You’ve heard about Robert Kraft, right? The 77-year-old widowed billionaire who owns the New England Patriots and has apparently been accused (all the details aren’t out) of going to a massage parlor to get a happy ending.
Now, I haven’t watched a football game in years and I don’t care about Robert Kraft or the Patriots at all. Furthermore, I’ve always been opposed to prostitution, but it’s still hard to condemn the guy, because prostitution has become a run-of-the-mill act in America. We just use legalisms and play the definition game (what I do is good and fine, while what you do is bad and over the line) to condemn people doing something no morally different than what we’re doing.
Obviously, prostitution is legal in parts of Nevada. If you drive across the state, you’ll see it advertised incessantly and you’ll even pass grimy-looking, garishly advertised brothels. In fact, the owner of many of the brothels in Nevada, self-described pimp Dennis Hof, ran for the state legislature there and won, even after his untimely death.
But, let’s go a little further down the rabbit hole. What is prostitution, really, other than a man paying a woman for sexual gratification?
Remember Donald Sterling losing the Los Angeles Clippers over racist comments recorded by his “girlfriend,” V. Stiviano? What struck me about it was that Donald Sterling bought her a Ferrari, a Range Rover, and two Bentleys to go along with a $1.8 million duplex. We may not think of that as prostitution, but she was a 30-year-old woman servicing an 80-year-old married man and she wasn’t doing it for free.
On the same wavelength, but at a lower level, are sugar babies. Go to any big college town and check the right places online and you will find lots of young women ready and willing to be someone’s girlfriend if the price is right. No woman has ever admitted to me that she was a sugar baby, but have I had women tell me that they have friends who do it? Uh-huh. Do they think of themselves as prostitutes? Apparently not. But, just because you go to dinner with a man before he has sex with you and puts the money on the counter doesn’t change what you’re doing.
Sadly (I guess that is the right word), even that much interaction is a little too much for some men to handle, so they find an attractive woman on Instagram, pay her enough money on Patreon, and then they get access to her “lewds.” Again, money changes hands and sexual gratification happens.
Perhaps you could argue that a strip club doesn’t meet that definition since (ideally) sex isn’t occurring there. But what about phone sex? Aren’t there women legally taking money to achieve the same result through conversation that Robert Kraft allegedly got in that massage parlor? What about cam girls? Same thing, right?
You could even make that argument about pornography, which has become so ever-present that researchers have difficulty finding 20-something males who haven’t watched it. But wait, you say, “That’s free!” Of course, that’s not really true. The participants are getting paid by producers who are hoping to sell clips/videos or make money on advertising. So there are people having sex, money is changing hands, and there is sexual gratification involved. So, are the women prostituting themselves? Yes, it’s just that instead of one man, there are large numbers of men involved in passively (although sometimes actively) funding it.
Prostitution may be “the world’s oldest profession,” but a lot of these modern forms of it are very new. We don’t realize how much things have changed in the last few decades… and I am not just talking about what you see in this meme:
“In 1991, the year the worldwide web came on, there were fewer than 90 adult magazines in America. Six years later in 1997, there were about 900 pornography sites. Today, the filtering software CYBERsitter blocks 2.5 million adult websites.”
As pornography has become more commonplace in our society over the last three decades than in any civilization in history — by orders of magnitude — it has had an enormous impact on our popular culture. This now notorious video from Cardi B shows how far you have to go to get people’s attention with sex in a culture where every type of product imaginable is sold with it and it’s ordinary to see “nice girls” dressed like prostitutes from 40 years ago.
This is the part where I guess I could drop the big lecture about God, values, and decency, but instead, I’m going to say that we should think really hard about where all of this is going before some horrifying cross between Tinder, Fiverr, and Backpage comes along and we end up with teenage girls using an app to find clients to get with behind the dumpster at Carl’s Jr. so they can save money up for the newest version of the iPhone. If we want to draw a bright red line and put people like Robert Kraft, Charlie Sheen, and Tiger Woods on the other side of it, I think that would probably be good for our society. However, if we keep playing this little game as a society where we pretend to be outraged when someone like Kraft gets caught doing this as we’re getting off while looking at hundreds of naked women copulating from our home computer each day, calling phone sex lines, and pretending that thots on Instagram getting paid to put up naked pictures of themselves are A-OK, we’re probably not going to like where those perpetually blurry lines lead us as a society over the next few decades.