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December 08, 2002
Skipping Towards Gomorrah (Savage)

Skipping Towards Gomorrah -- by Dan Savage

I have no idea what the point of this book was unless it was to prove that "average" Americans all over the country are sinning and enjoying it, but that's hardly newsworthy. Still, Savage has a lively writing style and he makes a good story out of traveling around the country, looking for opportunities to commit the Seven Deadly Sins.

For those whose memories aren't kicking in, the sins in question are greed, lust, sloth, gluttony, anger, pride, and envy. This wasn't always the list (see page 16), but that's how it stands today.

Let me start off by saying I got annoyed with Savage's na´vetÚ on page 13 when he insisted that "much of the harm done by drugs, prostitution, and adultery should be laid at the feet of the virtuous."

#1 - Who has he been talking to that considers heroin and adultery the same level of problem in this country?

#2 - Prostitution, among women, anyhow, is rarely a freely chosen profession and these are not women who are being victimized by a prudish society who doesn't approve of their life choice, okay? Becoming a whore is an act of desperation when women are ensnared by poverty, drug problems, or abusive relationships. It's the result of a life that offers few or no savory alternatives. The vast majority of female prostitutes would take almost any legal, life-sustaining job they could get. (Gay, male prostitution is largely a different matter, I know.)

And, yes, women wouldn't become whores if "virtuous" men didn't patronize them, but they also wouldn't become whores if the "virtuous" power elite in this country put as much effort into alleviating poverty as they do into things like forcing us into a war with Iraq that will benefit only the oil barons.

Legalizing prostitution so it can be regulated is only a viable solution in a society where becoming a whore really is a choice and not something you do because it's the only way you can feed your children or your drug habit.

I find Savage's suggestion that legalizing prostitution so that women can go to the police if their pimp or their customers beat them up appalling. This country should, instead, focus on curing some of the ills that force these women into prostitution.

I don't, in fact, care if a woman decides to become a prostitute. If some woman wants to make that her life's work, I'm actually fine with that. I wouldn't care if that were legal. But I'd estimate that 95% or more of prostitutes aren't there because they thought it would be a glamorous, big-money lifestyle, okay?

And making it illegal for a woman's pimp to beat her up is a stupid suggestion anyhow. It's already against the law to beat people up. Legalizing prostitution isn't going to change the brutal reality of a streetwalker's life and they aren't suddenly going to form unions, pay dues, and find themselves pimps that are kind and loving bosses.

(Even more fundamentally, a lot of what is wrong with this country is our attitude toward sex anyhow. No matter how advertisements push half-naked women or, all too rarely, half-naked men, in our faces to convince us to buy products and no matter how often Dr. Ruth tells people to relax and enjoy their sexuality, this country treats sex like something shameful and dirty. But that's a different rant.)

Anyhow. Where was I? Oh. Yeah.

#3 - Most illegal drugs are illegal for a good reason, Dan. Some drugs are highly addictive and require ever-increasing and ever more-expensive doses to get your high. These things rapidly become prohibitively expensive, whether using them is legal or not, and the user, unable to finance their habit, will turn to crime. The user will also, unable to explain to the tax man how he's affording his multi-thousand dollar crack habit, turn to underground, criminal suppliers so as not to leave any paper trail.

In the end, the only "benefit" of legalizing these drugs is to make them cheaper and easier to import, benefiting the criminal element.

I have minor objections to marijuana because, unlike the equally or more dangerous alcohol, you don't even have to face a hangover the next day, so there's no real encouragement to stay off the stuff unless you really hate that day-after lethargy.

The difference between my view of pot and Savage's, I think, is that he's looking at his own twice-a-year pot high and I'm looking at all of the people I have known or heard of who fell into a bong during their troubled teens and never bothered to climb out so that 10, 20, or 30 years later, even if they did quit, they'd be that far behind on knowing the skills they'd need to be reasonably happy, productive members of society.

Curing the problems of our society that result in so many troubled young adults would eliminate this objection and if Dan has a suggestion, I'm here, listening.

Do I think it's the government's job to save us from ourselves?

Yes. And no.

Behaviors that are basically harmless to ourselves and those around us should not be illegal. Behaviors that are harmful to ourselves but not necessarily drastically, or fatally, and not harmful to those around us, should maybe be regulated but not illegal. Things that are seriously harmful and highly likely to be fatal to ourselves or those around us should be illegal.

Thus, setting yourself on fire and running through a crowded room should be illegal. Taking a mind-altering drug that encourages violent behavior should be illegal.

That's the only thing in the book that pissed me off. The rest of the text, for a supposed exploration of "deadly sins" was pretty innocuous. Still, it was a good read and I enjoyed it.

Posted by AnneZook at 05:31 PM