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Sophia:

I have been following this thread.

I have posted my opinion about prostitution on posts 70,71,73,75 and 78.

I think my basic proposition has not been refuted: sex trade as such is not immoral. As any other act of trade, its morality depends in how it specifically helps or hinders, at a given circumstance, the living of a rational life.

Since I believe this proposition has not been neither refuted or accepted, I am bringing the issue again.

If there is no difference for you between a back muscle massage and a massage of your penis then there should be no reason to specify in your question that it must be a woman performing it.

There is no difference to me, morally.

And it must not be a woman performing it. It could be a man or a hermafrodite extraterrestrial being, for the sake of the excercise.

And it must not be my penis. It could be Mother Teresa's clitoris, for that matter.

Having explained this, what do you think about the morality of sex trade? The question is still there.

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No actually, her question was making a moral distinction. She was asking about Hotu's preferences between different options, which means about his evaluations, which means about his value-judgments. If he denies that he wants a man to "massage his penis," then he is caught in an inexorable contradiction in what he was asserting.

Apparently I stand corrected.

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I might be wrong in this, but I suspect that, by having attacked a strawman, Ayn Rand ended up endorsing modern Christian views on sexuality.

According to Ayn's perspective, the problem with Christian view of sex was considering physical pleasures as low, animal, fundamentally evil and opposed to the spiritual, higher life and purposes. This opposition was the result of a body-mind dichotomy first taught by Plato, and then kept and ingroduced to Christian thinking by St Paul and Agustine.

The attack on this dichotomy entailed the integration of mind and body as two dimensions of the same entity, man. Any action, including sex, was performed by a single entity. So far so good. But Ayn didn't stop there. In her effort to revert the association of sex with evil and guilt prevalent at her time, she tried to glorify sex by placing it in a very special category. Sex should not be just good, but very very good. It was the best objective reafirmation of one's virtues, as reflected in one's partner. Sex, in her view, could not be just trade, just voluntary exchange. To be moral, it must be connected with love ( the deepest communion of values, or as Nathaniel Branden conceives it, the objective reafirmation of my own identity through other person).

She went, in my opinion, too far.

I don't need to be in love with a woman (or man) to dance with her( him).

Dancing requires full integration of my mind and body. I dance as much with my legs and hips than with my mind. Still, no love is required to make it moral.

Dancing for the fun of it is not immoral.

Ironically, most Christian churches now condemn extra-marital sex using arguments extremely similar to those of Ayn Rand. Just attend any Catholic conference adressing young couples.

Sex, Catholics say, is not just rubbing of sex organs and physical pleasure. It includes a spiritual dimension and demands love to be true, lucid, bountiful sex. Only very infrequently they appeal yo God's commandments or the supernatural. They know that resorting to the supernatural on this topic is less and less popular among young people.

Ayn Rand failed to conceive that sex, as any form of voluntary exchange between two persons, must be judged under the very same principles in which we judge the morality of an act.

Sex is great, right, but so what? ice-skating with your partner is also great and, for some couples, may provide comparable pleasure.

There is nothing intrinsically "different" about the sexual act when compared to other values. Sex as a value is also relational: it depends on how what you are getting from the act is helping you objectively to live a better life. Nothing more but nothing less.

Sex, as described by Ayn Rand, is something that we should aspire to and it is achievable. I personally experience in my current situation sex with the woman I love, my wife. But I was not always in this situation, and there is no guarantee i will keep being indefinitely. Before meeting the love of your life, or after losing it, you may still enjoy sex with other people with whom you dont have this connection, ranging from a very good friend to a complete stranger.

We humans are primarily traders. Secondarily, friends or lovers.

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There is no difference to me, morally.

And it must not be a woman performing it. It could be a man or a hermafrodite extraterrestrial being, for the sake of the exercise.

Then, you really are not asking about the typical sex trade, where the customers care about more than just a physical sensation.
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I agree with Hotu Matua that there is nothing intrinsically bad in any sexual act, that morality comes in with the reasons for each participant to perform the act, and if it is done voluntarily then, like any other free trade, it is morally correct per se (albeit, as usual with fallible beings, either party may misjudge the value of the trade!).

