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Evils of the world : of sexual slavery

by Agnes a Paris Tue Nov 29th, 2005 at 03:49:18 AM EST

There is an alarming hypocrisy in setting a border between "free" prostitution and "forced" prostitution (dealt with by the below article). Pimps thrive on this distinction as they try to spread the view  that the right to sell one's body is part of human rights. They expect to make acceptable seeing sometimes under age girls displayed in the windows of hot districts. The first reaction of these girls, assertion that they do this freely, is driven by the fear of pimps who hold their passport and divert 80 % of their "incomes".

When getting a chance to talk in a safe situation, the same story comes out, again and again: one was sold to Albanian traffickers by his father, another had passed to the West to marry and was found in a brothel. No matter how individual stories differ, the plot is always the same : hope for a better life or simply a decent job prospect lures women and teenage girls into the grip of criminal organizations.  Sexual slavery has close connections with money laundering and other major illegal forms of trade : drugs and weapons.

To put an end to sexual trade, it is of utmost urgency to avoid this phenomenon being banalised, which would only support the laxism of governmental authorities. Prostitution cannot be dissociated from  violence, be it self-inflicted or directly forced upon women as is the case for sexual trade.  There is an appalling trend towards considering it as yet another standard form of trade. Indeed, if male prostitution is often connected to drugs and pedophily, female prostitution is still too often asociated to pleasure, that of customers.

"Forced" prostitution should be denounced as a violation of human rights. The so-called "free" prostitution should be questioned and at least dealt with seriously by governments. I am specifically questioning the French stance on the subject. Whatever their leaning, recent governments have had a shallow position on this matter and managed to come up with nothing but piecemeal remedies.

BBC News

Baltic girls forced into sex slavery
By Martha Buckley
BBC News  28/11/2005

Five Albanian pimps have been convicted of sex trafficking offences after a trial at Southwark Crown Court. The inquiry was triggered by an investigation into the trade by the BBC's Six O'Clock News.

On 31 October 2004, a 16-year-old Lithuanian girl made what was probably the biggest mistake of her young life when she agreed to go on a trip to the UK with a group of new friends.
Instead of the few days of fun she had been promised, she ended up being sold into prostitution in an ordeal that was to last for months.
A missing persons hunt sparked by her disappearance eventually led police to a series of west London brothels and a gang of Albanian people traffickers.

Jurors at Southwark Crown Court heard how the girl was "tricked" into leaving her home in a village near the town of Siauliai after being befriended by a young man.
He introduced her to a group of his "friends" in a nightclub, who invited her to join them on an exciting "sports" trip to London, all expenses paid.
After forging a permission letter from her parents, the men took her to Sheffield and handed her over to a gang who took her ID card - which clearly showed she was only 16.

Sold on

This group sold her on again to a group of Albanian pimps - the four Demarku brothers - Flamur, 33, Agron, 21, Bedari, 21, and Xhevair - and Izzet Fejzullahu, 32.
They told her she would have to work as a prostitute to cover the money they had paid for her and took her to a house in Pears Road, Hounslow - one of a string of brothels in the west London suburb.
"I asked what I was really there for. They laughed and said: 'Prostitution'. I burst into tears. I said I don't want to do that and that I wanted to go home." Victim of gang, aged 19
Under the working name "Veronica from Italy", she was forced to sleep with as many as 10 men a day and earning her pimps around £800 a day - of which she received nothing, despite being promised a share.
The brothels operated 24 hours a day, seven days a week - with the "girls" allowed one day off a week.

Huge profits

According to one witness, the brothel in Pears Road alone took between £3,000 and £18,000 a day. The rent for the property was only £1,000 a month.
The gang were making huge profits and several of them drove around in new Mercedes cars.
"Veronica" was allowed occasional phone calls home but was too frightened and embarrassed to tell her mother what was really going on.
The gang occasionally sent the family £100 or so, which the prosecution argued was intended to make them think their daughter was doing well abroad.
But the family remained worried and began searching for her, with the help of a Lithuanian missing persons TV show.
A team from the BBC's Six O'Clock News, who were investigating the sex trade, flew to Lithuania and interviewed her family.

