A new coalition on prostitution


2:39 pm - January 22nd 2008

by Jess McCabe    


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A new coalition to put forward a feminist perspective against prostitution is to launch on Monday 11 February. The launch is a public event, with the invite extended to “all those who believe in real women’s-rights rather than men’s right to buy women”.

The meeting is at 6.30pm in the Amnesty UK Human Rights Action Centre in New Inn Yard, nearest tube Old St.

Of course, watchers of UK politics will be aware that the launch comes at a time when ministers are putting serious thought into a shake up the prostitution law along the lines of the Swedish model, to make the act of buying sex explicitly illegal – so women will not be charged for selling sex, but the men who buy their bodies will face prosecution. Today we learn that 52% of Britons agree with this approach and 65% agree that buying sex is an act with exploits women.

The Swedish government pioneered this legislation in 1999 and, although the move has not been without controversy, it has apparently produced a drop off in the number of prostitutes on the street, and perhaps on the numbers of women trafficked into the country.

Of course, there are lots of different perspectives on the best way to tackle prostitution, but from a left-wing perspective the only real competing approach is legalisation. It is easy to be tempted by the idea that legalisation is a panacea, that would bring in unions, protection for prostitutes, police assistance and a lessening of the discrimination faced by prostitutes, or women who have been prostitutes. But this ignores the facts of the case.

Let’s look a little closer at what prostitution really is. A 2004 Home Office report found:

  • 70% of those in street prostitution began as children or teenagers
  • 85% reported physical abuse in their family
  • 45% reported sexual abuse in their family
  • 70% spent time in Local Authority care while children

And that doesn’t even touch on the issue that a man who uses a prostitute must accept the risk that the woman has been trafficked.

A while ago, the Guardian printed a letter from Professor Julia O’Connell Davidson of the University of Nottingham. She argued:

When 515 indoor prostitution establishments were raided by police as part of Operation Pentameter last year, only 84 women and girls who conformed to police and immigration officers’ understanding of the term “victim of trafficking” were “rescued”. At this rate, the police would need to raid some 150,000 indoor prostitution establishments to unearth MacShane’s 25,000 sex slaves. The fact that there are estimated to be fewer than 1,000 such establishments in London gives some indication of how preposterous MacShane’s claim is.

Abuse and exploitation undoubtedly occur in the UK sex sector, but only a minority of cases involve women and girls being imprisoned and physically forced into prostitution by a third party. More usually, those who are vulnerable are working to pay off debts incurred in migration, or to supplement paltry single-parent benefits. Their vulnerability is in large part a consequence of government action and inaction – its failure to regulate the sex sector, its immigration and welfare policies etc. And raids by police and immigration officials normally result in their deportation or prosecution for benefit fraud, not in their assistance or protection.

On the one hand, it’s clearly true that there isn’t nearly enough support for trafficked women, and undoubtedly many women will end up being deported. More can and should be done. But it is troubling to see this (all too frequent) distinction being made between the ‘real’ victims of trafficking – those at the most extreme end of the scale, who are physically imprisoned, and those who are ‘merely’ indentured into the sex trade.

Being forced to work to “pay off debts incurred in migration” is a horrendous underestimation of the true situation of women, who have very often been tricked into crossing borders with promises of jobs. Even those that may have known they were going to work in the sex trade find that they are not in control of their own bodies. To separate these groups of women out is to ignore the plain fact that these women are bought and sold like cattle – and the men who pay to have sex with them are, wittingly or not, raping them.

Do some women deserve to be put in this situation, just because they wanted to move to the UK, or they were involved in sex work already? Do they not fit a Daily Mail-esque view of who can be a victim? And let’s be clear – if this was any other form of labour, it would still be unacceptable to coerce someone into it, or to indenture them into that labour on the basis of an unpayable debt.

If the minister overestimates that there are 25,000 women in this situation in the UK, all to the good. But are we really able to support a situation where any human beings are enslaved? Let’s look at the impact legalisation had in the Netherlands:

The example of the Netherlands provides a good indicator of the expansion of the sex industry in recent decades and the growth of trafficking for the purpose of prostitution : 2,500 prostituted people in 1981, 10,000 in 1985, 20,000 in 1989 and 30,000 in 1997. The Netherlands has become a preferred destination in the world of sex tourism. In Amsterdam, where there are 250 brothels, 80% of the prostituted people are of foreign origin and “70% of them have no papers”, as they are victims of trafficking.

But as well as considering the links between prostitution and trafficking, we can’t avoid the other side of the equation that the Swedish approach seeks to deal with: demand. This response to the proposals in the Observer is extremely telling. Henry Porter comes up with a frankly rather clueless article urging us not to punish the men-folk for the evils of prostitution.

Here are his opening paragraphs:

Which is more immoral – a man paying for sex or a woman selling it? The answer used to be that the supplier was criminalised and made an outcast while the customer escaped all blame and rarely suffered much more than embarrassment when the police raided a brothel or cleaned up a red-light district.

This was wrong because it did not acknowledge that if blame was to be attached to the transaction, at least half of it lay with the man. To penalise the supply side of the arrangement failed to recognise that women were often forced into prostitution or were driven to it by desperation; also, it did not accord due weight to the responsibility of the customer.

In the context of the information that a man buying sex with a prostitute may well be taking part in the rape of that woman this is a ridiculous and grotesque line of argument. Even if she has not been trafficked, she is likely to have been economically coerced into it. The concept that this is a meeting of equal capitalists, one supplying a service and the other paying for it, is not, I would argue, one with much merit. In some cases, it may be true, but mostly it is a fantasy.

Over at the Independent, Joan Smith puts it like this:

You’ve got that bloated post-Christmas feeling, brought on by too much food and too much time with your nearest and dearest. What to do? Some people go to the gym, some meet their mates and go to a football match, and some want nothing more than a bracing work-out with a teenage sex slave….

 

According to a study published four years ago in the Journal of Trauma Practice, 89 per cent of women in prostitution want to escape; a field study in nine countries showed that between 60 and 75 per cent of women in prostitution had been raped, between 70 and 95 per cent had been physically assaulted, and 68 per cent displayed symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder in the same range as combat veterans and victims of torture. Other research, this time from Canada, suggests that women in prostitution are 40 times more likely to be murdered than the rest of the female population.

The truth is that women who work as prostitutes – without being forced into it, either by traffickers or poverty, without a drug addiction, or a lack of other, better options – are a tiny minority. As Smith says in her column the demand for prostitutes is met not by these women. It’s met by women who aren’t in it for kicks, or material for a new book, or for the experience.

The most enlightening bit of journalism I could find about the Swedish system was this story by the BBC, who sent a correspondent and a former prostitute to Stockholm to interview people about it. While it’s not a simpering celebration, and points out flaws in the application of the law – notably the shortage of exit services for prostitutes – it is interesting in terms of people’s attitudes. None of this “it’s half her fault and half his fault” stuff for police officer Jonas Trolle who says that he thinks “it’s not human to buy another person” or for the male taxi driver who said that “all men who visited prostitutes were guilty of abuse”.

In many ways, the tools we use to tackle the problem may be up for debate: but the point is surely to make it clear to everyone that women are not for sale.

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About the author
Jess is editor of the online magazine The F-Word.
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Story Filed Under: Blog ,Crime ,Equality ,Feminism ,Sex equality

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Reader comments


Your last line is what rings most true despite the many various ways that are talked about to solve the problem of trafficking and forced prostitution, to make sure the culture change is that women aren’t for sale. Does that mean that the act of sex cannot be? I think the two are mutually exclusive, or at least could be with the right legislation and regulation. To state that 90% or so of women want out is apt, but isn’t necessarily what the numbers would be in a situation more like that of the pornography industry (which has it’s demons, of course, but hardly in the professional side).

If the “industry” dies after legislation to legalise and regulate sex worker practice, because no women want to do the job in a safer environment under which they retain the control, then that is what it is. But one way or another I’m certainly in agreement that what currently happens has to be criminalised, and that the best way to do that is almost certainly to punish the “customers” harder.

All in all, a very debatable topic!

Whilst I have no great affection for the idea of buying and selling sex, I can conceive of a situation in which two consenting adults can make a free and informed choice to do so. Much as I would rather they didn’t, it would not be my any of my business to stop them. By free and informed choice I don’t necessarily mean that the person selling does it because they enjoy it. Like any other type of employment, they do it because the major factor motivating them would be the money. Most people work out of necessity.

But clearly we are not in a situation where anywhere near the majority of transactions are conducted in such a way. The exploitation that accompanies a lot of sex work can and must be tackled. But, personal distatse aside, I cannot think of a good reason why any and all selling/buying of sex must be illegalised. I don’t think that would eliminate the exploitation. I don;t think it would even come close to doing so, because the demand and sadly teh supply will persist. I tend therefore to agree that legalistaion and offering greater protection to workers is the way forward. That’s not to say it would be a panacea, but it would be an improvement.

Publicansdecoy: “I can conceive of a situation in which two consenting adults can make a free and informed choice to do so”

Even if this was true (which I disagree with, but that is beside the point): we shouldn’t be forming our legislation on the basis of what might be theoretically possible in an ideal world. If you applied that filter to other areas of politics, you might say – let’s not regulate pollution, because some companies don’t need to be forced not to damage the environment. Or let’s not have unions, because it’s possible for employers to treat their workforce fairly without them. Or let’s get rid of gun control, because it’s possible to own a gun in a responsible way.

I like my policies formed on the basis of actual evidence myself.

Jess,

Do you think it is necessary to punish two consenting adults who make a free and informed decision where one pays the other for sex? And if so, why?

It’s not that such a thing is only theoretically posssible (which you disagree that it is), because such transactions *do* occur in practice. As I point out, that’s not to say the people selling do it just for kicks, but for some people it can be and is like any other job – a means of earning money. Somethign they choose to do in so far as anyone chooses to do a job in order to pay bills and buy food.

