poto wrote: Full disclosure: I used to work in the adult industry doing web and marketing. It is not a wholesome livelihood.
"It's not a wholesome livelihood" obviously needs some unpacking. If you're referring just to the manufacturing of adult entertainment as "not a wholesome livelihood" ... a constructed narrative that maybe or maybe is not the result of modern Western 'religious' conditioning ... then there's not much to discuss here. The reality is that in our hyper-aggressive, pathologically alienated, capitalist / consumer society, the adult entertainment industry is inevitable, necessary, and valuable ... and should be respected as such. And, the adult entertainment industry in the U.S. is a multibillion dollar industry that employs how many boring, well-behaved accountants, business managers, art directors, videographers, programmers, graphic artists, sales staff, management, etc... ordinary people who go to work each day. A blanket dismissal / degradation / condemnation of 'sex work' as "unwholesome", especially if it is a conditioned, knee jerk, received / trained reaction, is intellectually shallow, reactive, culturally bigoted, and inconsistent with the goal of Dhamma / Dharma practice.
However, if just the act of manufacturing adult entertainment in itself isn't the basis of your "not a wholesome livelihood" comment, then I assume you're talking about elements and circumstances of this community that cause suffering. That we can talk about.
I have a broad, deep, intimate, and lengthy understanding of and association with the adult entertainment industry. I provided pro bono substance abuse counseling / psychotherapy / educational services / and practical support (food and shelter) to the hetero / bi / homo / trans / intersex adult entertainment community in San Francisco and the European male escort circuit for nearly a decade. Through this work I became an active member of the adult entertainment community ... socializing with them, advocating and agitating for them politically, cultivating life long friendships, and blessed with quite a number of loving relationships ... while simultaneously providing substance abuse counseling / psychotherapy / educational services on a fee basis to middle and upper class San Francisco / Marin county residents. After spending the day working with the financially secure, I would descend into the world of the financially insecure and those who have been rejected by mainstream bourgeoisie society for one reason or another ... which often included doing street outreach late at night in dangerous circumstances. I can say emphatically, as a result of this long and intimate association with this community, that I much preferred working with sex workers over the fortunate mainstream, for a few reasons:
1. The adult entertainment community is, by far, in my experience, the closest thing to a true meaning of 'community' (fellowship and caring for each other) that I have ever experienced, and I've been a long time member of quite a number of cultural communities and sub cultures (including an active and committed member of various 'Buddhist' communities for nearly 45 years). My experience of people in the adult entertainment industry, in general, is that they look out for each other with a deep sense of responsibility and caring, and are deeply loyal and generous, to a degree that I haven't witnessed outside this community in modern Western society. It is comparable to the sense and practice of community that I've witnessed in remote Native American, rural Mexican, and remote Southeast Asian communities that are relatively free from Western contamination and degradation.
2. Sex workers (adult video performers, prostitutes, phone / cyber sex workers, erotic dancers), in my experience, in general, have a clearer perception of reality, of what really is taking place right now, in this moment, and the nature of desire / craving, than the average person that identifies as 'Buddhist' in the Western world. They tend to have a clearer perception of the nature of existence, as a result of their outsider status, lived uncertainty, and experiential / psychic mediation of reality. Yes, I'm saying that the average sex worker has a clearer perception of reality and existence than the average middle / upper class self-identifed 'Buddhist' (and those who have absorbed the values of dominant culture). They tend to have a very stripped down way of mediating reality that is consistent with the view of reality that Dhamma / Dharma records have preserved and advocates (minus the very recently added 'religious' lens, the result of the modern Western occupation of Dhamma / Dharma since the late 18th century). There's no evidence of the concept of 'religion' or the emotional state of 'religiosity' in Dhamma / Dharma prior to 18th / 19th century Western interpretation of it.
3. Dhamma / Dharma practice really isn't about about modeling the construct of good vs bad mores of modern Western society, a misconception that is now deeply engrained into modern understandings of the purpose of Dhamma / Dharma practice. Dhamma / Dharma practice really isn't about being "good" and the rejection of the body and material world ... a clear understanding of Dhamma / Dharma rejects the dualistic parsing of 'good' and 'bad' and 'material / immaterial'. Rather, it is really all about the refinement of perception, the cultivation of clarity (vision, free from cultural conditioning, conceptual habits, and emotional reaction), the acknowledgement and acceptance of emptiness (and liberation from the delusion of self-existence), the rejection of dualism, and the value of the compassion that organically arises from the dissolving of the delusion of self-existence and permanence. I've heard countless times the doctrine of 'non-self, interrelation, and impermanence, and the personal testimonials of the organic kindness that rises out of the understanding of these central elements of Dhamma / Dharma, in late night revelations, free from the modern Western jargon of "Buddhism", often delivered in the peak of self-medication, from those who sell their bodies to strangers or give up their naked image to the gaze of hungry masses, in order to provide food and shelter for themselves and their children ... importantly, absent the reward that most modern Buddhists expect ... a privileged 'rebirth' and a cherished self-identification of 'good' and 'spiritual', and 'better than / not like everyone else' (it's fascinating how many people who identify as 'Buddhist' unconsciously think of themselves as 'special' ... which is just one more deluding 'self' concretization ... or, in modern terms, state of insanity.
Are there dangers associated with sex work? Yes, of course. A dear friend of mine ... one of the most intelligent and awake women I've ever met ... was beheaded by one of her escort customers. Does exploitation happen in this industry? Yes, of course. Do some people who work in this industry suffer long term psychological effects? Yes, of course. And yet ... are there dangers associated with law enforcement? Yes ... a dear friend who was a policewoman in Paris was tortured and killed by a drug gang. Are there dangers associated with dentistry? Yes...a dear friend who was a successful dentist recently killed himself ... dentists have the highest rate of suicide of any profession. Are there dangers associated with computer programming? Yes ... a longtime friend and programmer employee recently lost management of his mind and was committed to an asylum ... programmers have a higher than average rate of psychopathology. Are corporate bio-drones exploited ... yes, often extremely. Yet, I've hunted for decades for statistics that support the idea that sex work is more dangerous than socially acceptable occupations. Or more immoral than many socially acceptable occupations, and statistics do not seem to support this popular perception (that is commonly held by 'religious' people). Is sex work really more dangerous, unwholesome, or immoral than corps / industry that deplete and poison the thin fragile layer of life here in Earth that humans and all other living beings depend on for sustenance and survival ... that perhaps irreparably harms DNA, resulting in extreme transgenerational epigentic disease extending 2-3 generations and perhaps infinitely into the future of the collective human organism? Is it more dangerous, immoral, unwholesome than the unholy marriage between politicians and the military ... that results in millions of people killed or displaced on an ongoing basis? It's just so easy for modern, western, religiously indoctrinated people to tsk tsk about sex, while ignoring the indisputable fact that Western civilization itself is immoral and dangerous, and has resulted in 150k species going extinct annually and accelerating ... 70% of all species are projected to go extinct by the end of this century (just 85-ish years) ... and human cancer rates are projected to increase by 70% in the next 20 years, as a result of a delusional, immoral, religionized, mystified, and mythified view of nature and existence and our embedded place within these realities.
Can sex be an obstacle to awakening? Of course. Can anything / everything we do ... the circumstances of life that we encounter in every moment and our reaction to them (even consensually acceptable reactions), be an obstacle to waking up to reality? Yes. Can blindly taking refuge in 'Buddhist" mythology, dogma, and self-identity be an obstacle to awakening? You bet. So let's not point the eager finger of judgement at those "other' people who don't match our conditioned view of acceptable behavior and occupation.