My average life as an average whore


3:00 pm - October 7th 2010

by Kate Belgrave    


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This post is part of an article I wrote about my time as prostitute in New Zealand in the 1990s.

It’s a story of prostitution from the perspective of someone who wasn’t forced into the work. I wasn’t trafficked, or there to finance a drug habit (although I was a very heavy drinker). I was there for the money.

I wanted to post it as an alternative to the modern socialist narrative that has all prostitutes pressed into trade – by traffickers, by drug and alcohol addiction and/or by personal experiences of sexual abuse. In that narrative, all johns are brutes and all brothelkeepers are bloodsuckers.

There are many truths in this narrative, of course, but it is my feeling that the negativity of it skews the point. It is unfair to sex workers as a result. Prostitution in itself is not synonymous with debasement. Stories of trafficked, bullied and beaten women are stories of abuse, not of prostitution per se.

Away from the abuse – and prostitution does exist away from abuse – prostitution is retail. Describing it a trade is probably overplaying the romance – you need looks and/or a gift for indifference, rather than genuine skill – but it is certainly enterprise.

More than that – it’s enterprise in which many women have an unusual advantage. It’s lucrative. It’s one of the few occupations where women can expect a good fiscal return. That doesn’t go for everyone in the field, but it certainly goes for some. Men shell out for sex. When I was working, girls got about NZ$80 to $100 an hour (the spending equivalent today of about £100), with more for extras if you were in those markets. Five or six clients a shift earned you a consultant’s wage.

Prostitution buys you time. Even now that I’m past it, I sometimes think about making a glorious return to the field – when money is tight, and/or I get sick of having to sacrifice large chunks of the day to the day job. In the end, if you’re not among the abused, prostitution is no more or less dispiriting than the middle-tier jobs and lives we’re supposed to aspire to.

1998

The one question you ask yourself when you’re working as a hooker is ‘Do I care that I am doing this? Do I care?’

You never settle on an answer, but your mind seems to want to. You’re standing in a warm, dark (curtains drawn), fusty little room, listening to people outside trotting home from work, and listening to the dolt you’re with whispering that he wants you sitting on the bed with your legs parted so that he can see, and your mind is trying to pinpoint your response.  Do I care?

It’s not a question of feeling despondent about the work.

It’s a question of feeling endlessly ambivalent about it – of being perpetually unable to tap into your own responses, but being doomed to keep trying. Some aged Benny Hill clone will be giggling like a twit, trying to smack the sides of his face with your tits, and you’ll be leaning back, watching him closely and trying to work out whether or not you mind. (The way men feel about it depends on the way they feel about women generally. Men who want to protect women want to protect prostitutes.

Men who dislike women dislike prostitutes. I remember a group of privately-schooled male friends bragging to me once that they’d celebrated their inaugural visit to a Christchurch whorehouse by shitting on its floor).

The only time that you feel no uncertainty at all about becoming a prostitute is during the split second that you decided to become one.  Your mind is very clear in that second. It is the second that you finally acknowledge the money that hookers earn.

It was the second that I finally got sick of the hard bitches at Credit Union, the second that I could no longer live with the thought of the loan sharks I’d visited when I was a depressed drama queen in my early 20s and drinking two or three bottles of wine a day.

Anyway – it’s in this second that ambiguity takes its little flight.

Bugger it, you think. I am sick of this money shit.

Also, you believe that a spell as a prostitute will make you the neighbourhood champion of Truth or Dare. Seems a big prize at the time.

Joining up

The average middle-class, 20-something girl launches herself upon this career the same way she begins most enterprises: she tells herself fibs about it. For some time.

She looks through the newspaper for about a fortnight and slowly begins to understand that she will shortly find herself at a local massage parlour applying for a receptionist’s job. The idea she has at this stage is that the money as a brothel receptionist will be better than it is as a perpetually pissed, partially-employed journalist, and that working as a brothel receptionist will take her close to the fire without actually lobbing her in it.

“The receptionist’s position is gone,” the large, dark, hard-eyed, 40-ish, ever-smiling madam told me, “but there is work in the rooms.” She smiled with teeth and skill. She ran her gaze up and down my body. I knew then that I would do it. So did she, I think. It was fairly obvious that I had drinking and money problems, and that I had run out of bailout options. I began, of course, to dream. I
suddenly saw my whore-self sitting in this very chair, in front of a queue of blokes fighting it out for first.

The parlour was warm and dark, flushed through in that heavy shade of breathy scarlet most of us find exciting. Outside, only feet from my seat, corporate Wellington was walking home. I could hear people’s conversations and shoes.

That clinched it. I have never been particularly rational about corporate New Zealand, or corporate anywhere. Corporate New
Zealanders were the people I liked to think of as the real slaves of the time, the thousands of educated but unimaginative drudges who’d swapped their souls to follow the New Right all the way to the brink and then over it, and who were now irrevocably chained to
Brierley’s or Telecom and the desperate office politicking and the endless fear of redundancy and all the other white-collar traps.

I loathed them. I was one of them in many ways, (I was writing part-time for the Herald at the time) but felt that I was uniquely unblinkered – creative where they were stagnant, and all that other crap. I’m not sure why I thought that. The truth was that I was isolated and estranged, a drinker down to her last few cents. On that day, though, I could hear those suits trudging past the brothel window, heading home having wrapped up another day of restructuring, or privatisation: eight or ten hours of office nothingness.

Erin was wise to all of this.

“I’ll get you to talk to Emma,” she said as she watched me. “Emma’s been working here for a while.”

—–
Read the rest here or at Though Cowards Flinch.

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About the author
Kate Belgrave is a regular contributor to Liberal Conspiracy. She is a New Zealander who moved to the UK eight years ago. She was a columnist and journalist at the New Zealand Herald and is now a web editor. She writes on issues like public sector cuts, workplace disputes and related topics. She is also interested in abortion rights, and finding fault with religion. Also at: Hangbitching.com and @hangbitch
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Story Filed Under: Blog ,Economy ,Equality ,Feminism

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Reader comments


1. Shatterface

Great article. The sex workers I know – professionally (no, I’m not a pimp) and socially – generally have the same issues as everyone else. Many take drugs recreationally without necessarily being addicts – but who doesn’t? Most I know are single and many have childcare responsibilities. Those who work in massage parlours have better working conditions than those on the street.

Thousands of years of moralising and punishment of prostitutes and punters alike (and it is the prostitutes themselves that have borne the brunt of sanctions) has done nothing to end the practice but it has made it dangerous.

It’s not about helpless women victimised by predatory men, or weak-willed men seduced by wicked women. This is about the choice some women make professionally, and the way some men choose to spend their money.

Some of the very best connected folks do it for the income:

“An MP’s wife has allegedly been selling sex for £70 in two massage parlours in Sutton and Cheam.”
http://www.suttonguardian.co.uk/news/8381112.Sex_shame__MP_s_wife_in_North_Cheam_massage_parlour/

“When asked whether she minded selling her body Carla replied: ‘I like it here, nice clients, nice people, nice place and good money.’”
http://www.thehouseofblogs.com/articulo/pictures__hot_carla_adriana_weatherley-146493.html

Great article, did you ever find out what the brown thing on his bum was?

4. margin4error

This is an interesting insight to how people feel about selling themselves – and it isn’t something I much think about. But I’m not sure about the social narrative being corrected.

I’m more struck right now by the recent trend in media to present an entirely different and even more damaging narrative.

