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Across Europe, a Growing Sense That Legalized Prostitution Isn't Working
December 8, 2013 5:48 AM   Subscribe

Don't believe France's reputation as a country where sexual peccadillos are always overlooked. After a vote by the country's National Assembly on Wednesday, it has just joined a growing group of European nations where buying sex is now illegal. France is not alone in its fresh efforts to curb prostitution. The move follows similar bans in Sweden and Norway, while other European countries are also scaling back laissez-faire prostitution policies. Germany is poised to change its liberal sex trade laws, while Ireland is also debating a measure similar to France's. Is the end of legal prostitution in Europe in sight?
(Don't miss the deep and interesting links found within the article.)

For the many who will no doubt be intent on commenting before even reading the linked article, it references a wide movement to replace both laissez-faire prostitution policies as well as repressive policies meant to shame and further marginalize vulnerable sex workers with policies that target the pimps and Johns who drive the industry.
posted by Blasdelb (87 comments total) 31 users marked this as a favorite

 
Bracketing everything else, this strikes me as a particularly poor PR campaign to oppose the law:

France's new laws weren't passed without a fight from opponents. Their best-known objectors are a group of influential men who co-wrote an open letter called the "Manifesto of the 343 Bastards." The Bastards, who include philosopher Pascal Bruckner and Dominique Strauss Kahn's lawyer, Richard Malka, came out against any law changes that paint men who frequent prostitutes as "frustrated, perverted or psychopaths [so] described by proponents of a repression that is disguised as feminist struggle." While agreeing to the need for legal sanctions against sex without consent, sexual violence and human trafficking, the group has rallied behind the slogan "Touche Pas a Mon Pute" ("Don't touch my whore").

I guess Dominique Strauss Kahn himself wasn't available, nor was Roman Polanski. And what a slogan guys. Just in case people were worried that this might negatively affect sex workers, it's worth reminding them that you believe women's bodies actually belong to you - that's why you use the possessive - and yet still make this about you and not them.

It just makes me think of how much worse this could be. Perhaps a group organized to hate speech laws lead by Mel Gibson, Paula Deen, and the Westboro Baptist church with the slogan Ni**az Please.
posted by allen.spaulding at 6:02 AM on December 8, 2013 [22 favorites]


The next paragraph explains it.
For anyone familiar with French social politics, the group's references are both familiar and controversial. Their model is the famous "Manifesto of the 343 Sluts," a 1971 letter signed by 343 French women in public life, including Simone De Beauvoir and Catherine Deneuve. Authored by women who admitted to having had pregnancies terminated, the campaign speeded the adoption of pro-choice laws in France. The pro-prostitution catchphrase "Touche Pas a Mon Pute," meanwhile, is modeled on "Touche Pas a Mon Pote" ("Don't Touch My Mate") a famous anti-racist campaign slogan coined in the 1980s.
posted by Etrigan at 6:18 AM on December 8, 2013 [20 favorites]


Touche Pas a Mon Pote
posted by Tchad at 6:21 AM on December 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


This article left me with more questions than answers, honestly.

If trafficking is actually the issue, why does only one new law mentioned (the German one making it a crime to buy sex from someone who has been trafficked) directly address trafficking?

And if trafficking is actually the issue, wouldn't it be more effective to keep prostitution legal but make it highly regulated? Wouldn't registration, unionization, regular inspection, and appropriate social services be more to the point? Will criminalization, even of buying sex rather than selling it, actually stop trafficking, or simply drive it underground and make it more dangerous?

How many European prostitutes have been trafficked? Of the 400,000 prostitutes in Germany, what percentage have been trafficked? How about the 5,000 prostitutes in Oslo? Why exactly is there so much trafficking in Finland? Would these laws address the trafficking in Finland?

Why, just incidentally, is the right-wing party in France the one in favor of legalized prostitution?
posted by kyrademon at 6:23 AM on December 8, 2013 [31 favorites]


For anyone familiar with French social politics, the group's references are both familiar and controversial. Their model is the famous "Manifesto of the 343 Sluts," a 1971 letter signed by 343 French women in public life, including Simone De Beauvoir and Catherine Deneuve. Authored by women who admitted to having had pregnancies terminated, the campaign speeded the adoption of pro-choice laws in France. The pro-prostitution catchphrase "Touche Pas a Mon Pute," meanwhile, is modeled on "Touche Pas a Mon Pote" ("Don't Touch My Mate") a famous anti-racist campaign slogan coined in the 1980s.

Yeah, and that is what makes it so offensive. Making mens' choice of visiting "their" prostitutes somehow equal to women's right to control their own bodies is almost ridiculously disingenuous.
posted by mumimor at 6:33 AM on December 8, 2013 [21 favorites]


If they are serious about addressing trafficking, then why not be more specific and target the law in that direction? I approve of removing the laws that were aimed at shaming the prostitutes, and targeting the client base instead. Not sure if driving it back underground will actually improve the conditions for the sex workers though.
posted by arcticseal at 6:52 AM on December 8, 2013 [4 favorites]


Abolishing legal prostitution does seem to reduce trafficking. In Sweden, prostitution has plummeted since a 1999 ban on buying sex. In 2007, Der Spiegel reported a maximum of 130 prostitutes working in Stockholm, compared to 5,000 in its smaller Norwegian neighbor Oslo (which in 2009, followed Sweden’s ban with its own). And while an estimated 600 women are believed to be trafficked into Sweden every year, this number pails in comparison to the 15,000 trafficked annually to Finland, a country with a population half the size.

As the origin of many trafficked women in the EU is Russia, surely Finland's border plays a great role in determining the numbers?
posted by Thing at 6:53 AM on December 8, 2013 [5 favorites]


There is an article here about the stereotypes of sex work, trafficking and border issues.
Criminalizing sex work only pushes it underground and creates more violence towards sex workers.
posted by what's her name at 7:58 AM on December 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


And if trafficking is actually the issue, wouldn't it be more effective to keep prostitution legal but make it highly regulated? Wouldn't registration, unionization, regular inspection, and appropriate social services be more to the point? Will criminalization, even of buying sex rather than selling it, actually stop trafficking, or simply drive it underground and make it more dangerous?

One could safely assume that anti-traffiking laws will drive traffiked prostitution underground in the first place. What traffiking does is make prostitution a more viable business model for the traffikers by lowering the overall price and giving them a monopoly on workers able to supply the product at that cost.

Also zero penalties for being a prostitute is a good thing. All of the arrest risk on the john will upend the traffiking equation because a traffiked person wanting to get out won't fear prosecution for prostitution.

