love feeling satisfied after an interaction, especially a sexual one. With clients, I am always satisfied, whether I got off or not. […] The few clients with whom I have had long-term relationships are the best."
In the above, Ms Lee compares her role to that of a therapist. I would agree that Denise plays a therapeutic role in my life in the sense that friendship is generally therapeutic. She’s willing to listen to me talk about things that are bothering me and sometimes has good advice for me. And there have been numerous times where that role has been reversed and I’ve listened while she’s told me about something that’s upset her. Of course, the therapeutic value of friendship isn’t just about listening to problems — it's just as much about enjoying the nature and presence of a particular person and of having people in your life who are excited and happy for you when things are going well for you. There is significance in having sex with someone you care about and who cares about you, and that can be achieved in a sex-for-pay relationship, as my relationship with Denise has shown me. A sex-for-pay relationship can be as bad as a relationship between any two people can be, and it can be as good as any relationship between two people can be. Each relationship should be assessed by what it gives (good or bad) to the two people in that relationship. In automatically judging all sex-for-pay relationships as morally wrong, one would be condemning many relationships that are beneficial to the parties involved in ways that go beyond sex and money.

So, A-M-O-C commenters, deal with my relationship with Denise. What is the morally bad thing thing that this beautiful, generous, thoughtful woman is doing in having sex with me and accepting my money? Or, what is the morally bad thing that I’m doing in having sex with her and giving her money? Don’t refer to the experiences of other people -- stick to my relationship with Denise. And don’t use analogies -- don’t say it’s wrong because it’s like slavery (it’s not), or like smoking cigarettes (what?) or like bestiality (we’re both human). When I wrote about why slavery is wrong (in my last post that was put up on A-M-O-C), I didn’t need to use an analogy to do so. If prostitution is ALWAYS wrong in ALL circumstances, then you should be able to articulate why my relationship with Denise is wrong without resorting to other people’s violent experiences or to analogies.

Sean Michael Robinson posts an article on why decriminalizing sex-work would be a mistake by someone named Daniel Read. Barry Deutsch points out that Read relies on material cowritten by Melissa Farley, whose research has been thoroughly discredited. Read claims that sex-work has been decriminalized in Germany and Holland. Read is wrong, those countries haven’t decriminalized the profession, they've legalized it (and no sex-worker-rights-advocates favour legalization). If Read doesn’t know the difference, then he doesn’t know much about the issue. If he does know the difference, then he’s being deliberately deceptive. Stripped of its false statistics and misinformation, Read’s article boils down to a familiar argument: because SOME prostitutes SOMETIMES encounter violence, ALL prostitution is wrong. Why is it wrong in instances where there’s no violence or force? Read avoids that question, no doubt because he doesn’t have an answer for it.

Thanks to Barry Deutsch, Damian Lloyd, Craig Johnson and Mike Battaglia for making points in my favour on A-M-O-C. Thanks, also, to the anti-prostitutionists on the board for their contributions. I disagree with them, but there is value in having one’s ideas challenged and in being forced to try to articulate them better. I hope they appreciate that I’ve dropped whorephobe here in favour of the term anti-prostitutionist. Presumably those of you who are against prostitution wouldn’t deny that you’re anti prostitution. (I am going to continue to use the word whorephobia elsewhere. Until someone can make a convincing case explaining why sex-work is morally wrong, I will continue to see anti-prostitutionism as an irrational prejudice.)

Chester Brown has been writing and drawing comics and graphic novels since the 1980s: Yummy Fur, Ed The Happy Clown, I Never Liked You, Louis Riel, Paying For It, Mary Wept Over The Feet Of Jesus. You can help provide him with a stable source of income while he works on his next graphic novel by donating at Patreon.

17 comments:

Daniel Read said...

Hello, it's Daniel Read here, I note you single out my article above for some criticism. Firstly, I'll point out that your claim that Farely's research has been “throughout discredited” really just points to another blog post, one which is evidently written by somebody like yourself who quite clearly isn't in the business of in-depth academic research. If Farely has been discredited, I suggest you take that up with the appropriate academic institution. I'll also point out that, as far as I can recall, Farely appears in just one study cited in my article, a study that involved SEVEN other academics and HUNDREDS of respondents in multiple countries. You don't address any of these other individuals whatsoever, researcher or respondent, in fact you single Farely out specifically and cite a single source (a blog post) as grounds for dismissing all findings, even though said findings are the result of actually speaking with “sex workers” who may have the temerity to disagree with the pro-decriminalisation lobby. I would not call this a strong point in your argument.

