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Final Paper for Ph104: Philosophical Ethics
by Anna Villanoza IV AB POS
Morality in Quezon Avenue Experience is the best teacher, this I have learned from my years in Ateneo. Much like one of my Political Science professors told me, you have no right writing about the poor if you have never encountered a poor person. This is primarily why I choose the topic, of Prostitution for this final paper – not that I’ve ever been one, but rather, I had the unique experience of interviewing two prostitutes for my Theology 131 class last semester, and meeting these two prostitutes (cliché as this may sound) was one of the most enlightening experiences of my entire life. However, I felt that because of the moral constraints of Theology 131, I believe that I wasn’t able to give justice to them, by using this experience again, I aim to give justice to their life experiences and re-‐ evaluate their situation in order to come up of a fairer judgment to them. With this said, I would like to examine the data from the interviews that I have conducted and evaluate them using “The Rights Approach”. Meet, greet and pay Time traveling back to a few months ago, I was initially very hesitant to
take on the topic of prostitution. Coming from a very Christian upbringing, I am very sad to say that in my head, I already judged them negatively, even before I met them. This would’ve probably stemmed from the concept of Christian teaching that one’s body is the “temple of God” that God lives within us, and that by doing these sorts of things, we are endangering our purity. However, my group mates seemed quite eager to pursue the topic, thinking that it would land
us a good grade with our professor, in the end, I gave in and decided that it would be an interesting topic to say the least. To be able to find prostitutes to interview, my group mates and I decided to go to Quezon Avenue on a Thursday night, for according to “reliable sources”; this is where they usually conduct business in. We went there around 8pm, I for one was confused because as media constantly brainwashed me that prostitutes only make their appearance after midnight, I thought we were quite early. As we drove the strip of Quezon Avenue, I saw the Philippine version of the red light district, the street was littered with numerous night clubs with the occasional sign of “Wanted: GRO, apply inside”. Again, media has reinforced me to believe that GRO meant prostitute, however, I found out later on the GRO simply means Guest Relations Officer, not necessarily prostitutes. Our game plan was to find a prostitute and offer to pay for her time while we conduct the interview, simple enough, little did we know we would actually have a hard time finding one. After driving around for a couple of minutes, we finally decided to ask a cab driver if he knew where we could find a prostitute, to our surprise, he beckoned a woman almost instantly, and said that she was a prostitute. I was completely taken aback at how respectable she looked, she wore a blazer and a simple pair of jeans, she looked like she was in her 40’s, she hardly had any make-‐up on, she was friendly to us and when we told her that we only wanted an interview, she agreed almost instantly, only requesting that we would not videotape her and her identity would remain a secret. We asked her to step into the car and immediately launched our prepared questions at her. We found out that she was indeed in her 40’s, she currently has
a family with two children, however, she the man that she’s married to now is not the father of her two children, she was previously married but her first husband decided to leave her. We quickly found out the basics of a prostitutes life, apparently, the prostitutes on the street are the ones that require the cheapest amount of money to avail of their services. This, she said, was because she didn’t have to give part of her salary to the club, and she didn’t need a “bugaw”, however, she charged low as compared to those who are in the clubs. Usually, her routine would be to go out at around 8pm and be home in time to send her children off to school. When asked about her children, she turned sentimental and said that it would be her worst fear that her children would find out about her night job. She says that they think she’s working for a call center at night, and busses tables in a restaurant in Cubao during the daylight. However, she quickly clarified that it was not because she didn’t think the job was decent, but rather, she thought that her children would think she wasn’t decent, and might abandon her if they found out. The conversation became light again as we prodded her with questions about sex. She said that it just seems like a job, that there really wasn’t anything too it. She even went as far as calling it “easy money” because she only had to work a few hours. When we asked how much she earned, she said that a quick blowjob would cost around 100Php, while going all the way would cost around 400Php. When asked about her future plans, she simply said that she would do this as long as she can, that she would save up, and maybe build a sari-‐sari store for when her children have finished studying. She says that she does it for her children, that she doesn’t want her children to ever go hungry or stop school, she simply wants to give her children a chance in life. She also says that she knows how it feels like to not have a roof over your head,
and she never wants that to happen to her ever again, saying that it was the worst moment of her life. She ends the conversation by saying that she sees nothing wrong with her job, although she says that if given the chance she would definitely pick another job, but she says that there’s nothing wrong with being a prostitute because it’s what makes them survive. We then wrap up the interview and gave her 600 Php for her time. The Rights Approach Admittedly, I was ashamed of myself after interviewing the prostitute.