Also, although not traffiked, any analysis must include male prostitution, an institution as old as its feminine counterpart. AIDS is a huge issue to be reckoned with because male or female, usually the prostitute is in a difficult situation when insisting on safe sex.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:58 AM on December 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


There's a great comment from the FPP on the effects a basic minimum income could have on the field of prostitution and women's lives in general. Worth reading and checking out the accompanying video.
posted by artof.mulata at 8:23 AM on December 8, 2013 [12 favorites]


Alternate explanation: economies in the shutter breed more rightward leaning governments.
posted by Artw at 8:23 AM on December 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


> "Also zero penalties for being a prostitute is a good thing."

Well, yes, if prostitution is to be criminalized, it makes more sense to penalize the customers rather than the prostitutes. And I would absolutely support such laws being applied to trafficked sex slaves, if that is not already the case.

> "What traffiking does is make prostitution a more viable business model for the traffikers by lowering the overall price and giving them a monopoly on workers able to supply the product at that cost."

The argument that legalization of prostitution creates a market for trafficking as a cheaper, black-market alternative is ... weird. First, it could be applied to practically any transaction of any kind. Second, surely criminalization creates a larger black market than one which has to compete with a legal alternative?

The somewhat more plausible argument seems to be that legalized prostitution may create general conditions under which it is easier for traffickers to hide - e.g., if prostitution is normalized, people are less likely to report potentially illegal activity. But even that sounds kind of questionable, honestly.

For example, when I lived in Germany, the local, legal brothel was very well known and obvious. If there was trafficking going on there, it can only have been because the police weren't doing their jobs; they knew exactly where it was. And if customers went somewhere else, they had to know that the chance that it was with someone trafficked had just gone way, way up. So where does this great ability for traffickers to hide come from?
posted by kyrademon at 8:30 AM on December 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


"So where does this great ability for traffickers to hide come from?"

Kyrademon, are you asking who protects the traffickers? Because that is a wonderfully dangerous question.
posted by artof.mulata at 8:51 AM on December 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


If you view prostitution as a legitimate business, the trafficking issue is a matter of needing better enforcement and regulation. If you don't then trafficking is an inevitable result of an irredeemably destructive activity.

I suspect this is where the real tension lies.
posted by emjaybee at 8:57 AM on December 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


The use of the term "trafficking" in this debate is often confusing. Trafficking is used with a variety of meanings from modern day slavery to voluntary and independent irregular immigration into "gray areas" such as sex work.

A conservative member of the Greater London Assembly recently published an excellent report into trafficking in london that helps show a lot of the complexity that is involved with this issue:

But human trafficking is not slavery in the historic sense - this is the first misleading notion
and is partly why authorities often fail to recognise, and so let down, victims of trafficking.
The scare-stories about thousands of hidden slaves tied up against their will is inaccurate.
What can be found in London, in higher numbers, are children and vulnerable British adults
and, often irregular, migrants being relentlessly exploited, particularly by British standards
and international human rights legislation.

However, “choice”, ambiguous as that term may be, is involved in these victims’
circumstances and, in many cases these people – such as migrants from poverty stricken
backgrounds or homeless British male victims - may see this life as an improvement on
where they have come from. Yet some victims will experience appalling and often gruesome
abuse in the UK. Sexual torture, starvation and physical abuse are not uncommon in these
outwardly ‘consensual’ environments. However, at the other end of the scale you can find
workers experiencing no physical or sexual abuse, and whose ‘traffickers’ have largely kept
to the terms of agreement. They will be being paid less than the minimum wage, working
unremitting hours, and be in unreasonably high debt bondage to criminals. They will also still
live in a state of anxiety relating to those they owe money to, or those they work with, or
the British authorities due to their irregular immigration status. This makes human
trafficking a grey area, not black and white as is commonly presented.

posted by Another Fine Product From The Nonsense Factory at 9:03 AM on December 8, 2013 [8 favorites]


Trafficking must be tackled, stopped wherever possible. Brushing it under the carpet strikes me as being wilfully naive.

Unionisation and regulation coupled with making purchasing of sex from a non-unionised prostitute would be more effective in my mind, and would surely be profitable for the country passing that legislation.

Is this just a morality drive hijacking a very serious human rights issue?
posted by YAMWAK at 9:37 AM on December 8, 2013 [4 favorites]


The argument that legalization of prostitution creates a market for trafficking as a cheaper, black-market alternative is ... weird. First, it could be applied to practically any transaction of any kind. Second, surely criminalization creates a larger black market than one which has to compete with a legal alternative?

This isn't always clear. Certainly there would be a larger market in organs if we decriminalized the sale of one's organs - the black market that exists now is much smaller. And I don't just mean total market size - there would certainly be a larger black market than the one that exists now - as there would be more opportunities to sell organs through legal channels and thus further incentivize all sorts of problematic downstream practices.
posted by allen.spaulding at 9:39 AM on December 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


No doubt, but I'm not sure the same logic applies to prostitution, which has many practical differences from organ sales.

There are an estimated one to two million prostitutes working in the U.S., for example (almost all of them not working in the tiny area where it is legal.)

In fact, if you glance at the statistics of where prostitutes are vs. where prostitution is legal, it looks something like --

China and the U.S. -- Prostitution (largely) illegal, prostitutes in vast numbers
Russia -- Prostitution illegal, not many prostitutes (but still major destination point for sex tourism, and apparently huge trafficking problem)
Brazil, India, Spain -- Prostitution legal but unregulated, procuring illegal, prostitutes in vast numbers
Germany, Eastern Australia - Prostitution legal and regulated, prostitutes in low to middling numbers

Obviously, there's a lot of variation by individual country I haven't gone into, but criminalization of prostitution does NOT seem to result in a smaller black market in most cases.
posted by kyrademon at 10:17 AM on December 8, 2013 [6 favorites]


if prostitution is to be criminalized, it makes more sense to penalize the customers rather than the prostitutes.

Why? Not being fighty, just wondering. With drugs, it's pretty widely agreed that law enforcement should go after suppliers, rather than users, so why is prostitution different?
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 10:27 AM on December 8, 2013


With drugs, it's pretty widely agreed that law enforcement should go after suppliers, rather than users, so why is prostitution different?

