Sunday, 22 November 2009
Publications, ponderings and previous
Wednesday last saw the publication of an excellent piece in The Guardian by Catherine Stephens where she said that if the government wants to reduce the social exclusion of sex workers, they should consult us when consulting on new laws. She said :
"Sex workers themselves are the experts on their own lives. As the origin of many political and civil rights organisations, including the Labour party itself, shows, the way to prevent exploitation is to recognise the human, civil and labour rights of stigmatised and excluded groups. Sex workers have been denied these rights for too long."
Absolutely agree and very well said. I don't feel that the current prohibitory mood is doing anything to help our stance as sex workers in society in terms of stigma and marginalisation. As a sex worker, I don't ask anyone to "like" what I do for a living, after all I'm not particularly enamoured with traffic wardens. What I do seek ( and believe I deserve ) is respect, and the same rights as any other self - employed individual in the UK.
As usual, there were a mixture of comments following Catherine's piece but she argued back in a most measured and calm fashion. She even dared to allow her sense of humour to come through. That in itself came under fire because you see, prostitutes are so embittered and hardened that we couldn't possibly have a sense of humour. *sigh*
Today's papers also made me smile, not least the article by Ian Bell in The Herald : "Prostitution's vile, but is it wrong ?" The crux of his article was simply this ; Ask the average person for his/her opinion on prostitution and the answer will most likely be that they find it abhorrent. If we dig deeper and find the root of that distaste, it won't be the actual prostitution that's the issue, but rather, the perceived associated moral wrongs, such as coercion, violence, underage girls and drugs.
So what if we strip away all of those associated crimes and examine prostitution as a single, legal and regulated entity ? What then ? What can we say is actually wrong with it ?
"We would have to think, to begin with, why such a state of affairs has never before pertained. History tells it plain. For every celebrated courtesan with a fancy invented name, in every age, there has been an entire immiserated class of women, disposed of as men saw fit. This implies, beyond much doubt, that prostitution is the way it is, and has always been, not because of a shortage of the lucky, smiling Belle de Jour sorts, but because men make that choice.
It’s called hypocrisy. It’s the politician in the massage parlour; the judge who has no idea that his car has slowed to a crawl; those ministers attending the General Assembly who were, or perhaps still are, the stuff of Edinburgh legend. They make, enforce, commend or applaud the law as though to ensure that there is a law worth breaking, and an illicit thrill to be had. They create criminals for their pleasure. The cliche is antique: the vast majority of prostitution’s customers – and the numbers are vast – are respectable.
Should society tolerate the horrors of the sex industry? Such appears, after all, to be the proposition: either/or. Either we continue to keep prostitution in murderous darkness, it says, or we risk the stability of the daylight world. Why does that sound like nonsense?
The sex industry is vile because the men who run it and use it would have it no other way. They are not acting out of social conscience. One group wants easy money; the other wants to pay for the chance to use helpless women on command and according to whim.
Dr Magnanti, “Belle de Jour” – who sounds as though she has never seen the bleak film – has provided the trade with a fresh set of glib, glamorous and deceitful excuses. She was lucky. The countless women forced to pretend to play her game will never be so fortunate.
Why not? Because, I suspect, men couldn’t stand to see those women making the free choices, sexual and economic, that liberated prostitution would allow. Sheer slavery is tolerated instead. For the common good."
Bravo Mr. Bell.
Also today was this very balanced and perceptive view from India Knight in The Times :
"Two things struck me in the aftermath of my interview with Belle de Jour last week. The first is that several of my female colleagues in the media appeared to be deeply personally offended by the fact that Belle, or rather Dr Brooke Magnanti, wasn’t at any point raped or beaten up during the 14 months she spent as a call girl.
There were vague disclaimers to the effect of “of course, thankfully, nothing terrible happened to Magnanti”, but the basic thrust — as it were — of their argument was that the lack of rapes/beatings meant that her experience was not representative of prostitution and therefore fraudulent in some way. But how would they know what was or wasn’t representative unless they’d been in a lot of rooms with a lot of customers themselves?
Magnanti never suggested that her experience was anything other than subjective, but she did tell me “the vast majority” of her clients “were more polite, nicer and treated me better than many ‘normal’ men on dates. No one wants to be ‘that guy’ [the one who abuses prostitutes]. Besides the agency had their real name, their real landline number, their real credit card details”. She had, she said “never left an appointment” before time was up and only two clients had made her feel uneasy.
Now that Belle has outed herself, I wonder why it remains so difficult for people — or indeed the law — to understand that not all prostitutes conform to the stereotype of the abused, trafficked, addicted victim. Of course such women exist in vast, shaming and regrettable numbers. But to claim, as so many commentators did last week, that this is the only version of prostitution that exists seems to me extraordinarily naive."
No-one can now deny that there is a huge cross section within the sex industry and that it is simply not acceptable to use a sledgehammer to crack a nut in terms of planning legislation. Is the tide finally turning ? I sincerely hope so.
I also liked the comment in relation to the difference between "normal" dates and paid encounters. I am very fortunate to have a number of regular clients who treat me like a very special lady in their lives, and that's because I am. Our relationships run far deeper than a paid sex encounter and have developed into lasting friendships, based on trust, loyalty and an openness that I never experienced in some of my previous "personal" relationships. I will freely admit that in the past I allowed one or two of my previous partners to treat me like a toy, to be cast aside when they were bored with me, and when I look back now, the whole relationship was based on ritual humiliation and emotional abuse. My, how times have changed.
None of my regular guys would even attempt those kind of head games with me, after all, when you're tied to a bed and blindfolded, it's probably not the best time to goad me into psychological warfare. ;)