Thinking, what right do I have to complain about my life when there are people like her who have to have sex with a stranger in order to get 300Php, when my friends and I spend more than that amount in a day, without even blinking. However, what struck me the most was her fear of her children knowing about her job, and what they would think of her. At first I thought that the children would accept her for whom she was, she was still their mother no matter what job she has and only a heartless child would disown her. However, as I thought about it, it would’ve been a natural response to feel ashamed of one’s mother if he/she found out that she was a prostitute and not a call center agent, this is because we were conditioned by society from a very young age that prostitutes are whores, and AIDS carriers, they are sinful beings. This made me wonder, is she bad for being a prostitute, or on the occasion that her children found out and they disown her, would they be bad for doing so? This is where evaluating with The Rights Approach comes in; we take into
the account the question, who is primarily affected by the situation? Simple, the mother is the one most affected, for it is her body that she shares with a stranger, 5
she is the one that carries out the action. Next, when one really thinks about it, what if the mother simply stops and gives up to misery? Then, the children would necessarily suffer and might not even go to school. In effect, their lives are ruined. However, going back to the mother, I believe that it is only her and her alone that can decide whether or not what she is doing is right or wrong. I believe that the mother thinks that it is her moral responsibility to give a good life to her children, that because she was part of the decision to bring them into the world, she is thus responsible for the kind of life that they live. Although it can be argued that she can find a better “cleaner” job, it is by her own choice that she has decided that this is the kind of job that she can do, it is the kind of job that she can sustain. What was striking about the woman we interviewed was not that she was not just a prostitute because the world conspired against her, but rather she was a prostitute because she decided to be one. She says that she does have other jobs, but being a prostitute is the job that makes them all survive, it’s the job that puts food in the table, it’s the job that pays the tuition, it’s the job that that gives them a home to live in and she believed that it was just that – a job. Now, looking into the law that all human beings have a right to a job, a
shelter and a good living environment, I believe that it is only the woman who can rightly decide if she is given or deprived of this right. But as far as her interview is concerned, I believe that she does not feel cheated or marginalized, rather, she thinks that her job is a fairly good job. This makes me think that it isn’t really by virtue of being a prostitute that she is marginalized, but rather, by being frowned upon by a society that refuses to help her.
The other side of the coin After talking to this person, I have come to realize that I have been
metaphorically looking at one side of a coin my entire life when it comes to the topic of prostitution. That my religion, my family, my school and everyone else that I have encountered in my life has brainwashed me to believe that being a prostitute means being a bad person. That prostitutes should be frowned upon because they are doing something evil. However, by learning about things such as The Rights Approach, I have come to realize that I am actually stepping on other people’s rights when I predetermine their existence before I have had the chance to talk to them, that by virtue of judging them, I have oppressed them as human beings. This is not to say that I already approve of prostitution and encourage
young ladies to choose it as a career path – definitely not. But, what I’m trying to say is that while I may not necessarily agree to becoming a prostitute, actual prostitutes cannot be called dirty just because they are prostitutes. Each and every one of these prostitutes that we see have their own stories to tell, have their own experiences, have their own families to feed. While we may say that it is easy to look for another job, it might not be the case for these girls who become prostitutes. What if they were not given the opportunity to do so because of monetary reasons? What if they were sickly when they were young, thus had to stay at home? There are many possibilities that someone from the outside would never comprehend. But, if you were the one experiencing it for yourself, you are the only right judge for your life. If you honest to goodness believe that what you are doing is right, and that it goes with your principles, you
have the ultimate right to decide whether to go for it or not, simply because you have the right to do so. Again, cliché, live and let live. I do not honestly believe that there is a
written law of what is right and what is wrong. Things could be justified many times to suit the situation and the only person who can rightfully decide is the one who is experiencing the situation first hand. As long as no other person is in jeopardy with your decisions, the task to decide is painfully yours and yours alone.
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