And that narrative seems to be something along the lines of “phwoar – they luv it the slags!” (in best south London, and thus News of the World, macho drawl)

Whether it is Belle de Jour (ironically just traditional titillation for middle class housewives who were far more the original Belle than the recent Phd student namesake) or the various hookers that sell their stories (along with nude pictures) to the papers – the narrative is alarmingly cavalier about it all.

Thanks for the comments, all.

No – I never worked out what the brown stain was. It was always there, though, under the skin. Unpleasant.

@margin4error – the narrative I’m referring to really is the punitive one that assumes that sex for sale is morally repugnant per se. It’s the narrative that has argued in favour of criminalising pimping and kerb-crawling here. The justification for this punitive approach is that you only end prostitution by criminalising it.

The argument that I’m putting is that abuse and prostitution are not always the same thing. Some women who work as prostitutes are abused. Others are women who just want to take the cash, are not abused, and make a voluntary decision to get involved. There are very different groups of people involved.

The act of taking money for sex is not criminal – morally or otherwise – in my view. It is merely a transaction and the parties to it ought to be protected by law, not pushed beyond it. Women who work as prostitutes should have full access to employment rights, legal and police protection – same as everyone else. Women who are trafficked and/or abused should be protected from trafficking and abuse by law. I don’t believe there is anything wrong with selling sex per se, though. If there’s money in it and you’re up for it, then go for it. God will forgive.

@Shatterface:
“Many take drugs recreationally without necessarily being addicts – but who doesn’t?”

Don’t believe this. Is this not a very middle class-bohemian world view?

@Kate Belgrave
“merely a transaction”

I find it incredible that such a right-wing liberatarian view is on Liberal Conspiracy!
Describing a sexual relationship like this is capitalist sexual desublimation at it’s worst. We are not objects, and our relationships are not property to exchange! Where is the reverence for humanity? How are we meant to fight capitalism – this is after all a left-wing blog – simultaneously justifying sexual reification and opposing labour reification of human beings?

7. Chaise Guevara

Interesting article, thanks. I’ve always felt (and you may be able to confirm or correct this) that the attitude of society as a whole towards prostitution seems to divide them into ‘whores’ and ‘call girls’: the first set work the street or in a sleazy brothel and should be reviled or pitied, the second set are romantic and sexy and played by Billie Piper in the TV show.

There’s some logic to this distinction when it comes to the debate about whether prostitution should be legal – if a woman feels she needs to be a hooker* because it’s the only way she can get a roof over her head, that sounds like exploitation, if she decides to be a hooker because she wants to move to a posh house, that sounds like it isn’t – but I do worry that this basically means we’re fine with prostitution as long as it’s middle class people doing it.

*Running out of synonyms; apologies if this one’s offensive.

Varus – LOL hardly the first time I’ve been written off as a libertarian, but in all seriousness – I do often see sex as a transaction.

I certainly don’t see selling it as a moral issue and have run into trouble with various comrades as a result of that. They say prostitution – the selling of sex to men – is by definition wrong. I don’t think it is wrong by definition. I think abusing women who work as prostitutes and forcing them to work as prostitutes is wrong, but you’re not talking about prostitution when you talk about those things. You’re talking about kidnapping, trafficking and abuse.

That ain’t the end of my leftie credentials, though. What I do believe in is full access to employment rights and law for sex workers – so that means the right to unionise, to negotiate sick pay and leave allowances, and to access tribunal if need be. The prostitutes’ collectives here and in New Zealand tend to share the same views – keep prostitution legal and allow women their entitlements in law. That’s not just a leftie view – it’s a realistic leftie view. There’s no room for the romantic view you promote in it. Your basic thesis is that lefties ought to be trying to eliminate prostitution altogether. That’s a moral view and a romantic one. You’re entitled to it, of course, but you suppose that everyone on the left by definition joins you in the belief that selling sex is wrong.

@6

Wrong. It’s a perfectly liberal attitude to take: that people should be allowed to do whatever the bejesus they like with their own bodies (assuming that they aren’t hurting anyone else (unless they’re into S&M, I guess)). Don’t confuse exploitation/abuse with someone actually wanting to be a sex-worker. Of course there is overlap but the whole point of the article is that it’s more subtle than that.

FWIW also: left and right can agree to some extent on this issue as it falls on the authoritarian/liberal axis rather than left/right. Historically there have been and continue to be moralisers on both sides of the divide (re:pornography, and earlier in history boozing).

10. Chaise Guevara

“I find it incredible that such a right-wing liberatarian view is on Liberal Conspiracy!
Describing a sexual relationship like this is capitalist sexual desublimation at it’s worst. We are not objects, and our relationships are not property to exchange! Where is the reverence for humanity? How are we meant to fight capitalism – this is after all a left-wing blog – simultaneously justifying sexual reification and opposing labour reification of human beings?”

First off, the right-wing attitude towards prostitutions in this country seems to be “they’re dirty slappers who have it coming if they get murdered”. It’s perfectly logical for a liberal (and libertarians are socially liberal) to be ok with prostitution. Defending people’s right to do what they want as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone else is what liberalism MEANS.

The rest of your point, frankly, seems to rest on poorly defined buzzwords. Does “sexual reification” mean “having sex”? Perhaps “labour reification of human beings” means “work”, but “capitalist sexual desublimation”? You’ve lost me.

In any case: I, as a liberal, am inclined to defend the right of a person to have sex for money if they want to. I’m not right-wing enough to tell someone what to do with their own body.

11. Chaise Guevara

LOL. Beaten to it by Kate and Pill both.

I think Varus’s comment @6 is satire, but I could be wrong.

13. Chaise Guevara

12

“I think Varus’s comment @6 is satire, but I could be wrong.”

If so, I revise my judgement of Varus’s brainpower up several notches, but note that he/she still knows dick-all about liberalism.

The one thing most people I worked with had in common was that they were single mothers. That meant to me that the issue, if there was one, was the terrible problems women have when they’re left to raise children by themselves in societies where so many other part-time jobs pay such rubbish and where childcare is so expensive.

Parents need two things – enough money to cover bills, and time. They, or somebody, needs to be there when the kids finish school for the day and so on. That was the priority for so many of the people I worked with.

It was noticeable that their abusive relationships with men tended to happen outside of work – ex-partners who refused to pay maintenance, or expected returns for it, or, like the woman Karen I mention, who seemed to spend his entire life telling her she was fat and shit while making very sure she got to work every day to bring home the cash.

If your ‘legitimate’ relationships with men aren’t all that great, why would you get all romantic about saving sex for someone special? The decision to selling sex isn’t a moral decision. It’s a logistical one. Real life is about paying bills and keeping a home together. Nobody on the left – and I include myself in that group – has the right to loftily inform the less-well-off that taking your pants off to meet those bills is unacceptable. People often make the right moral choice – to get as much money as possible in as little time as possible so that they can take full responsibility for their kids.

@12

could be a classic case of Poe’s Law used to good effect, I suppose…

Oh & I think “reification” means “alienation” but I’m not sure what “desublimation” is supposed to mean.

Are you there, Varus? Can you enlighten us?

16. Chaise Guevara

“Oh & I think “reification” means “alienation” but I’m not sure what “desublimation” is supposed to mean.”

‘Reification’ means ‘making real’; it’s synonymous with ‘realization’ in its under-used literal sense.

The more I look at ‘desublimination’, the more I think it’s a joke. I seem to remember a Varus coming up before too, and in a context of not being mental.

@Chaise

Well I did a search and judging from this comment it would appear that our chum Varus is unfortunately serious with his/her moralising nonsense 🙁

I hadn’t heard of Poe’s Law – thanks.

(It reminds me of the Landover Baptists.)

