Friday, October 4, 2013

Republicans Are The Dissatisfied and Angry Diners At The Table Of Life

TL?DR?--Shorter: Republicans are the dissatisfied and angry diners at the table of life.

We've seen a lot of weird reactions on the right wing to the Government Shut down. These range from "it doesn't matter" to "its terrible" but one thing that really strikes me is the rage and antipathy that has been displayed towards Federal Workers themselves.  It doesn't strike me as unusual, but it does strike me as significant.  Yesterday's on air rant by Stuart Varney makes it pretty explicit: Federal Workers and, indeed, the entire Government are failing Stuart Varney. They cost too much and they do too little.  In fact: they are so awful they don't even deserve to be paid for the work they have already done. Contracts, agreements, and labor be damned. If Stuart Varney isn't happy then they deserve to be fired. Here's the quote if you haven't seen it:

HOWELL: Do you think that federal workers, when this ends, are deserving of their back pay or not?
VARNEY: That is a loaded question isn't it? You want my opinion? This is President Obama's shutdown. He is responsible for shutting this thing down; he's taken an entirely political decision here. No, I don't think they should get their back pay, frankly, I really don't. I'm sick and tired of a massive, bloated federal bureaucracy living on our backs, and taking money out of us, a lot more money than most of us earn in the private sector, then getting a furlough, and then getting their money back at the end of it. Sorry, I'm not for that. I want to punish these people. Sorry to say that, but that's what I want to do.
JACOBSON: But it's not their fault. It's not the federal employees' fault. I mean, that's what I'm sick of, I hate and it makes me anxious, to see people who are victimized because of a political fight.
VARNEY: I take your point Amy, it is not directly their fault, but I'm looking at the big picture here. I'm getting screwed. Here I am, a private citizen, paying an inordinate amount of money in tax. I've got a slow economy because it's all government, all the time. And these people are living on our backs, regulating us, telling us what to do, taxing us, taking our money, and living large. This is my chance to say "hey, I'm fed up with this and I don't miss you when you're on furlough." Sorry if that's a harsh tone, but that's the way I feel.

So, Nu? I hear you saying? Well, I think there is something new here or at least worth discussing. Varney's attitude towards the Federal Work force is the same attitude as (some) diners take when they are eating out in a fine restaurant and they fear that they don't have enough money or status to get good service--and they suspect that someone else is getting better service. They want to tip, and they want to use the tip to punish the worker for failing to give exceptional service to the important people (the diner himself).

 The diner comparison isn't because I think this is trivial, but because people take the issues surrounding service in restaurants very, very, seriously and become nearly as unhinged as Varney when they don't feel they can control the experience they are having.  And I think (and others are arguing this right now) that a huge part of the Republican experience of governance in the US right now is about disapointment and lack of control. They are emotionally in the position of people who used to be offered the best seat in the house and could order a la carte without worrying about the bill, and now they think they are being relegated to the back of the restaurant and they imagine that they are paying the bills for other people for meals they won't enjoy.  But the comparison isn't based only on this metaphor--I also think that Varney's attitude, which is the Republican attitude encapsulated, is based on another and deeper cultural reality: that for Republicans the government itself is understood as an employee and the individual Republican fancies himself an employer--and he wants the power of that relationship to be vindicated in every instance. Where it is not expressed and understood as oppressive then its not working for Varney.

Let me unpack this for you as an Anthropolgist, because I think it says something about the enormous gap that lies between these people (Republicans and Punishers) and the rest of us.   There are several things at issue here: the status of workers, the status of employers, and the status anxiety Republicans feel when they don't believe that they are treated as an employer should be treated by their employees. In this case everyone in the Federal Government, from the President down to the lowliest Federal Street Sweeper, is not giving Varney the satisfaction that he thinks is his due. And he is damned if they will be paid when they don't do their job to his satisfaction.  In this way his attitude is like that of the angry customers, the "Punishers" described in Jay Porter's series of essays about what happened when he moved an entire restaurant from tipped wait staff to non tipped.

