A PREMIUM FOR A MAN

Indian business has purchased cricketers from all over the world. Yes, I am talking of the Indian Premiere League auctions at the Hilton in Mumbai. Yesterday was a momentous day in the history of world cricket, and never will cricket be the same again.

It struck me that when the world can appreciate and participate in the auction of live players, what does it find wrong with organ sale or body rentals, aka prostitution?

What is wrong with surrogate motherhood?

Why does the world have different standards of judging these manifestations of the same fundamental principle: that a trade between willing partners is just fine? There cannot be crimes without victims, can there?

44 responses to “A PREMIUM FOR A MAN

  1. Why is it perfectly normal in some cultures for women to walk around topless while here in the west you could get arrested for that?

    Nothing wrong with being a surrogate mother, giving up your kidney’s or prostituting yourself.

    Unless you’re being exploitated.

  2. I’m sure that the lawyers for cricketers went over the documents, agreements etc. and explained to their clients what the implications were for them to sign on the dotted line. Basically, information asymmetry wasn’t there, or negligible.

    I’m all in favor of legalizing prostitution and organ trade if there is a similar set-up as there was for cricketers – if women are not lied to, beaten or drugged by men (basically coerced) to get them into the prostitution trade, and if they choose it of their own free will. If they have a contract and an expert can explain to them what that contract means. Until that happens, what you propose is nothing but an elitist fantasy to maintain and perpetuate the not-level playing field and exploit people.

  3. By your reasoning, what’s wrong with a little child pornography, a bit of drug trafficking, snuff films, or a little bit of human trafficking?
    After all, there are markets for any of the above. Since we are social animals who have to live with each other, there are some ground rules, some taboos.
    Buying or as we say stateside, drafting professional sportsplayers or voluntary prostitution is not the same.

  4. I wholeheartedly endorse Amit’s view.

  5. Few trades, if any, are not impacted by information asymmetry. When one walks into the grocery store and buys beef, the buyer may be unaware that it’s stale or tainted. An unscrupulous store owner may advertise a discount to get rid of it, without disclosing that it’s stale. We have laws to protect the buyers/consumers from such fraudulent conveyance. The higher the risk/cost to the buyer, and more irreversible the damage done, the more punitive the laws are. The rationale for an entire class of trades to be banned or made illegal, has little or no economic basis.

    Social taboos? There are those who believe that sport for money is immoral. Remember when professional athletes were banned from the Olympics? Bringing notions of immorality to bear on trade between consenting adults is a slippery slope to regulatory black hole!

  6. What a great comment, TRF!
    I don’t need to add anything to that…
    Thanks for your comments, Amit, Purnima, Vivek…
    Jackie: child porn is a different thing altogether. It involves violation of a child’s rights. In mutually consenting adult activity like adult porn, drugs, etc. there should be no problem for the State. Talking of the moral aspects of any practical issue would be liable to be called ‘elitist fantasy’, I reckon.

  7. TRF: As far as I know, when a customer walks into a store, he is neither drugged nor beaten by the meat-seller/owner and forced to buy the product. So your meat-buying analogy fails a bit there.

    If there is no coercion and a person chooses to become a prostitute/gigolo of free will, I have no issues with it. But the examples of that are pretty rare (probably with the exception of high class escorts/call girls) – in overwhelming cases, you will find women being sold-off or coerced into the trade.

  8. //Why does the world have different standards of judging these manifestations of the same fundamental principle: that a trade between willing partners is just fine?//
    Rambodoc, trade between willing partners is just fine provided they are adults. However in the case of women in flesh trade sometimes even if they are willing partners they are victims. When a woman sells herself to feed her hungry child I am not sure if she can be called a willing partner although she is a consenting adult. Same in the case of organ donation. A person selling his kidney to feed his family is a consenting adult and the victim both. I don’t find anything wrong with surrogate motherhood as long as it is not forced on her.
    // the world can appreciate and participate in the auction of live players// the players, IPL and the general public all are benefiting from this auction where is the problem?