Additionally you also seem to rely on the rather vapid and semantic idea that there is an insurmountable gulf between decriminalisation and legalisation, something you (and you're not alone in here) fail to explain, other than to level a charge of ignorance at myself. Pointing out that there is an apparent difference between two terms and then failing to explain said difference really isn't good enough, I fear. Thirdly, you completely fail to address a sizeable percentage of my article, one dealing with the collapse of a multi-nation economic and political bloc and the mass emergence of human trafficking in modernity. I imagine you no doubt avoid this topic largely because you don't have an answer to any of the arguments and issues contained therein, but I would encourage you and anyone else reading this to actually grapple with this historical epoch and its pertinence to understanding human trafficking in the 21st century, itself a phenomenon that has been proven to increase, markedly, when legal norms are introduced that increase demand for “sexual services” (another part of my article that you also fail to address). Also, if you believe there are “false statistics” and outright misinformation in the article, I suggest you actually point out where and indeed how such information has proven to be erroneous, rather than just claiming that it is.

Anonymous said...

Seriously? We're using a Dave Sim forum to attack Chester Brown for his totally evil [or not totally evil] penchant for prostitutes? This is 2017, people. Whatever my personal thoughts on prostitution (which I described weeks ago back when I thought this discussion was a short-lived thing) I am basically ready to throw them out the window and All Hail King Chet just for deigning to participate.

A Dave Sim fan forum is not the place to attack Chester Brown for any reason, much less for the rightness or wrongness of prostitution. Chet and Dave meeting for lunch and discussing the same topic, that's fair. A fan encountering Chet at a convention with intent to discuss the same topic, that fan is basically an asshole. Why don't Cerebus fans just start a war with Neil Gaiman while we're at it? He probably has at least 50 more fans than Chester Brown does. Exposure, baby!

If Chester is willing to have the discussion, fine. That's his right, and I will be happy to read his viewpoints. But just scanning this thread, I find it disgusting for the attacks on Chester Brown, on a site that has nothing to do with Chester Brown.

Look at it from the opposite way. Chester Brown likes whores. Whores are usually easy to find, they have a very simple line to cross to do their job, customer satisfaction is very definitely their priority. This doesn't make Chet look bad, it doesn't make the whores look bad, it leave the moral questions for others to decide, and suggest we keep our face out of other people's personal lives. There's a reason prostitution is the world's oldest profession.

ChrisW

Anonymous said...

Chris W,

---Unless I missed something, I didn't see anyone personally insult Chester. I don't think people are attacking him, but rather his arguments. I don't think anyone here thinks Chester is "totally evil" either. Over and over again I've written that what consenting adults do is their business.

Chester wrote:

A Fake Name also had a problem with my reference to King:
"I can’t believe you’re using MLK in a discussion about prostitution. I’m actually flabbergasted. You’re talking about women who have sex with strangers for money. It’s a business transaction."

A Fake Name seems to think that it’s not possible to violate someone’s human rights if they’re making money.

—---No. I was shocked you’d pull his name into this discussion. Being aware of the disparity between the civil rights movement and women charging men money for sex doesn’t mean I think a prostitute’s life is worth any less or isn’t entitled to the same rights that me and you are or Mr. King was.


Chester wrote: No, I don’t have a problem with sex-work becoming a big business -- with storefront locations, television commercials, and billboards -- as long as we’re talking about a genuinely decriminalized system…

——Well, here it is. That type of society doesn’t appeal to me. It’s the slippery slope. I’m not sure of the long term ramifications of what you describe could be. But I don’t think it would be good. And I don’t think it’s worth the risk.

Chester wrote: The reason why the vast majority of sex-workers do the work is because it pays well (and usually better than well). Who’s going to do the work if it doesn’t pay well?

——Which is why I find any relationship between a prostitute and her client suspect. The money taints things. Not the good taint.

More later at some point,

A Fake Name

Anonymous said...



A Fake Name objected to a passage from ex-sex-worker Virginie Despentes’ book, King Kong Theory, that I had quoted. I’ll again reproduce that Virginie Despentes passage here:

"[W]hen you hear that prostitution is an 'act of violence against women,’ we are supposed to forget that it is marriage and other things we put up with that are ‘acts of violence against women.’ We cannot ignore the fact that far more women die from domestic violence than from engaging in sex work. Women who are fucked for free must continue to be told that they have made the only possible choice, otherwise how can they be kept under control? Masculine sexuality is not in itself an act of violence against women, as long as they are consenting and well paid. It is the control exercised upon us that is violent -- the power to decide on our behalf what is dignified and what is not."