Porter was running what he wanted to be a great restaurant and in pursuit of this he eliminated tipping--he felt that tipping overvalued the work the waiter was doing and undervalued the work the back of the house staff did, and he knew that it resulted in waiters making separate deals and occasionally sabotaging each other and the house in pursuit of a better tip from one set of customers.  What he did not expect was to discover that tipping, rather than a burden on his customers, was one of the chief sources of pleasure for them in the meal. Not because they enjoyed the extra 20 percent on top of the bill but because he found they enjoyed the power they thought it gave them over the waiter and over the nature of the experience. They believed (erroneously in his view) that they were given better service because the waiter anticipated the tip. More importantly, they actively enjoyed imagining using the threat of the withheld tip to punish bad service--they enjoyed this imagined power so much that people became frantic and angry when they couldn't tip.  They experienced themselves as having lost their voice and lost control over the situation.

Porter argues that his customers see the restaurant experience as a special subset of other kinds of service experiences in which one person is superior and the other inferior, one person commands and the other serves, and that in the midst of a professional setting in which all persons might have the right to expect equal and equally good service the tip-oriented customer sees a setting in which preferential treatment should be meted out to the good tipper and bad/non preferential treatment should be punished. 

The Restaurant customer, and I'd argue many Americans,  don't respect work or workers and see situations in which they are served by a worker as a kind of passion play in which the served get to experience the power of the purse, the power of the john vis a vis the prostitute, the power to coerce service and specifically the power to punish one person for disappointment or bad service or really anything the tipper wants to punish that person for.  More than that: Americans see tipping as an occasion to right the wrongs of a situation and to restore a balance--a balance that is upset when one person (the client) expects something good and gets something they didn't want.

Porter's entire series of posts should be read but I want to focus on just one part of the last section: what is lost for the patron when they can't tip? Something vital, something that they didn't even know they wanted: the ability to communicate with the worker non verbally and punitively. Porter describes many such situations but this one is quite poignant.   After the restaurant had gone to a "No Tip" policy a restaurant reviewer chose to publicly humiliate a server, by name, in a bad review.  The reviewer did not correct the server to his face, nor did she report him to management and try to get the service issues handled at the time.

I responded, I agree that the bad service is my fault. I’m saying you should have ripped on me and not him. I’ve apologized to him for putting him in that position, but it is still not right of you, writing under a pseudonym, to publicly embarrass him using his actual name.And she came back with the clincher: Well, with your fixed service charge you didn’t give my any choice. I couldn’t give him a lower tip. How else could I punish him for his mistakes?
That made it all clear. She, like some other patrons, felt the burden of having to reward good behavior and punish bad behavior. Obviously, some people like that role, and some people don’t, but at the very least our culture has trained diners that it is their job. When you go to restaurants, you are responsible for rewarding and punishing your server.

Porter goes on to argue, on the basis of his experience, that sometimes it seems like the entire point of the tip is to punish the server and rebalance a relationship of hierarchy which has been violated by the server not being attentive enough or the meal not being perfect enough.
This explained another bizarre phenomenon we had seen with our service charge — a small number of guests who got angry when we removed the charge from their bill.
We had a policy that if a guest brought a notable service problem to a manager’s attention, we removed the service charge from the bill. Our position was that we were professionals charging for service, and if we failed to meet our service goals, then we refused to take payment.

It would happen that a guest would bring a problem to our attention, often as a way to show that the lack of tipping had somehow “caused” the service mistake. Our floor manager would apologize, thank the guest for bringing the problem to our attention, and remove the service charge from the bill. And that, sometimes, would make the guest furious...
This is where I really started to lose patience with the whole thing.It had been demonstrated by research and our experience that this punishment message doesn’t get through to the offender — servers correctly don’t view their tips as reflecting the quality of their work. So the right to punish the server is solely for the benefit of the punisher, and no larger benefit is created.
We were trying to run a good restaurant. If a guest pointed out a mistake we made, the guest was doing us a favor. Our first reaction wasn’t going to be to punish the workers who made the mistake; it was going to be to make sure the server had the tools they needed to do the job right. No business in any industry builds a great team by looking for mistakes to punish. It just doesn’t work that way. 