Clues led to London

The BBC team alerted the Metropolitan Police after the money transfers gave a clue that she might be in London.
The Met was already aware of the Pears Road brothel and visited it on 16 December 2004.
She was not there but a notice advertising "new beautiful ladies at very good prices" gave a phone number, which led to another brothel in nearby Kingsley Road.
Police raided it the same day and rescued "Veronica", who was interviewed and then flown back to Lithuania to be reunited with her family.
But, suspecting she was not the only trafficked woman working against their will, they placed the gang under surveillance.

Series of raids

Over the next four months they found five houses in Hounslow, Isleworth and Feltham which were being used as brothels with at least five girls in each.
Undercover officers posed as clients to gather evidence against the pimps and to try to identify women in need of help.
In April 2005 they carried out a series of raids, seizing documents relating to Lithuanian women, evidence of money transfers, menus of sexual services and many thousands of pounds in cash - in one case £30,000 was found at a single address rented by the gang.
Among them was another young woman from Siauliai, a 19-year-old student who had been a virgin before she was sold to the gang.
Like "Veronica" she had been tricked into coming to the UK by a young man who befriended her before feeding her a "string of lies" about a nice house and a bar job.
She was met at Heathrow by Fejzullahu and Agron Demarku and driven to one of the brothels.
Giving evidence from behind a screen, she told the court:
"The girls were walking around in nightdresses and then a man walked in, a client, and I asked what I was really there for.
"They laughed and said: 'Prostitution'. I burst into tears. I said I don't want to do that and that I wanted to go home.
"But I was told I wouldn't leave before four months because I would have to work off a huge amount of money paid for my journey."

'Sold like cattle'

The gang gave the girls little or no money and kept them in the brothels mainly through fear, occasionally selling them on to other traffickers "like cattle", prosecutors said.
Michael Holland, prosecuting, said although the gang did not resort to physical violence, the girls were cowed into submission partly by threats and partly by their predicament - strangers in a foreign country, without their passports, unable to speak the language, understand their rights or even be sure where they were.
Fejzullahu and the Demarku brothers told the women who were trafficked from abroad they had to work to pay off their purchase price after which they would be allowed a share of their earnings.
By this time, the prosecution said, most would be "broken" - too ashamed and worn down by degradation to go home and resigned to a life of prostitution and being forced to work for their "owners".
Fejzullahu and three of the Demarku brothers were found guilty of trafficking and prostitution offences on Tuesday. They will be sentenced, along with Xhevair Demarku - who pleaded guilty before the trial, on Thursday.

Last month three sex traffickers who had run a similar prostitution ring in Sheffield, and had dealings with the Demarku brothers, were jailed. Tasim Axhami, from Kosovo, was found guilty of rape and jailed for 21 years. Emiljan Deqirat, from Albania, was given 16 years for sex trafficking offences, and Vilma Kizlaite, a Lithuanian, was sentenced to 11 years for false imprisonment.

And the way to combat it  is not prosecuting, prohibiting or things like that.

The way to solve it (and everybody knows it but doing it would mean that a lot of people would get pissed, and I am talking about the mobs) is using old market principles.

Propstitution should be absolutely legal. Social security received and taxes payed. Everybody.

When enough people would freely take it as a job, taking slaves  and beating them and bringing them on the hands of the black market will be hardly be profitable. It is sad, but it is the only way out. Prostitution would need also an union organization. They will be the more interested ones in tracking illegal and slaved people. I bet a lot of people would gladly pay a little bit more knowing that the boy/girl is unionized.

Giving inmunity to prostitutes willing to declare against their masters, even when they have no papers to stay in a specific country, and even granting nationality, it is a good step, but not enough.
It is time to decriminalize completely prostitution, and if I sounded too materialistic then let me say that the change in the cultural-idea of prostitution would help more to fight this modern slave than anything else...

A pleasure

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Tue Nov 29th, 2005 at 08:42:35 AM EST
for drugs.

