December 10, 2009

Would you like to watch T.V.?
Or get between the sheets?
Or contemplate the silent freeway?
Would you like something to eat?
Would you like to learn to fly?
Would you like to see me t

Josephine Pryde, Adoption (13), 2009

* From Superfreakonomics:

"Prostitutes in the United States a century ago likely made in excess of $70,000 per year in today's dollars - far in excess of today's prostitutes, and were a higher percentage of the population. The reason? Today's prostitutes face more competition from women willing to have sex with a man for free. This conclusion stems from the work of economist Sudhir Venkatesh on the subject of the Chicago prostitute industry:

"It turns out that the typical street prostitute in Chicago works 13 hours a week, performing 10 sex acts during that period, and earns an hourly wage of approximately $27. So her weekly take-home pay is roughly $350. This includes an average of $20 that a prostitute steals from her customers and acknowledges that some prostitutes accept drugs in lieu of cash - usually crack cocaine or heroin, and usually at a discount. Of all the women in Venkatesh's study, 83 percent were drug addicts.

"Many of these women took on other, non-prostitution work, which Venkatesh also tracked. Prostitution paid about four times more than those jobs. But as high as that wage premium may be, it looks pretty meager when you consider the job's downsides. In a given year, a typical prostitute in Venkatesh's study experienced a dozen incidents of violence. At least 3 of the 160 prostitutes who participated died during the course of [his] study. 'Most of the violence by johns is when, for some reason, they can't consummate or can't get erect,' says Venkatesh. 'Then he's shamed,- 'I'm too manly for you' or 'You're too ugly for me!' Then the john wants his money back, and you definitely don't want to negotiate with a man who just lost his masculinity.'

"Moreover, the women's wage premium pales in comparison to the one enjoyed by even the low-rent prostitutes from a hundred years ago. Compared with them, [the typical street prostitutes] are working for next to nothing.

"Why has the prostitute's wage fallen so far?

"Because demand has fallen dramatically. Not the demand for sex. That is still robust. But prostitution, like any industry, is vulnerable to competition.

"Who poses the greatest competition to a prostitute? Simple: any woman who is willing to have sex with a man for free.

"It is no secret that sexual mores have evolved substantially in recent decades. The phrase 'casual sex' didn't exist a century ago (to say nothing of 'friends with benefits'). Sex outside of marriage was much harder to come by and carried significantly higher penalties than it does today."

* Momus on the outgoing decade. excerpt:

"Other things that looked dead or dying this decade: I personally stopped going to the cinema. Why sit behind someone's head in a fleapit when you can download all you need to see and project it at home? Copyright effectively died, overtaken, de facto, by events on the internet. Magazines and newspapers ended the decade looking very unhealthy indeed, although books seemed strong. Young people got a lot less interested in cars, leading some to label Japan a post-car society. Detroit pretty much collapsed. The polar ice caps melted rapidly; climate change is a fact. Banks -- having invented what they thought were clever ways to spread risk around, and play with planet-sized sums of entirely fictional money -- looked pretty shaky. As a result of the financial crisis, some declared the thirty-year neo-liberal project to privatize, incentivize and globalize over. Nicolas Bourriaud declared postmodernism dead, replaced by something he called the Altermodern. Attacks in the British press helped to make it a self-fulfilling prophecy."

* "The world is a tragedy to those who feel, but a comedy to those who think." -- Horace Walpol


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