What does this have to do with the Republican Party? The Republican Party at this point in time is entirely made up of Punishers who think they are entitled to treat the government--and especially the government of Barack Obama--as waiters who need to be shown their place.  This should surprise no one.  At heart the entire Republican Party is made up of winners and losers and they are united in just one thing: they think that money is the only way to tell who is who. If you have money, you use that to distinguish yourself from the losers and to demonstrate your superiority by punishing them further.  If you are a loser--a worker, for example, or have no health insurance (say) your job as a Republican is to take your status as a given, accept it, and turn around and get your jollies kicking someone else farther down the line.

 Apparently Federal Workers and the Tax money that pays them have come to symbolize a fracture in the right order of things.  As Mary Douglas argued about the laws of Leviticus things that are in between categories can be seen as impure and dangerous. Things that live in the water but don't have fins. Things that have cloven hooves but don't chew their cud.  From an anthropological standpoint we say "Dirt is matter that is out of place."  That which crosses categories creates tremendous problems because it can't be assigned to one status or another and thus can't be handled properly. You don't have to have a reason why these things are bad so long as you can point towards their ambiguous status. In fact: there may be no reason why these things are bad at all, but their ambiguous status can raise a host of unspoken and unspeakable anxieties.

Why are Federal Workers a special case and a problem for Republicans?  In the case of Federal Workers I'd argue that its not merely that  they are workers (who are always despised) its because they are workers who for the most part don't conform to Republican ideas of the right boundaries for workers. The right boundaries for workers are that they know their place, that they can be fired capriciously, and that they exist primarily to make the employer feel good about himself  and, further, that like waiters in a restaurant and prostitutes with their johns their job is also to make the employer believe that he is receiving an extra good form of treatment not accorded to others diners or johns.*

 Federal workers violate those central principles because they can't be fired directly by "the employer" because the individual Republican tax payer isn't the direct employer.  They also can't be humiliated and made to feel vulnerable because of civil service protections and unionization.  And in the matter of interactions, one on one, the taxpayer can't command good treatment by offering money (bribes) and thus often feels vulnerable and weak because there is no way to play the "do you know who I am" card which (like tipping) is an attempt to force a generic servant to give non generic attention and service to one class of people.  So Federal Employees create an extra level of status anxiety for Republicans when they come in contact with these "employees" who can't be fired or rewarded and therefore are not obligated to be extra nice to the individual Republican.

Of course there are lots of kinds of Federal Employees, some more obvious than others, and many of whom don't come into contact with ordinary citizens very often (Scientists at the CDC vs. Park Rangers, for example). I'd argue that the antipathy I've described goes for both the kinds of Federal Employees that ordinary citizens encounter--and this is at the root of the really quite bizarre attacks by Republican Congressmen on individual Federal Employees like the now infamous attack on the the Park Ranger by the Texas Congressman.  He explicitly challenges her and accuses her of failing to give special consideration to (some) clients (tourists/vets) when she is, of course, contractually obligated to treat all persons identically and has been ordered to shut down the monument.  We've also seen this hostility directed by individual Republican Congressmen at high level Federal Employees during committee hearings. These attempts to create a hierarchical relationship which puts the "employee" below the "employer" even when the employee has specialized knowledge and skills that the employer does not are too numerous to mention.

I'd even argue that Reince Priebus's absurd "offer" to pay for a few employees to keep the military site open for the honor flight vets was an example of a perfectly logical extension of the tipping principle: that people with money should get better treatment than ordinary customers. That the government's attempt to treat everyone uniformly in both the Sequester and the Shut Down is, to the Republican way of thinking, a greater affront than almost anything else. It flies in the face of the "do you know who I am?" principle which underlies Republican thinking about the nature of the world.

So what can we do about this? Nothing, alas. Republicans will continue to see the Government, and experiences of Government work and workers, as a drama in which the employer must punish the employed in order to enjoy his superior status, and the rest of us will have to suffer as they choose to act out their petty desires by shutting down the government and refusing to "tip" our Federal Workers by, you know, actually paying them for work performed.  We can't hope to have the same good fortune as Jay Porter who, after he ended tipping at his restaurant, found that the Punishers stopped turning up at all:

These people who were fighting to keep their punishment rights, were keeping us from getting better.We came to the conclusion, though, that the fixed service charge — and our removing it when a problem was noticed — would drive these negative customers away. They would go to other restaurants where they could resume their role as arbiter of consequences. One of our managers emailed me around this time: “It would seem we’re on the right track. We’ll eventually weed out all the punishers…and then we can do our jobs.”I think this is pretty much happened, within a few months of that review. People who come to restaurants to punish other people came to our place, discovered we didn’t offer that service, and moved on. It’s an open question whether we would have made more revenue if we had not lost these customers. I tend to think not, because their absence really did let us focus on doing our jobs better. But maybe there are just so many people like this, that they make up a huge market for restaurants, that we lost out on. I can’t say I know. I know we didn’t miss them.
We liked our jobs a lot better with the punishers gone, and having a job you like is a great joy in life. Our service charge policy, even though we adopted it for technical financial reasons, proved to be a gift in many surprising ways.I think we were making guests’s lives better, too. Sitting in judgement of your neighbor, and punishing him, is the highway to unhappiness. Plus, as we’ve established, whatever message you’re sending isn’t getting through. Which means the guest who is asked to serve as a judge, is being made miserable for nothing.

*This is a somewhat complicated point which can only be fleshed out with reference to the entire thread on tipping. Basically it seems to really bother diners when they can't tip even though they know that others in the restaurant also can't tip.  Believing (against all research) that the tip is what causes the waiter to give good service seems to go along with the fantasy that something extra, something that is denied to other clients, might be forthcoming if the waiter fears a bad tip or expects an extra good tip.  Porter argues that diners behave as though the tip forces the waiter to give extra good service and they enjoy imagining that the waiter does this against his own lazy, indifferent, nature since they believe that without the tip the waiter will ignore them.  He explicitly makes the link between tipping behavior and the hiring of a prostitute arguing that some patrons are more comfortable hiring a prostitute--using the power of the purse to coerce a sexual encounter--than they are using seduction or allowing the woman to seduce them. Why? Because using seduction (charm) or permitting the woman to choose to set the pace of the interaction gives the woman too much agency and is too much work for the patron. Similarly tipping, in the clients eye, takes agency away from the waiter and gives it to the owner of the money.

 Interestingly enough just yesterday Echidne of the Snakes had a good piece up about PUAs and Roosh which makes basically the same point about the preference some men have for purchased or coerced sex over mutually chosen sex. Despite a general cultural assumption that what is "free" is preferable to what is costly there are many social interactions, or perhaps I mean types of people, for whom money is the preferred medium since it is seen as creating no social obligation and/or it functions as a form of coercion where no social or emotional tie exists.


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  2. This is an amazing post and I love that you ended up tying in the Roosh guy's worldview, because I was thinking of that when I was reading the comments at alicublog. They really do need people to be desperate to bolster their worldview. Also, for many people, their idea of a federal worker is... a blah person. Often a blah woman. And, well, we can't have those people getting uppity. How dare they get paid and good benefits when they're all so lazy...!

  3. Gadzooks! A reader! Thank you for reading all the way to the end. Yes, I think there is a ton of stuff to be written about the connection, at an emotional level, between the MRA attitude towards women (and specfically their ideas about the necessary connection between money and sexual power) and both the tipping thing and the Republican attitude towards compromise.

    I think what I'm thinking is specifically that there is a reason Republicans tend to think of politics and sex as a zero sum game, a game in which there are only makers and takers, winners and losers, people whose power is enhanced and people whose power is lost while Democrats tend to focus on co-operation, win-win scenarios, and the idea of persuasion and seduction as the appropriate means to bridging different interests and even different bodies. Famously it was a Republican who compared bipartisanship to date rape--at the time I was astounded by the metaphoric jump but subsequently I saw that sex as violence and the relationship between competing political interests as a kind of sexual act seems quite common. I don't know if we can argue that the Republicans model politics on violent sex, or simply see all social interactions as a kind of unequal struggle for sexual control over a partner who must be subordinate to be legitimate. But I'm pretty sure there is something there.

  4. After Teddy Kennedy died there were a raft of memorials to him as a political actor which all focused on his very seductive use of words, power, gifts, cigars, and persistence to get his political interests served. I remember thinking at the time that although this fit in well with a certain kind of classic "Last Hurrah" style politicking it was also a way. Some Republican leader found himself giving in to Teddy's sheer, good humored, intimate, teasing persistence rather than to brute force and angry words.