Legalising drugs would put their price down by an order of magnitude, and reduce crime similarly (no profit in trafficking, and no petty theft to pay for drugs). It would probably also reduce the need for girls to prostitute themselves (or be forced into prostitution) to pay for drugs.

and we could tax it all.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Tue Nov 29th, 2005 at 09:02:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The JeromeAParis-Kcurie syndicate of sin. </snark>

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Nov 29th, 2005 at 09:05:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Now there's an investment opportunity.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Tue Nov 29th, 2005 at 10:50:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
All these prostitutes already pay VAT taxes (TVA), so basically, the State is an ultra-pimp.

It would be a good idea to change the name "prostitute" too, it's gotten a pejorative connatation attached to it over the millenia since its Latin days (pro-/before + statuere/to station, nothing pejorative there). How about "ladies/men of carnal merriment"? As in "Oh my god Charles, did you see that lady of carnal merriment go by? She was dressed like a prostitute!! Oh dear".

by Alex in Toulouse on Tue Nov 29th, 2005 at 09:10:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Ahum, connotation that is.

While I'm at it, if cannabis was legalized here in France, the State could make a LOT of cash by producing/selling it through a SEITA-like national company. However legalisation would upset petty dealers in the banlieues. One solution: have this new SEITA-like national company recruit testers etc in the banlieues, there is a lot of expertise there. Guinea pigs for physical/medical studies can be recruited in universities.

by Alex in Toulouse on Tue Nov 29th, 2005 at 09:17:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
To get back to a more serious tone, do you think this would be worth a poll ?

When through hell, just keep going. W. Churchill
by Agnes a Paris on Tue Nov 29th, 2005 at 02:14:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The first fallacy imho is that with "improved conditions" a large number of happy, willing workers would suddenly replace downtrodden or desperate workers in the convenience-sex industry.  Think it over for a moment:  would you be one of them?

Recruitment  Brochure

So, a good question for every person considering this question is, "How much would I have to be paid to consider doing this kind of work?"  or "How much would my mother/wife/sister/daughter/son have to earn in this trade to make me feel good about her/him doing it?"  and then, "Why would I expect any other self-respecting human being to accept less than that, or to engage in it more willingly than I myself would?" The attitude of many bourgeois apologists for prostitution is rather like that of Dick Cheney towards military service -- it's a good and great thing for somebody else, or for somebody else's kids.

The central problem of prostitution as an institution is that the demand that is being supplied is not merely a demand for "sex", i.e. a simple orgasm or sensual experience, an objective benefit like a good dinner -- there is also a desire to see women (children, boys, girls) humiliated and/or hurt, to derive a fleeting sensation of superiority from watching another person being demeaned.  As long as this is considered a legitimate demand in a legitimate marketplace, then ways will be found of assuring a supply of women and kids who can be made to submit to pain, embarrassment, etc. for the entertainment of men with money.  If we make this abuse and humiliation illegal, the argument can immediately be made that this will "merely drive it underground."  But if we make it perfectly legal to abuse and humiliate prostitutes, up to some theoretical point of criminality, we find ourselves codifying barbarism in the same fashion as the current US regime splitting its Jesuitical hairs about the exact definition of torture.

Analogies with the drug trade are imho fundamentally flawed:  drugs are merchandise.  Women's and children's bodies are not, or should not be.  Drugs are inanimate substances, which have no opinions or feelings about being traded, bought, sold, and consumed.  The same cannot be said of the "merchandise" of the international convenience-sex industry, where much of the "consumption" involves hurting, insulting,  mocking, demeaning, shaming, injuring the merchandise.  In theory, prostitution could exist without this sadistic element; but actually-existing prostitution, like actually-existing Communism, does not live up to all of its proponents' fondest expectations.

For some less restrained commentary on this issue I refer the interested reader to the outspoken blog The Den of the Biting Beaver (that's a slightly scurrilous pun, for you non-native-English-speakers), where a man/woman team of bloggers comment on porn, prostitution, sex, capitalism and related issues.  BB (the female half of the team) comments on her own experiences as a female porn consumer, and she recently republished some memoir from an ex-hooker:

I remember one girl, I can't remember her real name, (a point that shames me) a tiny little thing, you know the type? The ones who still have to buy their clothing in the kids section? The kind of girl who always makes you feel like a clumsy giant when you're around them because you tower over them by several inches? I remember hearing her speak of her step-father raping her nightly for years. How she ran away and how she would tell all of us, how she tried to convince us and herself, that her boyfriend was a savior. That the man who had forced her to trade sex for a place to live was an angel, sent straight from heaven.

