By Ruth Limkin
I was disturbed as I read the article. A young woman was being offered to the highest bidder for four days. Four days of sexual servitude. Four days in which she will lose her virginity as a commodity to a man who has little interest in loving her. Four days in which she is effectively bonded to him, because he has money and she needs it. But it wasn’t until I read the comments section that I felt really ill.
If you haven’t read the news, a Sydney escort agency is currently advertising a Chinese virgin to clients. According to the firm selling her, she is 19, and is here in Australia at university. They expect to charge around $15,000 and claim that it’s not such an unusual situation, with two clients who are genuinely interested.
As I read this, I wondered.
I wondered why we don’t have any capacity to ensure that this girl is free from duress. I wondered what kind of men would buy a girl for sexual servitude for four days. I wondered if, like so many in our society, this girl was lonely and isolated with no-one to advocate for her and no-one to help her.
And then, I read these comments from readers: “Can’t see a problem with it. Her choice. People who are against this are against freedom…” and “A legal age hooker, working it. Her choice.”
They are perfectly correct, and profoundly wrong.
They are correct in that we do often define freedom as the complete removal of restrictions on any behaviour, and prostitution is legal.
They are profoundly wrong because when we completely remove all restrictions on behaviour, we’re not actually liberating people. Instead, we’re effectively empowering the strong to oppress the weak. When we refuse to acknowledge an external right or wrong, might makes the rules. And when unmoderated might makes the rules, the weak, the poor and the vulnerable invariably suffer.
They are profoundly wrong because our choices are rarely free of constraints. I suspect this woman, if truly making a free choice, would use those four days to do something other than being at the sexual beck and call of a stranger.
The cruel irony is that in our headlong rush towards absolute freedom, we can find ourselves enslaved to forces more powerful than us, or even find ourselves enslaving another.
Whether as the oppressor, or as the oppressed, our humanity is diminished.
Perhaps it’s only in acknowledging our need of limits that we can be most fully human.