Exploitation is the act of benefiting from treating someone unfairly.
Let’s say I hypothetically stalk the suburbs at night, stick my camera into unsuspecting living rooms and record the private lives of others without their permission. Trespassing on private property and intruding on someone’s expectation of privacy are against the law. But is it exploitation? Not unless I sell it, and benefit financially from their mistreatment.
Exploitation is also the act of benefiting from using resources.
(Humans can sometimes be considered resources depending on the context, but due to human rights we must differentiate between human and non-human resources. (Though non-human resources can also be alive, they are not human and therefore cannot have the same rights as humans.))
By this definition exploitation is not illegal. Mining ore, for instance, is considered exploitation. This is not only legal, it is encouraged because ore is necessary to make stuff. If one wants to argue against the exploitation of ore and in favor of ore’s rights I’ll be happy to read it. (I’m looking at you Jacobin.)
When a human was not the owner of his labor, and was not compensated for his effort, and instead was bought and sold like a non-human resource, it was called slavery.
Children may not have been enslaved when they were working factory jobs instead of attending school during the industrial revolution, but they were exploited because they were too young to have agency under the law and were forced to work by their parents. Their did not keep the fruits of their labor, as their parents needed their earnings to feed the family.
When consent is introduced exploitation evaporates.
Some freaks want to be exploited sexually. Good for them. Unfortunately, by definition, they are not exploited and never can be. By making a choice to exploit themselves, they are not exploiting themselves. They may not be receiving any material benefit from the fruits of their sexual labor, but they are receiving their own brand of pleasure, which, depending on the freak, might actually be pain. In their opinion, getting beaten and tied up and fist fucked is sexually satisfying. By their own choice they are being treated unfairly, which still gives them agency, as they consent to the humiliation. These freaks wanted someone else to profit sexually at their expense, and they chose to suffer sexually because they receive a purely subjective pleasure from it, and therefore benefit.
Nymphos are a rare form of freak that can get paid to experience objective sexual pleasure, the kind that does not involve physical pain. Laughing at people who believe that female porn stars are exploited is acceptable, since female porn stars earn more than their male counterparts. Furthermore, male porn stars agree to their salaries, despite the pay gap, because having sex with women on camera for money is a great gig for single, middle aged men with great personalities.
Even an ‘Exploited Teen’ series–where legal teen girls give rough pornography a try before quickly realizing they have an appreciation for themselves– are not exploited. Because these businesses are legal entities, they are performing their due diligence and hiring girls that are above the age of consent. When non-nymphos girls appear on camera sobbing, humiliated and covered in goo, they are choosing to act and appear this way. They chose to put themselves in harm’s way for a fee, and are reacting emotionally to their mistake. These naive teens are choosing to feel humiliated and afraid and cry as a reaction. Hopefully these non-nymphos will understand that their choices matter, and make better choices that fit their lifestyle and aspirations i.e not exchange their self worth for a paycheck. Similarly, a nympho’s emotional reaction would be laughing and smiling, covered in goo and begging for more. Everybody is different and nobody is exploited.
Prostitutes are arguably nymphos and/or homeless, but unquestionably running out of options. The circumstances leading to prostitution are numerous, and usually stem from a blighted economic situation. (Career wise prostitution is a dead end. Looks fade.) For argument’s sake, I am going to say that the prostitute did not choose to be poor. (This does not make her exploited by the economy. Look up what an economy is if you disagree.) However, she did choose to enter into prostitution, either hired by a pimp/madam, or working the streets by herself. Choosing to sell her body for money (which is by every means a desperate measure) does not make her exploited. The fruits of her sexual labor are compensated by her customers, who have agreed to the exorbitant price she charges for the use of her body. If a pimp/madam is holding a prostitute against her will and not paying her, then she is by definition a sex slave and exploited. Even if the prostitute is making less than the pimp, unless she is a slave, she can leave the arrangement. The pimp can intimidate the prostitute with violence, which is exactly why illegal prostitution is dangerous; there is no accountability or regulation.
Low wage workers are not exploited. Interns are not exploited. NCAA athletes are not exploited. Just because they are unpaid or paid very little does not mean they think they aren’t benefiting.
Typically, interns are not paid. They might get tiny perquisites, like free lunch or travel, but their labor is not compensated. Interns are students above the legal age of consent, which means they are choosing to accept school credit as payment. Though they might want a paycheck, they have not been officially hired by the institution, and are not on the payroll. Students intern chiefly to learn skills that relate their education to their preferred industry. Smart interns make business connections, while dumb ones believe they are being exploited and burn bridges. Interns believe that they may not benefit immediately in the form of a paycheck, but that sacrifice is worth the experience, which, they believe, will benefit them in the long term. Of course, less competitive internships at institutions without clout treat interns as free labor, but being an intern is always a choice.
NCAA athletes have agreed to a merciless existence for a shot at glory. They have signed contracts that require them to compete in competitions and attend classes, and they are not exploited because signing a contract denotes consent to the terms.
Working a low wage job without benefits is not exploitation. Businesses determine what they can afford to pay unskilled laborers depending on a variety of factors. Unions influence wage laws, which then hold businesses to standards deemed fair by the workers, who are not exploited. Some low wage workers are unhappy, and have every right to seek other employment or education that would allow them to become a skilled laborer. Some low wage workers are happy to have a job that pays them for their time.
These groups may be overworked, tired, bored, regretful and unhappy, but they are compensated for their efforts despite their feelings. They may not agree with the wage, but then again, not all work can be pornography.
Skilled laborers can exploit the ignorance of their customers in some scenarios. A mechanic might successfully exploit a clueless customer whose car breaks down in the middle of nowhere, and overcharges them because they have a monopoly on parts and knowledge, and the customer is desperate for help. Car insurance eliminates the likelihood of this scenario.
Though they profit from their photos, paparazzi do not exploit the celebrities they photograph. Under the law, anyone in a public place can be photographed without their consent. When questioned as to the purpose of the photographs, a photographer does not need to answer or reveal their identity. A person in a public place who does not wish to be photographed can ask not to be photographed, but because they do not own the space, a photographer is not obligated to obey their request. They have the freedom to move away from the photographer, or enter a space that is privately owned by them. There are no special privileges for anybody in public.
The paparazzi’s job is to take photographs of high profile people in public. They are working to obtain a rare, in demand item to sell. The paparazzi do all of the work while the high profile person does nothing. Nobody is exploited.
When it comes to casting for roles in some of my movies and filming some unsavory public events for my YouTube channel, I have have been charged with exploitation, which is empirically and theoretically incorrect.
Recording public debauchery is not exploitative, even if the subject cannot consent due to drunkenness. They chose to be drunk in public, and photographers do not need consent. When a non-photographer urges a photographer not to take a picture, that is a queue for the photographer to take the picture. Part of being a good photographer is having the audacity to capture compelling moments regardless of subject matter. Whether this makes a photographer an asshole or not is subjective.
The world is more than pretty people. In fact, the world is mostly miserable people or average looking people. Writers that want to convey verisimilitude will write characters that are varying shapes and sizes. If the script calls for fat police officers, a casting director would be horrible at their job if they instead cast skinny people. The actor’s role is filled based on the description of the character in the script, and they are chosen for the part depending on their expertise. Even if they are unpaid, casting actors for their looks is not exploitation, it is the nature of audition and adds to the quality of the product.
Like the word violence, which can only be physical, exploitation can only mean unfairly benefiting from someone else’s work. Benefiting from work usually means stealing their precious time without paying them. Agreeing to be paid a low wage will never compare to slavery, which is the only true type of exploitation.
Also: you will never be paid what you think you deserve.