Because the primary argument (in my mind at least) against the existence of the profession is that it's a type of exploitation, and the ones being exploited are the prostitutes. When talking about exploitation in the drug market, it's the addicts (and therefore patrons) who are exploited.
posted by triceryclops at 10:48 AM on December 8, 2013 [5 favorites]


Because if, as this article does, you are taking the point of view that the object of criminalizing prostitution is to stop that portion of it that is sex trafficking, why would you punish the victims?
posted by kyrademon at 10:48 AM on December 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


With prostitution, many prostitutes are being effectively held in captivity. It looms large that they would go to prison (or be deported) if they were to go to the authorities.

Prostitution is further complicated by the fact that a middle-class sex worker has an extremely different type of existence than a victim of human trafficking. You might as well say that a middle manager at Tyson has a similar existence to a virtual slave who picks cabbages for subsistence wages.
posted by Sticherbeast at 10:50 AM on December 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


When talking about exploitation in the drug market, it's the addicts (and therefore patrons) who are exploited.

I'm fairly sure lots of workers at street level are being exploited in the drugs trade as well.
posted by walrus at 11:15 AM on December 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


Wouldn't registration, unionization, regular inspection, and appropriate social services be more to the point?"

That was the approach that Amsterdam took, with mixed results.

"The argument that legalization of prostitution creates a market for trafficking as a cheaper, black-market alternative is ... weird. First, it could be applied to practically any transaction of any kind. Second, surely criminalization creates a larger black market than one which has to compete with a legal alternative?"

What the article describes is that the increased supply of legal prostitutes is insufficient to sate the increased demand of johns, leading the traffickers to fill that gap. The analogy that makes sense to my mind is how luxury knock-offs work, with the market responding with lower-cost, lower-quality, illegal alternatives to meet demand.
posted by klangklangston at 11:16 AM on December 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Nice false dichotomy between "complete unregulated prostitution that allows human trafficking and abuse" and "all prostitution must be illegal!"
posted by drjimmy11 at 11:48 AM on December 8, 2013


A bit of web research does seem to indicate that the Netherlands has a serious problem as being a destination for human trafficking.

The biggest human trafficking destinations appear to be:

The United Stated (prostitution illegal except for a couple of counties in Nevada)
Japan (prostitution technically illegal but laws loose and unenforced)
Thailand (prostitution illegal but essentially tolerated)

Israel (prostitution legal but unregulated)
Belgium (prostitution legal but unregulated)
Italy (prostitution legal but unregulated)

Germany (prostitution legal and regulated)
Turkey (prostitution legal and regulated)
The Netherlands (prostitution legal and regulated)

Honestly, I can't tell from that if there's a pattern or not.

Major origin points for human trafficking include Thailand, China, Nigeria, Albania, Bulgaria, Belarus, Moldova and Ukraine.
posted by kyrademon at 11:58 AM on December 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


That was the approach that Amsterdam took, with mixed results.

I think when you're talking about an inherently exploitative profession that in part relies on a blatantly evil form of trafficking, "mixed results" is the best you can hope for. Historically speaking (and we're talking about a lot of history here) trying to eradicate prostitution usually results in very bad outcomes for the supply side while doing little to reduce the demand side or its power.
posted by digitalprimate at 12:04 PM on December 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


if prostitution is to be criminalized, it makes more sense to penalize the customers rather than the prostitutes.

Why? Not being fighty, just wondering. With drugs, it's pretty widely agreed that law enforcement should go after suppliers, rather than users, so why is prostitution different?


Why should prostitution be made illegal? The primary answer seems to be that it exploits and victimizes sex workers. If this is the case, why on earth would you penalize the sex workers themselves, rather than their exploiters?
posted by Golden Eternity at 12:07 PM on December 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Why should prostitution be made illegal? The primary answer seems to be that it exploits and victimizes sex workers.

I'm not trying to be pedantic, but this is not typically the primary reason that has been given for making prostitution illegal.
posted by Sticherbeast at 12:18 PM on December 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


The issue driving the recent bans, however, is really that of human trafficking. According to a EU-funded report, over 23,000 people were trafficked in Europe between the years 2008 to 2010, and 62 percent of them for were destined for sexual exploitation. While pro-prostitution debate often focuses on a hypothetical free woman making an entirely unforced choice, the reality is that many European prostitutes have no such freedom.
posted by Golden Eternity at 12:34 PM on December 8, 2013


No doubt, but the opprobrium against prostitution has existed long before anybody thought about the well-being of the prostitute. Besides, if 62% of those virtual slaves are going into prostitution, then what industries are the other 38% going into? Housekeeping? Agriculture? What are the odds that governments will ban housekeeping or agriculture?
posted by Sticherbeast at 12:42 PM on December 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


If they are serious about addressing trafficking, then why not be more specific and target the law in that direction?

Per the article that's the direction Germany is trying. It makes sense to me: make prostitution safe and legal and then use all that law enforcement might you've freed up to go after the trafficking problem with brass knuckles.
posted by George_Spiggott at 1:11 PM on December 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


Yeah. Prostitution must be a multi-billion dollar industry world-wide, that *should* mostly go to women. It seems wrong to deny economic opportunity to those who so desperately need it. Perhaps it is best to just target indentured servitude, kidnapping, battery, rape, fraud, and the other crimes involved without penalizing prostitution itself, which isn't necessarily exploitation. However, I really wonder how "consensual" sex is in prostitution for some involved. Is "sex work" often just repeated rape? - in addition to the other exploitation many sex workers must go through. Perhaps it is also best to fix the abject conditions that push some people into sex work in the first place.
posted by Golden Eternity at 1:14 PM on December 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'll predict positive results for the German version that penalizes John hiring trafficked sex-workers, although ideally they should require union membership or some free prostitution license, so that Johns could easily verify the prostitutes status.

I'll predict negative results for the French version that criminalizes Johns outright because that drives prostitution underground to protect the Johns.
posted by jeffburdges at 1:33 PM on December 8, 2013


Is "sex work" often just repeated rape?

It can be. It depends. It's a big fat complicated issue. The main thing is that a legal regime cannot pretend that all prostitutes are middle-class women who freely choose to enter the profession, just as a legal regime cannot pretend that all prostitutes are virtual slaves.

There are many other attitudes at play when we consider prostitution. We all understand the massive amount of exploitation which goes into agriculture and mining, yet we never consider banning either of those industries.
posted by Sticherbeast at 1:43 PM on December 8, 2013 [8 favorites]


Human trafficking is a pretty big problem in Europe. In England they even caught a Domino's Pizza franchise running with trafficked slave labour.
posted by srboisvert at 1:45 PM on December 8, 2013


pro-prostitution debate often focuses on a hypothetical free woman

"Hypothetical" is not a good word choice. There is no shortage of sex worker blogs, tumbrs, twitter accounts, etc. that the author could have found was he interested in doing a Google search and I'm sure none of the these writers are going to appreciate being referred to as "hypothetical".