19. Chaise Guevara

“Well I did a search and judging from this comment it would appear that our chum Varus is unfortunately serious with his/her moralising nonsense ”

Ah. I see. ‘User’ is a horribly offensive term, but ‘abuser’ is a-ok. THAT kind of person.

I absolutely love the idea that we’re hypocrites for not imposing our arbitrary sexual politics on other people like proper liberals, BTW!

@15

Sorry, bit specialist with the Marxism and post-modernism (not intended sarcastically!).

Reification refers to the treatment/conception of humans as objects rather than living, breathing people – so alienation does ‘reify’. So by sexual reification, I’m meaning treating people as objects for sex. The ‘labour reification’ is how capitalism treats labourers as objects to use to make profit out of.

Desublimation is the theory of Marcuse criticising the repression of sex in Western culture – the movement from treating sex as ‘sublime’ to dirty/emotionless/transaction and ‘unsublime’. Marcuse draws on Freud to in showing desublimation has broad negative social effects through ‘unhealthy’ sexuality.

@8
If it’s romantic, it’s only as romantic as believing there’s more to life than money. It’s not as much that I see intrinsic moral damage to selling sex, it’s the financial transaction side of it. If you’re opposed to capitalism, or at least the worst aspects of capitalism (which I assume a leftie would be) then that’s the reasoning I use to oppose prostitution.

@10
That’s why I made the distinction ‘right-wing libertarian’, as in, extreme negative liberty and pro-capitalist. Your comment “knows dick-all about liberalism” is a mature contribution, but thankfully I’ve got thick skin. A social liberal would be expected to endorse positive liberty, the use of the state to enable freedom, rather than the withdrawal of the state from social affairs – why not help people be affluent enough not to have to resort to prostitution. So, as I explain above my view relating prostitution to capitalism, it seems more well suited to right-wing libertarians than to left-wing liberals.

Can we continue in a friendly atmosphere please, we’re all human beings. Sorry if my invocation of terminology came across badly, but it sums up the concepts, it wasn’t meant as showing off.

“Well I did a search and judging from this comment it would appear that our chum Varus is unfortunately serious with his/her moralising nonsense 🙁 ”

Dude, I don’t accuse you of immoral nonsense (I’m not really advancing a religiousy morally argument anyway, as I elaborate on above). Constructiveness please?

@Varus

OK, constuctiveness – What gives you the right to tell someone what they should or shouldn’t do with their body, so long as they aren’t hurting anybody else? I’m afraid I see little point in dragging Marcuse or Freud into this discussion seeing as prostitution has been going on since time began (or at least since records began, as they say) and even penguins are at it: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/60302.stm

In Britain, as I understand it since I’m no lawyer, prostitution per se is not illegal but soliciting is, as are running a brothel, living off “immoral earnings” or human trafficking.

A topical public policy issue seems to be whether running a “small” brothel should become legal subject to public nuisance and human trafficking laws.

An impression gained from local press reports over years is that in many cases local residents have no idea whether that quiet “shop” down the road in an established but downbeat local shopping centre is being used as a brothel or as a parlour for pet grooming or for sun-bed tanning or as a betting shop, which seem to be commercially viable alternative uses for shopping premises which cannot make it as local convenience stores, most likely because of the competition.

There’s a good case, surely, for considering the initiatives in recent years of governments in Germany and New Zealand to liberalise the prostitution market.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prostitution_in_Germany
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prostitution_in_New_Zealand

24. Chaise Guevara

“That’s why I made the distinction ‘right-wing libertarian’, as in, extreme negative liberty and pro-capitalist. ”

First off, you seem to be implying that non-libertarians must therefore be anti-capitalist, which is of course nonsense. Social liberalism says nothing about capitalism: some social liberals are heavily pro-capitalist (your libertarians), some are against its worst excess and a free market but not against the monetary system per so (me, and probably most people on this site), some are fully against it (communists, basically). Your comments suggest you think of liberals as ‘the nice version of libertarians’; I like to agree, but I reckon we’ll all squabble over the meaning of ‘nice’.

Either way, the distinction between libertarians and liberals is economic, not social. Given that liberal =/= communist, economic politics don’t say much about the rights and wrongs of prostitution, while social liberals can be expected to be in favour of it (or, more accurately, against banning it).

“Your comment “knows dick-all about liberalism” is a mature contribution, but thankfully I’ve got thick skin.”

Apologies for that. I said that when I thought you were taking the piss. And I shouldn’t have said it in any case. Removing the insulting side of the comment, though, I do genuinely think you’ve got the wrong end of the stick when it comes to what ‘liberal’ means.

“A social liberal would be expected to endorse positive liberty, the use of the state to enable freedom, rather than the withdrawal of the state from social affairs – why not help people be affluent enough not to have to resort to prostitution. So, as I explain above my view relating prostitution to capitalism, it seems more well suited to right-wing libertarians than to left-wing liberals. ”

Ah, but that’s not what we’re talking about. I absolutely agree that we should do our best to ensure nobody feels the need to resort to prostitution or indeed to anything that might be called sex work. But if someone chooses to have sex for money, we shouldn’t condemn either them or the client.

I think the problem with your argument is that you think that selling sex reduces somebody, at least in the eyes of the buyer, to a ‘thing’. I don’t see the logic. Is a manual worker just a thing; not a person, but a pair of strong arms? Is an author just a thing: a brain without a mind? I don’t think so, and nor do I think that paying to sleep with someone implies that you consider them to be a piece of meat without a soul. It’s an argument I’ve heard many times, and I’ve never been given a single reason to believe it.

following from my comment @22,

@Varus again

It’s not as much that I see intrinsic moral damage to selling sex, it’s the financial transaction side of it.

If you’re only opposed on the financial transaction side of things then surely you are pickting the job-centre everyday and imploring the unemployed not to bother getting a job because it only helps capitalism, no? Or is it only the sex-industry that you are in opposition to? And if so, why? Why not support the rights of sex-workers to have safe working practices and unionisation etc as Kate outlines above, rather than hectoring from your lofty perch in a tone that sounds – even if you don’t want it to – like the moralising of a Daily Mail article?

@22

Ah, okay, I understand: I had thought we should critique the article and the ideas the article suggests in general. I really do think Freud and Marcuse are relevant, but if you would prefer assertions about “right to tell people” to philosophical discussion about the issue, that’s okay. Just please don’t be so aggressive to me for that!

And on the philosophical implications of what you say…
As a liberal left-winger, I deny that we are atomised individuals operating individually. I think we work socially and are interrelated. So if people do things that are bad, there’s a chain reaction. And by living in a society that cares, we can expect help if needed. The assertion “not hurting anyone else” isn’t an absolute fact either, it’s a opinion that could be evidenced, but…

27. Chaise Guevara

“Can we continue in a friendly atmosphere please, we’re all human beings. Sorry if my invocation of terminology came across badly, but it sums up the concepts, it wasn’t meant as showing off.”

Absolutely. As for the terminology, I think it’s more that it’s unhelpful than showing off. I am in favour of cool words myself and would never attack someone for being sesquipedalian 😉

These are the two words that I think cause problems:

Reification: your definition of the word isn’t how it’s normally used, and it’s a rare enough term to encounter in any case. In effect, you’re using jargon, so people are likely to misunderstand or assume (wrongly, it turns out) that you’re bullshitting.

Desublimation: same obscurity problem. Also, surely you’re the one arguing that sex, in certain cases at least, is dirty and dehumanizing?

