The View from Hell

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The Parable of the Sexy Librarian

with 2 comments

Imagine a librarian with dual master’s degrees in library science and women’s studies. Our librarian works at a public library by day, but moonlights as a call girl. She sees her sex work as a lucrative and liberating activity, and her decision to do sex work came after long thought into ethics, psychology, feminism, and personal soul-searching.

Now imagine that this librarian has a collection of materials addressing the ins and outs of becoming a prostitute, and explaining how to be successful as a prostitute. Despite her deep belief that being a prostitute is not wrong, mightn’t she feel a bit of hesitation before making this collection of materials widely available, even to children and teenagers? Indeed, mightn’t our sexy librarian wonder whether those seeking the information might be harmed by it?

I write this because it was recently called to my attention that searchers sometimes reach my work after a Google search on “how to successfully commit suicide.” However, luckily for me (or unluckily, depending on how you look at it), I am not in the same ethical position as the sexy librarian, because I have no information to offer. If I had information that could help ordinary people commit suicide surely and painlessly, I would have an ethical dilemma over whether to post that information (assuming I didn’t just immediately put the technique into practice on myself). But I do not.

Our society, of course, has such information, and such means. Any doctor could help any one of us to a painless death, but even if the doctor wished to do so, he would be prohibited from doing so by our society’s criminal laws. Our society – the people around us – prefer that we suffer. This should fill us all not with despair, but with anger.

I make no judgment as to whether any given suicide is proper or not. Many impute selfish motives to the suicide – that the suicide took her own interest in not suffering as being more important than the (questionable) interest of her relatives in her continued company. I do not believe it is selfish to commit suicide. But I’d encourage those looking for a way out of their suffering to also consider their fellow sufferers – those who pray for death and cannot achieve it. Very few of us are speaking out and advocating for ourselves. We are largely invisible to society, partially because our view is considered offensive and harmful, even illegal, and partially because many of us simply leave the world without advocating on behalf of all would-be suicides. The sexy librarian is in a dilemma when deciding whether to make “How To Be A Prostitute” available to anyone who wants to see it, including, perhaps, twelve-year-olds. But, I would argue, she is in no such dilemma when she advocates for the legalization of prostitution, and attempts to publicize the suffering of prostitutes under criminalization.

I encourage others to do the same for would-be suicides (and for those who have not yet suffered the harm of being brought into existence).


Written by Sister Y

May 12, 2008 at 8:08 pm

2 Responses

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  1. You’ve got me wondering about legal injections in death penalty cases, and all the hubbub about doing it right, about the supposed ‘suffering’ involved, etc. The dogs I’ve had ‘put down’ have all drifted to sleep in about 3 seconds, with absolutely no signs of discomfort whatsoever. Is there something different about human biology playing a role here, or is it just contrived histrionics by death penalty opponents? From what I’ve seen, it seems like an awfully nice way to go out.


    June 2, 2008 at 2:54 am

  2. Interesting – yes, I’ve been following the 8th Amendment objections to the California lethal injection process, and I think it’s something different from what they do to animals. With people, they use a barbiturate, a paralyzing agent, then a toxic agent – the problem is that sometimes the barbiturate (anesthetic) might not work to prevent 100% of the pain. With animals, they just use a very high dose of barbiturate. I’m not sure why. From what I’ve read, doctors who perform assisted suicide on patients use only barbiturates, but it seems to vary.

    Sister Y

    June 2, 2008 at 8:18 am

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