"I am actually here, I’m actually sitting here, standing here, I actually exist and I have a brain and I can make decisions for myself and I’m an adult and everything!!! "
posted by Winnemac at 1:49 PM on December 8, 2013 [8 favorites]


It always amazes me that discussions about sex work legislation never get to the brass tacks of what's really going on.

(It's about birth rates.)
posted by effugas at 1:56 PM on December 8, 2013


> "'Hypothetical' is not a good word choice.'"

Mm-hm. And in fact, one of the things I look for in laws supposedly designed to "protect" prostitutes is whether or not prostitutes are in favor of it.

And after devoting several paragraphs to the "Manifesto of the 343 Bastards", the author of the article devotes a whole eleven words to the fact that most French prostitutes appear to be against the French law (along with, to be fair, a link.) I doubt, incidentally, there would be similar opposition to the German anti-trafficking law; the prostitutes I know are very familiar with the problem of trafficking.

If the prostitutes themselves are against it, I am extremely dubious that it is for their own good.
posted by kyrademon at 2:03 PM on December 8, 2013 [9 favorites]


> "(It's about birth rates.)"

Sincere question: what on earth do you mean?
posted by kyrademon at 2:05 PM on December 8, 2013 [4 favorites]


Die Zeit's Harald Martenstein had an interesting op-ed on the issue recently, arguing that prostitution should be legal because government has no business regulating consensual sex. In German.
posted by muckster at 2:24 PM on December 8, 2013


effugas, I am curious also; what do birth rates have to do with prostitution? Most prostitutes are going to avoid pregnancy by any means possible, and johns are often already married and capable of/have already had children with other women.

It did occur to me that pushback against legalized prostitution might be related to attitudes toward the immigrant women who often did the work, in typical keep-them-foreigners-out fashion, but I still don't know what birth rates have to do with it.
posted by emjaybee at 2:32 PM on December 8, 2013


In re birth rates, I believe effugas might be referring to the fears in many of the low-birth-rate countries that their social welfare systems are running out of money or that minorities are going to become majorities due to their generally higher birth rates. Anyone who's concerned about that sort of thing would be less accepting of non-reproductive sex, especially outside the family.
posted by Etrigan at 3:07 PM on December 8, 2013


There are many things which seemed inevitable and basic fasts of life just a few decades ago. For several thousands of years, physical punishment was normal and even moral. Now, in Europe, physical punishment (including capital punishment) is illegal, both at home and in institutions. No one I know would ever suggest they were reintroduced.
20 years ago, it was unimaginable that one wouldn't be able to smoke at a bar or in a restaurant, let alone in the privacy of your own home. Today, even smokers go outdoors from their own houses if they have children, and my young adult kids can't imagine a time where smoking was allowed in restaurants.
100 years ago, most women in the world weren't allowed to vote, let alone own their own businesses or inherit on equal terms with their brothers and sons. Now many conservatives, whose fathers fought against equality, use the lack of equality for women in some Muslim countries as part of their anti-islamic argumentation.
When I was a child, the sea was so polluted it was dangerous to bathe in it. Today waste-water is cleaned in many, many urban areas, some places one can even swim in the harbors.

In other words: "there will always be prostitution" is not an argument. Sometimes, better legislation can change things.

On the other hand, "prohibition" is clearly a bad thing. Forbidding prostitution would in some ways be like forbidding alcohol or marihuana (and in other ways, really not at all). We haven't forbidden smoking tobacco, we have made it more complicated to smoke. We generally allow people to harm themselves, as long as they don't harm others. (I believe prohibition of marihuana is a historic mistake, we all see the consequences all the time, and I feel this is going to change dramatically during the coming decade or so). However, prostitution is at the edge of this. Selling your body, buying someone else's body is not at all like having a drink or a smoke.

In its essence, it is a deeply philosophical question. Is your body you, or something separate from you? Can you sell your body without selling yourself? And what about the gold diggers of this world, or the factory workers in Bangladesh? What are they selling, and for what price?

On the other hand, there is lived life and experience. The basic premise of prostitution is that some (male and female) bodies are commodities and can be traded. This has a huge set of consequences for the individual who is selling, and one cannot disregard those which are societal. Only very few can move in and out of this business as they like, regardless of trafficking.

From a societal point of view, regulating prostitution is a way that minimizes the damage is exactly like regulating smoking. Some people still choose to smoke, regardless of the documented risk, and they are allowed to do so, but penalized by heavy restrictions and taxes. In the case of prostitution, it seems more fair to restrict and penalize the johns than the prostitutes, even if it comes out equal in economic terms.
posted by mumimor at 3:50 PM on December 8, 2013


Is it really that surprising to people that the state might worry that easy availability of sex that does not lead to children, might depress the birth rate? Or that the state cares about such things?
posted by effugas at 4:38 PM on December 8, 2013


There've been a few docos broadcast here in Australia which examined this - and for the most part, they seemed to conclude that the New Zealand model was best (though New Zealand is a very different country to most of those in Europe, for many reasons... so who knows how well its laws would migrate).

According to most of the sex workers and their advocates who were interviewed, everyone got to feel clever for criminalising the buyers instead of the sex workers, and making statements like "buying a woman's body is an act of violence." But this meant that sex workers were required to be more clandestine when seeing their clients (as buyers did not want to be arrested). And this put them in a LOT more danger.

There was (anecdotal, as will often be the case in qualitative analyses) evidence that sex workers experienced more assault in Sweden after the criminalisation of purchasing sex (though there were fewer workers, as the article mentions).

There's also a lot of evidence that legalisation enlarges the market (as mentioned in the article), which affords more, rather than less, opportunities for exploitation.

The thing that worries me is that at the moment, the spokespeople for both sides really do claim to have sex workers' well being as their laws' primary justification. But it's not something that's easy to judge - it depends on what metrics you use.
posted by Sedition at 4:41 PM on December 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


"No doubt, but the opprobrium against prostitution has existed long before anybody thought about the well-being of the prostitute."

This is not at all the case. The opprobrium against prostitution started in the Western World with St. Paul of Tarsus as described in his epistles and had a clear purpose. This also ignores those who built nunneries to house and support former prostitutes in Late Antiquity and the Medieval period, as well as a lot of the, often absurdly misguided, focus during the enlightenment and modern times.

