Before I begin, let me say that the Irish Times’ agony aunt column is so far from the norms of basic morality that at this point the likelihood that the questions sent in by readers desperate for advice and guidance are – at least in part – fabrications.
I have previously written about a mother of young children who believed herself to be in reality ‘a gay man’, and another woman who was ‘afraid’ that the father of her child would leave her for a new flame, much like he left his wife and kids for her.
I would express my astonishment that people who have made, or are making, fundamentally immoral life choices seem to expect to receive from others the respect and acceptance that they themselves have chosen not to show. Then again it seems like, as a society, we are moving closer and closer towards moral relativism.
In this case however, the woman in search of emotional support is a wife who says she discovered that her husband has been viewing ‘live sex chats’ online.
She says she and her husband have a healthy level of intimacy in their 30 year marriage, but that she made her discovery after he fell asleep while viewing one of the chats – leading her to stumble on what he had been up to.
The woman says she feels that her spouse is engaging in prostitution and wonders why he ‘needs’ to do that and ultimately what she ‘is for’.
The IT agony aunt takes issue with the woman’s use of the word ‘prostitution’ saying that the term carries negative connotations of “criminality, immorality, and shame” – this writer would suggest that these ‘connotations’ may be attached to the criminal, immoral, and shameful nature of prostitution itself.
Having lived in Asian countries, I have come across my fair share of women standing on street corners or leading men into ‘love hotels’ that are often not very far at all off the beaten track.
As a woman this left me with a deep feeling of sadness. I’m sure almost nobody freely chooses what is often referred to as ‘the oldest profession in the world’.
I often think that there must be a tragic story behind why – I would think most – of the women who find themselves involved in the many faces of prostitution ended up there. However, in my opinion this does not mitigate the immorality of selling sex – or buying it for that matter.
The agony aunt effectively tells the distressed wife to ‘show some respect’ for the women she feels are involved in desecrating her marriage by advising her – rather haughtily – that the term devalues the ‘worth and personhood’ of what she says are ‘primarily female’ individuals.
Here she instructs the woman to instead say ‘sex worker’.
The term ‘sex worker’, she says, recognises the labour around various types of sex work and acknowledges the choice, agency, and professionalism of people who consensually choose to engage in the modern sex industry” she says.
Now, I’m very sure that if I were to discovery that my future husband was viewing live sex chats that my first priority would be to show respect to – in a man’s view – the anonymous bodies he’s pleasuring himself to.
Rather I have a feeling that my response to such an infraction would at some point involve his debit card and my taking a trip to Maison de Chanel.
After all, prostitution likely wouldn’t exist if there weren’t men who think that paying to use a woman in that way is permissible.
The agony aunt’s seeming assumption that all those engaged in live-stream prostitution are doing so of their own free will is somewhat puzzling in itself.
Next the agony aunt schools the poor woman about the ‘complexities of sex work’ listing fascinating jobs titles like, “cam girls, phone sex, and porn performers”.
But hold on – it gets worse.
She then goes on to inquire why the woman felt “compelled” and “entitled” to check her husband’s phone in the first place.
This writer’s understanding is that the woman wasn’t ‘going through’ the phone but rather stumbled upon the chat after the husband had ‘sent’ himself to the Land of Nod while viewing ‘the complex entrepreneurial exploits’ of some cam girl.
Whether or which, a wife’s uncovering of her husband’s betrayal of the dignity of their intimate life would seem to be to be more important than virtue signalling about the use of non-offensive language or going on a misplaced rant about privacy and snooping.