The fact that sex is (generally) pleasurable does not necessarily justify doing it, btw -- like all acts, the long term consequences must be estimated and assessed, and as with any pleasurable act, care must be taken not to become overly indulgent and/or fixated.

I think Ayn Rand glorified sex because she experienced the heights of ecstasy available to a woman who found good reasons to have great sex with men she admired -- as compared with the alternative, at least in theory! Lucky girl.

- ico

Edited by icosahedron
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But Ayn didn't stop there. In her effort to revert the association of sex with evil and guilt prevalent at her time, she tried to glorify sex by placing it in a very special category.

You are psychologizing by implying motive on her part. I suggest focusing on what she actually said instead of why you think she said it.

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Good call, softwareNerd. It is not really "sex trade", but "love trade". And that refocuses the discussion, morally speaking, perhaps?
I was simply reiterating the point made by ~Sophia~. Yeah, I think "love trade" may be a way to look at it. Of course, it does not follow that prostitution is ideal or less than ideal or immoral or moral. However, I think it clarifies the nature of the trade to ask: "why shouldn't I pay someone to be my "friend"?"

From there I would ask: in what way is such "friendship" a value to me? Is paying someone to be my "friend" more value or less value to me than someone wanting to be my friend? Does it depend on context, and if so what examples come to mind? etc.

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I might be wrong in this, but I suspect that, by having attacked a strawman, Ayn Rand ended up endorsing modern Christian views on sexuality.

...

Whoa now, I think you are misunderstanding Rand's reasoning involved in her conclusion that sex can't be separated from values, and that therefore “mindless pleasure-seeking” is immoral. Simply because she and the Catholic church agree on the latter point, we cannot logically infer therefore that she endorses their views until we know her reasoning. And I think once we figure out her reasoning we can see that it is certainly not an endorsement of those views.

You are right that the morality of the action depends on its beneficial or detrimental relationship to the life and well-being of the people involved, and therefore a sex trade is not intrinsically immoral, since nothing is intrinsically immoral. But what does that mean in regards to sexual pleasure?

The religionist theory is the intrinsicist value-theory here, in that the good involved is in glorifying a transcendent fantasy realm, which necessarily devalues this one, thus you ought to obey God's will and pleasure is out of the question.

Rand does not simply copy this theory and say that sexual pleasure is intrinsically valuable so it can't be taken apart from values. Rather, it is simply her rejection of the hedonist theory, that is, the subjectivist value-theory here. This theory, unlike the religious one, does uphold pleasure as a value, but separates it from rationality and its relationship to life-affirmation (i.e. its moral objectivity.)

In other words, morally speaking, to separate sexual pleasure from values, says Rand, replaces happiness as the purpose of moral life with pleasure as the standard of moral value. X is good because it gives pleasure, then anything goes if its relevant to one's internal (physical, mental) desires, rather than relevance to external facts (i.e. the requirements of man's life and well-being qua man.)

If because of that train of thought, she comes to view prostitution as immoral, i.e. because she rejects the subjectivist value-theory, it can't be said to be endorsing the modern Christian view, i.e. accepting the intrinsicist value-theory.

So what about her conclusion that “mindless pleasure-seeking” is immoral and in regards to your question about prostitution (which is what “sex trade” is)? Well that is another long chain of reasoning that isn't easy to get to, but what the hell, let's try.

The issue isn't primarily even a moral one. Its morality is a secondary consequence of the consideration of that action's beneficial or harmful relationship to a person, but determining whether prostitution actually is beneficial or harmful (leaving aside from the obvious considerations about diseases and whether or not there are more important things to be doing with one's time and money and other contextual minutiae) is primarily psychological. She views this type of sexual pleasure-seeking as immoral in that the motivation for engaging in this behavior arises from a neurosis and is therefore psychologically unhealthy, hence immoral.

From my understanding, it goes something like this: First, the relationship between morality and emotions/desires is integrated in the nature of man. Emotions and desires are automatic mental responses to value-judgments, and they involve both mental and physical components in the human body. Sexual desires are therefore determined by premises, that is, value-judgments. In fact, all desires are. Strictly speaking, there is no such thing as “bodily desires.” The capacity to experience sexual pleasure is physical/bodily, in that the body possesses nerve endings and organs and all the necessary tools to engage in intercourse or pleasuring, but these organs are not autonomous machines that run by themselves. It is the mind that determines their use, and the mind determines their use through judgments of value. This is what she means by “sex is to love what action is to thought.”