I undertsand that you personally disapprove very strongly of the very idea of selling sex. But I don’t think that’s sufficient to outlaw the practice entirely. It’s the exploitation associated with the practice that should be tackled.

3. But no-one, well…maybe Publican is but I disagree if that’s the case, is saying no regulation surely? No system of prostitution could ever work without regulation, legal or otherwise. That’s the situation we’re in now and it’s to the detriment of the vast majority of women in the “business”. The question is what place talk about limited legalisation under strict regulation has in this debate in your mind, I’d be very interested in a feminists point of view on that.

N.B. I am not saying let’s not regulate prostitution or let’s not bother introducing unions. Those are precisely the sort of things I would like to see! To stay within your analogy though, you seem to be looking at the problem of pollution and saying “Instead of trying to regulate, let’s close any and all business which produces pollution” and “instead of bringing in unions to protect workers, let’s just shut the company down”.

6 – I wasn’t seeking to compare prostitution to pollution – I was saying that forming a law based on exceptions rarely seen in the real world is ridiculous and impractical.

But why criminalise the exceptions? That strikes me as ridiculous too.

I also think that it has to be clear that if you were going to make a law based on the exceptions to the rule, the minority of women that do take part in prostitution out of choice and enjoy it, then you’d be looking at a whole new situation not a cordoning off of a part society from criminalisation. You’d have to work to stop everything that’s happening now and grow a new regulated system out of the ruins.

It’s not so much about making a law based on exceptions to the rule, it’s about recognising what is strictly wrong and legislating only agianst that. It is not strictly wrong that one consenting adult chooses to buy sex from another consenting adult, however much the very thought might not appeal to us. It is strictly wrong that women are trafficked into such a business against their will and subject to appalling violence. I think this is where efforts shoudl be focussed, and I think legalisation along similar lines to that seen in The Netherlands is the best way forward.

I thought one of the key points of being a liberal is that we defend the rights of consenting adults to do things that we wouldn’t do ourselves – even if we find our own tastes in the majority and their tastes in the minority. Unless someone can demonstrate to me that it is impossible for one consenting adult to buy sex from another consenting adult without significant exploitation being involved (by significant I mean on a greater scale than an employer exploiting a any other kind of worker’s need to earn a wage), then I don’t accept that the practice be outlawed.

4 – why, given a slew of evidence on the actual realities of prostitution in the UK are you obsessing about what is either a theoretical potential, or, at best, a tiny, tiny minority of cases?

The priority for policy should be the best way to get rid of abuse and slavery. given the statistics quoted in my post about the situation in Amsterdam since legalisation, versus the information from the Swedish government about the situation there, it seems clear to me which is the best solution.

One of the reasons legalisation doesn’t work seems logically to be that it fuelled demand: Amsterdam has become a destination for sex tourism. There are not enough of those tiny number of people who would willingly engage in prostitution as opposed to, say, a reasonably paid job. Thus traffickers and others swarm in to supply the demand with women who are forced into it, or do it out of a lack of other viable alternatives. That’s the reality.

I disagree that I am obsessing on a minority of cases. I am ‘obsessing’ over what I consider to be an important principle – the right of freely consenting adults to do what they want providing it causes no unwanted harm to others. Initially you disagreed with me that it was possible for consenting adults to make a free and informed decision to buy/sell sex. Now you seem to acknowlege that it can and does occur, if only in a small minority of cases. Why then criminalise those cases, when no crime is occurring? The buying and selling of sex in itself isn’t the problem (as unpleasnt as you and I find it), it’s the other stuff that shamefully so often accompanies it. And the question then becomes about how best to tackle this other stuff.

Sure, you could outlaw all prostitution (at least in this country) and crack down much harder on it, even on the consenting cases which you may or may not choose to acknoweldge exist. But do you think this will eradicate the demand, or the supply? You simply push it out of sight (or just shift the demand to the Netherlands or New Zealand, and the supply will follow). I think that if you want to tackle the problems of exploitation you work hard to provide people who don’t really want to do it with viable alternatives, and you work hard to protect those who still choose to do it as best you can. And I think you do that by legislating for the activity and regulating it tightly.

Amsterdam has become a destination for sex tourism because the trade is illegal almost everywhere else; if it was legalised, taxed, and subject to health and safety inspection AND the illegal brothels were cracked down on hard in this country, there would be less reason for sex tourists to go to Amsterdam.

However illegal you make prostitution, you will never eradicate it. Prohibition never works to eradicate things, only to drive them underground. We can see this with drug use. However, if something is made available legally, and brought out into the light, it is MUCH easier to regulate.

I am totally with Publican’s Decoy on this.

I personally know several prostitutes and sex workers who take proper steps to ensure their safety (and that of their clients). Their earning power is rather higher than it would be in any other line of work and they provide a service to those that want no-strings attached sex. They are not abused by this relationship because their moral framework doesn’t place any particular importance on sex itself. Some of them even find sex work empowering. This law will force them to operate covertly, increasing their risks of being the victim of coercion or fraud; or force them to take a significant pay cut as their skills are rather specialised.

Personally, I think prostitution (as opposed to sex trafficking, rape and slavery which are all illegal anyway), is actually a progressive concept. It assumes that women (and men) own their own body (rather than for example, her father, husband, “community”, or the state). That means her body is to do with as she pleases and if she wants to use it for her own commericial gain, that is her right. This is a very bad and moralistic idea, exactly the sort of thing that even the “liberal” left ought to oppose.

Their are far more obvious ways of cracking down on sex trafficking but I suppose securing borders and cutting police red-tape is a little too right wing for people on here. Much easier to punish a minority of women and men who don’t share the same moralising framework as mainstream feminists.

But, Nick, the ban would allow people to say very loudly to each other that they are protecting women, and that is the main thing.

Personally, I think the idea sounds a little like banning a business in order to benefit its workers.

I like the idea of more and more women working together to examine this sort of issue.

I do have something of a problem with this legislative proposal, in that it strikes me as a treatment of the symptoms, not the cause.

Jess’ list outlining the histories of women who work as prostitutes – a high proportion of them were abused as children, a high proportion of them were in care as children – suggests very strongly that prostitution is a road women with few options and no self-esteem whatsoever take. Those are the issues that need addressing – those issues, and the fact that economically, life is a challenge for a great many women.

I don’t know that legislating against prostitution itself will change that fact. I think it will push the trade underground and make a lot of already-vulnerable people even more vulnerable.

Good thread, though.

My suggestion is to stop looking to the feminists for their perspective on sex work. Instead, talk to actual sex workers. For starters, the 89% statistic is the same Melissa Farley statistic used over and over again and not only have other researchers criticized her methods and her work but actual workers or former workers like myself have made clear that both her staistics and her so-called conclusions are not true, couldn’t possibly be true and are slanted to further her agenda, which is explicitally anti-prostitution. And it does not take a scientist to figure out that if you claim that a certain percentage of sex workers were abused as children and leave out of your figuring women who are not sex workers then what you have is a statistic or a number taken out of context. It just happens that I know more women who have never been part of sex industry who were molested or abused as children than I do actual sex workers who were. Send over a researcher. Most important, I would like to add to the debate that the researchers I know, who are sex worker positive, biggest complaint is that it is almost impossible to gather any data regarding sex industry workers since the industry is underground, for the most part and that also sex workers are not generally open to trusting or talking to researchers. I wonder why that would be. So let me be clear that women choosing sex work and satisfied with their job and their job skills are the majority and not the minority of workers and I would know because I worked in the industry for over twenty years.
Putting forth the terrible “Swedish Model” as some kind of progressive or benevolant plan for sex workers is a trick of the anti-prostitution forces. Don’t be fooled. Arresting the men has horrible affects on both our safety and our ability to make money to house our families and put food on the table. And as already stated here criminalizing us or our clients also drives the industry further underground and the more underground we go and the more laws criminalizing us the less likely we are going to report real violence, exploitation, unsafe working conditions or unfair labor practices. I can tell you from my personal experiences that I never reported rape, assault or robbery because I was a criminalized worker and I was unwilling to go to the police for help when clearly they were the ones enforcing the prostitution laws against me and believe me predators know this and also I might add so do the cops, who also rape, assault and rob sex workers, knowing that we have absolutely no recourse. One last point about the clients. In the few cases involving forced prostitution, it was from the male clients that the women got the help they needed for escape.
I want to thank one of the writers for acknoledging that all of us do not have the same morals or personal beliefs regarding sex and our sexuality. I do not want to be punished and opressed for my sexual choices and I want to assure you that I will stay out of all your bedrooms, hotel rooms and cars, as well. Unless, I am invited. I also want to make clear one very important point. When I worked as a sex worker and yes I was a prostitute, I was not “selling my body.” I was being paid for my services. Maybe it is fair to say that under capitalism, all any worker can do to pay their rent and feed themselves and their families is to sell their labor. Sex Workers should not be criminalized for doing just that. Thanks for letting me contribute
Lisa Roellig
Erotic Service Providders Union
http://www.espu-ca.org

“I disagree that I am obsessing on a minority of cases. I am ‘obsessing’ over what I consider to be an important principle – the right of freely consenting adults to do what they want providing it causes no unwanted harm to others. Initially you disagreed with me that it was possible for consenting adults to make a free and informed decision to buy/sell sex. Now you seem to acknowlege that it can and does occur, if only in a small minority of cases. Why then criminalise those cases, when no crime is occurring? The buying and selling of sex in itself isn’t the problem (as unpleasnt as you and I find it), it’s the other stuff that shamefully so often accompanies it. And the question then becomes about how best to tackle this other stuff.”

I never said that it wasn’t possible for consenting adults to make a free and informed decision to buy or sell sex – incidentally, no-one is forcing anyone to buy sex. That’s hardly the issue, and I think your conflating of the two is unfortunate.

