Unfortunately, they are toeing the ‘sex work’ line, which is effectively begging the question and taking the partisan line that submitting to unwanted sex is, under certain circumstances, merely ‘work’.
In Love for Sale, the feminist is the enemy of the prostitute, denying her free choices, thwarting her imperatives and daubing her with the mantle of victimhood. Feminists, a prostitute in a Dutch window tells Everett, makes her “feel small”. Despite the Liverpool streetwalker insisting, “We are not doing it because we love it”; despite a male prostitute reporting that eight of his colleagues had committed suicide in the previous 18 months because of “loneliness” and “crystal”; despite visiting the Bois de Boulogne, where his prostitute friend was murdered in 1998 (“She wanted to marry you,” a mutual friend tells him as they wander through the trees), Everett can only romanticise, and sometimes trivialise. An escort agency has a list of dodgy clients on the wall. “Jonny 12 (rough)” is one such. “Sounds my type,” says Everett. He adores the transgressive; even so, he supports legalisation. He thinks it is the only way.
The effects of legalisation so far are likewise obvious; Der Spiegel published a comprehensive account of the impact of legalisation in Germany last year. The law is a shield for pimps and traffickers, who flock to the safe areas with penniless girls from eastern Europe. Prices are driven ever downwards; mega-brothels offer all the sex an inadequate lover can desire for €70 (£58), which leads to queues outside the doors of exhausted women. Here, then, are monetised gangbangs approved by the state.
It could be that well-meant laws are poorly enforced, or that many prostitutes are incapable, for complex reasons, of true autonomy. Can we imagine women with a glut of choices choosing this? There are, of course, exceptions, and these exceptions want legalisation. No one can drive a law through these murky areas and unpick paid-for sex from contempt for women. In Sweden, for instance, where the punter is criminalised, the trade just moves elsewhere. But in Germany the testimony is the stuff of nightmare, of capitalism run mad to its inevitable dusk. The utopia of self-employed happy prostitutes serenely paying their taxes never materialised; instead, legislation conjured hell.
Gold neatly dismantles Rupert Everett: “Everett is obviously a romantic who romanticises what he finds because he is drawn to what his interviewee Russell Brand calls “maligned outsiders”. At one point he compares prostitution to his own profession, although it is hard to imagine a co-star placing a penis in his mouth, or anus, and giving him money.” This is an upper-class, white, male Hollywood star having his ‘naughty fun‘ at others’ expense; and isn’t it funny how ‘speaking for sex workers’ stops being a problem when the speaker says what the sex industry advocates want?