Shaw’s Indecent Proposal

George Bernard Shaw is said to have made a debating-point – for Shaw himself may have been an asexual and would probably not in fact have taken her up on it – by asking a “respectable” woman whether she would sleep with him for a thousand pounds, probably several million in our money. She said, light-heartedly, that she would. He then asked whether she would sleep with him for ten pounds. She was indignant and asked, “What do you think I am?” He replied, “We have already established what you are, madam, now we are merely haggling over the price.”

Modern women who hear that story become incandescent with rage, because their S.O.P. is to “hear” the story as a condemnation of “all” women. But Shaw1s dinner-table companion was not “all women”; she was under no compulsion to agree to the indecent proposal with the thousand-pound price-tag. That was her own free decision, and so Shaw was quite correct to demonstrate that her favours were, in principle, available for hard cash. Her indignation seems, therefore, to have been grounded in the widespread perception that prostitution means selling sexual services cheaply. Her “virtue” was not about resistance to sexual temptation but about the extraction of a higher price.

And this is, indeed, the name of the game. The modern woman is furious at being told that all women have their price; but so they do. For some, that price will be nothing less than saving their child from starvation, in which case their prostituting themselves would be an ethically meritorious act. For others, it is a million pounds. For others again, it is considerably less. All this applies to men as well; it is just that we men are less frequently faced with this kind of calculus. Another part of the world’s injustice is that some women do have to sell themselves every day to save their child from starvation. When the woman who would put out for a million pounds despises the woman who must sell herself for less in order to feed her child, and is furious at being in any way equated with her, the indignation is not at her morals, but solely at her pricing.

Posted on January 24, 2012 at 14:52 by Hugo Grinebiter · Permalink
In: THE NAME OF THE GAME, The Trade-Unionism Of Married Women

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  1. Written by urban
    on January 25, 2012 at 12:32

    Correct. And well put.

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