This is why Sophia asked you if you would deny that you wanted a man to pleasure you, because obviously that would imply that it is not a “purely physical” event to you. Your reply to her totally missed the point, which was that if this where a purely physical desire, then it is incapable of explaining the phenomenon of preferences or discrimination between partners. Not only that, but it would be incapable of explaining the need for a partner at all (after all, why not masturbation or autoeroticism, or why reject alternative options for pleasure?)

So the question for Rand is then what role in man's nature does pleasure play, and what are those specific values involved in sexual behavior? Rand and Branden then come to the conclusion that the psychological need of pleasure is integrated with the psychological need of self-esteem in that all experiences of pleasure carry with it an affirmation of one's self-esteem, as pain carries with it an affirmation of one's impotence at dealing with reality.

Branden then theorizes a sort of “Say's law” of psychology, in that one's productivity and consumption of values must be brought into equilibrium. (Production = achieving a value, consumption = enjoying a value already achieved.) If there is disequilibrium, then like in the economy, a (literal) depression will be the result, i.e. frustration and anxiety. For major values, man thus has a need to concertize one's consumption in physical form (i.e. in action), otherwise frustration will result. (This need comes from the mental “Say's law.”) The problem is solved by the concept of “celebration,” which is an action undertaken as an end in itself, not as a means. The purpose is the give expression to the enjoyment of a value achieved in the past, objectifying the act of consumption of a major value. (And then the chain of reasoning goes on to explain the most major value of all being one's own moral character, and then into the concept of romantic love.) But their point is, sex is the celebration of romantic love, and a man's sexual behavior thus reveals his view of existence (in the same way art does) through his choice of partner and the meaning of the sex act to him.

So here we can only stop to mention that, like RationalBiker said, you didn't provide nearly any context for us to examine any of the above, so we can only speak generally and then you can apply Rand's train of thought to yourself and come to whatever conclusion. Basically, the act of sex trade or prostitution can be immoral in that Rand views a man of self-esteem pursuing pleasure as an effect, a reward, a celebration of himself and his partner and that the universe his open to their value-achievement. However, in a man that lacks self-esteem, he will try to reverse cause and effect, hence what he is seeking from the act determines the partner he will choose (the prostitute.) Instead of self-esteem leading to sex as a celebration (end in itself), sexual pleasure-seeking will be used as a means (that is, as a means to self-esteem.) It will be an attempt to gain pseudo-self-esteem, which means it is a neurosis, as the person is essentially using it to escape from his mind and reality, but it will fail to actually bring him fulfillment, pride, and the crucial sense of efficacy he needs. He is of course still able to perform the act and it will of course bring him pleasure and even temporarily make him feel better. But it will not bring him emotional achievement because his reason for engaging in the sex trade arises from a mentally unhealthy premise. (If I recall, this is mentioned in Francisco's sex speech in AS.)

Hopefully that makes sense? Yes, no?

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I was simply reiterating the point made by ~Sophia~. Yeah, I think "love trade" may be a way to look at it. Of course, it does not follow that prostitution is ideal or less than ideal or immoral or moral. However, I think it clarifies the nature of the trade to ask: "why shouldn't I pay someone to be my "friend"?"

From there I would ask: in what way is such "friendship" a value to me? Is paying someone to be my "friend" more value or less value to me than someone wanting to be my friend? Does it depend on context, and if so what examples come to mind? etc.

Nice spin. Sorry Sophia, kudos to you for clarifying.

Paying for "friends" ... how about paying for soldiers? Is paying/taking money to fight to the death any less heinous than paying/taking money to spend friendly time with another person? Okay, so both prostitutes and mercenaries have been maligned traditionally; but at least, I can't see how these two differ morally, and are like many other professions, and maybe MOST if the "paying/taking money to do something you'd rather not do" is the basis of judgment. Is that all there is to it?

