Bitching Brew

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Positive respect; Craigslist is where it's goin' down.

Craigslist hasn't really taken off over this side of the Atlantic. I do wonder why, when the Miami Herald highlights such tempting advertisements as this:

Upscale executive seeks beautiful female 18-24 to live in his luxury condo in Coral Gables for $1/month in exchange for some light duties. Help take care of dog, cook occasionally. Sex 2x/week. Serious inquires only. Please email a picture for consideration


Who said chivalry was dead, eh?

Seriously, that's pretty unsavoury stuff, in my opinion. I wouldn't ban it or make it illegal, but it's a disturbing arrangement. Not saying it doesn't happen across the world as it is. One can't eradicate these things.

So this has now got me writing, hastily, about respect. A vague distinction between positive and negative respect has been forming in my mind over the last week or so. I won't elaborate here until it's fully fleshed out. But this seems to be an interesting, if extreme, example. Am I supposed to respect a man who puts up this kind of advertisement? I'd still say a firm no - contempt is more the response I was thinking of. The key question is, however, am I supposed to respect a woman who decides to respond to that ad?

Respect for women, for instance, is too often framed in a negative sense - i.e. don't violate a woman's rights, and work hard to ensure that no woman's rights are violated. And this is something I perfectly agree with. However, it's not enough. A more positive respect involves respecting each person as a free individual, and likewise respecting their individual choices. That is, not seeking to constrain or protect them from their choices.

There aren't many completely free choices, I'll grant that. Almost every decision space is constrained in some way; generally by the circumstances that person finds themselves in. But positive respect involves accepting their choice whether we like it or not - i.e. trusting their judgement. Everyone makes mistakes, and it's all too easy to cry "I told you so!". But that's unfair. Positive respect means treating each person as the best arbiter of his or her actions. It means being non-judgemental and supportive; an ideal we all violate from time to time, 'tis true, but it is, I suggest, an ideal worth aspiring to.

So, I'll swallow my very serious reservations and accept that (a) in a free society, I can't prevent this; in fact, I can only drive it underground; and (b) I have to respect any woman who made this difficult choice. I sincerely hope no-one did accept the 'offer'. But this is a mere illustration: such choices are made around the world on a daily basis, for all kinds of reasons. I refuse to condemn the women who make these decisions, but what's even more important is that I refuse to pity them either, because pity is demeaning. Compassion, not pity, stays within the bounds of respect.

Thoughts, anyone?

[Original story found via an intriguing post on To the People]

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5 Comments:

  • Why would you be so concerned about a woman who would make this sort of choice? Its simply free will. For two people to enter into an arrangement such as that in which both are aware of the situation, I don't quite see how anyone could judge such a situation. Many marriages are like this. But you could also look at it from a very matter of fact view as a business arrangement. I just don't quite see what the issue is unless its an attachment to the idea of sex and how its supposed to be that might be causing the issue? Just a thought...

    By Blogger Amaya, at Fri Mar 24, 01:37:00 a.m.  

  • Good points. I very much agree. It is the attachment to sex that's the nub of the issue. I don't have a problem with any private arrangement in principle, morally or otherwise. My discomfort arises from the amount of exploitation that goes on. (Yeah, I'm getting less idealistic as time goes by, and seeing the ugly warts on society.)

    When I saw this, I wasn't thinking so much of someone who just thought - 'hmm, this sounds good' - as a lifestyle choice or a business arrangement (again, not something that I'm opposed to - though I am judgemental in the sense that I don't think highly of a guy who treats a woman as a live-in sex toy). I was really concerned about those who felt they were down to very few options - and the fact that they are judged very harshly by society for some of the choices they make. And I don't think those judgements are very respectful.

    In my book, they're disrespectful in either case. But what I was trying to say (and not very clearly!) is that a lot of 'moral people' have a certain notion of 'respect for women' which I find very lacking, discriminatory and hypocritical. I don't expect them to judge the business arrangements favourably - because they have a different morality than I. But I think the condemnation they throw on some of the others is pure hypocrisy. How can you judge someone who's down to very few options - or is even being exploited - whatever your moral code?

    By Blogger Martin, at Fri Mar 24, 02:17:00 a.m.  

  • There are no shortage of perverts on Craig's List. This guy is probably just trying to get women's pictures for his own pleasure. He didn't post his own picture did he? He is probably hideous. Although with enough money even the fat, old, and hideous can get a hot young lady. Look at Larry King and Donald Trump. You really think their wives are really hot for them or their money?

    By Blogger Sean, at Sun Mar 26, 06:59:00 p.m.  

  • 1$ a month!!!! Was this add printed in a Russian newspaper, where the "executive" hoped that the readers didn't read english well enough to really understand everything? Geesh! Just when I thought I saw everything!!!

    By Blogger Sonia, at Thu Mar 30, 04:20:00 p.m.  

  • Ah now come on Sean. Donald Trump is the epitome of Man. The final great achievement. (Says he.) He has made the toupee slightly-respectable; I ask you, who else could have achieved that?!

    I bet the ad was syndicated to the New Siberian Times alright. "Disillusioned with our icy fascist paradise? Move to Florida! Get laid! Get a big house! (Photos will be judged in a free and open, non-discriminatory competition.)"

    Pity all the respondents were grizzled miners and lads just out of the Gulag...

    By Blogger Martin, at Thu Apr 06, 11:39:00 a.m.  

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