The Yahoo News photo above, one of several hundred on the site purporting to illustrate World AIDS Day, was accompanied by the following caption-text:
A female sex worker makes AIDS symbols with ribbons during an AIDS awareness campaign ahead of World AIDS Day at a red-light area in the northeastern Indian city of Siliguri.
In reality, the hands pictured might belong to a waitress, a claims adjuster, a professor of mathematics, or indeed to anyone. It doesn't matter. What does matter is how the news service has chosen to package the offering for our AIDS Day consumption.
The woman is described as a "female sex worker." The term is not a true euphemism but rather a conscious ethical transvaluation of the harlot into yet another "service provider." It's as if we were to start calling crack dealers "alkaloid workers" with a straight face. Note that blandly referring to prostitutes as workers (bearing the connotation of conventional voluntary labor) runs counter to the recent -- and politically correct -- alarm at the possibility that many of them are not only unwilling participants in their trade but are trapped in a modern form of slavery. When our betters believe there's a more important moral lesson to be conveyed, however, that slave-potential is conveniently pushed aside.
It's not an accident that we're never shown a male set-designer or a male hairdresser or a male flight attendant assembling the ribbons. That would bring to mind the sordid reality of recklessly self-indulgent sodomy, and key to the lesson is the risible but indispensable axiom that We Are All at Risk. But even hetero whoremongering has been traditionally viewed as ignoble, whence we're presented with responsible hookers -- workers, I mean -- calling upon the rest of us to be responsible as well. Again, the terminology doesn't really disguise the attendant turpitude ("Yo mutha's a commercial sex worker!") but it gives us permission to pretend that sexual promiscuity is no more problematic than picking tomatoes -- and responsible harvesters wear gloves to protect themselves from pesticides. Any questions, class?
That familiar red AIDS Awareness ribbon is itself vexing. Sure, it can be assigned an innocent meaning, and many good-willed persons wear it to signal their concern for human suffering. But it also serves as a kind of flag pinned onto the battle-map of the culture wars, showing the victorious incursion of the AIDS Awareness ideology -- an ideology that comes with "bundled software" comprising what the AIDS activists want it to comprise. Thus the Yahoo News site shows the ribbon displayed on the Eiffel Tower, the White House portico, the Great Wall, etc. I was particularly disgusted by this photo of Rio de Janeiro's Christ the Redeemer raising our AIDS Awareness. We are all at risk.
Pushing the envelope even further is the image of Casper the Friendly Condom, who's put on parade for the whole family, in the manner of those smiling toothbrushes once used to make us feel good about dental hygiene. We're meant to grasp that there's nothing to be afraid of -- witness the toddler in the photo below being introduced to a sunglass-sporting celebrity rubber -- and on the other hand there's everything to be afraid of: thanks to the condom consciousness campaigns a generation of well-schooled children will reflexively associate sexual relations with tissue tears, bleeding, disease, and death (unlike that negative, life-denying theological view of nuptial sexuality purveyed by the Catholic Church).
World AIDS Day, like AIDS Awareness generally, is a hoax. This can be conclusively demonstrated by comparing the evasive language and equivocal semiotics of the AIDS activists with -- to take one example -- the expertly gruesome posters employed in the Montana Meth Project, which are designed neither to make us feel good about meth junkies nor to make meth junkies feel good about themselves, but which instead are designed to prevent kids from doing meth in the first place. The catch-phrase of the anti-meth campaign is Not Even Once. Ever hear that expression applied to extra-marital sex in an AIDS program?
The difference in the two approaches has a simple explanation: the folks who created the Montana Meth Project really care about the kids at risk of meth addiction and really want them not to start. AIDS activists, by contrast, are principally concerned with changing sexual mores in conformity to their own: this in order to justify their own moral choices. The epidemic levels of HIV, far from harming their true cause, are a boon, annually funneling millions of dollars into their hands for propaganda purposes. Unconvinced? Look no further than the recent announcement that the U.N. has overstated the number of HIV infections by some six million. Far from celebrating the news, our betters have struggled to conceal their disappointment.
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Posted by: -
Dec. 04, 2007 12:21 PM ET USA
Well, I HARDLy think that. hence my qualifier "some." But plenty of them have. In Africa nearly everyone IS at risk, much as that FACT may gall the true idealogue. Since all the men are infected with it, even the chastest wives get infected, plus the kids. My husband is involved with bringing medicines (not condoms) to Africa, and it's a mess there. I totally agree, be moral! That's the solution. But NOT entirely, not for the people who have already gotten it through no fault of their own
Posted by: -
Dec. 03, 2007 6:35 PM ET USA
Actually, Sterling, there are more than a few young women that figure they can make money having sex and make a decision to just that. Don't think that all whores and harlots have been forced into it.
Posted by: -
Dec. 02, 2007 9:34 PM ET USA
Gosh, I could have more sympathy with your thinking if there were the slightest recognition that some of these "sex workers" or "harlots" don't just decide to take up this line of work, but feel forced to - or are forced to! Should they face death first? Sure, but so should we before committing the slightest venial sin, as so many saints tell us. Or, do you think these are all just gals who decide one day, "Hey, let me make some extra money so I can buy a fine leather jacket for myself?"
Posted by: -
Dec. 02, 2007 6:10 PM ET USA
A splendid and wholly accurate analysis. Amen.