@24:

there are further liberal/libertarian distinctions, as I’ve now touched on in #26. The libertarian sees atomised individuals, the social liberal individuals within a community. And prostitution is sex within an economic system, so political-economics theorists do have some valid input. Isn’t the intrusion of money into such a intimate human act an excess of capitalism?

And with the “meat without a soul”, well, I guess if you aren’t convinced, you aren’t convinced. But I kinda think someone getting their chequebook out instead of forming a deep (or relatively shallow) human relationship /is/ dehumanising.

@26

You still haven’t actually answered the question: what gives you the right to tell others what they should and shouldn’t do with their own body?

Do you think that no-one, ever, becomes a prosititute out of free-will?

@27:

Ah, I probably should have defined the interpretations as I went along. The interpretation of reification is the conventional Marxist definition, but I do accept Marcuse is a bit off the beaten track 😉

If Communism is “from each according to ability, to each according to need”, how would prostitution fit in?

@29:

Several things.
Firstly, it’s the interaction of two people. If two people agreed that one would murder the other (say, for the hell of it), that would be illegal. But would you contend that they would be allowed, because it’s free will?
Secondly, your question isn’t just about prostitution, it’s about the fundamental nature of politics and the state. Just out of interest, are you keen on Nozick? 😉 I suppose we could go into that whole debate, but it seems a bit pointless… what if we assume a state can limit, but the extent to which it can is debatable?

33. the a&e charge nurse

[24] “I think the problem with your argument is that you think that selling sex reduces somebody, at least in the eyes of the buyer, to a ‘thing’” – reading this excerpt from the longer piece; “The little fat man waits for me at the bottom of the stairs. His bald head gleams with the day’s grease. He’s grinning at me with his little piggy eyes” it sounds like objectification is part of the process?

@31:

wouldn’t it be unnecessary? You wouldn’t need more material resources, so you could freely have sex with whoever you wanted, without needing to charge for it?

@Bob B

In the Soviet Russia, prosititutes pay YOU!

http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=russian%20reversal

… er, dunno.

Kate

I should stress I believe quite firmly that there is no god. I also should admit that I feel there is something lacking in one’s emotional capacity for intimacy if every act of human interaction can be reduced to that of a financial transaction. That might be a temporary lacking or a permanent lacking, and can be driven by a great many things, desperation being just one.

However, I also think those people who have that lacking should be permitted legally to go about whatever it is they wish. There are a lot of people with different outlooks on the world and about themselves and they are entitled to their outlooks.

I just find it dissapointing that with prostitution presented as a fashionable “walk on the wild side” passtime among young women of a certain standing right now, the world is unable to see something more like the reality that you appear to have experienced.

It is either that women are well up for it, or that they are effectively raped. In reality I’m sure many just grin and bare it much the same as so many bored checkout girls (to invoke another cliche’d female job of choice)

37. Chaise Guevara

@28

“The libertarian sees atomised individuals, the social liberal individuals within a community. And prostitution is sex within an economic system, so political-economics theorists do have some valid input. Isn’t the intrusion of money into such a intimate human act an excess of capitalism?”

Not really. Money gets everywhere. And if we’re going to go into economics here, surely money is just another form of benefit that you gain for performing certain actions? You may as well say that the intrusion of flowers and chocolates into an intimate act, via the (rather old-school) process of seduction, is equally exploitative.

How I see it: people have sex. If they want to have sex, rather than being pressured into it through force or desperation, that’s fine by me. More power to their elbow, as you might say…

“And with the “meat without a soul”, well, I guess if you aren’t convinced, you aren’t convinced. But I kinda think someone getting their chequebook out instead of forming a deep (or relatively shallow) human relationship /is/ dehumanising.”

But you are presumably happy with other fiscal transactions (if not, we’re arguing at a rather oblique angle and far from the main point). So what, specifically, is so different about sex?

Y’see, I think that you, along with many if not most other people, have decided that sex is A Really Big Deal. And because it’s such a big deal, we should break the more sensible rules and force people only to have sex on our terms. I see that as fascistic (although I’m not calling you a fascist). Vague claims that money is gaining too strong an influence over intimacy is not justification of sexual repression.

38. Chaise Guevara

@35

My new fave:

In the West, you keep tabs in your browser. In communist China, browser keep tabs on YOU!

39. Chaise Guevara

@36

“grin and bare it”

If that was deliberate, I award you several coolpoints.

Well I’m glad that in @36 there’s somebody else out there with a similar unease!

@37:

Opposition to financial transactions of any kind isn’t directly relevant: how about paying for a friend? For a spouse? Hiring a child? Buying a granny? Are these okay, or are they crude reflections of real relationships… like prositution.

I don’t think sex is a big deal. Or rather, I think that it should be normalised. But normalising prostitution isn’t the same as normalising sex. And (I’m sorry for this!) this is where Marcuse/Freud come back into it. I think normalising sex means normalising it as a sublime, intimate and emotional human relationship; not as an un-beautiful financial transaction. From this perspective, prostitution is part of broader sexual repression, and repression of women in particular, by desublimation of sex (taking the intimate beauty out of it).

My sexual preferences don’t have much to do with it. Is it fascistic to prohibit death from consensual murder (not euthanasia!)?

@32

Seeing as we (society) don’t forbid suicide, I see nothing wrong with the scenario you give, so long as both individuals were acting totally of their own free will – which would be very hard to prove. But prositution doesn’t involve the taking of life. You gave yourself away slightly upthread when you referred to sex as “an intimate act” or words to that effect – is sex always as “intimate” as you make out? Does everybody think so? Short of overthrowing capitalism tomorrow we live in a society where you need £££ to survive and everything does become commodified. D’you think the checkout worker at your local Tesco enjoys her job? I’d assume not (having been one myself). But do you lecture her for doing it? And what of those who do enjoy their work? What if *gasp* someone likes being paid to have sex?*
As for Nozick – not touched him since reading Anarchy & the State or whatever it was called during my (lapsed) politics undergraduate days. I’m more informed by existentialism** when it comes to the philosophical influences, although specifically with regards to the state and the individual I use JS Mill’s On Liberty as a textbook.

*As an aside: do people who disapprove of prosititution automatically disapprove of pornography? After all, the latter is merely the former with a camera….
** To the extent that I believe we are free whether we like it or not[1]. I disagree profoundly with those such as Nietzche on the grounds that they are anti-human, although I have a Karamazovian fatalistic attitude to the whole shebang… but that’s for a whole different thread.

[1] In the sense of predestination vs free-will. Economically one is only free under capitalism if one has enough cash to not worry about it.

Varus –

Would Freud accept the notion that sex could ever be “normalised”?

43. Chaise Guevara

“Opposition to financial transactions of any kind isn’t directly relevant: how about paying for a friend? For a spouse? Hiring a child? Buying a granny? Are these okay, or are they crude reflections of real relationships… like prositution.”

Of course they’re crude. But I wouldn’t ban any of them, excepting the one about hiring a child (children are assumed not to be able to make decisions for themselves). If you really want to pay someone to be your so-called friend, or to marry you, fine. Whatever floats your boat. I’m not sure you can buy a granny.

“I don’t think sex is a big deal. Or rather, I think that it should be normalised.”

What does that mean? It’s either very sensible or extremely scary.

“But normalising prostitution isn’t the same as normalising sex. And (I’m sorry for this!) this is where Marcuse/Freud come back into it. I think normalising sex means normalising it as a sublime, intimate and emotional human relationship; not as an un-beautiful financial transaction. From this perspective, prostitution is part of broader sexual repression, and repression of women in particular, by desublimation of sex (taking the intimate beauty out of it).”

