In my last post, I explored the idea of bringing one of our oldest professions into the 21st century. I tried to make a case for understanding sex as a natural element of the human experience rather than something to be pursued or withheld for social gain. I also tried to make case for why it would improve the lives of everyone involved. Much like the legalization of alcohol and now cannabis, perhaps it’s time to let go of our prejudice and do what’s sensible for all those involved. But it’s not enough to say we should do it. We need to find a way to do it with intelligence and compassion.
While I’m inclined to say that the first step is legalization, it really isn’t. The first step is education for the purpose of destigmatization. From what I can tell, the general public has a rather skewed idea of what prostitution is and very little interest in how it could be done better. A dear friend once told me that you have to plant seeds in fertile soil. I think it would be education that makes this soil fertile.
I’ve often said that dishonesty is the most counter-productive force known to humanity. If we could have a honest look at who uses escorts and why, I think our perception would change dramatically. There are certainly some seedy characters in the mix, but there’s also a full spectrum of service providers and clients. From high-powered women looking to unwind, to couples looking to spice things up, to newbies looking to learn a few moves.. there are a lot of reasons to look to this industry. And for those with a high sex drive, a desire to pleasure, an affinity for polyamory and an ability to tune into the well-being of others…. there are a lot of good reasons to be interested in the profession. If we could show people that this doesn’t have to be about exploitation, we could open their minds to what this could be about.
If we could get to the point where the general public is willing to look at this industry with an open mind, they might start to value an approach which was both intelligent in its design and compassionate to all of those involved. In my last post, I described what I called the companion experience. It was this idea that sex was only one element of companionship, and not even a mandatory one. It was recognizing that within the human experience, we have gaps in our ability to connect with others in the way we want. Some may lack the time to generate those connections, while others may lack the social skills. Whatever the reason, having those connections are an important part of being a balanced and healthy human being. History has shown us that there has always been those in search of companionship and those motivated to provide. This is connecting those dots in a respectful and productive way.
So once minds are open and people are willing to leave their prejudice behind, it’s time to roll out a plan. Something where a reasonable person could say, “It might not be for me, but I understand this and I would support it”.
Step 1 would be legalization. There are certainly criminal elements within the industry today, but that has more to do with it being illegal than the actual profession. We saw that with alcohol in the 1920s and we’re seeing that again with cannabis today. When you make it legal, you bring it into the light. Good operators shine while bad operators go out of business. For those who continue to treat the industry as one of exploitation, there will be fewer and fewer places to hide. The transition wouldn’t be immediate, but every journey starts with a first step. Legalization would be the first step in creating a culture that encouraged the positive elements while discouraging the negative.
Step 2, would be regulation. Most speaking about legalization and regulations as the same thing but I’ve learned to separate the two because of what they tend to mean. Legalization, in a broad sense, refers to the public acknowledgement that something is socially acceptable. Regulation determines the way in which we would allow it. In the spirit of full transparency, I have some strong reservations around regulations in general. Too often, those who are charged with the responsibility of deciding how we should allow something are incapable of deciding what’s best for all those involved. Sometimes it’s politics, sometimes it’s prejudice, sometimes its a lack of motivation, and sometimes it’s just incompetence. That said, perhaps we can set a few ground rules:
- A companion will always have the ability to choose their own clients.
- A companion will always reserve the right to excuse themselves from a situation
- A client will always reserve the right to excuse themselves from a situation
Beyond this, I’m having a hard time coming up with any other rules which should always be in effect. I’m not saying there aren’t any others, but I’m having a hard time coming up with rules for which I can’t find obvious exceptions. I’m also not much for rules…
What tends to be more effective than rules is a culture. I’ve given a lot of thought to what culture is an where I keep landing is a collective intelligence. So rather than write a set of rules which may or may not encompass all the complexities of something like this, how about we collectively and intelligently find the best ways of moving forward? I’ve learned that with complex issues like these, there is no right way of doing something, only a continuum of finding ways to do it better.
I suppose this leads us to step 3. As much as the experience between the companion and client is one of human connection, the exchange of value for a service is a function of business. One reason why I’m not a fan of regulation is that those with the best policies tend to run the best businesses. We would want to create ground rules for the respect and safety of those involved, but we would also want great businesses to have the freedom to find the best path to lift this industry up.
I’m not entirely sure what the best approach here would be as I can’t think of any modern examples where this approach has been applied. That said, I have a few ideas:
- Ahead of legalization and regulation, build a think-tank consisting of the world’s most respected industry professionals and clients. Provide them with an open-minded board of advisers who would be able to provide insight with respect to government relations, general and sexual health, technology, psychology, law enforcement, education and anything else that would help us make informed decisions. Then ask them to produce a set of best practices which could be used as a template for all those looking to get involved in the business of companionship.
- Allow the members of this think-tank to play the role of adviser to a government funded investment firm with the mandate of investing in the companionship industry. The best way to change someone’s behavior is to give them an option they’re more interested in. The best way to move this industry from the black market to a place of respect, is to provide a better option to all those who are looking. The way in which you accomplish that is by supporting a new generation of businesses who are looking to do it better. And there’s no better way to do that than by giving opportunities to the entrepreneurs with the right motivations.
- Provide the opportunity for companions to work as independents. I’m not a fan of forcing someone into the employment of someone else. If this is your chosen profession, there should be a way for you to be your own boss and not have to compromise on things like personal safety. Perhaps some of the businesses would be like the Air Bnb of companionship… where your accommodation comes with some in-house entertainment.
With a new generation of businesses equipped with the knowledge, motivation, and resources to do things better, I think we would see a massive transition from the black market to the white market. The best companions would seek out employment with the best businesses, or perhaps choose a more independent route. Clients could align themselves with the businesses which expressed values they identified with, just like we do with other businesses. As certain businesses developed competitive advantages over others, and clients ebbed and flowed accordingly, better policies would be developed. Ultimately, we’re trying to set the foundation for an industry which could evolve alongside our best understanding of it.
Part of me is tempted to unload some more ideas on best practices… things like:
- The disclosure of sexual health.
- The Education and training of companions to be more than just sex workers.
- Perhaps a database of clients so companions can better understand who they’re getting involved with.
- A blacklist of clients who have crossed lines which should not be crossed.
- Mediators who can peacefully and compassionately resolve disputes as they arise.
- I’m not the biggest fan of licenses which can act as barriers to good operators, but what about certifications? Being certified in different practices and techniques would be one direction. We could also talk about being certified by an organization which represents for integrity and high standards.
No shortage of ideas… but that’s mostly because there’s so much room for improvement. But I’m careful to remind myself that I don’t have all the answers. This isn’t about the few telling the many how it should be done. This is about recognizing and appreciating a dynamic which has existed for at least as long as human nature. It’s about recognizing that a modern society has room for this and opening the door to finding our best way of doing it.