One small story. Intended to be part of a larger dialogue on misogyny today.
I was in Italy a couple of weeks ago. One morning I piled into a taxi with 3 male coworkers - 2 Americans and a well-traveled Brit. Usually the taxi drivers struggle with English or we good-naturedly attempt some conversation in Italian. This taxi driver had good English, was verbose and inspired by an imagined camaraderie with the Brit. It started with a story on traveling to Singapore. Through some peculiar machinations his passport was taken from him. "They do that with girls too around 12 years old and don't give it back 'til they're 18. Yeah, only $20 and you can have a girl."
Allow me to back up for a moment. At this point it has been mere days since 276 schoolgirls were kidnapped in Nigeria. The leader of the terrorist organization allegedly responsible threatens to sell them "in the marketplace." At this writing, these girls are still missing. My friendly taxi driver exhibits no awareness that his participation in the economic structure of $20 girls contributes to violence against women, underage or not. On the contrary, he seems giddy that such a marketplace is available for his pleasure. He shares the information as a fact: that's the way they do things in the East. And also as information sharing: could be useful next time any of us find ourselves in the area.
My colleagues shift uncomfortably and maintain a firm silence. I'd say they are painfully aware that I am present. The taxi driver continues on a theme. Women Around the World! I can't play nice. "How much is a girl in Michigan?", my voice dripping with unrepressed disgust and hate. He doesn't give a number but neither is he daunted. Why should he be? Why should he be ashamed? He ranks women by their nationality. I was not surprised to learn that Americans are not the most adventuresome. The ride is mercifully over. I do not have the obligation to interact with him for the tab. As we disembark, the Brit says "the sexual mores of Italians abroad!" If I may paraphrase, in his view: that's the way they do things in Italy.
As I simmer over this one man and how I feel about my colleagues inaction and what I could or should have said, I wonder, Where is the line? What exactly is so offensive about his story?
I don't have a philosophical objection to prostitution. It's not a profession I highly respect but I don't think it is one that needs to carry shame. One's own body is an asset and it could be employed as readily as one's mind, if so chosen.
An Asset must be:
(1) under your control
(2) as a result of a past event - let's say birth for this purpose
(3) a source of future (economic) benefit - health, time, performance, pleasure
Underage individuals often don't meet parameter 1. Obviously so if their passport has been confiscated.
So, if the underage girls had been omitted from the story, would I be ok with it? No, I think not. Girls (women) were objects in his adventures, existing only where their paths crossed his. It was his story after all. None of them were driving my taxi.