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"I would argue traditional marriage... was a form of prostitution."

Jane Caro

By GRACE JENNINGS-EDQUIST

Jane Caro is a well-respected, Australia-based feminist author, journalist and social commentator.

She’s also making headlines across the country today. Last night on national television, she compared marriage to prostitution.

Appearing on the ABC’s Q&A program, Caro was asked a question about prostitution as a career choice following the publicity surrounding the revelation that Sydney journalist Amanda Goff led a double life as a mother and high-class escort.

The response Caro gave was articulate, considered and deeply divisive.

“I’m going to say something really dangerous now,” Caro began. “When you have a society where women’s main currency is really their sexual favours, their ability to reproduce, then a lot of what women do is a form of prostitution.”

Caro argued that in traditional marriage, women were historically expected to have sex with their husbands in exchange for a “room and board”.

She continued, “I would argue 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 selling their bodies and their reproductive rights to their husband — he bought them, by giving her room and board in return — was a form of prostitution.”

Caro argued that in traditional marriage, women were historically expected to have sex with their husbands in exchange for a “room and board”.

“So I think we really need to discuss what we mean by prostitution”.

Fellow panelist Kajsa Ekman, a Swedish author, dismissed Ms Caro’s analogy as “a very abstract comparison”.

Pointing to the sex trade in Amsterdam, where prostitutes service more than a dozen clients a day to pay rent, Ekman said: “We’re talking here about a world in which a lot of people in prostitution have sex with up to 15 buyers a day.”

Caro claims, “At least the women who choose it as a career choice, freely and uncoerced – that’s very, very important – only have to put up with their customer for about an hour,” she said.

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“Once upon a time, it was a lifetime, ladies, a lifetime.”

Caro’s comments also stirred controversy on social media, with Twitter user Bradley Tanner writing: “@JaneCaro My mother is a prostitute is she? Raising 4 boys makes her a whore?”

The Truth Express posted: “People like you are a step backward for feminism @janecaro. Feminism is about empowerment and choice, which we have. You’re a disgrace.”

Twitter user Will Camphin branded Caro’s “dismissive” reference to prostitution as “abysmal”, while Emma Missen tweeted: “So by being a SAHM I’m nothing more than a common whore?”

Caro defended her comments, telling Mamamia this afternoon the story was an “absurd beat-up”.

Caro explained that her comments were a historical analogy. “I was making a comparison with marriage from the past,” she said.

“I was making a comparison with marriage from the past,” she said.

“I was talking about a period when demonstrably, women’s only economic future was via marriage, and there was such a thing as conjugal rights which meant that rape in marriage, for example, didn’t exist.”

“I think you could argue that, particularly when she wasn’t allowed to work or even have ownership of her own money, that it was an economic transaction.”

She also clarified: “I didn’t say those women were prostitutes.”

Caro also said she found it “odd” that some on Twitter had suggested she’d criticised women who choose to get married, or stay-at-home mums.

“After having been married for 39 years myself, and having been a stay at home housewife for five years when my children were small, I find that very odd,” she said.

“My own daughter got married in April. I wept, like most mothers of the brides do, with joy.”

What do you think of Jane Caro’s comments?