  5. Very interesting read, aimai. My thought while I perused it was that even though you and Porter were describing a behavior pattern that's not new, it seems to have metastasized in recent years. My dear mother, who is in her 80s and watches TV as I do not, has said to me that "So many people have gotten so mean these days." I had thought I was just reacting to too much internet drama.

  6. Everything looks bigger and more overwhelming when you get older, maybe because of your glasses. But definitely its true that if you watch more TV you will see the worst of the world.

  7. This was a very interesting read, and for me it shed a lot of light on subjects that I (as someone from a culture where tipping is nigh unheard of) have found bewildering and difficult to adjust to while living in America.

  8. I didn't have space to go into it because, of course, its only a blog post but I really think if one goes back to the very founding of the country and explores the various regional attitudes towards servants, slaves, service, ownership, power, and money one could come up with an ethnographically satisfying explanation for why some people see both federal workers and some waiters/waitresses as a challenge.

    The books I would recommend to anyone, but especially to someone from another culture, would be Bob Altemeyer's The Authoritarians and David Hackett Fischer's Albion's Seed. One explores the psycho-social dimension of Authoritarian vs. Non Authoritarian personality types and the other the ethnographic origins of what Fischer sees as the "four major folkways" of the original white settlers of the US. I would not argue that authoritarianism isn't widespread, for example, in every sector of the US but some of the descendants of the original cultures are more predisposed towards valorizing authoritarianism, zero sum thinking, competition and agression than others. A lot of modern Republican attitudes towards the federal government are, essentially, white southern attitudes towards the North, white attitudes towards the freed slaves, and patriarchal/christianist attitudes towards uncontrolled and sexually active women and non-heteronormative gays and lesbians. This sounds a bit global and vague but if you read Albion's Seed you will be amazed to find very different attitudes towards everything between the four settlement groups that make even shared words like "work" "individual" "freedom" etc... have completely different meanings.

  9. "Gadzooks! A reader!"

    I read every time you post—I just wish you posted more often. On the other hand, when it's as good as the stuff you've been posting this week, it's worth the wait.

  10. Yes, please don't mistake the lack of comments for a lack of reader interest. The recent increase in posting is appreciated.

  11. Its like a tip, really. I'll pull up my socks and keep posting. Its nice to know I have readers.

  12. “The salient fact of American politics is that there are fifty to seventy million voters each of who will volunteer to live, with his family, in a cardboard box under an overpass, and cook sparrows on an old curtain rod, if someone would only guarantee that the black, gay, Hispanic, liberal, whatever, in the next box over doesn’t even have a curtain rod, or a sparrow to put on it.”

  13. Oddly enough, the Republican congresscreeps don't see themselves a government employees, while their constituents are their bosses. Ideally, a representative would consider a constituent who is a federal employee to be superordinate. This just goes to show you that they really serve the oligarchs.

    1. I was just remarking that the Parks Service woman who was berated by a Congresscreature at the WWII Memorial could have pointed out she's paying his salary.

  14. That is an excellent point, bbbb.

  15. Once you realize that the organizing dyad is master/servant with the common denominator being "money" you realize, as Krugman points out today (yay!, that when money fails to command absolute obedience then the Money and its owners get pretty frantic. After reading Krugman's take this morning I realized tht one of the things that pisses the Republicans and the Money Men off the most about Obama is the sense that here is someone who at best should be a lower level functionary who acts like he is the master--and he doesn't even have the kind of money they have! Its not just racism at issue here although for many of them that may be an integral part of their antipathy to both Obama and the Dems as an ethnic alliance.

    Of course at base there is a tribal identification at issue here that made George Bush's role as "the deciderer" and his many vacations and his obvious enjoyment of the trappings of the presidency merely something that his followers were also enjoying while Obama's use of the Presidential desk or AirForce One or the golf course are taken as unjustified employee theft of stuff belonging by rights to the employer.

  16. "After reading Krugman's take this morning I realized tht one of the things that pisses the Republicans and the Money Men off the most about Obama is the sense that here is someone who at best should be a lower level functionary who acts like he is the master--and he doesn't even have the kind of money they have! "
    This is pretty much exactly right.