  9. R-Doc: They have not been “sold”, as you seem to assume and imply. The sums (the “bids”) you saw are the sums the players will each get paid annually for playing in the IPL. Each city’s team has a named player who will get paid a much higher sum than every other player in his team.

    Now what were you saying about prostitution, surrogacy etc been on the same footing?

    I also find it interesting that while my earlier comments on “information asymmetry” in markets have incurred your attention and counter-argument, you do not address the same when raised by TRF. Is there a signal here I should be reading into? Or is it just that you counter a basic principle of free markets only when it seems to go against your argument? πŸ™‚

  10. Shefaly:
    I didn’t mean to imply that the cricketers were physically sold off as slaves. But their skills, their brand, sex appeal, and brand equity are all bought now.
    In other words, this is equivalent to, say, you paying me a huge retainer salary every year, and I agree to see only one patient, you.
    This is sale of a person’s soul/skill/expertise. How different is sale of a body for a specified duration of time?
    I agreed with TRF’s argument where he speaks of fraudulent activity, where the law protects the rights of the consumer. At the same time, I believe that such shysters won’t find a place under the sun in the free market. There is a difference between information asymmetry and fraud/outright cheating.

  11. @ R-Doc: Your post is on WordPress home page! πŸ™‚

    The sale of a person’s “soul”? πŸ™‚ Et tu, Brutus? Where does the soul come in all this? And as an ‘ajar amar’ entity, can it be bought and sold?

    The licensing (not sale!) of a professional’s skills, where, as Amit pointed out, lawyers pore over every detail and limitation before the deal is agreed is very different from prostitution, where the owner of the body is not always able to test clients for, say, AIDS or chlamydia and cannot always guarantee that he/ she will return alive from the client interaction. For ref, see this recent piece of news from the UK:

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/suffolk/7258115.stm

    Considering several possible asymmetries, does law come to the protection of consumers or of purveyors in this case? Not really. Not big measures anyway although that is changing. Norway is considering making it illegal to buy sex. A publishing group in the UK has recently stopped publishing personal services adverts (read: sex services advertisements).

    Is it just even remotely possible that some issues need to be framed in their socio-economic entirety before declaring trade in them a “free market”?

  12. liked the post and the comments πŸ™‚

  13. I gave the beef purchase example to illustrate the near ubiquity of information asymmetry that Amit had raised in his earlier comment, and not the use of force. If kidnapping, physical assault, or forced drugging – all criminal activities – is involved in coercing a woman into sex for money, the deterrent punishment should be for these criminal activities, should it not? Why ban sex for money or punish the sex worker?

    Take a look at the history of sex for money. It was (and is) banned not because it’s exploitative of women, but because sex outside marriage was considered immoral and a sin (ironically, only for women, and not for men in most cultures!). By banning sex for money, the society prevents a woman from earning the best wages for her best skills, and if this is not discriminatory and exploitative, I don’t know what is. What’s the logic behind sanctioning selling/renting/licensing labor (read use of some muscles ) for a fashion parade, but banning the use of some other muscles for sex?

    As for Shefaly’s comment about lack of access to lawyers, pre-sale tests, and consumer protection, well, if the underlying transaction – sex for money – is illegal, how can we have any of these recourses? Where pornographic movies (sex for money, of course!) are legal, I am reasonable confident that the actors have access to all of these. The situation is not conceptually different from back-alley illegal abortions, where abortions are banned. No lawyers, no consumer protection there, either. The first step in addressing these lacunae is to make sex for money (in all its forms) legal.

  14. TRF:

    “By banning sex for money, the society prevents a woman from earning the best wages for her best skills..”

    I am glad to note you hold such a high opinion of women’s “best skills”!

  15. Well, when the best analogy “objectivists” can come up with for a woman having sex for money is a person going in to buy meat in a shop, that is telling in itself. I’d love to hear what Peikoff has to say about his pet theories if Kira decides to “earn best wages for her best skills.” That would be the acid-test. πŸ™‚

  16. Shefaly,
    I did not write “women’s best skills”, but “a woman’s best skills”. Either you don’t read my blog or you have misunderstood what I meant. It is not “the best skills” of any woman. It is the best skills of a woman who intends to choose sex for money as her profession. I, too, choose a profession where I expect my best skills will be put to use to earn the best wages that I can fetch. If you want it in economic terms, I choose to expend my marginal hour of labor on an activity that will maximize the marginal product (and therefore, marginal return) . And, by the way, I do not have a “low opinion” of a woman whose best skills are in the sex trade, as compared to, say, a woman whose best skills are in defending serial rapists in a court of law!

