following on from yesterday’s post

Following on from yesterday’s post, this is one of the YouTube films discussed in the Sociological Images post:

This is the comment I have left at Sociological Images:

Those women were not there because of the way prostitution is policed, they were there because there was a demand for that type of prostitution. (As the post says, those men can’t afford prostitutes any other way, so the market is there.)

Even if prostitution was deregulated completely in the way the sex work unions are calling for, those women would still be there; maybe not those exact same women, since some of them, if they weren’t under-age, may have been able to get visas to work legally in the ‘above ground’ sector of prostitution, but there would still be women out there in those fields. As long as there is demand (and there will never be enough willing prostitutes to meet demand), there will be supply.

Why would the police or anyone else bother to go out there to check on their welfare (if they could find them), since under a deregulated system, nothing about it would be illegal, except the coercion, the violence, the child-rapes, but why would the police bother to check except maybe to round up illegal immigrants? How can mobile brothels shaped out of bamboo and trash-bags ever be safe, even if they were legal, how could it ever fulfil the most basic health and safety guidelines (not that there’s any ‘safe’ way to submit to unwanted sex)?

If legalisation doesn’t work to make prostitution safer in anyway (which assertion I agree with, it’s mostly back to the old ‘contagious diseases act’ type laws), how is a completely deregulated system going to work? If your pimp doesn’t let you have contact with the outside world, nobody but the johns know you’re there, and the police don’t have to bother, how is it safer? Where’s the agency in that situation?

The outreach work to encourage condom use by johns is nice (as in: he raped me, but he used a condom, which was nice of him), but condoms can break, and condoms don’t protect against all STIs, and there will still be financial incentives to go without – and how dare anyone challenge the ‘agency’ of a prostitute to chose to forego condoms in order to pay off her debts quicker.

In every country where prostitution has been decriminalised/legalised in some way, the illegal sector has been massively bigger than the legal sector, and has had the legal sector to hide behind. The Netherlands has now admitted that they did not manage to achieve what they set out to do: make prostitutes safer and separate prostitution from organised crime.

I can’t help but wondering what level of proof would be necessary? And why continually give the pimps and the johns and the other vested-interests in the sex industry the benefit of the doubt? To assume ‘agency’ in all these cases is to assign the most disadvantaged women on the planet with an extra-ordinary level of power.

Normally, the ‘choice’ between submitting to unwanted, unprotected sex with ten men in a temporary brothel made of bamboo and bin-bags, or starving (or watching a loved one starve), wouldn’t be seen as a real free choice, but a matter of survival.

We can admire these woman for surviving, because they do survive, as the New York Times article shows. But that’s not the same as saying it was a free choice and something lot’s of women actively want to do – which of course also serves to render the demand side of prostitution completely invisible.


One response

  1. Quite agree – focusing on prostituted women’s supposed ‘free and informed choice’ is routinely used to hide the Johns demands and beliefs it is their male-defined right to have sexual access to any woman or girl. No amount of legislation will eliminate prostitution because the only answer is to criminalise males who seek to buy women’s and girls’ bodies. Amsterdam now recognises that legalising prostitution has not worked because the numbers of illegal brothels have increased dramatically and simultaneously male sexual violence against prostituted women has not decreased but increased.

    Oh but we must never focus on why so many men believe it is their sex right to buy women and girls – no instead let’s claim prostitution is empowering and all a prostituted woman/girl has to do is to take self-defence lessons, ask the John nicely to wear a condom and even check he is not carrying a weapon. None of which prevents the John from using his fists or penis against the woman/girl. No need to provide help and support to women and girls who want to exit prostitution instead let’s provide services to ensure they stay trapped. After all men’s sexual needs supercede women’s and girls’ rights not to be reduced to men’s sexualised refuse bins.

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