Just because the language and structures used to describe and shape historical social efforts might not fit neatly into post-modern liberalism doesn't mean they weren't in the same cause.
posted by Blasdelb at 4:43 PM on December 8, 2013 [4 favorites]


In its essence, it is a deeply philosophical question. Is your body you, or something separate from you? The basic premise of prostitution is that some (male and female) bodies are commodities.

This is a misunderstanding of what sex work is. It is thoroughly illegal in any European country to sell one's body. Iran is the only country that even allows organ sales. Sex work is a service, not an exchange of goods. Like the factory workers, a body is necessary to perform the service, but factory owner doesn't own his workers. It's certainly not an exchange of commodities since every person is different.

Regulating sex work is also different than smoking cigarettes because while cigarettes are inherently unhealthy, a properly practiced sex life is often considered to be a contributor to overall health. It is the "properly" part that causes trouble and debate.
posted by Winnemac at 4:46 PM on December 8, 2013 [5 favorites]


Also, as an aside: at the moment in Sydney, though sex work is decriminalised and regulated, the law is openly flouted.

Basically, at least 33 illegal brothels have opened on the wealthy side of town, masquerading as Thai massage etc. It's expensive for local councils to investigate - they send in private investigators to ascertain whether sex is being sold on the premises. It's slow to shut a premise down, but quick to open another one. Many of the workers are foreign nationals for whom English is not their native language.

tl;dr regulation in this industry is difficult for a number of reasons, and people shouldn't assume it to be a magic bullet which prevents explotation.
posted by Sedition at 4:50 PM on December 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


> "Is it really that surprising to people that the state might worry that easy availability of sex that does not lead to children, might depress the birth rate?"

Yes, because that seems like utterly bizarre reasoning?
posted by kyrademon at 5:04 PM on December 8, 2013 [6 favorites]


This is a misunderstanding of what sex work is. It is thoroughly illegal in any European country to sell one's body. Iran is the only country that even allows organ sales. Sex work is a service, not an exchange of goods. Like the factory workers, a body is necessary to perform the service, but factory owner doesn't own his workers. It's certainly not an exchange of commodities since every person is different.

Regulating sex work is also different than smoking cigarettes because while cigarettes are inherently unhealthy, a properly practiced sex life is often considered to be a contributor to overall health.


I'm not certain I'm the one misunderstanding things here. This is never going to be a meaningful discussion, but let's begin here

Then lets talk about the difference between giving strangers access to your reproductive organs while pretending to enjoy it and being stigmatized, and working in a normal workplace, accepted by society and enjoying all the normal rights of workers in your community.
And no, the solution to that will never be to "accept" prostitution.

The reason I even introduced the factories in Bangladesh is, that as stated in Another Fine Product From The Nonsense Factory's quote, for some people, a life as a trafficked sex-worker in a western city may seem bearable compared to the conditions in your home country. Just like in every other part of the non-educated job market. But that does not mean prostitution is a good job or a healthy job. It only means your other choices are even worse.
posted by mumimor at 5:04 PM on December 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


> "And no, the solution to that will never be to 'accept' prostitution."

So ... the solution to someone being stigmatized, unaccepted by society, and not enjoying all the normal rights of workers is not to remove the stigma, accept them socially, and give them all the normal rights of workers?
posted by kyrademon at 5:08 PM on December 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


I sometimes wonder if more efforts should not be directed towards open public campaigns, along the lines of anti-rape campaigns that target men...

Something along the lines of a negative campaign "IF YOU HAVE SEX WITH A SEX WORKER AND SHE HAS BEEN TRAFFICKED, YOU WILL BE CHARGED WITH SEXUAL ASSAULT" and a simultaneous positive campaign encouraging men that "if you must visit a sex worker, please make sure it is in a licensed premise, for reasons x, y, and z." I suspect that many men who visit sex workers don't see themselves as bad people (though perhaps some do), and may take such matters to heart.

In parts of Australia and New Zealand, adults in disabled care are seen as having a right to legal, ethical sexual contact, which often by necessity will involve a transaction. Extending this morality (that purchased sex be ethical and legal, and the onus is on the buyer to verify this) to men in general who visit male/female/transgendered sex workers might work. Or it might just be wishful thinking.
posted by Sedition at 5:08 PM on December 8, 2013


Yes, because that seems like utterly bizarre reasoning?

I used to go to Germany for Christmas every year. One year there was a poster on every train stop, of a four year old girl's face. Quite adorable, really. I couldn't read the text, and so I asked someone what was being advertised.

"Babies."

Huh?

"They want you to have cute little German babies, just like this."

Wasn't a private ad; that came from the state.
posted by effugas at 5:21 PM on December 8, 2013


So, you're saying that was an anti-prostitution ad?

I think you're missing my point.
posted by kyrademon at 5:29 PM on December 8, 2013


muckster: "Die Zeit's Harald Martenstein had an interesting op-ed on the issue recently, arguing that prostitution should be legal because government has no business regulating consensual sex."

Or in the words of Sage Carlin: Selling is legal; Fucking is legal; why isn't selling "fucking" legal.

Sedition: ""IF YOU HAVE SEX WITH A SEX WORKER AND SHE HAS BEEN TRAFFICKED, YOU WILL BE CHARGED WITH SEXUAL ASSAULT""

Seems like the problem there is if you are going to criminalize prostitution instead of regulating and licensing there isn't anyway to verify which degree of illegal the act you are soliciting is.
posted by Mitheral at 5:29 PM on December 8, 2013


So ... the solution to someone being stigmatized, unaccepted by society, and not enjoying all the normal rights of workers is not to remove the stigma, accept them socially, and give them all the normal rights of workers?

Sadly, no. And this is writing as someone who once truly believed that would be a good solution. But as several of the above links have shown, legalization does not at all lead to a higher degree of organization and fair conditions, contrariwise.

There are a number of factors at work here - one that is mentioned a lot by social workers and sex workers alike is that legalization seems to encourage workers from overseas who are willing to work for less pay and under worse conditions (again, trafficked or not), thus driving the market down.

I'm more interested in another factor: in my view, for all the people feigning care for and interest in the lives of prostitutes, almost no one really means it when they claim to respect sex workers, and the johns least of all. I read this blog post some time ago. It resonates with what I've heard from many, many former prostitutes. Yes they were former prostitutes, when they said this to me, but not when I met them. When they were in the business, they said something else, because you have to convince yourself what you are doing is ok, otherwise you will go crazy (or even more crazy).