You may see the most important thing as being protecting the rights men to buy sex from a tiny number of women who really want nothing more than to do so – I see the most important thing as being the necessity of ending sex slavery and the exploitation of desperate women. It’s weird, but that just seems more significant to me.

I would ask you as well to define what you find “unpleasant” about buying and selling sex?

Lisa – under the Swedish system, sex workers are not criminalised.

Nick – who’s moralising? Where in my post did I moralise about anything except the exploitation of women who have been forced into doing something they don’t want to do by one means or another? If we can’t agree that’s absolutely wrong, I don’t think we can reasonably expect to agree on anything.

Kate – I agree to an extent, in that I also think it’s really important to challenge the underlying causes that put women in these situations. But it’s also, in my view, crucial to recognise both that the sex industry itself is one of those causes, and to tackle the symptoms themselves because they are so serious. If nothing else, even the most optimistic person would surely find it a struggle to believe that the push factors that contribute to trafficking will be dealt with any time soon, for example. Of course, we want them to. But the situation is so serious I don’t see how we can wait for that time. I’m a pragmatic sort of person – I’ll go for any solution that improves the status quo. It just seems to me this looks like the way to go.

“Nick – who’s moralising? Where in my post did I moralise about anything except the exploitation of women who have been forced into doing something they don’t want to do by one means or another? If we can’t agree that’s absolutely wrong, I don’t think we can reasonably expect to agree on anything.”

And we agree on that absolutely. It is just not relevant to consensual commerical sex work. When you conflate prostitution with sex trafficking, you persecute the former unjustly while drawing resources from combating the latter unwisely.

To step in to try and control what men and women are allowed to sell is not to help but to harm them.

To step in to prevent someone from being forced to sell sexual services is a completely different matter and one which you have my support.

‘You may see the most important thing as being protecting the rights men to buy sex from a tiny number of women who really want nothing more than to do so – I see the most important thing as being the necessity of ending sex slavery and the exploitation of desperate women.’

What do you feel about a plan that would achieve both goals?

Say, legalise Billie Piper-types, then criminalise paying for sex with anyone who doesn’t have the proper certificates that mark them as competent to give paid consent. No certificate, no consent: common law applies.

Maybe I am missing something, but that seems to be legally unambiguous, likely to be effective, and a good match for the culture and sense of morality of the target audience of the law. Few would break the law defiantly, those who did would know they are in the wrong, have fewer excuses for self-justification.

Jess, you can’t shrug off what Lisa has said just like that, especially as her point (correct me if I’m wrong) is that the act of criminalising the customer only ends up criminalising the worker.

At the end of the day you’re misrepresenting what is being said. No-one wants to protect the rights of men to buy sex, they want to protect the right for consenting individuals to do what they like however they like. You are also confusing the issue of current demographics of sex workers with the potential future demographics under a more regulated and licensed system. You can’t say that because now prostitutes are mostly abused, that under a system with greater scrutiny over clients and the health of the workers that the same people would be the ones that do the job.

It is also important to note that even if governments do what you’re suggesting, it won’t stop sex trafficking. Nothing we do can completely, but at least if we offer men the choice between a clean, safe, and reputable industry or a seedy and illegal one, compared to offering them the choice between an illegal one with a woman that may be in it for her own choice or an illegal one where the woman is forced or abused in to it….well, I know which system I would choose to try and starve sex traffickers of their income.

If this preposterous proposal is acted upon, it will be the ultimate ‘nanny knows best’ violation of the liberty of the individual perpetrated by even this tirelessly busybodyish government. There is nothing ‘liberal’ about it. The urge to protect people from themselves in this situation is not only totalitarian – it is utterly impractical and will only make matters much worse for sex workers. As Lisa and others [not to mention the Wolfenden Committee 50 years ago] have pointed out, criminalising either party in a mutually desired sexual transaction will drive the trade underground and make prostitutes even more vulnerable.

Do people never learn from history? A glance at the shambles of Prohibition in the USA shows how misguided moralistic legislation plays into the hands of criminals and unscrupulous thugs. Whatever your opinions of prostitution, you are never going to stamp it out. The abuses and exploitation which rightly worry those seeking a remedy should and can be curbed through sensible regulation and better -and uncorrupt – policing,. There are already adequate laws against pimping and exploitation. The sensible course is to apply these effectively – not to create a whole new class of ‘criminals’ vulnerable to blackmail and extortion.

For a start, it would be a good idea if those with such strong anti-prostitution views obtained the opinions of the many men and women involved in the sex industry, both workers and clients, who do not consider themselves to be exploited or exploiters. I can assure them there are plenty of such people – men and women, straight and gay – around.

The Victorian bisexual John Addington Symonds wrote: “Good Lord! In what different orbits human souls can move. They talk of sex out of legal codes and blue books. I talk of it from human documents, myself, the people I have known, the adulterers and prostitutes of both sexes I have dealt with over bottles of wine and confidences.”

Putting forth the terrible “Swedish Model” as some kind of progressive or benevolant plan for sex workers is a trick of the anti-prostitution forces. Don’t be fooled. Arresting the men has horrible affects on both our safety and our ability to make money to house our families and put food on the table. And as already stated here criminalizing us or our clients also drives the industry further underground…”

This was my statement regarding the “Swedish Model,” Jess and I further explained how this has terrible effects for sex workers both in terms of safety and loss of income to provide for ourselves and our families. The party line of the Swedish government regarding the”Swedish Model” that arresting everyone but the worker is successful is a false claim. If you listen to what actual Swedish workers say, it is a disaster. Criminalizing clients, support staff and the abilty of women to work together, leaves sex workers isolated and that is not safe and that puts them in danger. Not because sex work is dangerous but because the laws criminlaizing sex work makes the work dangerous.

I appreciate the original column and the good sense it argues as to how to proceed. Unfortunately we are faced with a world in which women unfairly own and make less than men, where women still do the main providing and care giving work for dependents, where women are too often controlled by violence and the fear of violence in the home on the street and at work. That’s the world in which we have to judge whether prostitution is any kind of free choice. The majority of women in prostitution as was reported here are in it against their free will. It is true that some women choose it. But the number that choose it with any thing resembling free will is miniscule. I for one do not think that tolerating the behaviour of the men who buy women just because a few women don’t mind it is silly. Law and social policy should be to protect those most in need of protection and that is the group forced to be in it. But what bugs me most is the presumption that men are so shaped by their opportunity to abuse that they can’t change or shouldn’t have to change. Surely we are not saying that the men who abuse their economic and social privilege and advantage by buying sex or buying womens’ subjugation shouldn’t have to change or shouldn’t bear social disapproval. And no I don’t think criminalizing the men does mean criminalizing the women. The Swedish example is key to that. They conducted a massive education campaign to change men and criminalized the buying of sex not the women being exploited.

Lee, the Swedish example shows that if you criminalise the customer you make a criminal by proxy out of the worker. You can’t really argue against that because it is the natural logical position. If it was legal for me to sell cocaine but illegal for anyone to use it, despite me not being able to be prosecuted, my actions, the way I go about my business…who I talk to…it’s all on the criminal side of life. You can’t escape that if any part of the “transaction” isn’t within the law.

You also make the same statement as Jess that is troubling people like me and Publican…why should that “minority” not count towards anything? It’s that sort of thinking that allows you to say “Most people hate Bognor Regis, so we’ll raze Bognor regis to the ground” despite a minority of the country actually loving the place…it’s the sort of logic that can be extended to say most of the world thinks that Iraq has WMD’s but screw the minority that state there is no evidence of such and attack them anyway. Ignoring the minority is *not* what we should be about, especially when ignoring the minority has no guarantees to actually help the people you’re worried about, since sex trafficking will have even MORE reason to happen under harsher legislation, just unfortunately more underground where help is harder to reach those that need it.

Out of sight out of mind though eh?

Jess,

At 18 you say:

>>I never said that it wasn’t possible for consenting adults to make a free and informed decision to buy or sell sex

But at 3 you say:

>>Publicansdecoy: “I can conceive of a situation in which two consenting adults can make a free and informed choice to do so”

>>Jess: Even if this was true (which I disagree with, but that is beside the point

So that is why I thought you had disagreed with me on that point. But this is probably straying to close to pointless pedantry now.

At 18 you also say:

>>You may see the most important thing as being protecting the rights men to buy sex from a tiny number of women

I think that is a misrepresentation of what I have said throughout this thread, and I’m disappointed to see it. I see the most important thing as being helping end the violence and exploitation that accompanies a lot of sex work, but ALSO of upholding the key liberal principle that mutually consenting adults be allowed to engage in acts which cause no harm to anyone else. SowWhere I disagree with you is on your majoritarian approach. You have no regard for the fundamental liberal principle of protecting a minority who may choose to do something we dislike, but which nevertheless is not causing harm. You ask what I find unpleasant about buying and selling sex. Well, personally, it’s not something I would ever be interested in from either side. It strikes me that It would be a rather depressing experience. But my personal views on it do not matter one bit. What matters is the principle of recognising that consenting adultss can make choices I wouldn’t., and that it’s none of my business to tell them otherwise. This is not some trivial obsession or minor point, it is a key point of adopting a liberal philosophy. I’m relatively new to this blog, so I don’t know if you are a regular contributor, but I am surprised to see such contempt for this idea on a blog called Liberal Conspiracy.

One more point – throughout my comments I have consistently referred to the rights of an adult to buy sex from another adult – not just men from women. There are also men who buy sex from men and (rarer I dare say, but still) women who buy sex from men and women who buy sex from women.

Finally, I note the contributions on this thread (and on my own Livejournal post) from those who have actually worked in the industry and view your proposals with dismay. I appreciate that you have a sincere and worthy desire to help exploited workers, but your proposals will not do that.

