I could use a more explicit three-letter word in the post title but I fear the software censors employed by our federal government will again block this web site from its bureaucratic readers. On this topic, I was quite taken by this passage:
"Ingrid," I commented, "If you really think she [the Haitian woman who was propositioned for money] needs a choice then I suggest you give her one. Why don’t you offer to pay her thirty dollars not to come to my hotel room, but to go back to her son and cigarette stand?"
That is from Naked in Haiti: A…Morality Tale About Tourists, Prostitutes and Politicians, by Dan King. This book has received very little notice but it’s a more interesting look at human commodification than anything you’ll find coming out of Harvard or Princeton. I can only say that the author really seems to know what he is talking about, if you get my drift. This work would not have been approved at university institutional review boards. It’s also one of the best books on "life on the ground" in Haiti, at least provided you can tolerate the author’s numerous salacious yet nonetheless totally anti-erotic descriptions of his activities.
The author goes to Haiti, of course, not for the art, but because he wants to buy from women who are not (otherwise) "selling." Of course that means that the level of poverty is quite desperate, as in Cuba, where the same phenomenon is common. And often the women sell to benefit their children or parents, not themselves; surely some percentage of them are disgusted by what they end up doing.
If you’re wondering about my point of view on the whole question, I am sufficiently Paretian that I don’t find the exchange aspect of the relationship, or the passing of money, objectionable per se. (Assuming, of course, that neither age nor coercion is a concern, and often both are.) But it is still better, on the buying side, not to do it. Once you are aware of the kind of human stories behind the other side of the market, I would think it is hard to maintain an unflagging interest in the proceedings at hand. Nor do I think it would improve what happens in your life next. Yes the transaction does benefit the seller in many cases, but apply the Modigliani-Miller theorem and rebundle your action into a different blend of charity and erotic self-satisfaction, all toward The Greater Good.
Or so I think. If you offer your thoughts, please be polite in your rhetoric.
I thank an anonymous MR reader for the pointer to the book.