At the end of the day, a lot of the "problems" society has with regulating this has more to do with corruption and police complicity. Even in countries/states where prostitution is illegal, it takes place in open sight. In my city, street prostitutes work within 500 meters of the two main police stations. If there was really a political will to close it down, it could be down tomorrow.
There was a link above about a Swedish judge who was busted, goddamit. And this is why criminalizing the johns is the way to go. If it is illegal to buy sex, anyone with a phone can bust a politician or an official.
In a corrupt system, where police can threaten the prostitutes and go free, nothing will ever change.
posted by mumimor at 5:40 PM on December 8, 2013 [4 favorites]


"I think when you're talking about an inherently exploitative profession that in part relies on a blatantly evil form of trafficking, "mixed results" is the best you can hope for. Historically speaking (and we're talking about a lot of history here) trying to eradicate prostitution usually results in very bad outcomes for the supply side while doing little to reduce the demand side or its power."

Those mixed results included an increase in women who were trafficked for sex work. "Mixed results" still includes, "In some ways, quite worse."

So while I understand the point that historic efforts to eradicate prostitution have focused on the sex workers and not on the johns, you had wondered about organizing it with regulations and unions, etc., which is something that has been tried and led to an increase in women being trafficked for sex work. Which is kind of one of those things that weighs heavily against a proposed solution.
posted by klangklangston at 5:46 PM on December 8, 2013


> "... for all the people feigning care for and interest in the lives of prostitutes, almost no one really means it when they claim to respect sex workers ..."

I feel it should be noted that the prostitutes themselves appear to be, for the most part, advocating against the law you are advocating in favor of.
posted by kyrademon at 5:49 PM on December 8, 2013


I feel it should be noted that the prostitutes themselves appear to be, for the most part, advocating against the law you are advocating in favor of.

I think I have addressed that, as far as I am willing to put into print.

However, "for the most part" makes absolutely no sense in this context. For the most part, we have no idea what sex workers want, because for the most part, they are migrants from a lot of different areas of the world who have absolutely no other choices once they are working as prostitutes in the west. There is no way back, and there is also no way ahead, into an accepted job within their new homes.
posted by mumimor at 6:13 PM on December 8, 2013


mumimor: "one that is mentioned a lot by social workers and sex workers alike is that legalization seems to encourage workers from overseas who are willing to work for less pay and under worse conditions (again, trafficked or not), thus driving the market down."

It's hard to imagine a legal market with higher prices than an illegal market. Of course legalization is going to drive prices down. If keeping out foreign workers is a goal then that is the kind of policy that should be set at the foreign worker program stage or by limiting licenses to citizens either explicitly or via a back door with stuff like residency requirements. As an electrician I don't have to worry about a flood of of foreign electricians undermining the market for my labour because the inter provincial licensing schemes set a restrictive bar on who can legally practice the trade. There is a significant amount of unlicenced work performed but it's mostly handyman stuff.

My spouse is an RMT and several of the cities shes worked have had fairly restrictive licensing schemes to try to close the massage parlor brothel loop hole.
posted by Mitheral at 7:17 PM on December 8, 2013


I always hear that Jacksonville, FL, is a major hub for human trafficking; we even have several large anti-trafficking groups. What's weird is that I've been here 20 years and have NO IDEA where all these trafficked humans could be?! I know certain areas/streets are known for prostitutes, but I'm pretty sure these are all local prostitutes--in the reported busts, I never see foreign names.
All our big anti-trafficking groups seem to do is host fundraising and awareness dinners with PowerPoint presentations reporting on the large national problem. When I asked a leader how we know trafficked people are being held here if we don't know where they are, she just said they were being hidden--which didn't answer my question.
It seems to me like if we have a big problem, we need a big group of people to go to places (not sure where--grimy strip clubs and hourly hotels and side-street alleys?) and look for these people, and offer to take them to get help where they won't be arrested or deported (I'm assuming some of the women's shelters wouldn't report them).
posted by whatgorilla at 8:16 PM on December 8, 2013


"It's hard to imagine a legal market with higher prices than an illegal market."

Uh, medical marijuana? You can get the same bud on the street cheaper, often buying from the same people who supply dispensaries. But the legal imprimatur of a doctor's "recommendation" and the convenience of buying it like anything else means that the legal version is a premium over the illegal.

See also: Cigarettes, moonshine, counterfeit money, counterfeit goods… Pretty much any commodity that's regulated but not prohibited. It makes sense that sex work would be something that legal overhead would add costs to.
posted by klangklangston at 8:28 PM on December 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah, the more that I think about it, I'm baffled that you think it's hard to imagine. Like, "it fell off of a truck," you're not buying that stolen stereo because it costs more and you want to support your local burglar.
posted by klangklangston at 8:29 PM on December 8, 2013


Another complicating factor is the existence of sexual harassment law (perhaps the greatest legal advancement in the US of the past 40 years). This, of course, also frustrates porn sets, another working environment that raises similar concerns, but that's a dog that hasn't yet barked.

It's easy to assume that all sex workers will be like those overrepresented in blogs and other media (not that they're voices shouldn't be heard - they are hugely important): well-educated solo practitioners with significant control over their workplace. One doesn't need to go all the way to trafficking to imagine of McDonalds-run brothel, where sex workers get minimum wage and poor benefits.

In a normal workplace, if a boss told you to sleep with someone for a promotion, that would be a quid-pro-quo violation of sexual harassment law. In McBrothel, conceivably that's the job. If you worked in a workplace today where you were constantly exposed to unwanted sexual stereotyping and forced to deal with sexual contact all the time, that's a hostile workplace environment and a violation of sexual harassment law. At a brothel?
posted by allen.spaulding at 8:40 PM on December 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


Another complicating factor is the existence of sexual harassment law (perhaps the greatest legal advancement in the US of the past 40 years).

Civil Rights, yo.
posted by effugas at 9:20 PM on December 8, 2013


Also, Allen, there's lots of jobs where the nature of the job creates exceptions. Quite a bit of work is sexual in nature without actually involving out and out sex. It's harassment to be told to put on lingerie, but not if you're a model.
posted by effugas at 9:22 PM on December 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


klangklangston: "Cigarettes, moonshine,"

I'll give you cigs and booze, the reason for the illegal market is the heavy sin taxes to discourage use completely out of whack with the price to produce and that should have occurred to me. But there isn't a legal market for stolen goods etc (including the "theft" if intellectual property). Rape can still be illegal where prostitution is state regulated. But there is a lesson there: if we want to make sex work regulation effective with lots of buy in we shouldn't make an attempt to simultaneously discourage the market place with heavy excises.
posted by Mitheral at 9:31 PM on December 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


While it makes moral/ethical/fairness sense to criminalize the purchaser of prostitution, not the seller, as a practical matter it deprives law enforcement of a major anti-trafficking tool.