I remember her crestfallen face, though she tried so fucking hard to hide it, when she came in one night sore, her body aching, her vagina and rectum pained from the gang bang she had `participated' in with her boyfriend and 3 of his buddies. She asked us if any of us had something for the tenderness and then told us what had happened, she laughed about it, grinning and bobbing her head as she spoke, her blonde locks falling over her flawless face. Someone said something like, "Damnit hon, why the hell did you do it if it was so miserable?" her smile faltered and her eyes slipped to her pizza in contemplation, a small, half-hearted laugh escaped her lips and she said, "Well, you know, it's not like I could say no, I mean, he's giving me a place to stay, remember?"

I don't see how legalisation is going to change much about this story... except in a theoretical socialist paradise where no young woman ever runs away from home due to family abuse, no one is ever short of housing or food, full employment is guaranteed, medical care is guaranteed, illegal immigrants are treated with respect and kindness -- a world in which women will never be at the mercy of an exploitative or predatory man for survival.  In that world legalisation would make a lot of sense.  And in that world there would be, my guess, a darned sight fewer prostitutes to legalise.

Wal*Mart is legal.  McDonald's is legal.  Many predatory relations are perfectly legal.  Legalising a predatory relation doesn't imho magically remove the element of predation.  Why would we assume that -- in a "market-oriented" world where labour is under attack, unions are repressed or outlawed in many countries, wages are being driven down -- sex workers would by some miracle be singled out for special privileges, fully unionised with health benefits, decent wages, and full social support net?

Slavery was once legal.  It didn't notably improve the lot of slaves;  what improved their lot was making it illegal and providing reparations, even if inadequate and in some cases ephemeral.

All of this is not to say that criminalising prostitutes makes any sense.  The people who need to be criminalised are the pimps and the punters.  Just eliminating the pimps would be a start, as I doubt we could ever eliminate the punters.

Dim (the male half of BB blog, Dim Undercellar), comments here on the bust of the Balkan sex slavery ring:

Thanks, Britian, for busting the last and final sex slavery ring. We can now all rest easy with our Penthouse (and it's articles about "positive incest"), our FreeXXXpics.net (since we know that anyone not being paid HAS to be doing it for the love of the profession), our strip clubs (those bastions of empowerment where women can feel free to express their sexuality by grinding against Bubba's crotch for a dollar), and our escort services (which are just for getting dates to corporate parties anyway, right?). Because now we can be sure that while we're probably harming the women close to us and the women who have to live in a society in which all men want to call them nasty names and cum on their faces with two of their buddies (and they know it because they've seen your pornography), we're certainly not jacking off to slavery.

Isn't that a nice feeling, to see slavery eliminated in our time? It gives me warm fuzzies inside to know that all the men who say sexual slavery is not a big deal were absolutely right, and all the guys who said that sex slaves were too expensive to abuse (because dude, I wouldn't mess up a $2800 purchase!) now don't even have to worry about THAT.

(the whole rant is worth a read imho).

Anyway, I don't see legalisation as any panacea for the millions of women and girls and boys being used as the cannon-fodder of the transnat sex industry.  Not without far more pervasive and radical social and economic transformations.  If we really want to "do something about it," as with terrorism or hunger (to both of which prostitution is intimately linked in more than one sense), we need to start with fundamental social justice issues.

The difference between theory and practise in practise ...

by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Tue Nov 29th, 2005 at 07:34:44 PM EST
In Australia, prostitution in some form is legal, and except for street work, is decriminalised in most states. Some states have exactly what many think would 'fix' the problems - well-run, structured brothels with strict guidelines for safe sex, strict restrictions on 'customers', the women earn well etc etc.