N.B. ‘jinxremoving’ on my own post provided me with the following two links offering an alternative view on the Sweidsh system:

http://www.petraostergren.com/content/view/44/108/
http://www.sans.nu/

(second one possibly NSFW)

Publicandecoy – “You have no regard for the fundamental liberal principle of protecting a minority who may choose to do something we dislike, but which nevertheless is not causing harm”

It all depends on how you define ‘harm’ I suppose, but for me a society that legalises prostitution, places the state in the role of pimp, and sanctions the notion of women as commodities, creates harm to the vast majority of women in that society. We already live in a society where women are viewed as sex objects, we do not need the state to reinforce and legitimise that view.

From Lisa Roellig’s post at #17 – “I can tell you from my personal experiences that I never reported rape, assault or robbery because I was a criminalized worker and I was unwilling to go to the police for help when clearly they were the ones enforcing the prostitution laws against me and believe me predators know this and also I might add so do the cops, who also rape, assault and rob sex workers, knowing that we have absolutely no recourse”

Does that sound like a harm-free occupation to you? What she’s saying is that if she as a worker was decriminalised, she would have felt better about reporting these assaults to the police. As Jess points out, under the Swedish model she would not be criminalised as a worker, and so this barrier to reporting would not exist. Furthermore, decriminalising prostitution will not stop the rape, assaults, and robberies that Lisa talks about – and personally I think anyone who accepts rape as an occupational hazard and then tries to sell that occupation as a legitimate career choice to others, needs to take a step back and really think about what they’re promoting.

Hi Cath. With legalised prostituttion I don’t really envisage the state ‘taking on the role of pimp’. or sanctioning the notion of women as commodities (and again, I’ll point out that prostitution does not just involve women selling to men, it involves all the other gender combinations).

The workers themselves do not appear to approve of the Swedish situation, no matter how much you keep telling them it’s for their own good.

I heartily agree with other posters who are dismayed to see such illiberal disregard on a supposedly ‘liberal’ blog for the right of adult citizens to make free choices – whether you and I consider them “responsible” or not – around such an intimate area of human behaviour.

In his seminal essay On Liberty [1859] J. S. Mill argued powerfully – and, to my mind, convincingly – that in a free society a man’s own good, whether physical or moral, is not a sufficient warrant for interfering with his freedom of action. “He cannot rightfully be compelled to do or forbear because it will be better for him to do so, because it will make him happier, because, in the opinion of others, to do so would be wise or even right….Over himself, over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign”. [Needless to say, the same principle applies to women.]

As a change from all the abstract theorising here – which doesn’t strike me as ‘pragmatic’ at all – I asked a blogging friend in Sweden for his views on Swedish prostitution laws. This is his response:

The “prostitution laws” here in Sweden are a complete and utter failure.

There’s no less prostitution. It has just gone underground. Business is being made over the internet rather than on the streets, but nevertheless business is being made!

But prostitution is not the problem. Trafficking is!

And just take a guess who the greatest culprits are there…

Morally, I just don’t see anything wrong with two consenting adults exchanging money for service. But when you chase them underground, it will be that much harder to control what’s going on.

Summa Sumarum:
We have not got any less prostitution- only more prospective criminals.

If there’s a demand, then there WILL be providers.
I know a “lady of negotiable affection” (via forums on internet- mind you), and she argues that the prostitution laws actually increase the trafficking. East European girls and boys, as well as South-East Asian and African girls, are shipped in as merchandise, just to be tossed away when they have “done their job”.

Because they are illegally smuggled in to the country (because of the prostitution laws), they have no chance to stay here and many of them just disappear. Where to? Who knows!

Nobody in the media is talking loud about this.

While the lady I know is very happy with what she’s doing, she hates to see these girls- often juveniles- being used by… Well just let’s say Asian youth gangs and somewhat older Russian ones.

A parallel can be made to the USA in the thirties and the prohibition laws against alcohol – and we all know what a success THAT was….

“It all depends on how you define ‘harm’ I suppose, but for me a society that legalises prostitution, places the state in the role of pimp, and sanctions the notion of women as commodities, creates harm to the vast majority of women in that society. We already live in a society where women are viewed as sex objects, we do not need the state to reinforce and legitimise that view.”

How would you feel about a practice however where it is the women themselves that are supported in running their own business, taking the “brothel” model in terms of it’s “centralisation” and therefore security? With measures in place that would require women to get free health checks frequently, legislation that means customers have to be fully identified before they take part in any act, and with regulation finally in terms of licensing of such businesses? Take away from the equation, as that would be the aim, any women that didn’t actively want to do it…what would be the problems with such a system? The women would be known, they’d be secure (if proper security conditions were implied in licensing), the clients would be traceable as long as handled delicately…and I know we’re all against databases but “blacklisting” clients that are known to have caused problems in one “brothel” or potentially spread STD’s could be of benefit in principle.

I don’t elaborate too much because I think all of the measures that could be taken really need to be discussed, and discussed by more than just the god bothering nannies that Harriet Harman is trying to get together. The “industry” that can be recognised as worthwhile in the talks need to be there, women that actually want to be sex workers need to have their say in what would make the situation safe for them and what they would be willing to change for a greater piece of mind. What we can’t do is assume all sex workers are the same, regardless of majorities and minorities, and act like authoritarians because it is apparently a “moral good”.

I repeat, we attacked Iraq for the moral good while ignoring the learned opinion of those that couldn’t find any evidence, haven’t we learned yet that ignoring the few in favour of the many doesn’t always lead to the best solution?

32. Kate Belgrave

The state pimps us girls full-stop if you ask me. It has us working for eff-all in privatised cleaning and nursing companies, and can’t wait to shove single mothers on benefits into crappy fulltime jobs as punishment for having a random shag and deciding not to stay with the abusive drunk who did the knocking up… meanwhile, the state finds endless funds for the fragged Northern Rock, and for dismembering Iraqis… don’t start me on the state, please.

If Harriet Harman is so committed to the rights of women, perhaps she’d like to show her face at a Fremantle careworkers’ union stewards meeting and outline her plans for restoring those women the 60 or so quid in weekly earnings that their charming ‘third-sector’- O marvellous New Labour euphemism – employer ripped off them last year. I can see exactly why women in that situation would think about going on the game – when circumstances beyond your control put you in a situation where you have to choose between working the hours you need to work to pay your mortgage and having enough time to raise your kids properly, it’s probably not a long walk to the place where you start figuring the price of a blowjob. Something like nine out of ten single parents are women, if memory serves, and more women live in poverty than men, etc, etc – it ain’t an especially challenging equation.

If some women are happy earning money as prostitutes, good luck to them. The rest of us are giving it out for free. Those who aren’t happy in that line of work need something else. I don’t agree with Jess’ proposal, but I think she was very right to raise the topic and the group she’s involved with are right to meet on Monday. It would be good to have a report back from that meeting.

“It all depends on how you define ‘harm’ I suppose, but for me a society that legalises prostitution, places the state in the role of pimp, and sanctions the notion of women as commodities, creates harm to the vast majority of women in that society. We already live in a society where women are viewed as sex objects, we do not need the state to reinforce and legitimise that view.”

Cath, you have it completely back to front. If the state takes it upon itself to decide who can have sex with who for whatever reason, THEN it is taking on the role of pimp. It is only be giving every individual freedom of choice over their own body that no one gets to be a pimp and everyone gets to own their own body – for whatever gain they choose.

The problem is you are bringing much more into this argument than is legitimate for a public policy discussion. You are buying into a particular conceptual framework of society (where women are viewed as sex objects). This is an emotive, moralistic and highly contentious theory based on authoritarian feminist ideology. It is just opinion and people (men nor women) shouldn’t be locked up for failing to conform to the moral conceptual framework of some forms of feminism.

For sure, we should criticise bad cultural practices. But law is a bad way of attacking culture as it tends to backfire. Fight culture with superior culture, not through coercion. Or else you will just end up co-opted into the same statist and patriarchal system that feminism should really be opposing.

Indeed, there are other forms of feminism which are radical and empowering while still being compatible with individual liberty: http://www.fiawol.demon.co.uk/FAC/

“and can’t wait to shove single mothers on benefits into crappy fulltime jobs as punishment for having a random shag and deciding not to stay with the abusive drunk who did the knocking up…”

Perhaps women should take some responsibility for themselves, and either stop having random shags with “abusive drunks” or accept that if they do it may have a negative effect on their lives, there is such a thing as contraception, but that wouldn’t entitle them to get on the benefits gravy train would it, why work for a living when the state (i.e taxes taken from men) will pay for you to sit on your arse watching trisha all day ?
As it stands the state bends over backwards to protect women from the consequneces of their own actions, and harrasses men to pay for them. If single parenthood equals poverty then the solution is to reduce the number of single parents, not make it an ever easier lifestyle choice.

35. Kate Belgrave

Ah, Matt – surely blokes should take responsibility for the semen distribution? Are you ones of the ones who just sprays it around? Bad boy. Bad.

Don’t think that single parenthood is a lifestyle choice for everyone. Not sure what you mean by ‘harassing men to pay for them’ – are you talking about chasing men who don’t pay child support? Why shouldn’t they be chased? Why shouldn’t they support their kids?

My husband has two children from his first marriage and pays a heap of his income in child support, as well he should. I wouldn’t want to be with a guy who shirked that responsibility. He could, though – we could do a runner, I guess, and leave his first wife in a hovel here with her kids while we blew the pile in Vegas. Maybe I’ll flag that up with First Wife next time I see her. It’s not like she likes me already.

Tell me this one, boyfriend – why so nasty about welfare for women, and so quiet about boys and money for bombs? And Northern Rock. And all the other stuff. Why is supporting a woman who has been abandoned such a problem for you? And why is it so acceptable to keep driving down women’s wages?

Et cetera. Better get back to work now, or it’ll be the dole for me. Too old & hairy now to earn the rent horizontally, if you get what I mean.

I find it interesting that the arguments against the Swedish system seem to rely heavily on anecdotes and individual experiences, rather than research of the kind that Jess cites in her article. It is important to consider individual experiences, but worth noting when they are not generally representative of the experiences of others.