- ico

Edited by icosahedron
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Paying for "friends" ... how about paying for soldiers? Is paying/taking money to fight to the death any less heinous than paying/taking money to spend friendly time with another person? Okay, so both prostitutes and mercenaries have been maligned traditionally; but at least, I can't see how these two differ morally, and are like many other professions, and maybe MOST if the "paying/taking money to do something you'd rather not do" is the basis of judgment. Is that all there is to it?

Your comparison completely misses the mark of the "paying for friends" question (I don't mean to speak for sN, but before he posted I was thinking about asking something very similar to what he asked, so I think I know what he's getting at). The value of friends comes from their independent judgment of you as a good person, and from their own independent decision to spend time with you. Attempting to pay someone to do that undercuts the source of the value. Another comparison to think about (this is the one I was going to use): would you pay someone to give you complements? Would that make sense? The answer, I think, is that it would obviously not make sense at all. The point of complements is that they are another person's expression of their own positive, independent judgment of something about you. Trying to elicit that value through payment completely undercuts the purpose of it, because the basis of the value of a complement is the fact that the other person actually believes what they are saying.

Rand viewed sex in this same way, as an expression of a positive evaluation of your sex partner. Paying someone else for sex would then be tantamount to paying someone else to fake a positive evaluation of you as a person. Any feelings of self-worth or self-esteem gained from such an exercise would be completely faked and worthless.

Paying for soldiers is completely different; they provide a service which is valuable simply because it is performed. There is nothing inherent in the value of the act of fighting a conflict which is undercut by paying for the service. It's not just about something you'd "rather not do;" it's about something that's only worthwhile if the other person actually believes what they're saying or actually feels what they're expressing.

Edited by Dante
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Attempting to pay someone to do that undercuts the source of the value. Another comparison to think about (this is the one I was going to use): would you pay someone to give you complements? Would that make sense?

I disagree. I think that's one of the major benefits of psychotherapy. If someone doesn't have an adequate social base to fill his psychological needs, then payment to have these needs fulfilled until one can establish a public setting to fulfill them is better than not having them filled at all.

The same can be said for prostitution. In fact, I believe that there are serious people (not run-of-the-mill prostitutes) who call themselves sex therapists and may engage in sexual behaviors with their clients when they deem it beneficial to their clients. This behavior could potentially be beneficial to someone with say, a history of sexual abuse, who cannot engage in sexual behaviors normally because of severe psychological disturbances.

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I disagree. I think that's one of the major benefits of psychotherapy. If someone doesn't have an adequate social base to fill his psychological needs, then payment to have these needs fulfilled until one can establish a public setting to fulfill them is better than not having them filled at all.

Psychotherapy is employing a trained professional to assist you in working through a deep psychological issue.

Self deluding yourself into believing a prostitute, or "friend" is fulfilling a need (or whim) youre experiencing is not a rational equivalent.

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I apparently can't find the button to edit my previous post, so here's the link to some information on sex therapy from WebMD

Psychotherapy is employing a trained professional to assist you in working through a deep psychological issue.

Self deluding yourself into believing a prostitute, or "friend" is fulfilling a need (or whim) youre experiencing is not a rational equivalent.

It's an analogy. Psychotherapy:friends::Sex therapy/prostitution:lovers.

Edited by DancingBear
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I initially came here because the topic appeared to be pornography and masturbation, but it appears the subject has morphed into the topic of a loved one's death - whether by one's own hands or not -- shzeesh! Just how hypothetical do you want to get here?

What intrigued me initially was the comment by a poster that Rand thought that pornography (and maybe masturbation? Not sure...) reflected a very base and degraded sense of life.

Well, my question was (and still is, despite the turn the topic has taken) WHY does a life of pornography reflect a degraded sense of life? If a person possesses a good body, and it's a saleable item, why is that degraded? Isn't that an individual producing something, a product that others derive satisfaction from? What is degraded about that? Not everyone possesses the physical traits necessary to provide enjoyment for others, nor knows how to market them even if they possess them. It's no different than a person having a fantastic sense of architectural design. Rand seems to be reacting from a past religious Jewish upbringing here, and it makes no sense to me.

As for masturbation, why is there even a question? Is this not a question of individual rights? Who is harmed? One could posit that the person who masturbates loses touch with real human beings, but if that person can't handle or doesn't like real human beings, SO WHAT?! As long as that person produces and is content as an individual, what harm is done?

