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Shocking News: Cultists Say “Our Cult is Great!”

Posted by A birch tree on April 5, 2008

Why is it that the foremost spokespeople for how great and benign and non-abusive the sex industry is always fall into one of two groups:

  • Consumers
  • Current Employees

Doesn’t that strike anyone else as just a wee bit suspicious? Some conflict of interest here, perhaps? I mean, if the only people saying “Wal-Mart is great!” or “The People’s Temple is wonderful!” are the people who have the most to lose if they say something else, and all the former associates are going “This was horrible and I was abused while I was there”, shouldn’t that trigger a Skept-o-Meter somwhere?

The biggest spokespeople (I should really say “spokeswomen”) for how wonderful and empowering and great the sex industry is are women who are currently in the sex industry. And that’s fine, except under critical examination, their credibility becomes suspect. Why? For the same reasons that people currently in a cult can’t be seen as particularly credible when they talk about how great thier cult is, to wit:

1) Fear of retribution. If a Wal-Mart employee says publically “This sucks”, and Wal-Mart gets wind of it, what happens? They stand to lose the job that’s putting food on their table. By the same token, cult members who may be less than happy with how they’re being treated probably aren’t going to write letters to the editor about it because if they’re being treated poorly already, imagine how pleased the cult’s leadership is going to be about them saying anything!

Which brings us to the sex industry. If a woman in the industry came onto a messageboard to talk about the industry, which do you think, simply from a job security standpoint, she’s more likely to say:

  • “I love having twenty men blow their loads on my face at once!” or
  • “Ya know, twenty men cumming on my face isn’t actually as much fun as you’d think it’d be.”

Other considerations go into it as well. For one thing, porn, stripping, and prostitution gets around a lot of criticism by claiming, truthfully or otherwise, that women just lurrrrve performing these acts, and you’re being a facist, prude, or moralist if you engage in any criticism of the industry. So if a porn star comes out and says “Yeah, I don’t mind being in porn, but these abuses happened to me, and on the whole, this industry pretty much bites in terms of how I’ve been treated,” she’s breaking that illusion.

Guys want to believe that their favorite porn stars can’t get enough cock in their various orifices, sometimes all at once, and would order a big yummy plate of cum at a restaurant if they found it on the menu. A woman who says “Yeah, I do that for the cash, but it’s not fun at all,” suddenly changes that image, and dashes the hopes of all those men who want a porn star for a fuckbuddy because of the belief that they’ll do anything at all for you when you get your hands on them.

It also opens them up to vicious attacks. Just like former People’s Temple members and Scientologists who went public with their stories and who were violently denounced, sometimes with death threats attached, sex industry employees face the same kind of dismissal and virulent, nasty agressiveness turned in their direction. Remember how the industry, and its consumers, reacted to Linda Lovelace’s book? And she has been out of porn for years by that point! Someone who was still enmeshed in that industry would be more vulnerable still. Who wants to deal with that kind of bullshit, really? I sure as hell wouldn’t.

2) If they admit that they’ve spent a good portion of their life performing acts they have a great dislike for, for an insuffiently proportionate compensation, while putting up with lots of abuse, for an industry that doesn’t give a shit about them, it fucks with their heads. So they’d better convince themselves that it’s the best job since La-Z-Boy Quality Tester, because the industry isn’t known for its stellar mental health insurance coverage.

It’s a bit like my friend’s mother, who believes that all women should just be happy being homemakers and pander to their husbands, and that womens’ lib is a pile of shit because that’s just not how women are made. However, she has at one point admitted that if she really became convinced that her view was incorrect, she’d be forced to look back on the last 30 years of her life and realize they were entirely wasted doting on a man who didn’t ever give her anything but a roof over her head in return, when she may have had other options, and she just couldn’t handle that. A classic Appeal to Consequences of a Belief, but a good example of the psychological mindfuckery that can occur when people take two separate mental boxes (“Women should have lots of choices” and “I spent the last 30 years washing the shitstains out of some slob’s undies because I didn’t know I could have had choices, not because I really liked doing it”), dump them out into a single container and shake them up. My mental potatoes are touching my psycological peas, and it’s really squicking me out.

