As a hard working, young woman, I have always admired fellow women who go into the working field carrying the financial burden of entire households on their backs. As a way to end this series of the “seven deadliest sins” I have chosen to speak on women who in my regard, have ventured in perhaps one of the hardest, most dangerous, and less rewarding professions of all; Prostituées, Courtesans, The “Olympias” of the world: Prostitutes.
When one takes the step to be a participant of an exclusive relationship, one has promised fidelity to the person who in our regard merits it. The person we have chosen as our spouse is not the best option for us in the planet, simply because a whole lifetime wouldn’t be enough to meet all 6 billion people on earth to choose our spouse from. The person elected, as our spouse is that one who is a better match for us compared to all previous options encountered. This in economics is understood as “Marginal Decision Making” where both the benefits and the costs of a product (or person) have been weighted, and then the marginal benefits of the same product (or person) are then later compared to the marginal benefit received from all previous options considered. The product, or person, we chose in the end is that whose marginal benefit primes over it’s marginal costs, and exceeds the marginal benefit of all other products, or people, considered. We employ Marginal Decision Making in everything we do, from comparing prices and products at supermarkets, to choosing our partner or spouse.
While economics can help us understand why we have chosen to marry someone and offer our significant other our fidelity, economics also holds the answer as to why we are likely to be unfaithful to the same person. How can this be? Simple, it’s called “The Law of Diminishing Marginal Benefit” This law states that amount of consumption of a determined product is inversely proportional to the marginal utility derived from consuming each unity of the same product. Sounds confusing? Allow me to set an example. Suppose you love chocolate, (as you love your wife or girlfriend), the first time you tasted the first bite of chocolate you heart and soul melted, you would probably agree with the Mayan belief that cocoa beans are the Gods’ drink in heaven. Your craving is now satisfied. Supposing you decide to continue having more and more of it, your satisfaction will slowly begin to decrease. Your love for chocolate will probably be rating around a seven or so by now. But if you, the chocoholic, continue to eat more and more chocolate your love for chocolate will probably reach to a rating of three, and as you keep eating you will eventually reach the point where you might start getting sick and tired of Chocolate. Chocolate will now provide you dissatisfaction, rather than satisfaction. You have now reached the point of Dis-utility, congratulations.
The law of diminishing marginal benefit applies to almost everything we consume and we find pleasure in, including people. This does not justify, but rather explain infidelity; it explains the reason why after years of being married to the same person, someone else might begin to seem more sexually appealing. This also serves to understand the core fundament behind prostitution.
“I always wanted to help people but the only skills I could make use of is that with my body. So I use it to heal the hearts of men and women alike, allowing them to drown in pleasure and forget the world, which puts them down. Sure some will despise me, some will think I’m broken and try and take advantage of that, while other will try and offer me escape, but I don’t want to, I’m not broken, I do this because I enjoy it, and making the people I serve happy.”
– Prostitute for over 5 years.
Prostitutes, and openly sexually active women (like myself), are what in the late 19th and early 20th century in Paris were known to be a Demi-monde. The term implies to live a hedonistic lifestyle, and describes the behavior of a person who choses to openly act outside of the established societal bourgeois values. The modernist French painter Claude Manet’s “Olympia” (1863) excelled in representing a reformed and rather challenging version of the Italian Renaissance master’s “Venus of Urbino” (1742). Olympia was the name associated with prostitutes during 1860 Paris; and rather than seeming inviting and seductive towards the viewer. Olympia’s gaze is confrontational, and that of stoic indifference towards both the viewer’s judgment of her sexual labor and the arrival of the new client, suggested by the arriving bouquet, held by the African maid.
It is also noteworthy that her hand placed on top of her genitalia is often interpreted as the freedom to grant or deny access to clients, which could be attributed to the fact that Olympia might be a highly-payed courtesan of the time as indicated by the pearl-costly pendants she wears. Finally, though both are nudes, the “Venus of Urbino” and “Olympia” contrast in themes as indicated by the animals featured on each painting respectively. The “Venus of Urbino” was meant to represent the wife of the Duke of Urbino seductively waiting for her husband, her fidelity embodied in the dog sleeping by her side. “Olympia” on the other hand awaits anyone; she awaits no one, for what belongs to everyone belongs to no one. Her sexual freedom embodied in the cat awake and alert by her side.
Prostitution has been mistakenly and often categorized as a slothful way of gaining wealth, as both the words “sloth” and (sexual) “Labor” are mutually exclusive of each other. In the world there is no such thing as equality of opportunity, there is only equality in potential, in potential of working. To some and many women in the world, prostitution serves as the best of all options before them, and will (in most cases) willingly choose to become prostitutes; Marginal Decision Making at it’s finest. The question with legalizing prostitution should in my regard, not be based from it’s morality perspective, but rather on whether it should be regulated to prevent sexually transmitted diseases, or epidemics as was the case in 19th century Paris and Syphilis. Simply put, as long as resources remain scarce and must then be allocated thorough pricing, as long as there is a demand for a determined product or service, there will always be someone willing to work and supply it; for it is a universal truth of life, that…
“By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground (…)”
– Genesis 3:19