14 April 2006

Patrick Califia

Patrick Califia's essay Whoring in Utopia is in the running for the most powerful cocktail of serious, thoughtful, wry, dirty, and truly radical writing I've ever read.

Even people who are supportive of sex workers' rights often assume that prostitution would somehow wither away if women achieved equality with men or industrial capitalism fell on its blemished, bloated face. Whoring, like other deviant and thus "problematic" sexual behavior, is assumed to be an artifact of sexism, American imperialism, racism, insane narcotics laws, Christianity, or whatever institutionalized inequity has the pontificator's knickers in a twist. While large and sweeping social change would probably alter the nature of sex work, the demographics of sex workers, and the wage scale, along with every other kind of human intimacy, I doubt very much that a just society would (or could) eliminate paying for pleasure.

It's my favourite bit of his writing. But he's done plenty more worth reading if you're serious about thinking seriously about sex. A friend of mine once bravely confessed to me that she was discovering some things about her desires that she found troubling. My first word of advice to her was read all of the Califia you can get your hands on.

I bring this up because I learn via Christa Faust that Mr Califia has suffered a heart attack, and could thus use both love and money. I'm guessing that at least a few of my readers know his work well enough to want to spare a bit of both: follow that link for details about where you can send a cheque, or even just a card.

And if you don't know his work that well, but you could use a new smart, dirty, challenging book—and really, who couldn't?—I cannot recommend highly enough putting a few shekels in his pocket the old fashioned way by buying one of his books.


Lydia said...

Interesting article. But why are articles like this always so convinced that a woman, any woman, would love to hire a man to have sex with them? Although it's possible that it's social weirdness and not something intrinsic to the sex, I've only rarely met women I think would take advantage of the opportunity. Maybe there's a reason why male prostitutes mostly don't service women besides the vague social pressures that Califia discusses.

While it's great that this guy is arguing for legal prostitution and better gender roles and so on, I have the uneasy feeling that he's approaching it from the "liberated women would be just like liberated men, right?" perspective -- rather a flawed one.

Jonathan Korman said...

I agree that no concievable society would have prostituion the served male and female clients in completely symmetrical ways.

I feel pretty sure that Mr Patrick Califia would also agree, and does not assume that liberated women would be just like liberated men. Among other reasons for thinking so, I'd note that he spent about the first forty years of his life as a woman. I'm pretty sure that he knows that his personal experience is ideosyncratic.