Mother’s Day

"The Outcast" by Richard Redgrave (1851)

“The Outcast” by Richard Redgrave (1851)

In the United States and many other countries around the world, today is the day on which mothers and the concept of motherhood are honored; even most nations which don’t celebrate it on this particular day do so on some other date, usually at some point in the spring.  Celebrations of motherhood aren’t anything new; many ancient cultures had them, often in conjunction with festivals of the Mother Goddess (such as the Roman Hilaria).  The modern observances are not directly descended from these ancient ones, though of course the principle is the same.  In any case, I thought that on this occasion a few observations about the connection between harlotry and motherhood might be in order.

Yes, I said connection; though the fallacy that whores and mothers are as different as chalk and cheese is still a popular one, both prostitution and motherhood are natural results of the sexual impulse, and many (probably most) whores are also mothers.  In fact, as I pointed out in “Whore Madonnas”, “Mecca”, “Feminine Pragmatism” and “Collaboration Horizontale”, many women become hookers specifically because they are mothers.  The Madonna-Whore duality is an outgrowth of every young man’s need to separate women about whom he is forbidden to have sexual feelings (such as close female relatives) from all others, and as long as it is recognized as such it’s harmless.  Alas, such reasonable men are in the minority; most project their own defense mechanism upon the entire human race, and imagine that sex somehow defiles a woman.  Even worse, women (being the accommodating creatures we are) often internalize this product of purely masculine psychology, and condemn other women (or worse, themselves) for the “sin” of being sexual.  And though second-wave feminists succeeded in attacking the idea that sex makes women dirty, they were not interested in dispelling it entirely, but rather merely carving out an exception for entirely selfish sexual behaviors.  In other words, women who are sexual for their own pleasure are now Madonnas; those who are sexual for any other reason, including monetary gain, are still whores (though the whore is now cast as a “victim” rather than a succubus).

The tenacity of this poisonous dogma is evident not only in the way that prohibitionist feminists divide all women into “good” and “bad” on the grounds of sexual actions, but also in the fallacy at the core of “sex trafficking” hysteria:  the irrational and absurd belief that women cannot choose to have sex for any but “pure” motives, so all prostitutes must have been forced into it.  The ease with which trafficking mythology and its bastard twin, the Swedish Model, have infiltrated cultures which seem on the surface relatively sex-positive is further proof that the Madonna-whore duality has not gone away, but is in fact lying just beneath the surface of human consciousness in all but a very few places.

Lately, I’ve even noticed the increased popularity of one of the classic logical fallacies by which prohibitionists attack decriminalization:  “Would you want your daughter to do it?”  People who use this old saw aren’t concerned with the danger of prostitution, because if they were we’d hear it used as an argument against women joining the military, doing police work or participating in dangerous sports like boxing.  No, it’s all about the stigma.  Let’s set aside for a moment the obvious point that there are lots of things people wouldn’t want their daughters doing (smoking, excessive drinking, getting pregnant out of wedlock, working at Wal-Mart, going into politics) which aren’t illegal, and the equally obvious fact that we don’t get to choose our offspring’s occupations (though some certainly try).  Let’s consider only that people do lots of things their parents wouldn’t like, and that most prostitutes have parents who would be upset and appalled at the choice.  It’s not your decision whether your daughter becomes a hooker; it’s hers.  And if she does make that choice (which 1% of all Western daughters do for some portion of their lives), do you really want her hounded by cops, forced into dangerous situations, unable to seek legal recourse if she’s robbed or raped, and branded as a pariah for life because of it?  Or would you rather she have the ability to repent what you see as her mistake and leave the job later if she chose?  Finally, is it worth rejecting your own flesh and blood for making a decision with which you disagree, and which hurt nobody except (in your opinion) her?  My mother thought so, which is why she doesn’t speak to me any more, and therefore doesn’t know about all the people I’ve helped and the respect I’ve earned in my field.

Women’s sexual choices don’t make us “bad” or “polluted” or “criminal” except in the minds of sick, twisted people.  Every whore is some mother’s daughter, and most are mothers themselves.  The Madonna and whore are not exclusive, and those who insist otherwise put themselves in a position to be hurt as badly as their warped belief hurts women…including, in many cases, members of their own families.

(This essay previously appeared in The Honest Courtesan on May 13th, 2012; it has been slightly modified to fit the Cliterati format.)

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