Sunday, 8 November 2009
Prostitution - A crime of purchasing
I was interested to read an article in today's Guardian by Beatrix Campbell about
the debating of the police and crime bill in the House of Lords.
It wasn't so much the article that interested me, more the comments afterwards. For example :
"Before the inevitable spluttering outrage from some quarters begins, I would just like to put the argument that this is a hugely important step forward not just for women but for positive attitudes to men in our society. At last it is on the record that the UK believes that most men do not leave their consciences at the bedroom door, and can in fact be expected to value consent and equality in their sex lives."
I take great exception to that remark. What one person has the right to judge the conscience of another ? I have met clients who have been bereaved and felt unable to enter into a new relationship with a woman, much less a sexual relationship. I have been able to form an important bridge in their lives to enable them to move on to form a fulfilling relationship and find a new partner. Never once did I consider those men to be men without a conscience or men who chose to take the decision to contact me as a sex worker lightly.
The men I encounter already value equality and consent in their sex lives. They are educated and well informed individuals more than capable of determining when a woman is committing an act of her own volition. They do not need it set down in Statute Law.
I was slowly but surely losing the will to live when I came across this comment :
"If the buying of sex from someone who chooses to sell isn't meaningfully distinguished from the buying of sex from someone coerced then despite your sophistry you are simply criminalising buying of sex. Your reasons cannot be to protect the coerced since you would be interfering in the business of the non-coerced. You must effectively believe buying (and therefore selling) sex is inherently morally wrong - be honest and tell us why. And then tell us why it is any of your business what other people do with their own bodies?"
Absolutely spot on, and very well said. What the legislature is actually working towards is complete abolition, thinly disguised as a move towards the protection of the greater good. It's been proven that criminalising sex workers is ineffective, so their next step is to criminalise the clients. This too will fail as it is using a sledgehammer to crack a nut. It is failing to address the real issue of the women at risk and those who are responsible. It is the traffickers who need to be penalised.
Further down the article came a comment from a suspiciously "Bindelesque" commentator :
"I have to say that the debate that took place in the Lords on Tuesday night was a credit to all the peers who took part, from both sides of the argument. They were informed, and more importantly there was very little doubt that their principle concern was for the well-being of the women involved in prostitution, especially those who are there as a result of vulnerability and exploitation.
This made a welcome change from the tired arguments increasingly employed by the pro-sex work lobby, who have been trying to sell prostitution as an entirely free-choice, as evidenced by the apparent existence of legions of so-called happy-hookers, and who have been trying to sell trafficking into the 'industry' as nothing more than a purely valid form of economic migration.
Try telling the young woman from Romania whose traffickers were jailed in Manchester yesterday that her being forced to have sex with up to 10 men a night was nothing more than an economic choice on her part. Try telling her that being lured to the UK on the promise of a job and of being able to afford a better life for her 3 year old daughter, and then having her daughter's life threatened if she refused to service men, was nothing more than a result of her own free choice, and that rather than being a victim she's simply just another economic migrant, as the ECP and their academic puppets would have us all believe".
Unbelievable. The "Happy Hooker" argument is becoming more than a little tired now, surely to goodness the recent letter from most of the ladies of Punternet on foot of Harriet Harman's efforts to shut the site down should have been sufficient to offer some amount of evidence as to our existence as strong, independent women who have chosen to work within the sex industry and continue to enjoy our roles ? What more evidence can we possibly offer ?
For me, the most offensive part of that comment is that we have been "trying to sell trafficking into the industry as nothing more than a purely valid form of economic migration." That is quite simply untrue and also highly inflammatory. No one of the ladies that I am aware of have ever tried to condone trafficking in any of it's forms. On the contrary, many of the women that I count as friends within the industry are involved in the "Buddy Scheme", run by Penny BBW which seeks to provide a befriending service for those women who have already made a conscious decision to enter the industry. The whole rationale behind the scheme is to protect those "new" women away from would-be predators who prey on the less knowledgeable and seek to push boundaries. Why then, would we advocate trafficking ? It simply doesn't make sense.
The question of trafficking versus economic migration arose because at it stands, if a woman ( such as myself ) leaves the country with a client, that is counted as trafficking. How absurd. Surely if we are going to tackle the problem of trafficking then we need to know the beast we are to do battle with? Inflated statistics serve no purpose other than to satisfy political agenda. At any rate, that gain can only be a temporary benefit. As sex workers, we are not seeking to deplete the numbers of trafficked women to lessen the likelihood of prohibitory legislation. On the contrary, we would rather see real figures and a real, workable solution.
To suggest that we as sex workers would put our own interests in front of those women who suffer at the hands of traffickers is at best, offensive. We more than anyone else want to see an end to trafficking, but to see it tackled with measures that will actually work rather than wasting tax payers money and valuable police resources prosecuting clients.