You need to explain how you got from ‘un-beautiful’ (i.e. your aesthetic opinion, with which I happen to agree) to ‘repression’ (i.e. evil). And are you seriously saying we should ban something because it lacks intimate beauty?

“My sexual preferences don’t have much to do with it. Is it fascistic to prohibit death from consensual murder (not euthanasia!)?””

Assuming the ‘victim’ is sound of mind, yes it is. Of course, in this case you could well argue that they were unsound of mind by definition! But I’m in favour of euthanasia, so I can’t really claim I’m against suicide purely because the person killing themselves gets off on it.

All very fine and elevated but should existing laws in England and Wales relating to prostitution be changed?

Indeed the law should be changed, or reverted, Bob – Jacqui Smith’s late contribution to criminalising was a particularly punitive, moralising piece of legislation which smacked through and through of righteous New Labour… it flew in the face of the British prostitutes’ collective’s own wishes as well.

Making prostitution illegal is like making abortion illegal… it doesn’t go away. It goes underground.

It doesn’t necessarily go far underground – as it happens, prostitution was to all intents and purposes illegal when I did it. New Zealand legalised prostitution in 2003. Before that – when I did it – it was illegal to make your living from prostitution. Of course, there were numerous workarounds and our place seemed to have reasonable relations (ho ho) with the police. It never occurred to me to check the legal status of my employment, though. It only occurred to me that I’d been working illegally after I’d moved to the UK and read about NZ legalising prostitution. Wow, I thought. I never even realised I’d been a felon.

46. Chaise Guevara

“All very fine and elevated but should existing laws in England and Wales relating to prostitution be changed?”

What Kate said. My take would be: legalise it, regulate it, tax it, and throw official workers’ rights in there while you’re at it. Let’s stop using legislation to criminalise people arbitrarily and make things worse instead of better. Next week: drugs.

Out of time to answer all the points – sorry! – but as a final response: by legalising prostitution you’re only introducing the same inequalities and problems that exist in current capitalist industries into paid sex. That’s fine for a right-wing liberal, but if you value equality as much as liberty, it should be a serious concern.

… and just to note, that’s not a summary of my whole argument, just an aspect 😉

48. Chaise Guevara

“Out of time to answer all the points – sorry! – but as a final response: by legalising prostitution you’re only introducing the same inequalities and problems that exist in current capitalist industries into paid sex. That’s fine for a right-wing liberal, but if you value equality as much as liberty, it should be a serious concern.”

Not at all. I value my right to do the job I choose to do, and I’m not going to take away someone else’s right to do the same unless they’re harming people to do so. That’s equality.

Also, legalizing prostitution would solve most of the problems. Prostitutes would have full workers’ rights, they’d be more likely to work in a safe environment, after awhile they wouldn’t be demonized simply because of their profession. As for inequalities in this context: what? One person pays, another works. That’s what a job is.

Seriously, you seem to define ‘right wing’ as ‘someone who is against sexual repression’, which kinda suggests you’re reading from a whole different hymnsheet.

Very interesting post Kate. What is your opinion of the laws re prostitution in New Zealand?

Certainly, the laws in this country are wrong (many feminists, wrongly in my opinion, supported the so-called Swedish model). Certainly as a Socialist feminist I support decriminalisation and unionisation of sex work because it is about solidarity. This issue causes many ructions within the feminist movement, for me it’s simple…decriminalisation and unionisation. Prostitution is a variegated phenomena.

Varus – visit the real world sometime, brother.

There is nothing ‘equal’ about not being able to pay your bills.

You offer no solution for the problems single women deal with. If I see you out there campaigning for free childcare and a better minimum wage, I might forgive you for calling me a libertarian. Might.

As understand it, in Britain prostitution is NOT illegal but brothels, soliciting, pressurising someone into prostitution and human trafficking are.

The relevant policy issues are which parts of the law should be changed and what additional restrictions, if any, should be introduced. That’s a good reason for looking to see how Germany and New Zealand reformed their national laws to see what we might learn from their experience.

In principle, making brothels legal, at least on a small scale, seems a good idea – to provide sex workers with better security. But a local licensing system seems an inevitable consequence because some folk would be absolutely outraged at the prospect of the place next door becoming a legitimate brothel – if only for reasons of the supposed impact on neighbourhood property values or the contagious influence on children resident in the neighbourhood.

Over the years, I’ve observed from a distance hugely active neighbourhood campaigns waged against “sex shops” selling the usual range of gadgets and outfits which went on for years before finally succeeding. Such campaigns became rather nasty in their end games.

@HarpyMarx – tbh, I find it difficult to understand why anyone tries to justify criminalising. I accept that it’s sourced in a desire to protect women, but my reading suggests that that view is misguided. I see a real baby-out-with-the-bathwater scenario with the criminalising of johns – the attempt to punish men for trading in sex punishes the very women it is supposed to protect as well.

The NZPC backs NZ’s liberal laws unequivocally. The collective reports better relations with the police, the introduction of employment contracts in some places and ease of access to legal advice and support and so on. There are of course still plenty of instances of exploitation, etc, and trafficking is reportedly an issue – NZ is a highly desirable place to live for a lot of people and you hear reports of trafficking in that context. Women are still killed from time to time. There’s a lot of vulnerability there still.

The point is – women who find themselves in the awful situations need all the support and help that is available. They need a direct line to the police and to the law. If you have illegality around a trade, vulnerable people won’t be told the finer points of it – they’ll just be told that they’ll go to jail if anyone finds out what they’re doing.

There will be confusion on the ground, as I’m sure there is here – some people will be aware that pimps and clients are the in the firing line, while others will be sort of vaguely aware that there is illegality around kerb-crawling and that sort of thing. Some will think the whole area is illegal. That isn’t supposed to be a patronising statement – as I say, prostitution was illegal in NZ at the time I was writing about, and it simply never occurred to me that it was. It was just there. I was a journalist, too – young and pretty stupid and wasted much of the time, but I still didn’t get it properly. The whole legality issue just washed over me.

Trafficking and abuse must be illegal. In my romantic moments, I like to think that one day we’ll get round to looking at the reasons why people are so desperate to leave their homelands and work here as prostitutes – so desperate that they’ll trust some stranger who comes to their neighbourhood saying he’s looking for young girls to work as nannies in England. Trafficking is about poverty, inequality of distribution and opportunities and desperation. Forced prostitution is simply one of the turns in that road.

“The point is – women who find themselves in the awful situations need all the support and help that is available. They need a direct line to the police and to the law. If you have illegality around a trade, vulnerable people won’t be told the finer points of it – they’ll just be told that they’ll go to jail if anyone finds out what they’re doing.”

Spot-on Kate. Illegality worsens the health and safety of sex workers. Give the sex workers the political space to work together to protect themselves.

54. Chaise Guevara

“In principle, making brothels legal, at least on a small scale, seems a good idea – to provide sex workers with better security. But a local licensing system seems an inevitable consequence because some folk would be absolutely outraged at the prospect of the place next door becoming a legitimate brothel – if only for reasons of the supposed impact on neighbourhood property values or the contagious influence on children resident in the neighbourhood.”

Nah. We don’t need a local licensing scheme for murder laws, or labour laws, or pretty much any kind of laws. Legalise prostitution. If anyone doesn’t like seeing in their back yard, that’s their problem. They can move to another town or rejoin humanity. I really have no time for people who will allow other people to suffer for the sake of their own precious sensibilites.

