This might come as a shock, but all of us here at Tits and Sass are daughters. For Freakonomics-famous, probably John Mayer-loving Steven Levitt, this is a hard pill to swallow. He thinks that because women so often are dissuaded from performing illegal sex work because of its illegality (ha,) it is a good idea to keep prostitution criminalized. More precisely, he’s okay with the government limiting and penalizing his daughter’s behavior rather than allowing her to make her own choices because, apparently, women need protection from themselves and their bad decisions:
[If]I wouldn’t want my daughter to do it, then I don’t mind the government passing a law against it.
This inspired New York Times blogger Russ Douthat (is it just a coincidence that his last name begins with the same three letters as “douche-bag”? You tell me!) to do Levitt one better by rephrasing his statement to seem even more insulting:
There’s a touch of Kantianism in it: One’s (legal) preferences for one’s daughter should become a universal law… (Emphasis added.)
He prefaced that by saying that this paternalistic “perspective on public policy often goes unspoken.” Indeed , American citizens have for centuries complained about the lack of laws articulating white dudes’ preferences, like that white women not marry black men, or vote.*
So allow me to thank these two brave pioneers, on behalf of all prostitutes.
Thank you, Stephen Levitt, for not being foolish enough to claim that sons also need to be legally compelled to live their life as you would like. Clearly, they don’t! Sons can handle themselves.
Thank you, Russ Douthat, for recognizing that anyone disagreeing with you isn’t displaying rationality, they’re just cool with their daughter becoming a prostitute.
Thanks to both of you for realizing that it’s far preferable for your daughters to face assault, robbery and rape at the hands of johns or police rather than be able to work safely and with (a presumption of) police protection. We all appreciate your willingness to contribute to a world in which parents of murdered prostitutes have to ask themselves, “Would the police have caught the killer by now if the girls weren’t prostitutes?”
I understand that not everyone can spend inordinate amounts of time reading about and reflecting on sex worker rights. But these guys aren’t even pausing to think critically about what they’re saying. When you support the criminalization of prostitution, you support the treatment of prostitutes as criminals, meaning as lesser members of society deserving of suspicion, derision, and imprisonment.
I’m infuriated by the idea that either of these men seriously thinks their efforts at fatherhood should involve turning their daughter into a criminal before supporting her ability to safely sell sex. And frankly, any guy who would find himself seriously applying “the daughter test” to how he votes and responds to public policy, is most likely a crap dad. If you can’t successfully instill in your child your values, you can reexamine those values, reexamine your parenting style, or resolve to love your offspring regardless. You don’t put other people’s children at risk with a lazy and ill-conceived law.
*Will Wilkinson, who is actually criticizing Levitt, states that he wouldn’t want his daughter to vote. Chivalry, thy name is horrible men! And Kevin Drum, who thinks the daughter test is stupid, still subscribes to Douthat’s assessment that Levitt is performing a “valuable service” by bringing this up, because apparently everyone who reads political blogs forgets that morality is personal and “ordinary people” are in possession of a “clearer view of human nature” than intellectuals. Oh my god, could he play any more into the Fox News caricature of a blue state/red state class war? Drum ends with “it’s worth keeping in mind sometimes that the broad working and middles classes often have different moral sentiments than us well-off, highly verbal types […] because they live in different communities and this stuff affects them differently than it does us.” All of which I offer up as evidence that my “son test” would outlaw literacy for men.