    Amit,
    What precisely is the qualitative difference between a butcher selling his meat carving skills and a woman selling sex skills, given neither is coerced?

  17. TRF:
    When they (non-objective people) run out of arguments, they try scoring brownie points by such snipes!
    πŸ˜‰

  18. //first step in addressing these lacunae is to make sex for money (in all its forms) legal.//

    Where I live it’s very much legal but still in most places a very shady business. Youngsters from arond the globe end up here for something they did not chose for and don’t get the wages they should get. Streetworkers idem dito. Perhaps after legalisation ‘fair trade sex’ could be the second step.

    the maggot I’m in love with that he ows me

  19. //the maggot I’m in love with that he ows me//

    my server was hungry and ate the rest of comment… perhaps it was for the best! lol

  20. In theory I can relate to what you are trying to say but somehow I cannot accept that this is the same as prostitution ot organ sale. This is perhaps similar to the competition for skilled resources in the employment market. While I have no issues with legalising prostitution or organ sale, I still feel that these would be choices for people only when they have no alternate means of livelihood which in itself is a very sad and humiliating situation for a human being. Something else needs to be corrected here more than legalising these.

  21. “the maggot I’m in love with that he ows me”
    Purnima, what the *&%^$& is that supposed to mean? You love a maggot, and he makes you go ‘OW’?
    ‘Owzzat?
    πŸ™‚

  22. Guess I am late for this post. I did read it, was a little put off and left! πŸ™‚ Now I am back, straight from the wordpress home page.
    Amit thanks for exactly expressing my point of view. I doubt whether I would have been able to express it better.

  23. When they (non-objective people) run out of arguments, they try scoring brownie points by such snipes!

    Well, since I get so much amusement from self-congratulatory statements of you “objectivists” to each other and COMA (Collective of Mutual Appreciation) behavior, I’m simply returning the favor by providing you guys with some amusement at my expense and my so-not-objective statements. Snipes are the spice of life. πŸ˜‰

    TRF: While I have no experience in either of those trades, nor have I talked to anyone who has first-hand experience, my perception is based on what I’ve read and documentaries I’ve seen. So, my answer could change if you ask me the same question a year from now.

    I’d think that having sex for money with multiple strangers in a single day, even if done without coercion, would (in most cases)
    a. involve being much more emotionally vulnerable,
    b. numbing oneself to some extent, and
    c. exposing oneself to potential dangers (a crazy client)
    than would chopping meat and selling it to customers in a store.

    I also find it somewhat sketchy (totally subjective and so not objective) when men discuss and appropriate issues that have to do with women’s bodies (prostitution, abortion rights). I’m very likely to support any attempts at legalizing prostitution if such attempts come from female sex-workers themselves (likes of Carol Queen, Annie Sprinkle etc.) rather than from suits in armchair using some ideology for their purposes (again, my subjective opinion, no offense meant). Which is not to say that only women – and sex-workers at that – should have a say about an issue like prostitution (by that logic, I wouldn’t be able to speak up about gay rights because I’m not gay), but that it’s more a matter of trust and what role (primary, secondary, ally) others play. IMO. Again, you may disagree.

    Also, you should put the question you asked me to some of your close female friends and/or family members (I’m not suggesting that they have first-hand experience w/ prostitution) with whom you are comfortable discussing this issue, and listen to what they have to say.

    I’ll let other female readers of this blog answer your question and offer their opinions, if they want to.

  24. Many occupations entail the risk of personal injury (both mental and physical) – occupational hazards. These are part of the costs of expending labor on a chosen activity. The costs as well as the benefits are idiosyncratic. Only the concerned individual (not the group, the collective, society, etc. to which they belong) can decide if the expected benefits justify incurring the costs, and choose whether or not to pursue the occupation. Others have no right to foreclose the choice.