55. Chaise Guevara

@HarpyMarx

“Certainly as a Socialist feminist I support decriminalisation and unionisation of sex work because it is about solidarity. This issue causes many ructions within the feminist movement, for me it’s simple…decriminalisation and unionisation”

Right on. It’s depressing that people like you, who understand the real issues at stake, can get bogged down by people normally on your side who have some aestheic or even metaphorical axe to grind.

Prostitution happens. There’s nothing wrong with it, unsavoury as many may find it. Let’s treat these people as fellow human beings instead of marginalising them and consigning them to some ridiculous criminal ‘underclass’ to which they do not belong. Let’s stop turning people into monsters simply because we consider them to be sordid or unseemly, whatever that actually means. Let’s show some fucking reason and humanity.

Hi kate,

I appreciate and agree with what you are saying about legalisation, unionisation and regulation, and about increased minimum wages so that nobody need be forecd into prostitution. Where myself and I would imagine others would take issue with your article is not the account it provides, which I am sure is accurate, but with the impression it gives of the lives of prostitutes in general. The choice of title “My average life as an average whore” is surely unrepresentative, since (I assume you would agree) you have had a better life than the average prostitute, given how bad some prostitutes lives are, and futhermore the “average life” of a person in society is considerably better than the life of “an average whore”, for the same reason. Though I do not have your first hand knowledge, from your own description of the industry it seems that (albeit due in no small part to the current legal framework) there is a great deal of abuse in a trade in which lots of people enter into not as free choice but because they are compelled to economically, even though you yourself do not fall into this category. It is a shame that your points about improving the lot of prostitutes are needlessly clouded by the notion that such suffering is an exception to the rule and that most prostitutes are in it not for survival but to actually line their pockets, something which, given the current risks faced by many prostitutes, just seems too difficult to believe.

This is one of the best articles I have seen on here. It avoids both the cliches of the “happy prostitute” and the helpess abuse victim.

Billie Piper is pretty damn hot in that Call Girl series, though.

Anyway…..

Very brave of you to post this, but doesn’t public admission of your former life endanger your future employment prospects somewhat? I appreciate you being frank and sharing your insight, but I’d probably advise people to be a bit more cautious about this sort of thing…

On the question of WWALSD (What Would A Liberal Society Do), it is true that if people want to exploit themselves without harming others, that’s up to them. But how far does our responsibility towards protecting them regardless of how they endanger themselves go? For example, I’m all for letting people smoke as much as they like, in areas where I don’t have to breathe in their noxious shit. But do I want my taxes going to clean out their lungs when they’ve given themselves cancer? Fuck no.

51…don’t site your brothel in a residential area. hire a light industrial unit on an estate, more privacy…and no twitching net curtains…more room, more parking…ok, you will have to upgrade the roof…nothing pisses off a client more than a leaky roof

@blanco LOL one google of my name brings up a whole lot of shit that an employer might not like – socialism, trade union activism, obscenity and so on… interestingly, none of it seems to have bothered anyone thus far. Also – I first published this article about 12 years ago, so it’s been out there for a while. I also wrote about it in the New Statesman about three years ago & have had a number of good jobs since then. I may just have been lucky but I suspect the truth is that nobody gives a damn.

Nick – many thanks.

Tom – not sure. I don’t know how representative this experience is and it was probably different again in NZ. By ‘average’, I mean ‘not histrionic’ and ‘grounded in physically reality.’ Accounts like Belle de Jour seemed to me to be far too clean (as in removed from bodily functions) and thrilling. To me, it was just a sticky, dirty job that was as boring as any other – nothing glam, nothing particularly exciting, but well-paid.

prostitution is part of broader sexual repression, and repression of women in particular, by desublimation of sex (taking the intimate beauty out of it)

And it should therefore be illegal?

I might be persuaded to agree with the highlighted sentence, but I’m very uncomfortable with the line of thought which moves from theoretical discussions about it being desirable to normalise A but not B, to the declaration that B should therefore be banned.

Sorry to come across all libertarian, but it seems the one thing being normalised above all others is the use of the state’s powers to boss people about.

With you, Larry.

I’ve been rather taken with the romantic notions that some people have of sex. Sometimes, it’s a beautiful thing. Then, there’s the rest of the time.

(I also meant to say that this is a great article – very refreshing and honest.)

Kate – what an interesting and honest piece.

Oh, and more Varus please!!

I see your point of view, Kate, and I agree that a hundred thousand years of moralising and prohibition haven’t helped (assuming that’s about as long as humans have been around in their homo sapiens form, and based on the old adage that it’s as old as the hills) – but isn’t there the issue that prostitution sends out the message that women are nothing more than cheap soiled goods to be used over and over again? There’s a reason why the profession is associated with women and not men (despite the existence of gigolos) and if it is as old as the hills, then so is patriarchy – any link?

Apologies if this has already been debated further upthread, I honestly couldn’t be bothered to read some of the comments.

66. Chaise Guevara

“isn’t there the issue that prostitution sends out the message that women are nothing more than cheap soiled goods to be used over and over again”

Only if I’m nothing more that cheap soiled goods to be used to do my job day in, day out. Humans can do almost anything without it magically defining their entire existence, so why is paid sex any different?

This idea that prostitutes are nothing but sex objects originates wholly in the mind of the person suggesting it.

I am pretty sure that prostitution has an older pedigree than capitalism.

Money has no meaning other than as a means of exchange. Imagine two people living in a commune.

Person A has the physical strength to dig up potatoes and person B does not.

Person B has the mental capacity to repair computers and person A knows nothing about them.

(A) needs their computer repaired and (B) needs their potatoes dug up.

What should they do?

(A) should exchange their physical strength for (B) mental ability. It is a barter transaction but essentially no different from a money transaction. The medium of exchange is still their physical bodies without the veil of money. A sexual transaction is in effect no different. One is exchanging their body for money and the other is exchanging their money gained from some other physical of mental activity for sex. The medium of exchange changes nothing.

@blanco – no, not really. I never felt like cheap or soiled goods and still don’t. I feel exactly as I’ve always felt – confident and aggressive and sometimes depressed and angry. Chaise is right – views of the female exist entirely in the minds of the viewers.

Men still seem to like me. Some don’t, of course, but they wouldn’t have anyway. I’m married and had plenty of boyfriends after publishing that article and I don’t remember anyone leaping off me and frantically wiping their dick off with Dettol. Men also show me a lot of respect, at least to my face. They think I’m a ballbreaker if anything. I don’t believe prostitution cheapens women per se. It cheapens and demeans some women, but not all.

What I do notice is that some men have appallingly romantic views of women and cling desperately to those views – Celia Celia Celia shits and all that. Women have sex and sometimes we take payment for it. Anyone who dreams otherwise has their head in the clouds.

@68, I have used the services of prostitutes in the folly of my youth and, it also demeans men. I felt demeaned and cheapened afterwards anyway.

Though Kate, how would life be if we all saw only through the eyes of Strephon?

@54: “Nah. We don’t need a local licensing scheme for murder laws, or labour laws, or pretty much any kind of laws. Legalise prostitution. If anyone doesn’t like seeing in their back yard, that’s their problem.”

We already have a statutory licensing scheme of a kind for sex shops: Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1982:
http://www.opsi.gov.uk/RevisedStatutes/Acts/ukpga/1982/cukpga_19820030_en_2#pt2

By way of an example, taken at random from the web:

Application to licence a sex shop
In 1983 Salford City Council adopted schedule 3 of the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1982, which covers the licensing of sex shops.

Sex shops means any premises, vehicle, vessel or stall used for a business that consists to a significant degree of selling, hiring, exchanging, lending, displaying or demonstrating sex articles. There are no licensed sex shops in the city of Salford at the present time.