While nabbing johns is satisfying, the johns usually can't lead you to anyone higher on the chain, especially where streetwalkers are concerned. Maybe enough arresting of johns will decrease demand, but that never seems to work for any other illegal activity, so why would it work for this one?

Now let's say you're a woman nabbed on a prostitution bid. The police say "We aren't going to arrest you. You have not committed a crime. We just want the name of the person who trafficked you." Well, the cops just said they aren't going to do anything to you. Meanwhile the trafficker has your passport, your kid, and a network of associates that can threaten your family. The only sensible thing to do in such a situation would be to clam up and tell the cops nothing.

Criminalizing small-scale, infrastructure-light trade is really hard.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 9:38 PM on December 8, 2013


"It's hard to imagine a legal market with higher prices than an illegal market."

Steam vs. The Pirate Bay?
posted by straight at 10:09 PM on December 8, 2013


"It's hard to imagine a legal market with higher prices than an illegal market."

Tax-dodged cigarettes?
Imported pharma?
Buildings not built to code?
posted by effugas at 11:07 PM on December 8, 2013


"But there isn't a legal market for stolen goods etc (including the "theft" if intellectual property)."

o_0

The legal market for stolen goods is the market for goods that are not stolen. The legal market for a Fnörd is Ikea; the illegal market for a Fnörd is out the back of some guy's van.
posted by klangklangston at 11:37 PM on December 8, 2013


"But there isn't a legal market for stolen goods etc"

Also this is a tautological reduction, "There is not a legal market for things that are illegal". Well, no, no there isn't.
posted by effugas at 12:35 AM on December 9, 2013


The trafficked girls have no hope at the moment. They are lured from their poor villages by finders (either "loverboys" like in the film Lilya4Ever or by local business men) and forced to endure being rented out while being under constant threat of being prosecuted by the police, abused by their owner or having their family members punished by the recruitment mafia back home where the rule of law is pretty loose.

Initial trafficking at the border is very hard to stop as it often seems legitimate (that's what the girls think as well). And once the girls are being worked, they dare not be caught because repatriation = unpaid debt = retribution on the family. Laws need to be tighter, police need greater freedoms, but this just drives things further underground and makes this even more dangerous for the girls.

Could someone answer this question, please? If child abuse is illegal in the UK and UK citizens can be prosecuted for abusing children in Thailand, could French nationals be prosecuted for visiting prostitutes over the boarder in Germany (such as Saarbrucken - a neighbouring region where business is booming especially from French johns)
posted by guy72277 at 2:25 AM on December 9, 2013


I'm not sure if I'll be inciting something here, but what I want to contribute is some anecdata. I live in China, which I often bring up here, but in the last few years I've gotten to the age where some of my friends have started "mongering", as they call it. And as part of that, they've gotten to know some regular providers, and I've even met some of them. It's almost impossible to avoid prostitutes in the night life circles here, and I've also got to know a few of the "regulars" at some of the bars I frequent. They have stories to tell, and I'm curious, so I've bought them drinks and asked. In China, at least in the cities I've been in, among the ones I've talked to about it, they don't tell stories about exploitation. They tell stories about making $10k US a month and being picky about clients, or about mamasans who get mad about them clocking in, or "saunas" (actually very upscale places, many in China offer extras in addition to perfectly legitimate massage) that have customers who give them bad reviews because they forgot a step in some very strange, exotic routines. They've struck me as highly paid professionals and solidly middle-class people with normal complaints about clients, not trafficked slaves. And many seem to leave after a few years and go on to better things. From them, the impression that I take away is that it's something that can, at least in upper-end places in China, be done in a safe, healthy, normal manner like any other job. I'm sure there are wounded souls and exploited and trafficked women out there, but I get the feeling, through the stories I've heard, that it can be done without all the horribleness.
posted by saysthis at 4:49 AM on December 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


And I guess what gets me about that is, this Is CHINA. If you do some reading on the forums that cater to people who are into this, you realize how common it is in China, and how insanely out in the open it is in just about every city in this giant country. How could it be so...professionalized here, given how illegal it is? Something is at work here, and Europe might want to take a look at the vice trade here before they try regulating, if the goal is to protect sex workers. They seem to be doing something right here, despite the illegality.

Forgive the two comments, beer is my excuse.
posted by saysthis at 5:03 AM on December 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Also, Allen, there's lots of jobs where the nature of the job creates exceptions. Quite a bit of work is sexual in nature without actually involving out and out sex. It's harassment to be told to put on lingerie, but not if you're a model.

This is confusing sex-based discrimination with sexual harassment law. That confusion may also be reflected in your about Civil Rights law in the past 40 years (Landmark legislation was passed in 1964 and since then it's slowly been chipped away at in the courts).

If a lingerie model is told "sleep with this director or you don't get the job" that's still sexual harassment and that's unlawful. If an employee at McBrothel is told that she must sleep with a certain client or she's fired - is that unlawful? It gets harder too. What if she's told that she must sleep with 5 clients a day or she loses her health insurance, etc.

Sexual harassment law was such an incredible accomplishment for many reasons. Women in the workplace were no longer accessories kept around for men's pleasure, but were employees in their own right. Creating a culture where it was understood that women were present solely for sexual access, or that there was no way for women to advance as equals was forbidden.

Legalizing prostitution really does challenge this. It creates a formal work environment where women's bodies are present for male benefit. It's easy to ignore this if we assume that all sex workers are independent, well-funded, and can say no to any or al clients (and don't necessarily have management). McBrothel is a conundrum.

And this is different than other forms of alienated labor in part because American society did (and still does) discriminate on the basis of sex and gender, and workplace inequality both reflected and deepened that subordination.
posted by allen.spaulding at 5:48 AM on December 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


Just out of pure morbid curiosity... what would happen if you replaced "prostitution" with "file sharing" and "trafficking" with "pirating"?

I mean, there is a product/service that has a demand, when the demand is not met the customers revert to the illegal act. That side of things has sort of leaned towards the "just make it available legally".