  25. It is interesting how this post, starting with a simple sentence, “Indian business has purchased cricketers from all over the world”, has rapidly become a debate on the merits or otherwise of the sex trade. Do I see Freud in the slips somewhere? πŸ™‚

  26. Many occupations entail the risk of personal injury (both mental and physical) – occupational hazards. These are part of the costs of expending labor on a chosen activity.
    No disagreement there – you asked me what some of the differences were, and I gave you some. As to how women view those differences and what they do about it is a whole another debate, and would depend on the individual woman. Till we get some first-hand data, it’s all speculation.

    The costs as well as the benefits are idiosyncratic.
    Again, true. But based on what I’ve read on this issue, women are divided on whether female sexuality and the sex-trade is something of a special case worth special considerations, or not different from any other service like singing or dancing. To each their own.

  27. @ Vivek: Freud may be standing at a point called “silly mid-on”! πŸ™‚

    @ Amit and TRF: It is interesting that only men ever seem to discuss that prostitution is a voluntary activity with no undesirable outcomes attached. Although even those who do use prostitutes regularly and have “justifications” they are happy to share with the media, they keep their own identities hidden. Why smear one’s own bhadrolok image?

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/7257623.stm

    That makes Amit a very noteworthy man!

  28. Shefaly,

    I stand corrected of my Freudian slip! πŸ™‚

  29. …that prostitution is a voluntary activity with no undesirable outcomes attached.

    Shefaly, such trivial externalities will be taken care of by that abstract magical thingy up in the sky – free market – that looks out for all of us. We bow down to its infinite wisdom. πŸ˜‰

  30. By my reckoning, pure free trade does not exist, anymore than pure communism has existed. We just cannot live together without basic laws to protect the ignorant/innocent, sadly.
    Transactions are not always conducted fairly, and by the well-informed.

  31. Clarification:

    My last line in an earlier comment should have read:

    “That makes Amit a very noteworthy man by exception, as a man who is willing to frame a problem in its entirety, caring to look beyond “free market” framing”.

    I hope it is clearer now than it was before.

  32. @Jackie: There is something that protects the ignorant. Gene selection, or evolution. Isn’t that the best way to ensure you are rid of your dumbest? Imagine removing all the safety labels off all the electrical equipment, razor sharp cutting tools etc.

    Thank god for laws and the zombification of the human race!

    @Amit: I am not sure where I stand on this issue, but I do have a question. If prostitution is/remains banned, how does that help the women that are already in the “profession” and those that WILL choose it as a termination of their options.

    Banning the profession alone does not provide respite to those that you are rallying for (the ones that might choose a different profession if the viable options existed). A far more insightful solution would perhaps (IMHO) be to ensure enough of those “viable options”. By extension of your logic, the women that would much rather not sell themselves for sex, would obviously opt for the options that are now viable, and those that couldn’t care less, are free to sell themselves for sex!!!

    P.S. All this is subject to whether they are forced or not. But then what about minimum wage workers? Why aren’t we rallying for those construction workers that get paid so little for the effort they put in, or for those that work in mines for barely minimum wage?! The ideology you use should be extended to these workforces too.

  33. DD, you seem to have misinterpreted my comments. I am not in favor of banning prostitution – I am in favor of addressing/acknowledging and reducing/eliminating the power imbalances that force women into prostitution. If a woman enters the trade willingly, that’s fine by me. As for your other question, you should ask a sex-worker as to what’s the best solution – maybe marriage/domestic partnership with you? πŸ˜‰
    (j/k)

    All this is subject to whether they are forced or not. But then what about minimum wage workers?

    I wasn’t aware that I had to present my credentials and positions on all other issues while discussing this particular issue. Are you saying that if I say I enjoy mangoes, I have to enjoy apples and bananas too, and state that upfront? πŸ™‚

    I still don’t see the connection between women being forced into prostitution by men, and a miner agreeing (maybe as a last option) to risk his life by mining coal for low wages. In general, I am in favor of increased safety and living wages. Does that answer your question?