Cath’s point that ‘anyone who accepts rape as an occupational hazard and then tries to sell that occupation as a legitimate career choice to others, needs to take a step back and really think about what they’re promoting’ gets to the heart of the issue.

Don, no-one is accepting rape should be an occupational hazard, I also haven’t seen anyone that can say for sure that a system can’t be created where that hazard becomes non-existent. I would argue (again) that every man (or woman) being registered at the business, with a valid form of ID, with security on the premises in various forms for the aid of the workers, would stop the occurrence of non-consensual violence, or sexual assault on sex workers.

As for the research Jess calls to. Now firstly under 500 prostitutes were surveyed across 5 countries (854 in 9 countries later on), there are criticisms over her methods and hers isn’t the be all and end all of research. Take this one for example which references many different studies, one of which is the interviewing of 300 prostitutes in two states in the US, to get an idea of the attitudes there. It is also clear that the Farley study didn’t question brothel or call-girl workers, which are a completely different kettle of fish to street workers.

I think this debate on here has been very valuable, it’s opened my eyes to some new facts, but let’s not pretend that Melissa Farley doesn’t have an agenda (check out her website meant to be collecting research on prostitution, you won’t find any pro-legalisation stuff on there) and that 500 women across 5 countries is likely to be representative (nor is less than 900 in 9 countries for her later studies). Her list of reasons why legalisation is wrong is full of logical holes and assumes that legalisation means saying “cool, we’re not going to prosecute you any more” and doing nothing about protection and regulation. Ultimately my aim would be to eliminate street prostitution completely in favour of brothels, and for call-girls to either also be eliminated as a profession or for the service to be MUCH tighter on security (possibly infeasibly so).

But let’s be honest, if you’re going to have a debate on prostitution as a whole, then don’t try to win your arguments with stats based solely on only one aspect of it.

“I find it interesting that the arguments against the Swedish system seem to rely heavily on anecdotes and individual experiences, rather than research of the kind that Jess cites in her article. It is important to consider individual experiences, but worth noting when they are not generally representative of the experiences of others.”

But the evidence tends to be so extremely one sided and, through the use of decontextualised statistics, agenda driven that anecdotal evidence is sufficient to bring it into doubt. Of course, it is highly likely that prostitutes are in disproportinately bad circumstances. But that might not be intrinsic to prostitution (it certainly isn’t essential to it). It is far more likely to be due to social and political pressures that make prostitution more dangerous and more difficult for people, thereby only attracting those that feel that they have less opportunity anyway. In this respect, mainstream “feminism” plays a role in perpetuating this social coercion by stigmatising prostitutes and those that associate with them.

For the same reason, a pot-dealer is not going to be in the same category as a tobacconist or off-licensee even though they are realy in the same line of work: societal and political attitudes.

All I and several others are saying is that consensual prostitution is qualitatively different from sex trafficking and so they should not be treated in the same way. Those that want to include these very different phenomena in the same category (and make both illegal) cannot really do so other than by claiming that safe consensual prostitution doesn’t exist (manifestly untrue from simple anecdotal evidence) or by claiming that people who take part in it are contributing to bad cultural practices. In other words, they are being persecuted not for violating an individual’s rights but for nebulous idea of anti-social behaviour. That can only be justified by appealing to a moralistic and dogmatic view of mainstream Western society as treating women as sex objects. Which is simplistic and contentious at the very least.

Incidentally, I disagree with Matt as well, and think that men should be held as responsible for their children as women are. If they cannot (or refuse to) offer personal support, then financial support is even more important. I don’t think that the state should protect people wholly from their bad choices, but I don’t believe that the onus should lie only on women when it comes to bad choice about partnerships.

@24 – “Law and social policy should be to protect those most in need of protection”

Protect?? Who from whom?
Do we give carte blanche to the state to intervene and interfere in its own interests and to its own ends – even and especially if this overrides the interests of the individual?
Who’s to say what is in my or your interest?
I’ve hardly met any politicians, and I certainly didn’t give any my full biography, so they can’t make any sensible decision about any specifically personal instance.

No – the job of the state is to set safe standards in law, uphold it and enforce it. Full Stop.
The role of politicians is to represent dispassionately and inclusively – priests, imams and rabbis can happily continue to moralise about good and evil.

The problem regarding prostitution (as with all of the criminal economy) is that the state is responding to political pressure that has grown as a result of successive governing parties continuing failure to restrain themselves to their roles, while playing on the fears of that failure in the game of power – if they ever succeeded they’d be out of a job!

There’s the anecdotal experince – I’ve yet to see someone who works in the industry or know the industry well arguing for the system. And then there’s basic liberal principles which have now been articulated ad tedium.

“The majority of women in prostitution as was reported here are in it against their free will. It is true that some women choose it. But the number that choose it with any thing resembling free will is miniscule. ”

Lee, I ask you. How would you know? Again, this is another example that time and time again outsiders are unwilling to listen to what actual workers have to say about their own work and their own industry. Instead, you are willing to take the word of a researcher, who’s research has been refuted by other researchers and by actual industry workers and who has an agenda to abolish all sex work between consenting adults. When you refuse to listen to what I have to say, when I say that most sex workers are in the industry by choice and you then continue to state that the number of industry workers who are there by choice is a miniscule number and refuse to acknoledge that an actual sex worker who spent over two decades in the industry tells you the contrary, well this is unnacceptable and you are part of the problem. Let me state clearly and once again that any laws criminalizing our industry, be it our clients, be it our support staff, is harmful to all sex industry workers.
You want to do something about forced labor in any industry than do political work and make political action to decriminalize immigration and prostitution, so that we can come forward without risk of arrest or deporattion to report violence, exploitation, unsafe working condition and unfair labor practices. Otherwise, get out of the way.

“Does that sound like a harm-free occupation to you? What she’s saying is that if she as a worker was decriminalised, she would have felt better about reporting these assaults to the police. As Jess points out, under the Swedish model she would not be criminalised as a worker, and so this barrier to reporting would not exist. Furthermore, decriminalising prostitution will not stop the rape, assaults, and robberies that Lisa talks about – and personally I think anyone who accepts rape as an occupational hazard and then tries to sell that occupation as a legitimate career choice to others, needs to take a step back and really think about what they’re promoting.”

Excuse me? I do not accept rape as an occupational hazard and made no such claim in my post. Listen, rape and sexual harrassment happen on the job for women no matter what industry they work in. It also happens in their home, no matter what industry they work in and all women have the right of recourse no matter their occupation or their country of origin. What I stated was that criminalized workers are not likely to report because of the laws criminalizing their labor and or their immigration status. Predators, exploitors and police all understand that criminalized workers are easy victims because they will not report due to their criminlaized status. Why is it so hard for you to understand? Also, let us not leave out the stigma of our work, which is promoted and perpetuated by all the anti-prostitution feminists who seem driven by their compulsion to either rescue me (arrest and deport) or arrest my clients (make me unable to pay my rent/put me out of work) or condemn me becaue after all how could any women choose to do the work unless she was mentally ill, drug addicted or forced. Please. The anti-prostitution feminists are in my view the gate keepers of State opression towards women. Whether they promote arresting me, my support staff or arresting the clients the outcome of all the States opressive laws leave me isolated, unsafe or out of a job.

A few things about the idscussion: a couple of you who posted assume I am not and have not been used in prostitution. You assume that I have no other close to hand sources of information about prostitution and then expect me to accept that you are some kind of authority. I thought the rules of engagement here were to conduct a thoughtful discussion between reasonable adults. How do I know you are not a punter and working for the industry profiteers?
What is not up for discussion among the reasonable: The information about Sweden is not anecdotal but well documented. The information that the sex trafficking industry has become a world wide neo-liberal phenomenon is well documented by both left and right forces. The information that demand for prostitution in domestic markets in the developed world drives an international trade in women and girls is well documented. The everyday violence done to women in prostitution and the early age of entry is well documented. The fact that around the world numerically, it is men who buy women and children and not the other way around is well documented. Criminalizing the buyers and profiteers and traffickers does not criminalize the women prostituted any more than criminalizing wife beaters criminalizes wives.
All that we can sensibly debate is whether men can assume to have some inalienable right to be sexually serviced, whether the unfair economic advantage they have should allow them the right to buy sexual services form the disadvantaged or even destitute, whether men are more likely to change their attitude and behaviour based on education or law or both, whether women and children are made safer from exploitation by expanding the trade abandoning the rule of law over the trade, or by criminalizing the trade and whether the inherent harms of prostitution for the many should be ignored for the profit motive of a few

This is a link to what actual Swedish sex Industry workers have to say. I believe the link was provided above already but in case anyone missed it here it is again.
The “Swedish Model” or the idea to arrest the men originated here in San Francisco over a decade ago. The idea behind it was to arrest the men and then the fines collected from the men would then be used for services for prostitutes. Of course, well meaning folks thought incorrectly that this sounded like a nice idea. Aside from the shame based, sex negative aspects to this and that laws criminalizing either client or worker ia harmful to the safety and economy of workers let me offer another arguement as to the negative impact of arresting the men to provide servcies for the women.
First, I was one of the prostitute clients in the prostitute rehabilitation programs and I can tell you no job training and no education was available. In fact the agency gets allot of funding for servcies it does not offer but claims to offer. Most important is that the agency or non-profit agency must collaborate with the District Attorny and police department in order to recieve funding. In other words the non profit must rely on the criminlaization of prostitution which is harmful to actual workers in order to recieve its funding in order to exist. We call that profitting off the crimalization. Also, the money collected from the arrested clients does not make it to servcies for prostitutes. We have documnetation to prove the money goes instead to the police department to continue to arrest us and arrest our clients. In other words continue the cycle of corruption that is the direct result of our criminalization where every body gets to get paid but us.
Now, the Department of Justice has stepped in with the “sex trafficking” raids and deportations and so now all the law enforcement and non-profits are recieving millions more in their “war on sex traffcking.” Which is no different than its’ “war on terror “or “war on drugs.”

http://www.sans.nu/enelska/consequences.htm

Sorry, I forgot to add the link and again, thank you for letting me contribute from across the pond.