The main purpose of applications is to enable the sale of videos or DVDs classified as ‘R18’ by the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) to be sold. The ‘R18’ category is a special and legally restricted classification primarily for explicit videos of consenting sex between adults. Such videos may be supplied to adults only in licensed sex shops, of which there are currently about 90 in the UK.

Certain factors need to be considered when application for a sex shop licence is made. These factors will include whether or not the premises are in an inappropriate location, for example near a school, a place of worship or family shopping area.

All applications must be advertised in the local press. In addition, where the application is in respect of a premise, a notice must be displayed outside the premises. The present application fee is £4,500
http://www.salford.gov.uk/sexshop.htm

If there is already licensing for sex shops pressure will predictably develop for similar licensing of brothels as well.

@Richard W: “I am pretty sure that prostitution has an older pedigree than capitalism.”

There is indisputable archeological evidence to support that. For an entertaining guide to prostitution and brothels in ancient Greece and the Roman empire, try:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prostitution_in_ancient_Greece
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lupanar_(Pompeii)

73. margin4error

Thanks Chaise

I ummed and erred about whether to include it…

If you can make a couple of times more money in a day selling sex than what it takes a regular earner to make in that day, is it fair to also castigate them (punters) as losers and dickheads?
It’s always seemed a little unfair to me that women hold the ”purse strings” as it were, as regards to sex. I suspect that this conservative attitude has contributed to some men turning gay, as gay sex is much easier to find if you want sex without so much baggage that you might have in a hetosexual relationship.
As a young man I was propositioned for gay sex several times more than I was by hetro women.
Which was a disappointment as I mostly wasn’t interested.
But would have loved it if it was hetro.

In Britain, the commercial market for sexual services is hugely differentiated:

Brooke Magnanti says she misses parts of old Belle de Jour life
The research scientist who outed herself as the anonymous sex blogger Belle de Jour has said she misses parts of her old life as a £300-an-hour call girl.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2009/nov/26/belle-de-jour-tv-interview

Prostitutes in the capital are selling full sex for as little as £15, new research showed today.
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/sex-industry-in-every-corner-of-london-918453.html

Would you suck a guy off for 25 quid?
Probably not if it was new to you. But if you had five or six of them lined up in a day in your filofax, and it amounted to 125 or 150 quid, it might seem not such a bad job.
Better than getting up at 5am to get two buses to a distant industrial estate and do a day of toiil, pushing carts around in a warehouse.
Or being on the checkouts at Sainsbury’s.

Guys – when you know that cleaners and careworkers can struggle to take home £5 an hour, £15 starts making a certain amount of sense. Also – you cut the time that it takes to earn the money by two-thirds, which gives you more childcaring time.

The place I was at was among the better paid – not Belle-type income, but the next couple of levels down. The thing is – there seemed to be an awful lot of guys around who were prepared to pay what was quite a lot of money.

With some women, of course, pimps will take the lion’s share. Some women probably don’t even get paid.

But Kate, why not just go back into education, get re-trained, do something else.. if nothing else, weren’t you concerned about STIs and STDs? also.. yeesh, it sounds like you spread yer legs for some pretty unsavoury chaps. By all means, we all debase ourselves from time to time but I’d draw the line at getting paid to eat a dodgy cockmeat sandwich (harold and kumar reference..)

@blanco… – well, I might have drawn the line at you.

Of course – I did give it up in the end and I stand before you as living proof that once born to it, one may rejoin the middle class at any time.

It’s a little more difficult for people who have never had a shot at education and don’t believe they’re entitled to it.

And don’t forget – plenty of people get that education, go into a ‘nice’ job doing something completely meaningless in an office and decide to go out and suck cocks anyway. They do the maths and think – fuck it. I’m going to buy back my day.

As for meaning and sophisticated, rewarding work – what’s so classy and useful about sending out bullshit press releases, or generating useless marketing slogans, or any work along those lines? Really – with a few exceptions, what does the rest of the middle class do with its time that’s so great?

@58 blanco

I’m all for letting people smoke as much as they like, in areas where I don’t have to breathe in their noxious shit. But do I want my taxes going to clean out their lungs when they’ve given themselves cancer? Fuck no.

OT but I just wanted to pick up this point: smoking related diseases cost c.£8 billion* to treat – but the tax on tobacco brings in c.£15 billion IIRC. So you don’t actually pay for cleaning anyone’s lungs, and indeed reap the benefits that the surplus £7 billion brings in from us smokers.

*By way of comparison, domestic violence costs the state £14 billion a year. But I don’t see any proposal to tattoo abusive men with “This man may harm your health” across their foreheads.

Correction to my post @80, according to http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/3292979.stm smoking diseases cost £1.5 billion to treat and tobacco brings in £9.3 billion in taxes. Interestingly, you still have over £7 billion of smokers money to play with.. and my point is the same.

“As for meaning and sophisticated, rewarding work – what’s so classy and useful about sending out bullshit press releases, or generating useless marketing slogans, or any work along those lines? Really – with a few exceptions, what does the rest of the middle class do with its time that’s so great?”

I agree with this. Office work is shit. I’d rather work in a supermarket. I should’ve left school at 16 and started working, because I’d be earning more by now than I am having gone to uni and racked up squillions in debt!

Still, heck of a choice…. suck cocks, or go mad in an office.

HA correction to my correction @81 with a more recent news story, smoking related diseases cost £5 billion http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/8086142.stm but again the point still stands… blanco ain’t paying for no-ones lung-cleaning.

84. Chaise Guevara

@80

Right on. It’s amazing how proselytising non-smokers shut up about tax burdens when they realise that we pay for their treatment. However, I’m a kindly soul and will not be pushing for NHS care to be denied to the selfishly healthy 😉

“But I don’t see any proposal to tattoo abusive men with “This man may harm your health” across their foreheads.”

Yeah, but post this on a Daily Mail or HYS thread and there’ll be a
Facebook group supporting it within the hour.

@82

Having worked in Tesco, Kwik Save and ASDA (oh lucky me) I can safely say that office work is infinitely preferable to checkouts. Shall we all just agree that all jobs are shit, unless you’re really lucky?

@84

Well indeed, although I try to avoid HYS at all times – it’s my one concession to keeping my health :/

LOL – suck cocks or go mad in an office. I have compromised by bloody well doing both. Hasn’t got me quite as far as I’d like…

how about sucking cocks IN an office? bill clinton is hiring….

I would hope, (if I’d been a desirable woman) – to have given out sexual favours in quite a liberal way. In an empathetic way.
Because it takes so little (to give it up for free) and it can be so gratefully appreciated, that to me, it seems mean to charge for it.
Charging people in a mercenary way seems quite horrible.
It mocks and scorns their humanity.
I had (gay) guys coming on to me when I was in my 20s.
I wasn’t gay, and mostly turned them down when they made propositions.
But I didn’t despise them for their desires, and the (sometimes) crassness of what they said they would like to do.
And it was easy and hurt no one to be a little generous towards them sometimes.

89. Chaise Guevara

damon, if you were ‘generous’ towards gay suitors despite being straight, I suspect that sex for you has fewer potentially negative emotional implications than it does for most people, especially (probably) women.

That’s a good thing of course, means you take a more sensible attitude than most. But it also explains why the average woman won’t give a casual acquaintance a blow-job out of the kindness of her heart.

@77: “Guys – when you know that cleaners and careworkers can struggle to take home £5 an hour, £15 starts making a certain amount of sense.”

