14 June, 2009

Prostitutes go to Heaven. It's their clients who go to Hell.

Some people say that feminism is all about choice, about giving women the freedom to do whatever they choose with their bodies. That's true, but it stops short of giving the whole story - feminism is about giving women freedom of choice, but it's also about helping them to make the best choices, for themselves and for all women.

That's where the title of this post, a quote by David LaChappelle comes in. There is no supply without demand. It doesn't make good business sense. Many women choose to go into prostitution, few do so because they actively *want* to. They feel they have to. But whether that young woman on the streets is there to feed her two-year-old son or her crack habit, if men didn't offer to pay for her services, if society as whole didn't dismiss serious debate about prostitiution with flippant remarks about it being the oldest profession, with jokes that marriage is "legalised prostitution", with wishy-washy legislation which at the moment punishes only those least responsible for keeping the industry going, far fewer women would make that choice. Maybe more women would be aware of the other options available to them, of the help they could get, until one day, nobody chooses to work in an industry that degrades *all* women.

This is why the proposed legislation on prostitution, which would make it an offence to pay for the services of a trafficked or "controlled" prositute, whilst legalising prostitution itself, are at least a step in the right direction. While men are still willing to pay for sex, desperate women will be willing to sell it, but if that demand dwindles, society will have to step up and look after these women, instead of leaving them to dice with fate, selling themselves to perfect strangers, many of whom have a propensity to violence towards women.

Of course, this legislation doesn't go far enough, because as a country we're not bold enough to say that buying women's bodies is wrong, full stop. But it's a start. The next step is for feminists, and especially male feminists, to stand up and say, loudly: "the purchase of female flesh is wrong and I will not be a consumer."

We are not for sale.


  1. the problem is that criminalising clients does have a knock-on effect on prostitutes and often leads to violenter clients being the ones most willing to flout the laws. i dunno, it's a difficult area, have blogged about it before myself... http://ihavenogun.blogspot.com/2009/05/alright-darlin.html

  2. But there are violent clients *now*. They may be the only ones willing to remain after criminalisation, but that's surely a step up from having the same number of violent men using prostitutes *as well* as the regular punters who'll be scared off by the legislation. Besides, if the law does its job (unlikely, I know) these men will eventually be weeded out too, because they'll be punished for repeatedly breaking the law.

  3. yes, it is an awkward area - but a lot of prostitutes do genuinely feel this will make things a lot worse for them, and not just from a financial point of view. plus the trafficking legislation gets used as much against (illegal) immigrants as against women trafficked into sex slavery. ditto ASBOs, of course.

  4. It would also help if they didn't disband the Met's anti-trafficking unit: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/london/7719662.stm (It looks like it has already disbanded).
    It should be a natural progression that if slavery isn't acceptable, then prostitution, as a mere extension of that, shouldn't be as well.
    I'll leave a more expanded comment when I get a chance.

  5. It will make things worse for prostitutes - it will take their business away. The changeover period is going to be hard on those currently working in the sex trade, which is why I think it should be accompanied by more concerted efforts to help the women get out of prostitution.

    "It should be a natural progression that if slavery isn't acceptable, then prostitution, as a mere extension of that, shouldn't be as well." - Agreed a thousand million times.

    Whenever there are moves to end prostitution, prostitutes say it will make their life harder. But we HAVE to find some way to work together to end it, or it's never giong to stop.

  6. My beliefs is that prostitution SHOULD be legal. Why should something that can be freely shared be looked upon as a sin if two people are willing to negotiate a deal for what they both want, prospectively, sex and money.
    I totally disagree with letting the government "help" them when they're already capable of helping themselves. Aren't there enough people on welfare in this country?


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