Australian author Jane Caro has backtracked on her comment “housewives are prostitutes” after causing a stir on social media.
On ABC TV’s Q&A for “Festival of Dangerous Ideas” episode on Monday night, the social commentator came under fire for comparing housewives to prostitutes. In the wake of ex-journalist Amanda Goff’s recent revelation of her double life as a prostitute, the participating panel was asked about sex workers.
“I’m going to say something really dangerous now,” Caro said, aware that her following words would be controversial. “I would argue that traditional marriage, which included conjugal rights, particularly when women were not able to go to work or were fired when they first got married, and were basically selling their reproductive rights to their husband... was a form of prostitution.
“He bought them by giving her room and board in return.”
Caro’s analogy didn’t sit well with some viewers, who blasted the author for allegedly callously demeaning the roles of housewives to a paid-for sex worker.
— Polymorpheous (@polymorpheous) September 3, 2014
— Bradley Tanner (@Braddlesadl) September 2, 2014
Caro appeared to have backtracked on her own words, but insisted that she was talking about marriages in the olden days when marriages were considered an economic transaction.
Writing a column for Fairfax Media, she clarified what she meant by the analogy, admitting that she “obviously expressed myself badly.”
“I was trying to talk about marriage in the bad old days when it was much more of an economic transaction than it is today. Once, when married women were unable to retain their own earnings or property (only changed in Britain in 1882), they had no rights to their own children. When a husband had not only his conjugal rights enshrined in law but also the right to ‘discipline’ his wife as he saw fit, society very much made women the possessions of their husbands.
“Women’s currency was pretty much reduced to – as I said – their sexual and reproductive capacity. That still did not make the women in such relationships prostitutes but it did make marriage much more about survival than choice.”
She also insisted to AAP that she was not calling modern wives prostitutes.
“I have been married for 39 years, I was at home with small children for five years. Why would I say such a thing?”