Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Sex worker revealed to be a scientist

Belle de Jour, one of the UK's first blogs to reach celebrity status, has revealed herself to be a scientist working in cancer epidimeology.  The intresting part is that Belle, was the  pseudonym for her blog about her time as a prostitute. 

One of the typical objections against legalizing prostitution, is that women who turn to prostitution are usually turning to it out of financial hardships.  This is the case of Brooke Magnati,  turned to prostitution when she was working on her Ph.D.  She got paid £300 an hour and was able to make ends meet with that.  However, the fact that she was in financial hardship, makes it more difficult for people to argue that she was fully consenting party.  Rather, she was coerced by her circumstances.  Had she been able to land a better job, she would have not turned to prostitution.  So it sounds like prostitution is simply a kind of exploitation on the poor. 

I'd be pretty confident in saying that not all prostitutes turn to their profession because of financial hardships, although the vast majority do.  But even if that is the case, is this really a kind of exploitation of the poor?  Exploitation, it seems to me, would require two things, someone in a time of need, and in this case Magnati would qualify, then taking advantage of that circumstance in an unfair way.  Price gouging after a hurricane would be an example of exploitation of disaster victims.  But in Magnati's case she was a very well paid call girl.  At current exchange rates (which I know are significantly different from when she was a call girl) £300 equates to about $500 US. 

Some prostitutes are clearly exploited, being paid only a fraction of that for their services.  Part of her ability to charge such a high price is no doubt due to her attractiveness, and I'm assuming that she doesn't have any particularly specialized skills (she mentions that she wanted to something that wouldn't require a lot of training) beyond what an attractive person's typical experiences would net her.

I think what I'm suggesting here is that prostitution should have a sort of minimum wage.  All prostitutes need to be paid X, in order for clients not to be exploiting them.  From there, the market can determine whether particular prostitutes get paid more for features, skills, and services that they have or are willing to offer.

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