In the fallout over the Elliot Spitzer sex scandal, we are treated to more sniveling about the prudishness of our hang-ups over sex. “It’s just sex between consenting adults,” we are told, “so what’s the big deal?”
Ross Douthat makes an interesting observation on that line of reasoning:
Given the premises of the pro-prostitution worldview, what’s so abusive and damaging about incest and molestation in the first place? If there’s no moral distinction between giving a handjob in exchange for twenty dollars and getting paid twenty bucks to wash dishes or mow lawns, then why is there a moral distinction between a father who teaches his daughter how to pound nails and one who teaches his daughter to do something more intimate and (to go all wisdom-of-repugnance on you) disgusting? I understand that the kids involved aren’t “consenting adults,” but if selling sex is just like selling labor, and adults force kids to perform all kinds of menial tasks as part of their education, why can’t adults force kids to have intercourse too – especially if they’re safe about it? If selling sex is no big deal because sex itself is no big deal, what’s the big deal about incest?
Sex is not just a service that can be commoditized like any other labor exchange. It is the ultimate expression of human intimacy, reserved for those who have committed their lives to each other in a very unique relationship. Societies that lose sight of that basic rule of human nature are sowing the seeds of their own destruction.