For a more professional explanation, I’ll turn it over to Carlsmith’s studies of induced compliance. To quote Wikipedia:

“In Festinger and Carlsmith’s classic 1959 experiment, students were made to perform tedious and meaningless tasks, consisting of turning pegs quarter-turns and, another one, putting spools onto a tray, emptying the tray, refilling it with spools, and so on. Participants rated these tasks very negatively. After a long period of doing this, students were told the experiment was over and they could leave. This is an example of an induced compliance study.

However, the experimenter then asked the subject for a small favor. He was told that a needed research assistant was not able to make it to the experiment, and the participant was asked to fill in and try to persuade another subject (who was actually a confederate) that the dull, boring tasks the subject had just completed were actually interesting and engaging. Some participants were paid $20 for the favor, another group was paid $1, and a control group was not requested to perform the favor.

When asked to rate the peg-turning tasks later, those in the $1 group rated them more positively than those in the $20 group and control group. This was explained by Festinger and Carlsmith as evidence for cognitive dissonance. Experimenters theorized that people experienced dissonance between the conflicting cognitions “I told someone that the task was interesting”, and “I actually found it boring”. When paid only $1, students were forced to internalize the attitude they were induced to express, because they had no other justification. Those in the $20 condition, it is argued, had an obvious external justification for their behavior. Behavior internalization is only one way to explain the subject’s ratings of the task. The research has been extended in later years. It is now believed that there is a conflict between the belief that “I am not a liar”, and the recognition that “I lied”. Therefore, the truth is brought closer to the lie, so to speak, and the rating of the task goes up.

The researchers further speculated that with only $1, subjects faced insufficient justification and therefore “cognitive dissonance”, so when they were asked to lie about the tasks, they sought to relieve this hypothetical stress by changing their attitude. This process allows the subject to genuinely believe that the tasks were enjoyable.

Put simply, the experimenters concluded that many human beings, when persuaded to lie without being given sufficient justification, will carry out the task by convincing themselves of the falsehood, rather than telling a bald lie.”

Now let’s add in the fact that of all the ex-sexworkers (strippers, porn stars, prostitutes, etc) who have made their opinions on the industry public, most (if not all) have had nothing good to say about it. That’s not surprising, given the cult analogy. The cultists say, shockingly enough, that their cult is great, while the escapees are a bit more free to talk about what’s really going on. The current Wal-Mart employees say, amazingly enough, that Wal-Mart isn’t all that bad to work for; would I make a commercial for them if I hated working here, after all? But former Wal-Mart employees (like me!) are a bit freer to talk about how much of a financial and mental clusterfuck that company is.

I suppose the point of this long-winded ramble is this: First-hand experience is great, but without distance, there can’t be any objectivity to back it up, and therefore credibility suffers. Because, honestly, does anyone really expect a sex worker, cult member, or Wal-Mart cartpusher (hooyah, cartpushers!) to publically criticize their related organization while still expecting to remain employed by said organization? Shit no!

So why do we give so much creedence to the stories of current call girls who say how much they love having sex with ten men a night, and dismiss the claims of former call girls who talk about how painful and damaging and dangerous and PTSD-inducing it was to have sex with ten men a night, when the latter have no real reason to speak out at all, but do, and the former would have a great disincentive to say anything but exactly what they’re currently saying?

We don’t trust Kremlin officials who tell us how great Communism is. We don’t trust CEOs when they tell us how crucial their billion-dollar salaries are to American Capitalism. We don’t trust McDonald’s to tell us how healthy Big Macs are. We don’t trust a Ford salesman to tell us what the resale value of a Focus will be at 95,000 miles. We don’t trust Army recruiters when they tell us we won’t end up in Iraq if we sign up. Why the hell would we trust a high-priced callgirl to tell us how hunky-dory and empowering prostitution is? They’re all just saying what they have to say do to their jobs, justify their mindsets, and sell their products.

In short, they’re obligated to tell us what we want to hear because their salary, public image, and in some cases, mental health, depend on it.

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