    Honestly, I think he should mint the trillion-dollar platinum coins -- not just for the practical reason (effectively eliminates the debt ceiling), but for another reason. It proves that *he has the money*. In the stupid hierarchy status games which they play, it's a statement "I'm bigger than you. I'm more powerful than you. You think you're rich, but I can just mint ten trillion dollars -- I have more money than you and I always will. Obey me." They will, in the end, do so, because they *believe* in the hierarchy.

    Obama should, in fact, have a videotaped press release, where he actually holds the trillion dollar coins and deposits them in the Federal Reserve. He has to rub it in he faces of the Money Men that HE HAS THE MONEY. That's the way to get them to roll over and admit that they are subordinate to him.

    (And what if some of them don't, and try to fight him for the top spot, probably violently? Well then he kills them -- Obama already claimed the right to kill people with drones, but he hasn't used it for anything *useful* yet.)

    OK, this isn't exactly the polite liberal way of operating, but frankly it would work. You have to understand the deranged psychology of the CEO types in order to manipulate it.

  17. I'm with you on the trillion dollar coin. But I think Obama thinks he can get the McConnell agreement in which the Debt Ceiling gets voted away permanently. For one reason: I think that the Republicans are past masters of selling shit as sugar to their moronic base so arguing that Obama took away a congressional prerogative works just as well for them. The economy doesn't tank, they preserve and foment a further cause of hatred of Obama and the Dems. They lose their leverage over the next credit celing fight but on the other hand they can sort of see that its no leverage at all. They can only destroy the US government's reputation once. My guess is that at the eleventh hour they will arrange to pass the buck to Obama. And he suspects it too.

  18. I followed somebody's link over here from LGM. This post is cogent, insightful, and seriously brilliant. I like your comments there, but here, where you have room to air it out, you really shine.

    Yes, please do post more.

    You have a new and faithful reader.


  19. Hi aimai, thank you for the brilliant post. I came over from Krugman's blog, which I read religiously. I have a couple of comments.

    First, as far as the punisher analogies to prostitution I think that may be true in some cases but certainly not necessarily so. It really depends on the disposition of the john. But also, where you (or Porter) use the phrase "it gives the woman too much agency," I think it would be equally valid to say "obtaining sex by a business transaction removes the risk of rejection." IOW, it may not be so much about controlling the woman as it is about *protecting* the man's feelings. ?

    The other thing: I was a little jolted by your harsh words for the commenter 'sharon' on the No More Mister Nice Blog. You might have simply omitted these, "I have nothing but contempt for people like you and you aren't changing my mind." That last phrase especially!

    Otherwise, I enjoyed your commentary immensely.

  20. Hi Matt, thanks for commenting.

    I agree that all Johns are not punishers. I didn't make that argument, I think. My argument was that a certain kind of person--and that implies the existence of other kinds of people--wishes to substitute money for seduction in certain transactions because money enables the person (in this case the John) to command by inequality of wealth what he can not seduce or coax by personal qualities or by offering intangible durables like an acceptable offer of love.

    Sure, guys pay for sex, and prefer to pay for sex, because it theoretically eliminates the risk of rejection but that is really to say the same thing. Men who don't have money still prefer to use money to gain access to sex--in fact there have been a few legal cases in the UK where quadri or paraplegiacs have tried to get the National Health to pay for them to visit prostitutes on the grounds that they simply can not gain sexual access to a woman by merely appealing to her. They must buy her and they need to buy her and the state should pay.

    This can be normalized and made ok only in a world where the existence of women who can't get sexual access to men on demand is ignored. Women don't get to force or induce men to have sex with them, generally speaking, for lots of cultural reasons not least of which is a general unequal access to money.

    But I guess what I think about the "disposition of the John" argument is the same thing I thought when reading Sharon's comments. Of course all tippers don't want to be punishers and all tippers are not mean people. Neither are all Republicans punishers or bad tippers. Nor are all men who buy sex from prostitutes necessarily conscious of their preference for using money to dehumanize and ease access to a sexual partner. People are often very uncionscious of their real motivations or what their actions mean to the other people in the social encounter. But the vehemence with which people routinely rear back in horror at the notion that the existence of the tip gives them an imagined advantage in the restaurant setting (imagined because Porter argues the advantage doesn't exist) and Republicans rear back in horror at hearing their actions nakedly described as dangerous/harmful/spiteful doesn't make it less true. And the fact that a given John may think of himself as a poor, pitiful, person who needs sex and doesn't have time for a human to human interface in which he might spend time and risk seducing or pleasing the woman with more than money doesn't make that an accurate reflection of the act of purchasing sex.

