Bodily Labor

It is arguable that I am composing a post on the topic of bodily labor because my upcoming Gender and Politics exam will test me on the subject, however despite me having to know this knowledge it is a rather fascinating concept.

Bodily Labor involves using the human body to engage in and enhance work. Martha Nussbaum in her text Sex and Social Justice examines the three main notions of bodily labor that have been proposed by highly recognized theorists throughout history. They are as follows:

(1) Aristocratic/Ancient Greek Notion of Bodily Labor, in which Aristotle proposed that when a task or a duty has a price put on it, the value of the task/duty itself is diminished. Aristotle furthermore argued that when bodily labor in the realm of eroticism or intimacy has value put on it, the erotic/intimate act itself becomes purely physical and animal-like, and is therefore detrimental to the value of the individuals engaging in the act.

(2) John Locke’s Notion of Bodily Labor as Fair Exchange for Labor, in which Locke argued that when individuals engage in an act or a duty for financial compensation, they are contributing to society and are therefore able to gain citizenship.

(3) Karl Marx’s Notion of Bodily Labor and his Criticism of Capitalism, in which Marx acknowledges that Bodily Labor can contribute to human flourishment, however disagrees with Locke’s liberal theory because he argues that when persons engage in an act or a duty for financial compensation they are contributing to Capitalism.

Nussbaum examines all three notions of Bodily Labor, and ultimately concludes that a majority of occupations are affiliated with Bodily Labor, whether it be professors, doctors, chefs, bartenders or persons who subject themselves to medical experiments and trials. She argues that Bodily Labor in the realm of prostitution/sex work receives so much criticism because of an ultimate fear of female sexuality. Male sexuality is seen as powerful and dominating whereas female sexuality is seen as dangerous and suspicious, which is why I believe Nussbaum’s observations contain a lot of truth.

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