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It's an analogy. Psychotherapy:friends::Sex therapy/prostitution:lovers.

How does psychotherapy even relate to friends? I mean, friends won't really FIX a psychological problem. Therapists are supposed to fix these problems if they do their job effectively. Therapy doesn't have to mean sitting on a couch talking about your problems, like you might to a friend. So the analogy is pretty bad.

Edited by Eiuol
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How does psychotherapy even relate to friends? I mean, friends won't really FIX a psychological problem. Therapists are supposed to fix these problems if they do their job effectively. Therapy doesn't have to mean sitting on a couch talking about your problems, like you might to a friend. So the analogy is pretty bad.

I didn't "say psychotherapy is the same as having friends, so sex therapy/prostitution is the same as having a lover". I was trying to say that psychotherapy can help one solve problems that may keep them from having friends, like sex therapy/prostitution can help one solve problems that may keep them from having a lover.

Are you satisfied with the analogy now?

Isn't that an individual producing something, a product that others derive satisfaction from?

You could look at pornography like other performance. It's art, although not good art, and the porn stars are essentially improv actors. Something still remains unsatisfying with this definition.

Edited by DancingBear
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Paying for soldiers is completely different; they provide a service which is valuable simply because it is performed.

Well, I don't know about completely different.

Prostitution means the rental of one's time, attention, and body to another to use (more or less) for their sensual/sexual pleasure.

To behave as a mercenary means the rental of one's time, attention, and body to another to use (more or less) as a means to kill a third party or few.

In either case, one is renting out one's time, attention, body; renting oneself out to the purpose of another; allowing, for the space of time paid for, another to determine one's choices.

So I am becoming convinced that BOTH are immoral in the absence of extenuation, because both behaviors involve ceding one's decision-making process to another -- sex is for celebration, war is for defense, and if used for other purposes, both become vehicles for cultural perversion.

Now, if a person simply enjoys sex, and also sees how to make money at it (if such a one exists, truly), then more power to 'em, I say!

- ico

Edited by icosahedron
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Well, I don't know about completely different.

Prostitution means the rental of one's time, attention, and body to another to use (more or less) for their sensual/sexual pleasure.

To behave as a mercenary means the rental of one's time, attention, and body to another to use (more or less) as a means to kill a third party or few.

In either case, one is renting out one's time, attention, body; renting oneself out to the purpose of another; allowing, for the space of time paid for, another to determine one's choices.

That's not what's immoral about prostitution. That's pretty much just the definition of being employed: renting oneself out for a certain period of time. The reason that prostitution is different is that sex is only psychologically valuable for the person having it if their sexual partner chose them freely and independently. This is why it is analogous to friendship; part of the basis of the value for friendship is that the other person has independently judged you as worthy of their emotional investment, to some extent. In choosing a sexual partner, this is even more true. Prostitution severs this foundation; the prostitute has sex with you, not because she chooses to because she thinks you're worthy of it, but because you are paying her. Thus, psychologically, it's worthless at best, and self-deluding at worst.

So I am becoming convinced that BOTH are immoral in the absence of extenuation, because both behaviors involve ceding one's decision-making process to another -- sex is for celebration, war is for defense, and if used for other purposes, both become vehicles for cultural perversion.

So listening to your boss when you're on the clock is immoral? What? Being paid to be a soldier is not immoral. As with any job, as a soldier you should always be making sure that your actions are acceptable, morally, under the circumstances; no one should cede all decision-making unreservedly to another person. The main point is, the comparison of prostitutes with mercenaries completely misses the point. We need soldiers like we need electricians, garbagemen, and college professors. There is nothing wrong with any of them working for pay. What's wrong with prostitution stems from something different, inherent in the nature of the sex act itself and what the person (john) is trying to get out of it. You literally cannot buy someone's independent positive judgment of your own worth (it's a contradiction), and this is what paying for sex or paying for friends attempts to do.

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I like to ad that even prostitution is not evil or bad in anyway (granted it isn't human slavery). It is better that men fuck a whore, than rape a random woman.

- To elaborate on what RationalBiker was already pointing out, the comparison is completely outlandish in the sense that the act of paying a prostitute for sex and the act of raping are motivated by completely different things - most people paying for prostitues would probably not rape women if there was no prostitutes avaliable, and at the same time there is no reason to assume that rapists would not be rapist if the option of prostitutes where present.