    I don’t care much for ideologies and I see no need to frame my points within one, as I haven’t found any single one that works for me. In general, I think people should have more freedom to make choices and lead a healthy life, and any concentration of power in the hands of a few (state, corporation, dictator, foo bar) is bad news and needs to be challenged. If this reflects any ideology that you know of, then I guess you can box me in. But it’s irrelevant to me. πŸ™‚

  34. @Amit: Firstly, I did take your stance to be “ban prostitution”. So I apologise if I mis-read or plain missed any of your comments.

    Having said that, since you give the analogy of Mangoes and Bananas, I will continue with the same. If you say you like Mangoes because they are sweet, then by extension you should like bananas too. If, however you dislike bananas, then you like mangoes not just because of their sweetness. That is the reason I brought up worker exploitation! (I am well aware that the analogy will breakdown if you try hard enough, so let us not go that way πŸ˜› ).

    In the context, (assuming you had said Ban prostitution) my question would be perfectly acceptable, since it would be an effective way of deducing whether this was a moral/religious POV.

    “I still don’t see the connection between women being forced into prostitution by men, and a miner agreeing (maybe as a last option) to risk his life by mining coal for low wages.”

    I guess in my earlier comment I did not make it clear, that at the point I was comparing prostitution and mining (just an example), under the assumption that a person was forced into neither.

    However, you have quite obviously made an assumption that all the cheap, unskilled labor is infact, by choice (or I am assuming that you made the assumption). There continues to exist, esp. in India, large labor forces that are forced into no win jobs. So I think it is unfair that you selectively compare miners and FORCED sex workers.

    Lastly, I apologize for the use of the word “ideology”. I know how some people take it to be an insult to be aligned with a particular “ideology”. Each to their own. But just to make it clear, my use of the word ideology may be replaced with a more apt word of your choosing, perhaps principle, or philosophy, or doctrine…

  35. Does umm the above account for male prostitues as well?

  36. @Purnima: I am not sure what you mean exactly by your question. If you are implying that I should have been gender neutral in my statements, I agree and apologise for my mistake. I guess I just picked up on the general language of the comments.

    It is highly sexist of us to assume that just women are coerced into flesh trade! Even if it is only a tiny percentage, the same machinery is capable of solving the issue, irrespective of the sex of the “worker”.

    If I have not understood your question then please clarify it so I may do so.

  37. @DD: I jumped in a little later and wasn’t referring to your comment. My apologies I should have been more specific.

    What ‘bothered me’ is that the whole discussion was focussed on the ‘poor poor women who are forced by men into sexslavery or of the sort’. I’m not familiar with what the scene looks like in the rest of the world but here female pimps outnumber the male ones.

    Amit’s comment:

    “Also, you should put the question you asked me to some of your close female friends and/or family members (I’m not suggesting that they have first-hand experience w/ prostitution) with whom you are comfortable discussing this issue, and listen to what they have to say.

    I’ll let other female readers of this blog answer your question and offer their opinions, if they want to.”

    Sort of triggered me you know since I’m a member of Oestrogen United. πŸ˜‰

    //Even if it is only a tiny percentage, the same machinery is capable of solving the issue, irrespective of the sex of the β€œworker”.//

    Like the wordplay! I’m being an antfucker but the numbers are not that small – it’s a booming business… Here’s why I also brought up my question:

    //I’d think that having sex for money with multiple strangers in a single day, even if done without coercion, would (in most cases)
    a. involve being much more emotionally vulnerable,
    b. numbing oneself to some extent, and//

    Would that apply to men also? Nobody is really that bothered about the mental health of men when they have multiple sexpartners. So why should it screw us gals up? To some of us sex just isn’t ‘a beautiful thing that makes angels weep and fairies dance when two bodies join.

    headaches anyone?

  38. DD, regarding my philosophy, I’m a work-in-progress, a lifelong sikh (student) if you will. And, no, I didn’t feel any insult at any of your comments, so please no need to apologize. πŸ™‚

  39. Purnima,
    Do I have your permission to quote this gem, when pertinent, and with attribution?

    To some of us sex just isn’t β€˜a beautiful thing that makes angels weep and fairies dance when two bodies join.

