COLUMN

Hookers aren’t the only ones for sale

Is there something especially immoral about prostituting one’s body in order to finance one’s ambitions?

BARBARA AMIEL May 8 1989
COLUMN

Hookers aren’t the only ones for sale

Is there something especially immoral about prostituting one’s body in order to finance one’s ambitions?

BARBARA AMIEL May 8 1989

Pamella Bordes has a delicious face, although she does look a teeny bit thick through the ankles and trunk. All the same, her appearance was quite enough, together with her Ungaro outfits and Yves Saint Laurent accessories, to do rather well for her in London. As readers must know, Bordes captured the attention of at least two national newspaper editors, one Tory cabinet minister, a handful of Saudi princes and a gross of lesser mortals. Her well-publicized downfall came, of course, when she was taken in by a reporter from the tabloid News of the World and in a London hotel room agreed to offer him the Great Sexual Mystery for a straight fee of about $1,000 or, for $2,000, delights that good taste forbade him to reveal to readers. That ended Pamella Bordes and her brief ascent in London society.

And what could provide better material for that combination of self-righteous puritanism and prurient vulgarity called a British tabloid newspaper than the story of a whore getting her comeuppance? For my part, I was transfixed by press revelations of Pamella’s schedule, as in, “On one occasion she entertained three Indians to a sexual assignation” or “Pamella did as she was told and was taken to the prince’s bedroom where she performed the role required of her.” Alas, all reports were rather thin when it came to the psychological agenda behind Bordes’s various career moves.

Speaking as a woman, what really baffled me was the ease with which Pamella took part in acts described by the Daily Mail as “of a particularly degrading nature.” I am not entirely sure what these acts may be, although I suppose bestiality and coprophilia come to mind. But, after considering the matter, I have a certain duality about both the puzzlement and censure that Bordes’s behavior has evoked. It seems to me that the outcry over her actions tells just as much about the self-delusions that many of us nurse as it does about Bordes’s own veniality.

What, after all, is uniquely degrading about Pamella’s behavior? When a man picks up a $30 whore, one of the first declarations he may hear is the self-righteous statement, “I don’t do kinky stuff.” But there will also be a number of girls who will do that sort of business, and a number of them who may enjoy it. A kinky act can only be called an act of degradation if you don’t like it. If a man wants ladies in rubber suits and high-heeled shoes walking all over him and pays them to do it, it would make little sense for him to turn around and say he was degraded by the experience. If Pamella’s own sexual tastes encompassed a generous range of behavior, then it is unlikely that she was particularly degraded.

More to the point, I can’t blame Pamella for capitalizing on her assets. All the prostitutes I have met have had one quality in common: they have certain financial ambitions but they have no other abilities with which to satisfy them. But is there something especially immoral about prostituting one’s body in order to finance one’s ambitions?

Life requires so many of us to dissemble or masquerade. A speech writer or advertising man—indeed a journalist, editorial writer, politician or schoolteacher—may find himself extolling the virtues of a political program or touting a product in language that, if left to his own devices, he would never use. An author may put aside the work in which he believes in order to write a book that will make lots of money. A lawyer has a duty to ignore his own moral values in favor of representing his client’s cause.

I have no problem with any of this; after all, it is just the way the world works. But in all these transactions we give up something that is essential to us, namely our thoughts and emotions, in exchange for economic benefit. The only small point I want to make about the matter is this: our God-given intellectual powers and reasoning ability are the sole qualities that separate humans from beasts. Dogs, like us, after all, have sexual organs. So, when we sell our minds, we are prostituting the one aspect of our being that is precious and uniquely human. And when we single out prostitutes for our scorn, we seem to be saying that sexual organs are more important than the mind. As well, I must say that I find it a bit thick when our judges, who are often on the bench themselves after careers advocating causes in which they may not believe in return for economic benefit, look askance at a woman who caresses a man for similar reasons.

There is nothing new about Pamella Bordes, of course. There always have been a number of men and women who had very little going for them except their attractiveness to the opposite sex. Once they discovered that their easiest route to the social and economic goals they wanted was through this venue, well, they concentrated on honing related skills. The women are intense about cellulite and learn how to give the perfect massage. Pamella, I gather, was keen on cookery lessons and flower-arranging courses as well. Men in the same geisha category, I suppose, give their all to tennis lessons and the samba.

It occurs to me that I spent my early years working, among other places, in a canning factory in Grimsby, Ont., and frankly, in retrospect, I can see the point to Pamella’s route. I remember how extremely unpleasant it was to get peach fuzz in the cuts we all quickly acquired on hands and wrists. But I suppose the degree of unpleasantness is very individual. Faced with the same choices today, I would have to take the E. D. Smith jam factory once again.

I can’t pretend my choice would be for moral reasons. It would simply be a case that I could not be a prostitute and, if I tried, well, one day I would kill one of my customers. And if I dig deep into my midbrain, I think I know why we are all so lopsidedly outraged by sexual prostitution.

The sexual act is, after all, the act of creation. There is something truly amazing about the fact that a man and woman can make love, as it were, and create a human being. No matter how many times the act is performed, one is still in awe of this potential. In an atavistic, mysterious way, we all know that whether it is done for love or for money, for spite or for kicks, the sexual act remains the key to our entire being. Even that of the bejewelled and jaded Ms. Bordes.