But from an economist’s perspective, there are many puzzling and interesting questions:

– since so little prior training is required for the work, why is the lowest observed price of £15 so much higher than the statutory minimum wage? Try:
The economics of prostitution:
http://www.forbes.com/2006/02/11/economics-prostitution-marriage_cx_mn_money06_0214prostitution.html

– what factors sustain the continuing wide differential between £15 for a job-and-finish and a rate of £300/hour for a top class call-girl?

– would making brothels legal effect that differential? FWIW I think that making brothels legal would tend to squeeze the earnings differentials.

Despite the obvious evasions here, the unresolved policy issues are of practical importance for working girls, politicians and bureaucrats. As best I can gather, a public concensus is slowly developing for making brothels legal on some scale.

If so, almost certianly, public pressures would require some sort of statutory licensing scheme – the most likely being something similar to the present planning restrictions applied to opening sex shops, as mentioned @71 dependent on the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1982, section 2.

Local councils would then need to work out whether to allow clustering of brothels – as in, say, the red-light district in Amsterdam – since that would facilitate marketing and policing and reduce the nuisance impact on residential neighbourhoods.

Sorry to be bureaucratic but working habits die hard.

@damon – Well, I have occasionally thrown out the odd favour as an annual random act of kindness. Now that I’m getting on, I’m more likely to stick a fiver in a red cross bucket.

Interesting points, Bob:

“- what factors sustain the continuing wide differential between £15 for a job-and-finish and a rate of £300/hour for a top class call-girl?

– would making brothels legal effect that differential? FWIW I think that making brothels legal would tend to squeeze the earnings differentials.”

So many things make the difference in earnings. In some places, girls get most of the money. In others, they get a lot less of it (we got about 60-80% if I remember rightly. I think the house got at least 20%, but then we’d keep any cash that we got for extras in the room. That stuff never went on a credit card bill). I can imagine trafficked girls working for some sadist are lucky to get a handful of change.

Yes – I imagine if you regulate and get into employment contracts and pay scales, you’d get things levelling out a bit. I would say that the people who get £15 are not getting the whole price, although I am less familiar with the scene here.

I’d be all in favour of legalising it all… provided the average brothel gave a service like Billie Piper in that show *rubs hands in glee*

@ Chaise Guevara

“I think the problem with your argument is that you think that selling sex reduces somebody, at least in the eyes of the buyer, to a ‘thing’. I don’t see the logic. Is a manual worker just a thing; not a person, but a pair of strong arms? Is an author just a thing: a brain without a mind? I don’t think so, and nor do I think that paying to sleep with someone implies that you consider them to be a piece of meat without a soul. It’s an argument I’ve heard many times, and I’ve never been given a single reason to believe it.”

I think issues here are being conflated. It is true that there is no logically necessary link between having sex for money and being a souless sex object, but this need not be the case for one to reasonably oppose prostitution and seek to minimise it. The sex industry contributes to the objectification of women which is a problem in our society. In the case of prostitution, the awareness on the part of the buyer than the prostitute is only having sex with them because they are being paid to is, in general, likely to make that buyer view women less as people and more as objects; things to be had. While in a non-patriarchal society there would be no reason to assume that prostitution would degrade the prostitutes in the eyes of the buyer, it is inevitably true that it in this society it does, just as it would in another (much better but still imperfect) situation of a patriarchy where prostitution was legalised and prostitutes had rights.

I quite agree that there is no inherent reason why prostitution should degrade women in many peoples eyes, but it would be dishonest to try and claim that this wasnt often the case in this society, as well as any other patriarchal society.

“I’d be all in favour of legalising it all”

C’mon. I don’t believe you really mean that. Prostitution is not illegal now but few would want to legalise pimping, coercion, trafficking or unrestricted soliciting. Almost certainly, there would be public pressures for some sort of licensing restrictions on opening and running brothels, as there are now on opening sex shops and opening and running pubs. Until the restrictions on opening sex shops were introduced in 1982, there were some hugely active local campaigns against particular neighbourhood sex shops.

Kate Belgrave @91

Well, I have occasionally thrown out the odd favour as an annual random act of kindness. Now that I’m getting on, I’m more likely to stick a fiver in a red cross bucket.

Kate is my favourite woman’s name. I love that name. It’s because of someone I worked with 17 years ago, and we were platonic friends working in a busy restaurant kitchen.

96. Chaise Guevara

@94 Bob

“C’mon. I don’t believe you really mean that. Prostitution is not illegal now but few would want to legalise pimping, coercion, trafficking or unrestricted soliciting. Almost certainly, there would be public pressures for some sort of licensing restrictions on opening and running brothels, as there are now on opening sex shops and opening and running pubs. ”

Be fair. I don’t think that ‘by all’ he means that pimping and coercion should be legalized any more than the fact that I want drugs legalized means I think it should be ok to sell them to kids. And the fact that fully legalized prostitution would be subject to licensing restrictions can be taken pretty much on trust.

97. Chaise Guevara

@93 Tom

Ok, I was over-simplifying, and you’re bang on about two issues being conflated. Let me say instead that prostitution must inevitably in some cases make misogynists more misogynistic, just as your average bully must get that little bit more arrogant and unpleasant every time he yells abuse at a waiter. However, I don’t think we should tell people how, when and why they can have sex simply because it can in some cases promote a bad attitude in others.

As to the objectification of women: we have strong, if as yet imperfect, laws designed to prevent people acting on such attitudes. I’m far more worried about how women (mainly young women) see themselves thanks to constant adverts that tell them that an airbrushed Cheryl Cole or Beyonce sets the standard for female beauty, or sitcoms that suggest that’s its normal to have a new date every week (thus implying that anyone who’s been single for months has problems). These problems affect young men as well, obviously, but I suspect not to quite the same degree. While I wouldn’t ban adverts and shows from leveraging sex or aspiration to attract viewers, I would push to encourage more realistic alternatives being shown as well, and perhaps to outlaw airbrushing and other underhand techniques that turn the human form into an unachievable ideal.

@96: “And the fact that fully legalized prostitution would be subject to licensing restrictions can be taken pretty much on trust.”

In this context, precise use of language and definitions of categories are becoming increasingly imperative in a context where some prominent politicians – such as Harriet Harman, deputy leader of the Labour Party – have proposed legislation making it unlawful to pay for sexual services.

Quite apart from obvious libertarian concerns, such legislation would create all sorts of anomalies – “diamonds are a girl’s best friend” – as well as encouraging the police to further develop entrapment skills which led to that hiatus in the (rightly) failed prosecution of Colin Stagg for the horrific murder of Rachel Nickell on Wimbledon Common in 1992:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rachel_Nickell_murder_case

Almost the last thing we need IMO is for police (? women) to be trained up in entrapment methods to enforce the kind of legislation proposed by Harriet Harman.


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
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  3. Chris B

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  4. Kate

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  7. Karl

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  8. Raincoat Optimism

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  9. C.W.Thomas

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  10. Legalisera prostitution « Markussa

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  11. Leigh Wildthyme

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  12. The 4Hour Workweek - Review of the book by Author Tim Ferriss | The 4Hour Body

    […] My average life as an average whore | Liberal Conspiracy […]

  13. Tim Martin

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  14. Book review: Anais Nin – A spy in the house of love « Raincoat Optimism

    […] by Kate Belgrave’s piece My average life as an average […]

  15. Kate B

    @TaobhCle Doesn't look like we'll agree. This is the article I wrote about it – ironically in response to academics http://bit.ly/9pLcBF

  16. George Allwell

    My average life as an average whore | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/jY1rVAC via @libcon





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