  21. aimai, thanks for responding.

    I am confused by your response. It sounds like you are saying that there is something inherently wrong with a person using money to obtain a sexual service. You also don't seem to allow for the possibility that a) a business transaction for sex could be carried out with mutual respect or b) that a person--let's say a man--could seek out the services of a prostitute on an occasional basis, as if for variety or some other whim, but not as their principal means of obtaining sex.

    "Women don't get to force or induce men to have sex with them, generally speaking, for lots of cultural reasons not least of which is a general unequal access to money."

    Is this really true? I don't think it is. If there isn't much of a market for straight male gigolo's isn't the problem on the *demand* side?

  22. There are lots of things we don't allow the sale of on the open market--organs, for one, children for another. Why should sex be any different just because (some) people think that exchanging money for it is ok? I absolutely allow for the possibility, of course, that a business transaction for sex could be "carried out with mutual respect" but my point in the essay--and this is why I linked to Echidne's piece on the Pick Up Aritst Roosh, is that someone who preferentially desires sex as a monetary transaction is someone who prefers to use income inequality as the means to satisfy their desire and using money to pay for something in preference to using social or emotional connection is done primarily by people who believe (rightly or wrongly) that they can't access what they want without money changing hands. In other words: they can't get what they want without possessing something (money) which the other person doesn't have. Meanwhile other people are able to create a situation of truly mutual, non monetary, non coercive relationships.

    As for the lack of a market for straight male gigolos? No, the problem isn't on the demand side--there's demand but not the social and economic ability to enforce it.

  23. "Why should sex be any different just because (some) people think that exchanging money for it is ok?"

    I don't know. What criteria do you use for deciding questions like these? Why should purchasing sex be any different than purchasing, say, a massage. Or psychotherapy?

    I wouldn't dispute that people exist who would *prefer* to have their desires met by paying for them. I don't think such people represent a large percentage of the population. I certainly have not met many, afaik!

    I do feel like you are protective of your right to 'point the finger'. (That leads to exclamations like, "fuck 'em.") This, I think, is what lies at the heart of your issues with Kevin Drum. Kevin talking about confrontation being "counterproductive" is holding onto hope of talking, making connections, softening peoples attitudes. I certainly agree with that approach even if I sometimes fail it in practice.

    In another post on the TP & race Kevin wrote,

    "I happen to think the term "racist" conceals more than it explains anyway."

    There is a lot of wisdom there, I think. It is a hot-button word that short-circuits thought and substitutes judgement in its place.

  24. Well--my blog my prerogative. Kevin's blog his prerogative. But there is a huge difference between engaging with people, one on one, who are arguing in good faith and wasting time in Barney Frank's marvellous phrase, arguing with people with the intellectual and moral reasoning ability of a dining room table.

    I have met many people who are not, in fact, arguing in good faith and many more who are willfully and determinedly ignorant of the world and their own motivations. I enjoy thinking about why that is but I don't have to entertain their fantasies that their opinions are as good as mine.

    On the topic of sex: I have my criteria and they are perfectly good. I'm not interested in arguing them with you. Sex, babies, and organs are all things that can be sold on the open market but which (in the case of babies, organs, and blood) society has usually found it is counterproductive to permit doing so. As for whether you, personally, have not met many people who "prefer" to have their desires met by paying for them--is it rude for me to inform you that your anecdote is not data? I'm pretty sure I'm not the first. I pointed to the PUA community as an exemplar of a not terribly small group of men who preferentially pay for sex, or extort or appropriate it, in preference to aquiring it through what they themselves see as a wrongful form of mutuality. This is explicitly their argument and it has quite deep roots in misogynistic thinking about women, men, sex, and social hierarchy. If you are ignorant of this group and its tenets you can read all about it at the link from Echidne or at Man Boobz.

    As for racism as a hot button word--well, I said what I thought about that in the posts. I'm sorry if I wasn't clear.

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  26. Your posts have gone way past cordial to really quite creepy. Please stop mansplaining prostitution to me.