Basically rapists would probably in the case of random attacks (which represent a minority) be motivated by sexual violence and subordination of other people - and in the case of rape among aquientences it could be a way of hurting a particular person for no other reason then hurting them, or fealing you've "earned it" or whatever insane justifications people can make for themselves.

People who purchase prostitues usually (probably) are just looking to get laid for no other motives then that it would make them feel good there and then.

Obviously a normal prostitute would not meet the "requirements" of a rapist, and therefor not act as any sort of substitute, as you seem to imply.

To put it simply, if the mentally unstable Ben is stalking Stacy, and she has no interest in him even though he has confessed his love on multiple occations, and Ben has come to the point where he is chosing to force her into pleasing him - it is not as if he, on his way to Stacy's house, would be distracted and satisfied by a brothel accidentaly on his route if he should happen to pass one.

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sex is only psychologically valuable for the person having it if their sexual partner chose them freely and independently. ...the prostitute has sex with you, not because she chooses to because she thinks you're worthy of it, but because you are paying her. Thus, psychologically, it's worthless at best, and self-deluding at worst.

Well, the prostitute and the client sought each other freely and independently.

Prostitutes have their selection criteria for their customers, just as any other trader. Clients, in turn, have their selection criteria for choosing prostitutes. So, both have to evaluate if the partner is "worthy" of the exchange.

Now, why being worthy of sex should equal being worthy of love, and specifically one sort of love, Romantic love?

That's the crux of the matter and we will run in circles unless we figure it out.

You literally cannot buy someone's independent positive judgment of your own worth (it's a contradiction), and this is what paying for sex or paying for friends attempts to do.

"Money can't buy me love", as the Beatles say in their song. True. But who is trying to buy or sell love in an act of sex trade?

I don't doubt that some people may be seeking love, friendship or company when hiring a prostitute... But that's their particular problem in dealing with reality, a neurosis applicable to all human interactions, and not inherently part of prostitution. We know people who seek friendship when hiring a nurse or a doctor or a teacher or a psychotherapist.

Some patients pay a nurse expecting her to act "as if she was really interested in me". In the place I work, I have known people who consider their team as a "family", their colleagues as "brothers and sisters" and their boss as a " father" or "mother". This is insane, somewhat frequent, but not intrinsic to any specific kind of interaction or trade.

Furthermore, when we hire actors for a play or film, we are paying them to act as if they were having emotions or mental states that they really do not have. We do it for our own entertaiment and pleasure. We are not hiring these actors to deceive us. There is no deception in a play. We know they are acting. They themselves know they are acting. We would never condemn theather because it is faking reality. We might endorse or disapprove the content of a particular play, but acting itself is not immoral.

For a lucid person, hiring a prostitute would be like hiring an actor. The lucid person does not have any reason to confuse a prostitute with a lover, or sex with romantic love.

I'm not saying that all prostitues and clients are lucid, highly rational people who know well what they want and what they're getting from the other part. Far from it. Problems with self-esteem are widely prevalent. The only thing I am saying is that any act of sex trade should be judged, morally, within a broader context, and not automatically condemned for not being a celebration of romantic love.

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Well, this has gotten too hypothetical even for me.

I will retreat to the tried and true: whatever two consenting, non-criminally motivated adults do in private is none of my business, up to and including any commercial arrangements. They can judge for themselves whether whatever trade they are doing is fair to them.

But, to maybe take this thread back up a more titillating track, how about this hypothetical situation often explored in literature, where the john falls for the professional? How does one argue, ex post facto, that the commercial act which initiated their relationship was somehow immoral, if/when their relationship might be perfectly proper?

- ico

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... , how about this hypothetical situation often explored in literature, where the john falls for the professional? How does one argue, ex post facto, that the commercial act which initiated their relationship was somehow immoral, if/when their relationship might be perfectly proper?
There's no logical fallacy involved in making that type of argument. I might set out with evil intentions to kill Thomas Becket, but be moved by something he says as I let him say a last prayer, and end up being his one champion, defending him against Henry II. That does not mean my original intent and actions up to the point I stopped down the path were moral and good.
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