So I'm really curious as to why one argument is going one way and the other argument is going in the exact opposite direction.
posted by Blue_Villain at 7:03 AM on December 9, 2013


saysthis, the women you are talking to are saleswomen and view you as a possible client. Of course they will talk up the positives and how much they love their life, in order to hopefully gain another client. Would you go to a doctor that told you confidentiality-breaking stories about their other patients, mocking them for their disorders and saying how they have no interest in medicine? Women currently working as sex workers often have to emphasize the good to themselves and their John's in order to rationalise their "choices". Former sex workers often have a different view.
posted by saucysault at 8:02 AM on December 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


Former anythings tend to have a different view. I know some attorneys who love their job, and insist that the adversarial justice system is one of the greatest inventions in political history. I know others who think the whole field is rotten and make the nastiest lawyer jokes themselves. You will find about as much unanimity among sex workers as you will in workers in most client-facing fields: None.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 8:18 AM on December 9, 2013


There's also a significant difference in foreigner-serving prostitution and local-serving prostitution, at least in Thailand. Prostitutes serving locals tend to be paid less, less well-kept and more likely to be trafficked from rural poor backgrounds. Or at least, that was what was true some eight years ago when I was still taking a lot of poli sci development classes. I doubt it's that different in China.
posted by klangklangston at 11:36 AM on December 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's hard to imagine a legal market with higher prices than an illegal market.

If all of our food were produced by "legally" (with "legal" labor with green cards, getting paid minimum wage, etc), we'd be paying much higher prices for food, I'm sure.
posted by Golden Eternity at 11:47 AM on December 9, 2013


If drugs are legal to buy and posses, but not legal to sell, then drug buyers must help protect their dealers by jumping through various hoops. Conversely, if you outlaw hiring a prostitute, like Frace did, then prostitutes must protect their johns, which drives the business underground and broadens the market for pimps, human traffickers, etc..

I'd suggest we instead "turn the johns into informers" as follows :

- French or maybe European women have the right to sell sex in France, although perhaps they're required to regularly be tested for diseases. Foreign women otoh need a license, either granted by the government or preferably a prostitutes' union. These prostitution licenses should verify that she's not supporting a pimp, a slave, etc. as best they can. Licenses also require disease tests and age verification. Prostitution without a license carries a fine of at most a few hundred euros.

- Johns are legally obliged to verify either the prostitute's nationality or her license if foreign, much like they're legally obliged to check her age now. Johns face a several hundred euro fine for failure to check her license or nationality or for failure to report suspicious behavior indicative of trafficking or pimping, both highly illegal. Johns are encouraged to ask to see her disease test results if she's unlicensed and French.

- Anyone arrested for prostitution without a license may reduce their fine by outing a couple johns who failed to verify her license. Just so john's actually face a risk of being caught. Johns are conversely not prosecuted for activity with an unlicensed foreign prostitute, or after witnessing suspicious behavior, provided they report it to the police promptly.

In this way, we could build an incentives for reporting behavior suggestive of human trafficking or pimping.
posted by jeffburdges at 5:20 PM on December 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


That's an interesting idea for a licensing regime, jeffbrudges, and it has some appeal for me.

But I don't see how to prove a former john didn't verify a prostitute's license. The prostitute's testimony couldn't be trusted, because she has a self serving interest in outing a john to reduce the fine. Likewise the john's testimony couldn't be trusted, because he has a self serving interest in avoiding prosecution. Proving the case would be next to impossible even in a civil law country.
posted by bswinburn at 8:16 PM on December 9, 2013


Imagine you bust an illegal brothel : Any johns caught in the act can be paraded around based upon this charge because they hadn't yet reported it. Also you might find several different girls identify the same regular johns.

Ain't perfect obviously but it creates enough rick that a john's interests are always served by reporting suspicious behavior and unlicensed foreign prostitutes.

I'd envision our prostitutes' union should conduct interview for the licenses in which they ask the lady about her connections in France. Interview notes should be kept in a database to provide information about the behavior of pimps, traffickers, etc.
posted by jeffburdges at 2:38 AM on December 10, 2013


A lot of these arguments about cigarettes and file sharing and drugs make perfect logical sense on their face until you remember that prostitutes are HUMAN BEINGS. A cigarette doesn't need to consent to being smoked, files don't need to consent to be shared, drugs don't need to consent to be sold.

Some women and men and transgended people consent to sex work without coercion, knowing that it is risky and (in most places illegal)

Some women and men and transgendered people are being forced and coerced into sex work. They are being mentally and physically abused in ways that cannot be justified or overlooked.

The problem with most of the laws on the books in places where prostitution is illegal and the laws are enforced is that they are aimed at curbing demand by attacking both demand and supply. They do very little to differentiate between those who've been trafficked, those who've made a conscious choice, and the very murky, too-common middleground where a choice was made under duress.

From the articles and comments above, the following things have not been effective:

1. Blanket criminalization
2. Any sort of decriminalization that doesn't include any sort of framework for regulation.
3. Regulated decriminalized sex work WHERE THE LAWS AND REGULATIONS ARE NOT ENFORCED BY LOCAL GOVERNMENT (incl. police, health agencies, registration, a court system that defends the rights of sex workers to protect them from abuse)

I've got a lot of "middle class sex worker" friends, which is a misnomer as, while some of them are middle class and even wealthy, most of them are making the same amount of money as my starving artist friends. Just like my artist they chose to work in a profession that's riskier than they'd like and not that lucrative becaise it's the job that's right for them either short term or long term for reasons that are uniaue to them.

If I was to ask these friends what THEY would like, it would be a legal, regulated profession with a lot more annoying restrictive expencive regulations and beauracrasies and a lot less fear and danger. Right now it's up for sex workers, their allies, and their personal support networks to protect each other, from street-level communication to message boards that rate johns to organizations like the SexWorkers Outreach Project.

There's nothing I can say to change the mind of someone who thinks the mere existence of sex work increases the demand or the net exploitation or degradation of poor/female/gay/transgendered people, but maybe if we put the policies in place to protect the people who did want in, maybe we'd have an easier time protecting the ones who didn't.
posted by elr at 9:18 PM on December 10, 2013


In the Guardian today: Soho police raids show why sex workers live in fear of being 'rescued'
"Sex workers in London's Soho had their doors kicked in by riot police last week. The cops brought along journalists to photograph cowering women who were desperately trying to cover their faces. These images were then splashed across the press. Working flats have been closed, throwing women out on to the street. Some, who were migrant workers, were taken away by the police for compulsory "counselling", detention at Heathrow, and enforced removal from the UK, despite protesting that they were not trafficked victims: they are migrant sex workers – indeed, several of the women currently incarcerated at Heathrow are active within the English Collective of Prostitutes, a sex-worker rights organisation that, along with the Sex Worker Open University, is protesting against the raids."
posted by metaBugs at 8:51 AM on December 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


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