Wildly Off BaseCategory: General   Dec 7th 2014  09:27AM   0

Cheryl Strayed is the author of "Wild" on which the new Reece Witherspoon movie is based. Though I enjoyed her book, I generally prefer memoirs with a little more insightful reflection and self-awareness ... but hey, that's just me. 

Strayed undertook a long and arduous hike of the Pacific Crest Trail with zero preparation. Chapter after chapter I held out hope she'd (at least) allude to her motivation for such reckless behavior. I was waiting for her to admit she was testing her inner strength while simultaneously dodging accountability for coming up short. Instead, she ends the book by saying she doesn't know what her journey meant and doesn't think it matters. Hmm. Interesting, because I kind of think it does. In fact, I kind of think it's required of a memoirist, but whatever. Strayed doesn't have to grasp her experience for readers to get it. It's the way Strayed presumes to grasp the experience of others and then uses her platform as an author to diminish them, that gets me.

Strayed, who's never been a sex worker, states: "sex work—at least as it’s currently practiced—is bad for women and therefore bad for society.

Firstly, I find it interesting that someone who's never worked a day in the sex industry presumes to have a clear picture on how this vast and varied work is practiced. Secondly, if by "bad" she means objectifying and degrading (she has said as much), wouldn't it be better to say "objectification and degradation are bad for society"? How does that equate to sex work, which is not inherently either of those things? Oh, I forgot, she's somehow magically and fully aware of exactly "how it's practiced' ... in all its many forms (I guess).

Many sex workers would be working in other fields, given the opportunity. So would most waiters, cab drivers, and postal workers. Factors of sexism, classism, racism, corruption, etc., contribute to the plight of laborers worldwide. The jobs we take to survive aren't the problem. Waiting tables isn't inherently bad for waiters and restaurants aren't "bad for society." Low pay and rude customers are bad for waiters and society. Maybe that's what Strayed meant, that SOCIETY IS BAD FOR SEX WORKERS, not the other way around. Maybe she's dyslexic or just needs a copyeditor. Maybe she should stick to trekking through the wilderness without a map or the common sense God gave a gnat. 

Another of Strayed's assertions is that women "becoming strippers [... are] nothing more than a reiteration of the old woman-hating sexual mores and practices of patriarchy," which is absurd. Some strip club customers enjoy the power they feel wielding the cash strippers need to live. Most strip club customers enjoy compensating hardworking, sexually engaging entertainers. Consensual, compensated sex work is not "bad for society" and men who PAY sex workers a mutually agreed upon fee, are by definition NOT entitled. That our miserable economy and male dominated society has created a glut of disadvantaged underpaid workers, is an issue Strayed never mentions.

Strayed believes that "sex should be given freely" while also saying that "you cannot convince people to love you." So my question is, for the countless masses who can't find love or attract a mate (or do so only briefly), where to find all this freely given sex to fill the void? I guess we're supposed to suck it up (so to speak) and be quietly celibate so we don't "harm society" through a (gasp!) private consensual exchange?

News flash: Sex is never free and I'm not talking about the price of dinner and a show. Unless you're in a coma, you're getting something out of it (as well you should). Being motivated by something other than mutual attraction doesn't make the exchange less valid. Telling someone they "should" only have sex for reasons Strayed deems acceptable is the exact kind of offensive admonition feminism is supposed to oppose. 

Here's a list of things regularly exchanged for sex (not all things at all times, but at some point, in every sex act there is the expectation of at least one thing on this list): validation, affection, approval, companionship, intimacy, respite (from loneliness, boredom, self-doubt, stress, etc.), revenge, intrigue, fun, pleasure, procreation, excitement, escape, ego-boost, prestige, cardio, duty, penance, loyalty, jewelry, real estate, and cash. 

Strayed is someone who couldn't be bothered to read one book about hiking before putting herself and others at risk with that shortsighted, dangerous trek, but it was her right to experience that (unnecessarily painful) journey as part of her life experience. As far as I know, no one claims that launching into the wilderness with excess items and ill-fitting boots is "bad for society" or writing and speaking on that topic ad nauseam. 

It is true that most sex workers would be in a different line of work, were their first choice more available to them (probably not all, but most). I know I certainly would, but how much of the worldwide workforce can't say the same thing? Laborers from factories to cotton fields can, but no one is claiming car parts and clothing are "bad for society."

Strayed is lucky enough to be living her dream, but precious few among us are. And yes, for many woman that is due, in part, to the power of patriarchy. So why pick on sex workers? If patriarchy is wrong, say THAT, but please don't accuse sex workers of perpetuating the problem. 

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