“The information about Sweden is not anecdotal but well documented.”

It is, but figures only show you so much. British crime survey figures went up years earlier in Britain because of a change in the way it was reported. Murder isn’t something you can report on such surveys (being dead and all), these are all limitations of basic government based statistics. There are other sources (other people on here have claimed already) that state the problem of trafficking hasn’t gone away in Sweden and the act is just further underground.

“The information that the sex trafficking industry has become a world wide neo-liberal phenomenon is well documented by both left and right forces.”

Correct.

“The information that demand for prostitution in domestic markets in the developed world drives an international trade in women and girls is well documented.”

Because governments will not legalise prostitution and regulate it, and where they do they provide no realistic support or aid to workers. Without this there will always be a trade, even if you criminalise the buyer the demand will still be there it will just be more illegal. (as if that’s stopping anyone right now!)

“The everyday violence done to women in prostitution and the early age of entry is well documented.”

Because there’s no regulation

“The fact that around the world numerically, it is men who buy women and children and not the other way around is well documented.”

That is no doubt a cultural thing if you’re talking about who is the customer, if you’re talking about trafficking again, I repeat…it’s because of lack of regulation.

“Criminalizing the buyers and profiteers and traffickers does not criminalize the women prostituted any more than criminalizing wife beaters criminalizes wives.”

What a bullshit analogy. Criminalising buyers criminalises the women by proxy. If the women want to have sex for money they have to do it under the full knowledge they are committing an act which is illegal for one half of the party. I.E The woman has to work in an illegal environment to do what she wants. If a wife doesn’t want to get beaten then she can do that without needing to be around a wife beater funnily enough. I. E the woman can move away from an illegal environment to get what she wants. it’s pretty much the polar opposite of a correct analogy.

As for the points you came up with below all this, no-one is saying men have a right to anything, they are saying two consenting people have a right to things. No-one is advocating abuse, no-one is advocating exploitation. If you read what we were suggesting rather than blindly following your feminist rhetoric of men just wanting to screw women over then you’d understand the debate IS being had but you’re not taking part on your side.

47 – how would the regulation that you are arguing for be better than and different from that which has been tried elsewhere? The ideal of an end to trafficking and only people who positively want to work as sex workers doing so is one thing, but these ideals manifestly haven’t been achieved where regulation/legalisation has been tried (trafficking numbers have gone up, and many women refuse to register for e.g. compulsory health checks).

37 – you write that “the evidence tends to be so extremely one sided” – the fact that the evidence doesn’t support your case is not a particularly good reason to ignore it…

Workers always have the authority over our occupation.
That’s a long standing human, civil and labor rights principle.

The fact that we workers, our customers and related elements of our occupation
are criminalized by legislatures/public unfairly takes jurisdiction over our occupation,
thereby becoming the occupiers of our occupation.
Criminalizing our customers impacts our economy to the negitive because it redirects the money they would have paid us to the state sponsored prision industrial complex. Any act that negatively impacts our economy without our permission is unethical.
Its a labor rights violation and is the act of occupiers.
These act of occupation are exactly like Israel’s occupation of Palestine, USA’s occupation of Irag and the USA’s Trafficing Victim Protection Act which states that all commercial sex is trafficking, a form of forced labor, a claim of jurisdiction over our bodies taken without our permission.

These are clearly an unfair labor practice on the
part of the public/feminist. That would include everyone who thinks they have primary impact over us.
And anyone who thinks they have that right to occupy our occupation is clearly
the slave owner.

Long Live Palestine
Free Free Palestine

Long Live Prostitutes
Free Free Prostitutes
Prostitution Prostitution!

48.

“37. – you write that “the evidence tends to be so extremely one sided” – the fact that the evidence doesn’t support your case is not a particularly good reason to ignore it…”

Well I must admit, I am not au fait with all the studies. But I am aware that in other areas, Home Office research and statistics tend to be biased and agenda driven, the answers already dictated by a policy already decided and a research team already handpicked to produce the “right” answer. So naturally I am sceptical in this case too since this is one issue that is very unlikely to be treated objectively since people approach it with so many preconceptions about it.

“how would the regulation that you are arguing for be better than and different from that which has been tried elsewhere?”

Because, talking in ideals, governments don’t interfere enough with that regulation.

“The ideal of an end to trafficking and only people who positively want to work as sex workers doing so is one thing, but these ideals manifestly haven’t been achieved where regulation/legalisation has been tried (trafficking numbers have gone up, and many women refuse to register for e.g. compulsory health checks).”

Give me examples of where this has happened and where you’ve got this information from, I don’t mind conceding a point but I need to actually see the facts of the matter. 🙂

Lee Griffin – “Give me examples of where this has happened and where you’ve got this information from,”

“In New Zealand, the links between organized crime and prostitution are similarly apparent. The 2005 Report found that respondents estimated that from one-fifth through to nearly three-quarters of ‘massage parlors’ in their areas were connected with organized crime. It was estimated that from one in ten to three-fifths of private sex workers had connections with organized crime……The Prostitution Reform Act was supposed to reduce underage prostitution and ‘protect young people’, by introducing offences such as paying for ‘sexual services’ provided by any person under 18. However, Commissioner for Children Dr Cindy Kiro argues that New Zealand has a ‘clear problem’ of child prostitution, which has most likely worsened since the decriminalisation of prostitution. Dr Kiro’s hypothesis is supported by many of the major police groups within New Zealand……………Although there were no official reports in 2006 that persons were internationally trafficked either to or from New Zealand, the U.S. State Department has noted that there is evidence that women from Asia, the Czech Republic, and Brazil are working illegally in the commercial sex industry. Concern was also raised in 2004 by the U.S. State Department that children were being internally trafficked within New Zealand for the purposes of prostitution. Trafficking is likely to grow as the industry grows and must be supplied but decriminalisation means an absence of monitoring which could help to deal with this problem.”
http://www.iwraw-ap.org/resources/pdf/39_shadow_reports/New_Zealand_SR_CATWA.pdf

“It was widely expected that the outcome of legalising prostitution would be that sex
workers would generally operate from safe, regulated and legal brothels. In Manukau thathas not been the case. Although it has introduced a bylaw regulating the location and signage for brothels, a significant portion of the sex industry still operates on the streets, and the number of street prostitutes is considered to have grown.”
http://www.manukau.govt.nz/uploadedFiles/manukau.govt.nz/Publications/Plans_&_Policies/mcc-report-on-street-prostitution-aug-2005.pdf

Cath, that first report was produced for The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), a United Nations organisation, who already endorse the statist conceptual framework that the best way to protect women is for governments to tell them what to do. I don’t think we can take an organisation as being consistently interested in preventing sex crime that is part of one of the world’s worst sex offenders: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/6195830.stm ; http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/4983440.stm

The second report comes from a far less compromised source and seems to be focussed more on the feelings and impact on the local community and other commercial activities (rather than necessarily the benefits there may have been to prostitutes since legalisation). We don’t know how much of that consultation is based on the moral values of the local community.

Nevertheless, it certainly demonstrates that the issue is much more complex than libertarians like me are apt to present. Legalisation (if you believe in the principle of freedom to choose) is not enough on its own as it may fail to remove the entrenched values surrounding prostitution and sever the historic link between organised crime and prostitution, allowing it to continue to do damage and impact on local communities even as the options for sex workers at least formally are expanded.

Indeed, Nick, and simply legalising the act would never be enough. You need to have support in place to tackle the exploitative practices.

Interesting Cath, but I still don’t see how these legalised systems go as far as I and others here are suggesting. Without pretty stringent regulation and licensing of course it will allow brothels to generate links to organised crime.

I’d be really happy to get data on how much trafficking has increased and child prostitution has increased in a legal framework I am (and others are) suggesting, but to the best of my knowledge countries that legalise prostitution don’t do anything near that suggestion.

I would suggest that the best way to tell whether criminalization of punters or legalization of prostitutes was the better option for Britain would be to criminalize punters immediately, for a period of five years, and see whether the number of prostitutes who are abused, forced into drug addiction or slavery increases or decreases, and then try legalization with licensing and guaranteed safety, security and health provider access for five years, and see what that does to the numbers.

Except that I don’t believe that this or any government would actually honestly report the numbers, aside from the ethical problems of potentially making sex workers’ lives worse in either period if it resulted in a poor outcome, and that the numbers in the case of illegalization would be pretty tricky to come by, almost definitionally.

Do let’s be practical, folks! How on earth do you define ‘paying for sexual services’? If I buy an attractive woman an expesive diamond necklace, take her to the opera, and agree to pay the rent of her flat for six months, and she then graciously agrees to have sex with me, how can you prove that I’ve bought her body? A great many highly respectable marriages are based on this type of arrangement. And even in our snooper-obsessed society, how are the police going to prove the offence? Don;t you see that it opens up endless vistas of blackmail, bribery and corruption, and that the unfortunate sex slaves we are all rightly concerned about will be even more at the mercy of traffickers, pimps and bullies? Anyway, there are already sufficient laws on the books to tackle that problem, if only they were vigorously applied.

58 – Indeed let’s be practical. Your hypothetical objections are rather undermined by the fact that in Sweden the law has not ‘opened up endless vistas of blackmail, bribery and corruption’, and there doesn’t seem to be a problem with identifying people who are breaking the law and prosecuting them.

Before everyone gets too carried away, particularly with arguments as to the validity of anecdotal evidence, they should, perhaps, read this study into the effects of the law criminalising the buying of sexual services.

http://tinyurl.com/2pl7o4

And take particular note of the evidence which shows that this law has…

a. had only a limited (and seemingly declining) impact on street prostitution, and

b. moved the ‘problem’ into other arenas (i.e. transaction arranged via the internet and mobile phones) and, generally, driven prostitution deeper underground.