    Thanks.

  40. @ TRF – only and always, if you use it for obscure reasons πŸ˜‰

  41. Purnima,

    Would that apply to men also?
    Nobody is really that bothered about the mental health of men when they have multiple sexpartners.

    Are you talking about gigolos? Heterosexual or homosexual? Or are you taking about men having multiple partners outside the context of sex-trade? I’d think if the same issues are prevalent among gigolos (male prostitutes), then the same argument holds for them too, though in men’s case, the issue would probably be the cost+after-effects of viagara – we men are victims of hydraulics that limits the number of encounters in a single day. πŸ˜‰

    So why should it screw us gals up? To some of us sex just isn’t β€˜a beautiful thing that makes angels weep and fairies dance when two bodies join.

    First of all, we’re all presenting our views and theories (armchair warriors) based on what we know/think about prostitution second-hand (I’m assuming – feel free to correct me if any of you have first-hand experience) and sex/sexuality (speaking for myself, first-hand) and projecting a bit. Nowhere have I implied that what I’m saying is a blanket view applicable to all prostitutes – I did use “I’d think” and “in most cases” when outlining the differences (which you quoted) between women having sex for money and a butcher chopping meat. So, there’s space for your sentiments about sex without invalidating a different point-of-view, and I’m sure there are many prostitutes who feel the way you do about sex – there’s no right or wrong objective view when it comes to sex. But then, just as you don’t think sex is a beautiful thing, doesn’t mean that everyone else thinks the same way too. πŸ™‚

    Here are some diverse views straight from those who work in the profession:
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/6183491.stm
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/6175759.stm

    What β€˜bothered me’ is that the whole discussion was focussed on the β€˜poor poor women who are forced by men into sexslavery or of the sort’

    While I don’t have numbers, I’d think that trafficking of women forms a not insignificant percentage of women who end up as prostitutes. I’ll be happy to correct myself if you can present stats or articles saying otherwise – I’m not attached to my opinions and would be happy to correct myself.

    Here’s a link about brothels in Amsterdam being shut down, with trafficking cited as one of the reasons:
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/7005768.stm

    Slave trafficking of a woman from Rwanda:
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/7243612.stm

    This is from around WWII:
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/asia-pacific/6646297.stm

    UN forum on human trafficking:
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/7242180.stm

    “Pretty Woman” or “Lilya 4-ever”? You decide. πŸ™‚

    I’ve said enough on this issue, and if you have a different take, that’s totally fine with me – you’re as entitled to your views and opinions as I am to mine – all second-hand and somewhat theoretical, mind you. There’s no shame in “agreeing to disagree” – more so on the internet. πŸ™‚

  42. Amit:
    “DD, regarding my philosophy, I’m a work-in-progress, a lifelong sikh (student) if you will”
    Is this like one of those Kolkata “work-in-progress” things, where there is tremendous, generalised excavation, but ultimately there is no road formed, merely a lot of debris around blocking traffic and raising tempers?!?
    πŸ˜€
    (finally, I take a dig at you. This was too juicy to resist!)

  43. Rambodoc, ha ha ha. Good surgical one. πŸ™‚

    The development of a road is necessary if one wants to physically go somewhere. If one can get a better understanding of oneself and the world by sitting and watching the world go by, then a road is unnecessary. πŸ˜‰

    BTW, my previous comment is in your moderation folder.

  44. I m getting confused after reading all the comments. Why don’t we just do whatever we want unless it’s not personally offending any human being. Its OK and I don’t care if it offends religious leaders (morons).

    People started to try different things like premarital sex, underage drinking, tattoos and prostitution. Why is that we have so many restrictions and stupid boundaries that restricts us from trying something novel. 😦

    Are we indians cursed to live without any excitement an extraordinarily ordinary lives and die on one fine day without leaving anything like legacy.

    Prostitution must be made legal and women must make as much as she can out of her advantage of attracting men.

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