A Fake Name’s responded:
"Marriage as an act of violence? What? She’s comparing marriage with domestic abuse. Two different things! Most men want a happy marriage, still want love, family and love doing things for their family. That’s beautiful. It’s not violence."

Chester said: What A Fake Name is missing is that Despentes is turning the logic of anti-prostitutionists against them.

—---No. I’m objecting to her equating marriage with violence. She’s saying…”it is marriage and other things we put up with that are acts of violence against women…” It’s her not understanding men and acting as if she doesn’t understand what violence actually is.

----Marriage and family are the foundation of society, prostitution is not and could potentially be a fissure within it.

Chester wrote: But to prove that sex-work is wrong, they continually retreat to talk about violence and disease.

—— I’ve not used the violence and disease arguments, though I largely agree where people have argued against it on that basis.


The anti-prostitutionists who’ve been posting on A-M-O-C insist that sex-work is morally wrong even when it does not involve violence, even when individual sex-workers like their work and their clients, even when it pays really well and benefits both sides of the exchange.

——I think it’s damaging in the long term for both men and women. More on that later.

A Fake Name

Tony Dunlop said...

Piggybacking on Chris W's remarks - this is Tim's blog, and he gets to post whatever he wants. But I ignore these posts, and wouldn't mind one bit if hookers were never discussed here again (unless Punisheroach was involved, of course). This is beginning to remind me of the "masturbation" letters that kept showing up in Aardvark Comment way back when.

Anonymous said...

Tony Dunlop,
---Despite my contributing to this exchange I feel much as you do, yet feel obligated (at the moment) to engage since I first commented on the term Whorephobia. Though I can see an end to this or at least to my contributions sooner than later.

A Fake Name

A Moment Of Cerebus said...

" I ignore these posts, and wouldn't mind one bit if hookers were never discussed here again"

If you want the pain to stop, I'd suggest you all stop arguing with Chester. Pretty simple really.

Anonymous said...


Chester wrote:

Each relationship should be assessed by what it gives (good or bad) to the two people in that relationship.

—I agree with this and I think most people on here would as well.

In automatically judging all sex-for-pay relationships as morally wrong, one would be condemning many relationships that are beneficial to the parties involved in ways that go beyond sex and money.

——The money is a huge sticking point. It changes everything. These women would not be sleeping with these men if they weren’t being paid. I realize your situation has evolved from its initial prostitute/client state to I don’t know what exactly.. Sugar daddy situation? Boyfriend/Girlfriend?

So, A-M-O-C commenters, deal with my relationship with Denise.

—---I can’t say for sure but I don’t think anyone here cares about your relationship with Denise. Phrasing it this way makes you sound like someone throwing a tantrum. “Deal with…” No one’s stewing in anger at your relationship.

All this feels like an attempt to seek validation from a bunch of strangers, one of which, namely me, posts under “A Fake Name.” I think everyone is dealing with your relationship just fine. With all the stress and aggravation in this world, if you and her have found a way this works and are both happy, then I’m glad for you, as glad as I can be for someone I’ve never met. I’m not condemning your relationship, I never have been.

A Fake Name

Jeff Seiler said...

To: A Moment of Cerebus--

Tim, if you are suggesting that Chester be given a "forum" to post with impunity, then I suggest you reinstate Dave Sim And Me.

Anonymous said...

Jeff,

---I thought Tim meant if we want this to end, stop replying to this topic and it'll fade away, not as any kind of proposal for this to become a Moment of Chester.

---Here's one vote to reinstate Dave Sim and Jeff.

A Fake Name

Jeff Seiler said...

Thank you, Fake!

A Moment Of Cerebus said...

Jeff,

That ship has sailed. Let it go buddy.

Anyway, I thought you were going to set up a 'Dave Sim & Me' blog. I was looking forward to reading that.

Tim

Jeff Seiler said...

Tim, you treated me unjustly. Sorry, but I can't let that go.

A Moment Of Cerebus said...

Jeff,
You are no longer 6 years old.

Grow up and move on.

Tim

Jeff Seiler said...

Tim, I see you talking like this to no one else here.

What is it that you have against me, personally or professionally?

A Moment Of Cerebus said...

Jeff,

I'm not having this discussion again. I think it was comprehensively dealt with here:
http://momentofcerebus.blogspot.co.uk/2017/02/jeff-seiler-dave-sim-me.html

You really do need to let it go and move on.

Tim

Erick said...

Tim, this is your blog. You have the right to do what you will. But you were wrong in hastily coming to the conclusion that you did, as was proven by subsequent revelations about deleted and or edited posts. I have zero intention of opening that battle again, so that is all I will say on the matter. As far as Jeff is concerned, I think he really should follow thru and start his own blog.