Whatever political claims are being made for this law, the actual picture emerging in evidence is considerably more mixed and uncertain, and there is little reason to expect that the position in Britain, were a similar law introduced, would differ.

60- Unity, thanks for the report, which is interesting.

The report suggests that transactions arranged via the internet are increasing in Sweden as elsewhere, and that criminalising people who buy sex isn’t preventing this. But it does find that street prostitution has fallen, that the law is felt to be a deterrent to traffickers, and that violence and prostitution are clearly linked, whatever legal system is in place. And, indeed, the report itself is a product of the Swedish government’s focus on trying to understand and reduce prostitution as part of efforts to reduce violence against women in society.

Criminalising punters isn’t a magic bullet, and as the report suggests, other measures including a wide range of preventative measures are crucially important (likely to be even more so in Britain where there is a generally lower level of equality and spending on social services). But on balance, I think that (for once) what Harriet Harman is suggesting on this one is right.

61. there are two key references to trafficking in that report, and neither state that the specific law (criminalising the punter) is what is causing a drop in traffickers. In fact both simply state that it is a lack of demand arising out of clients not willing to risk being caught. This could also be achieved by full criminalisation, in fact logically you could argue that full criminalisation would further lower those numbers.

What isn’t in the report is any kind of quantification of if this reduction is complete, and whether or not the practice has just gone more underground (it only deals with internet and briefly skims over the idea of hidden prostitution)

Also there is mention of people not “daring” put their women on the street, thus harming profits, for fear of her being found to be trafficked. Firstly, this doesn’t mean that these women aren’t being used in other ways, and secondly it leads for me to assume that if the fear is that they will get found out, by making the trade licensed and thus impossible for trafficked women to get in to the trade surely this is the best measure you can take to really harm the practice of human trafficking for this purpose?

My suggestion is to stop looking to the feminists for their perspective on sex work. Instead, talk to actual sex workers.

Yes let’s listen to actual sex workers. Here’s what they had to say at a press conference at the European Parliament

Survivors of Prostitution and Trafficking Manifesto
Author(s): Various

Survivors of Prostitution and Trafficking Manifesto

“Who Represents Women in Prostitution?”
October 17, 2005

We, the survivors of prostitution and trafficking gathered at this press conference today, declare that prostitution is violence against women.

Women in prostitution do not wake up one day and “choose” to be prostitutes. It is chosen for us by poverty, past sexual abuse, the pimps who take advantage of our vulnerabilities, and the men who buy us for the sex of prostitution.

Prostitution is sexual exploitation, one of the worst forms of women’s inequality, and a violation of any person’s human rights.

Many women in prostitution have been severely injured, some have died, and some have been murdered by their pimps and customers.

Physical violence, rape and degradation are often inflicted on us by customers, pimps, recruiters, police and others who gain from prostitution. The public either judges us as “whores” or thinks we make a lot of money.

The condition of women in prostitution is worsened by laws and policies that treat us as criminals and the scum of society, while customers, pimps, managers and sex business owners are not made accountable. Our condition is also made worse by giving licenses to prostitution enterprises and legal protection to pimps, customers and the sex industry

Most women are drawn into prostitution at a young age. The average age of entrance into prostitution worldwide is 13.

Victims of prostitution and trafficking have almost no resources to help them exit.

Programs that provide alternatives for women in prostitution are very few.

Women in prostitution dream of a life free from oppression, a life that is safe, and a life where we can participate as citizens, and where we can exercise our rights as human beings, not as “sex workers.”

We, survivors from Belgium, Denmark, Korea, the UK and the United States declare:

1. Prostitution must be eliminated. Thus, it should not be legalized or promoted.

2. Trafficked and prostituted women need services to help them create a future outside of prostitution, including legal and fiscal amnesty, financial assistance, job training, employment, housing, health services, legal advocacy, residency permits, and cultural mediators and language training for victims of international trafficking.

3. Women in prostitution need governments to punish traffickers, pimps and men who buy women for prostitution and to provide safety and security from those who would harm them.

4. Stop arresting women and arrest the perpetrators of trafficking and prostitution.

5. Stop police harassment of women in prostitution and deportation of trafficked women.

6. Prostitution is not “sex work,” and sex trafficking is not “migration for sex work.” Governments should stop legalizing and decriminalizing the sex industry and giving pimps and buyers legal permission to abuse women in prostitution.

As survivors of prostitution and trafficking, we will continue to strengthen and broaden our unity, help any woman out of prostitution, and work with our allies to promote the human rights of victims of trafficking and prostitution.

Far from being hypothetical, my observations are based upon more than half a century’s professional involvement in legal and social issues around sexuality. My experience – and personal discussions with many prostitutes of both sexes – have convinced me that criminalisation of either the prostitute or the client only makes matters worse for vulnerable people ‘on the game’. What they need is not legal persecution, but protection from traffickers, pimps, bullies, extortion, and blackmail. The more criminality, the greater is the corruption and opportunity for unscrupulous pressure.

Whatever our moral views about prostitution, it is impossible to eliminate it by laws or police interference. What is required, therefore, is effective policing of the abuses and exploitation associated with it – most of which is the direct result of the criminality which surrounds it. As I have said before, there are already enough laws in place to do this if they are effectively and honestly applied.

The 1957 Wolfenden Committee on Homosexual Offences and Prostitution said:
“Unless a deliberate attempt is to be made by society, acting through the agency of the law, to equate the sphere of crime with that of sin, there must remain a realm of private morality and immorality which is, in brief and crude terms, not the law’s business.”

This still strikes me as sound, pragmatic liberal philosophy, and it is up to those who disagree to prove their case which so far on this thread they have not done.

To act as is suggested by the authoritarian advocates of ‘protecting prostitutes from themselves’ would be a gross invasion of the citizen’s freedom of choice and individual liberty.

Interesting, is political cartoons a spam site or something?

Anyway, Spicy, that is possibly the furthest from an objective source of information you could hope to find…a good find, but doesn’t really solve the issue which is that you need to talk to ALL types of prostitutes, not just those wanting to speak up against it because they never wanted in to it in the first place.

Anyway, Spicy, that is possibly the furthest from an objective source of information you could hope to find

Something of a non-sequitur since I don’t recall claiming to be objective.

Having participated in innumerable debates on this topic, my post was a challenge to the poster upthread who claims to be a sex worker and thus claims some kind of superior knowledge over the issue of what sex workers think / want. My post was merely a demonstration of your later point, that all ‘types’ of prostitutes should be listened to – not just those who happen to agree with ones own position.

(Notwithstanding of course, that endless research and consultation with prostituted women has demonstrated over and over again that the largest category of sex worker never wanted to be in that line of work in the first place)

The “endless” research you talk about, at least in terms of what I’ve been able to source and read from relating levels of citation as the originally quoted research nearer the top of the comments, all relate to street workers. No-one here denies that street workers are, in the vast majority, abused and exploited women. The trouble is that the integrity of this research is undermined by the authors then claiming ALL prostitution is bad because women don’t want to be in it, yet don’t talk to call girls or brothel workers. If you’re going to look at the standards and the attitudes of street sex workers then don’t muddy the waters, just state you’re looking at one section of prostitution I say.

I’ve pointed to other studies where people willing to ask more than just street workers about their feelings and situations have come to the same conclusion about the effect of street prostitution on women and the demographics that make up that section of prostitution, yet find completely different statistics in terms of how enjoyable women find the work and how emotionally deficit they feel when talking to brothel house workers (with call girls being in between).

If this argument is JUST about street workers then we’re all on the same page, criminalise it completely, where we differ is on the attributable feelings and backgrounds of brothel workers, whether they’re really that different to street workers or not, and thus whether or not there is an avenue here that can be explored for legalisation and regulation. Frankly, until someone else can put another study on the table that objectively looks at all aspects of the trade in a european country (street/call/brothel) the debate is only half informed.

Yup, all exploitation is bad… except, uh, every time any transaction occurs mutual exploitation is consented to – what is at issue here is a fair and equitable execution of power relationships, not sex or money or any form of violence.

If someone has the freedom to refuse to participate in the transaction, there should be no question of criminalisation, as this equates to a tyrrany of the majority. Regulate for safety, by all means, and make the most strenuous efforts to do so, but all and any attempts at absolute prohibition flies in the face of the accumulated knowledge of history.

As for any research into this seedy area of human experience, I, for one, regard any comments by current/former participants with a large dose of suspicion. Having survived at the sharp end of abusive relationships even and especially the most abused sex slave will have an awareness of the ascribed roles in the power-play and of their ability to manipulate a situation to their own benefit, so we shouldn’t allow ourselves to be lead by any sympathy we may have for their plight at the expense of the rights and wrongs that this may obscure.

I think it is absurd for pompous politicians to try to abolish prostitution by passing laws. The oldest profession is a fact of life and will remain so.

The English Collective of Prostitutes is completely against the government’s proposals because driving the industry underground always greatly increases the risks to sex workers, and they are in a far better position to know than politicians. See the ECP’s petition at

http://www.petitiononline.com/swsafety/petition.html

The British Medical Journal are also opposed to the government’s proposals. See

http://www.bmj.com/cgi/content/full/332/7535/0-f

http://www.bmj.com/cgi/content/full/334/7584/52

http://www.bmj.com/cgi/content/extract/334/7586/187

http://www.bmj.com/cgi/content/full/334/7586/187

I find it very difficult to see why such an authoratitive journal would oppose the government’s policy if it were based on fact and reason.

The government’s policy is actually based on ignorance, prejudice, dogma and guesswork, which is why they have decided to ignore the views of the women actually involved. A very strange way to empower them.

The laws the government are proposing would in any case be impossible to enforce, not least due to the growth of the internet, and would divert resources from the prevention of trafficking. The police have also expressed reservations about further criminalisation.

