Selling oneself

Donald Trump Jr, the idiot son of the idiot president, has joined the ranks of people whom you can pay to make a recorded message for you.

The former president’s eldest son, listed on the site under the category of “activist”, is charging fans $500 a video with an undisclosed amount of the proceeds being donated to his chosen charity.

He follows a number of other “Maga celebrities” to join the platform, including his partner Kimberly Guilfoyle ($200 a video), convicted felon and former campaign adviser Roger Stone ($100 a video) and far-right political commentator and former presidential adviser Sebastian Gorka ($99 a video).

Let me guess. The ‘undisclosed amount’ that goes to charity would be $0, because that is how the Trumps roll, sticking like glue to any cash that comes anywhere close to their grubby fingers. It beats me why anyone would pay for such a thing but clearly there are people for whom being even marginally connected to a celebrity, even a C-list one like Don Jr., by having them say your name even if one has to pay for it, is worth it

So what can one get for one’s money?

A short examination of Trump’s uploaded videos indicated an array of messages, from birthday congratulations, to engagement celebrations. In one birthday message, he taunts a recipient named Peter for being “a lib”.

“Fortunately for you at least you have a family that has the sense to not be a lib and that they’re full of Trump supporters. So that’s pretty awesome,” he says, adding: “I hope your family rides you like Seabiscuit.”

But selling oneself this way also carries with the risk that one can get pranked, as in these ones where some Trump allies did not realize that they were giving a shout out to Satan.

The selling of messages is the bargain basement equivalent of bigger-name celebrities who charge a lot to attend events with you. Billionaire Richard Lugner, for example, pays as much as $150,000 to famous women to go to parties with him.

There was something that vaguely bothered me about this practice by Lugner and other wealthy people to pay to get celebrities to hang out with them and in a post in 2011, I managed to put my finger on it.

I finally figured out what was bothering me about this commercial aspect. While it is partly the fact that it is blurring the difference between social interactions (which are supposed to be free of financial considerations) and commercial interactions (for which fees are charged), what really bothers me is not that these people are doing anything wrong but that we do not extend the social acceptance of paying for services to a wider range of people and services.

In particular, we treat sex workers to a different standard. For example, sex workers are also paid for sharing with others the pleasure of their company and providing services. Why are they prosecuted and treated like criminals in so many countries, when the rest of us are able to sell our services and even be admired for doing so? When Richard Lugner gets to spend some time with a famous woman by paying for her presence, it is considered acceptable, if a little tacky. But if the agreement also involves having sex as part of the deal, the entire transaction is viewed with disdain and can become illegal and the people involved subject to harsh criminal penalties.

It is this double standard that drives sex workers into the underground economy and creates conditions in which they can be exploited and abused because they are operating outside the law and thus cannot easily call upon society to protect them.

We all sell (or, more accurately, rent) some part of our bodies to earn a living. In my case as a physicist and teacher, it was primarily my brain that was rented out and that was seen as respectable, even admirable. For some people, like those whose work primarily involves manual labor, it is the muscular part of their bodies. But when someone rents out those parts of their bodies that are involved in sex, suddenly all manner of moral opprobrium is heaped on them.

So Donald Trump Jr. and other MAGA-heads can rent their bodies to others to send out cheesy messages and will get no criticism from me as long as they extend that same courtesy to those who rent their bodies in other ways.


  1. says

    “Everyone knows” it’s wrong to coerce a person into doing sex work against their will.

    Logically, then, either there is something uniquely, egregiously bad about sex work compared to all other possible forms of wage labour; or it’s wrong to coerce a person into any other form of wage labour against their will.

    Since Capitalism depends on coercing people into wage labour against their will, it has a built-in vested interest in promoting the idea that sex work is uniquely bad. Yet there is not one valid criticism of sex work that is not also a valid criticism of some other form of wage labour.

    (And having tried sex work once, literally once and ending up baling out on my first punter, I have nothing but the deepest respect for any sex worker who sticks with it.)

  2. says

    @2 Marcus

    Claim to be trying to shit on some particular person you hate because she’s a liberal and he might actually be dumb enough to do “Maeve Otter’s a tax cheat who should be indicted.”

  3. lorn says

    I had a dormie in college that was really good with voice impressions. He would record short messages, usually for answering machines, a $5 a pop. He did some voice work for a local as company. I have no problems with DJT doing the same. It’s honest work.

    Yes, I agree that there is something skeevy about a billionaire buying an escort. Sort of like the joke about the kid being so ugly they had to tie a pork chop around his neck to get the dog to play with him. Some people have a personality, others have money.

    As for the women acting as escort, I just don’t see the problem. Unless he is using some form of coercion. That sex may be involved makes no difference.

    Working as an electrician I got up a time I wouldn’t normally wake. I would go to locations I wouldn’t normally go to. I manipulated my body doing thing I wouldn’t normally do. The work was hot, sweaty, dirty, backbreaking, and not infrequently dangerous. A fall off a scaffold can kill or maim. Cutting torches, molten metal, arc welding create toxic fumes, burn and explosion hazards. Live electrical circuits cause burns and can kill, sometimes in a very dramatic manner.

    Discounting ancient taboos surrounding sexuality and superficial and performative morality, most of which is intended to control women, is sex work any more degrading and hazardous. Really? I fail to see it.

    At $150,000 for a night? That’s almost three years pay. Three years of cuts, bruises, burns, back and knees hurting all the time. Constant danger. Walking on slippery wet steel decking slanting down to a six-story drop. Metal fume fever and manganese poisoning because they can’t keep the smoke suckers working or issue proper respirators. Fingers twitching and hands shake at the end of a ten hour shift. Milk seems to make sleep possible. If you do it for a couple of years the personality changes and shakes become longer term. I lot of people have it harder.

    One year we lost three people. One had his legs crushed when a cable on a crane failed. He lived but will never walk again. One fell two stories onto a concrete slab and split his head open like a melon. Something of a relief when he died a day later. One burnt himself down when on a hot, miserable Friday afternoon they got complacent, skipped a simple safety check, and cut the wrong cable. More than 100,000 short-circuit amps at 7200v vaporized the cutters he was holding, his arms, set his body on fire and shot him out of the manhole like a cannon. He came down as a flaming heap of burnt meat. Messy and dramatic, but quick. OSHA is a bad joke.

    Would I have traded it for sexual services and $150k, sure would. That kind of money buys a lot of showers and therapy. We are all whores. Selling our bodies, minds, skills, and talents for money. Nothing shameful about sex work.

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