It’s also very noticable that the government’s enthusiasm for persuading sex workers to leave the industry and find ‘proper’ jobs somehow never quite seems to extend to actually offering them jobs!

Sex between consenting adults should always be based on informed freedom of choice, and it is not therefore a matter for the criminal law in a liberal democracy.

Sex between consenting adults in this country should be entirely a matter of individual freedom of choice, irrespective of whether payment or any other tokens of appreciation are involved, and certainly not a matter for unwarranted interference from the nanny state.
As regards the trafficking issue, if the police in Eastern European countries cannot stop their teenage girls being kidnapped and exported like cattle, then the fault emphatically lies there and not in the UK. Those countries are now also members of the EU, so what are the EU fat cats in Luxemburg doing about it apart from pontificating in their ivory towers?
I see no reason at all why we in the UK should be expected to forfeit rights and freedoms which have existed in this country since before Magna Carta just because the authorities in other countries cannot do their job properly. Trafficking must be dealt with by using legitimate methods, and there has clearly been some very muddled thinking on this subject. Attempting to suppress the entire sex industry, much of which is entirely legitimate and consensual, in a country this size would just cause waste and divert resouces from dealing with trafficking specifically and effectively.
I would rigorously vote against any government foolish enough to attempt to introduce anything resembling the current Swedish legislation in the UK, and the present government don’t exactly look as if they can afford to lose any more support if they are to stand the remotest chance of being reelected.
For a report on the real-world consequence of the Swedish legislation, see:

http://www.salli.org/info/lib/kulick-un-talkswe.pdf

There are serious issues of exploitation to attend to but the new feminist drive against prostitution is ill-conceived. It reminds one of the women’s movement against alcohol in the US that led to prohibition. The consequence was mass law-breaking, cynicism and the creation of an organised crime sector that eventually came to have a material influence on the choice of Presidential candidates.

This is the fruit of allowing progressivism of the American type, single issue activism and identity politics (in which minorities claim to speak for majorities) to displace both socialism and liberalism of a more traditional type. Politically inexperienced activists and ideologists attempt to hijack the wider community and then force through ill-considered ‘moral’ solutions.

First, there is no point in legislation without massive infusions of capital to deal with exploitation – and the legislation would not be required if the appropriate infusions of capital were directed at dealing with the social conditions that create the supply of prostitutes in the first place.

Take the key issues outlined above. Familial abuse requires a serious commitment of resources to community engagement in social services and policing provision, especially in very low income and migrant communities.

We are fully responsible for the appalling state of care for minors in this country – I know of cases where projects to create improved skills in care homes are not taken through because of ‘cost’ and yet the idiots who claim to be our government have not worked out that this cost is small against the later costs in crime and social collapse.

These ideas from Government and feminists are cowardice because they are substituting yet another restriction on liberty to get the matter off the middle class tax agenda and make it a matter of policing and social control. without adequate resources It is a disgrace.

Second, moralistic legislating on how human beings relate to each other sexually in the cause of equality is more than absurd – it is cruel and indicates the intervention of people of limited sexual imagination against people of greater sexual awareness in an unjust and discriminatory way. The ‘moral’ undertone is not just against exploitation but against liberty.

Claiming that the world is made up of either enslaved or free sexual relations shows a massive ignorance of the human condition. People change and play with submission, equality and domination, have different gender preferences, have differing levels of sexual drive and need, and this is all played out in the context of economics. Free choice is the right of the poorest as well as of the richest and the issue is to give prostitutes full free choice and not withdraw it from their customers.

Third, the assumption that the mind may be sold for cash (as in any form of employment) but not the body is philosophically unsound and discriminatory against certain classes. When I let policemen (see the Swedish case above) makes moral choices, then I know we are on the slippery slope to community fascism …

The poor beautiful and uneducated woman is told that she is to be deprived of a choice (which may be lapdancing and not necessarily prostitution, as a result of the current moralistic war on such establishments) but yet she can work for a relative pittance mindlessly managing the checkout at a supermarket. She can be a PA or work as an underling in a law firm but not educate and feed her child (maybe have more money or leisure) by selling her physical skills. Get educated and you are free. Not be quite as bright and you are serf class, obliged to another’s morality.

Surely, a socialist response is to fund education and increase working women’s choices (not remove a choice that pushes them back into low pay) while a liberal response is to regulate against health risk and exploitation but allow the women the choice. Feminist progressivism, on the other hand, just seems to resent the fact that some women make some choices that they do not think are worthy of women as a class – but the issue here is not the identity or sisterhood of women but class itself. These proposals come from a faux patronising sisterhood that scapegoats the most vulnerable amongst their own.

Finally, no one seems to be asking what working women want themselves and that is because they are scared of the answers. Working women want safety and alternatives and free choice. This costs money. Our sick Americanised society will do anything rather than do what is necessary – redistribute resources to assist those classes whose circumstances gives them no choice except to engage in prostitution or the prostitution of the mind, taking any job that comes along.

The feminists involved in this campaign should be resisted. And a three point plan instituted:-

1. Working girls should be asked directly what they need to make rational choices. Government should, within reason, redistribute resources to give them those choices. If they came out of abused families or care, they are OUR responsibility not just to be fobbed off with a bit of conscience-salving legislation.

2. Legislation should be centred not on demand (in case, feminists had not noticed, some people of both sexes really get fulfilment and meaning out of sex and some fulfilments can be reached only through contract, including, some would say, marriage) but on the conditions of supply, not only trafficking but healthcare, conditions of employment, minimum standards and ‘exit’ – in other words, full regulation and reasonable inspectorate in the public interest.

3. The right of unexploited women to employ their assets rationally and at the highest value in safe circumstances should be asserted. It is idiot moralism that fails to allow some women to become the footballers or lawyers of their profession and contribute to the tax pool as equal citizens. They are no threat to the rest of us. They might shake up a few women in marriages to understand that men are different and have needs and rights too. They might actually culturally liberate women not to become lawyers and MPs (which seems to be the limit of metropolitan activist women’s aspirations) but anything they want. If we have to have a celebrity culture, why not one which honours courtesans alongside singers and models. And a rule-based approach to contracted consensual relations might help remove the vicious side of male exploitation and would certainly limit the role of organised crime.

Moreover, we all know what wil happen in practice from these daft proposals. No extra government funds will appear. The rich will pop over to Paris for their jollies or get their lawyers to hire girls as ‘PAs for the night’. The ‘middle class’ working girl will disappear. The poor entrants will be forced underground and treated as cattle because of the risks of prosecution. No one will speak of the matter and the real victims will not be helped.

Sometimes I despair at the ill-educated approach of idealists. Like we can just march into Darfur or Tibet and Burma – and now can stop prostitution in a country of 60 million people, where the law enforcement authorities can scarcely hold down some neighbourhoods, just by scaring the pants on off some lonely middle class men whose wives have lost interest in sex.

No wonder the Left is dead on its feet …

“No wonder the Left is dead on its feet …”

Shit, well now you’ve pointed this out it *must* be true 😉

Yeah, well, perhaps I was a bit over the top … and it all depends on what you mean by Left … but it is so damn depressing that we have been reduced to this sort of American cod-progressivism when so much was done by so many for so long to drag this country up from the world the Victorians made.

Absolutely agreed – anyone advocating the banning of Bad Stuff Generally ought to be bludgeoned repeatedly over the head with the history of Prohibition (both in the US and in the developing world, where it invariably contributes to increases in alcohol-related illness and domestic violence) and compelled to explain, in great detail, why their proposed ban will be more effective. When they fail, they should be mocked, derided and then ignored.

I haven’t read all the comments, so maybe this has been said – but I always find it interesting that discussions about porn and prostitution so often talk about feminist perspectives as if all porn and prostitution involves male/female sex. What is the feminist perspective on gay porn and gay prostitution? More to the point, what is any perspective on it?

On a more general point, and I’m sure this has been made above, it seems to be quite obvious to me that, regardless of what we think of something or how bad it may be for people, nothing is ever better when controlled by criminals and by people who are not at all accountable in any formal way for their actions. So it would be clear that prostitution and all it entails (buying/selling/etc) should be legalised and regulated. That would surely make it safer for many and easier to deal with the underlying problems that cause people to get involved in it.

In the world of Prohibitionists, prostitutes are almost all women because that way they can portray them as victims. The reality of course is that there are many male and transgender sex workers. I’m one of them. I enjoy my work, and I provide an important service by offering intimate companionship and affection to clients who may be shy, lonely, conventionally less attractive, or just too busy working to date and have a way to meet people in a romantic context. We all need love and touch, and a good massage has many health benefits too. Many of my clients have told me that seeing me has been very good for them; some have said better than going to the doctor, taking pills, or seeing a therapist. Informal therapy is often a part of what I do. Sometimes people just need someone to talk to, and to share their problems with. In some ways what I do even has a spiritual aspect. This should not surprise anyone, as history has numerous examples of cultures that had sacred sexual temple priestesses and priests, or the equivalent. It makes me sad and angry that some people want what I do to be criminalized. My clients and I don’t deserve to live with the fear of getting arrested. Why is there so much anti-sex bigotry in the world? Why can’t people be more tolerant?

I just wanted to add that I, for one, found Starchild’s comment quite moving … and another argument for minimal but firm regulation against exploitation. I suspect that the Starchilds of this world are much more socially valuable than, say, the rip-off mind-f**k merchants that were found in the early and unregulated psychotherapy industry and a recognition of ‘different strokes for different folks’ in a safe environment might encourage a bit more tolerance all round.

The thought that Harriet Harman is being touted as possible leader of New Labour should fill us all with deep foreboding … nothing personal, Harriet, it’s just that the world has moved on from ’68 identity-led feminism.

For those interested, I expanded on my piece above on the Blog ‘As It Happens’ – http://asithappens.tppr.info – although it adds nothing substantive to the core position.


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