The results are:

there is a strong heirarchical distinction between brothel 'sex workers' and 'street hookers' - the former have far more choices in life and are extremely contemptuous of street workers, seeing them as a threat and blaming them for any bad name the industry gets. They actively encourage police arrests of street workers, and deny any links between the two arms of the industry. This results in a culture that sees a lot of problems denied, including the usually appalling conditions and reasons that lead women and children into streetwork.

the legal brothels are still riddled with loopholes - eg there is growing evidence from one large state that brothel owners - who are over 60% male -are pressuing their 'girls' not to insist on condoms.

The legal brothers form the perfect cover for the illegal sex trade industry. In Australia alone it is estimated that there are at least 1-4,000 women in sexual slavery; sex workers don't want to know about this as it threatens their industry. When my home state recently went through a long debate about its prositution laws, an international expert on the global sex slave trade gave a public talk. He said that legalised, 'professional' brothels provided the perfect front for illegal sex slave trading, and proceeded to demonstrate that in two Australian states that had legalised their industry leading to a several hundred percent jump in the number of sex slave cases.

When borthels are legalised, the inhumane and damaging treatment of street workers is almost always silently condoned; yet these are some of the most exploited and damaged people in our society. However to acknowledge this undermines the comfortable status quo of clean, high-price women for most who pay good taxes. Essentially it condones the sacrifice of the most vulnerable of society.

Regardless of whether they are working in legal clean brothels, or as street workers, there is substantial evidence that an above-average number of women in the sex industry have been sexually abused; many have been sexualised and traumatised at an early age, leading to a response that sees sex work as the only or most viable option. This begs the question just what is society condoning and taking advantage of in legalising the sex industry as a whole.

The lessons - any consideration of legalising prostitution can not be looked at in isolation  - ie the implications for that state/province/country. Global sex trafficking is just that, and every local decision has implications for our chances of ending the disgusting practice.

Any consideration of legalisation of the industry has to consider both brothel and street work, because no legalised system has stopped the much more dangerous etc. street work; it has simply ghettoised it and lead to horizontal hostility between better-paid and better-treated prostitutes looking to protect their own patch.

Any consideration of legalisation has to consider why it is as a society as a whole we consider it acceptable that anyone should countenance meeting a (overwhelmingly) male sexual urge. Why are women's bodies considered legitimate merchandise to satisfy an urge that everyone has, and that 50% of the population apparently manages to deal with through consensual arragenemtns, masturbation or self-control? Why is one of the most frequent arguments given back to this to effectively threaten that without prostitutes, the rape and sexual abuse rates of women would be much higher? Why is that an acceptable opinion to bring into the debate? - what does it really say about us as a society, especially as figures suggest that minimally 1 in 6 women are raped already, and that's with the ubiquitous presence of prostitutes.

Any consideration of legalisation of the industry needs to take into account the high sexual abuse rate of women involved in the sex industry, and ask if the best response society can come up with is to funnel them into a system of "choosing" to sell their bodies, as opposed to having them violently violated and taken from them - or god forbid, actually looking to prevent and treat the victims of such behaviour.


"This can't possibly get more disturbing!" - Willow

by myriad (imogenk at wildmail dot com) on Tue Nov 29th, 2005 at 10:18:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
thanks myriad, I knew something about the Australian results but could not have summarised them as neatly.

in partial answer to your questions -- consensual arrangements, masturbation or self-control do not offer the thrill of power.  I think this is why there is a social consensus that we "must" offer this service, even sacrificing the lives and prospects of an entire underclass to do so:  because the enjoyment of power over others is seen as an inherent right of males in a male-dominated culture, and without this right they are seen as, and see themselves as, "less than men."  women are not perceived as having any right to the thrill of power over others -- in fact are likely to be seen as 'unnatural' if they achieve such power, hence the nastiness directed at women who succeed in national politics, regardless of their party.  hence society deems that female sexual urges and needs can be easily answered by simple physical means -- consensual sex with friends or lovers, self-stimulation, or abstinence.

but if one cannot get the deep sexual thrill without feeling also the thrill of power over another, then it is necessary to find a victim (younger, smaller, weaker, poorer, colonised, traumatised, hungry, desperate?) who can be dominated (or if we are "civilised," persuaded to pretend to be dominated).  and this is where the whole notion of the "no-fault unionised sex parlour" starts to unravel.  such an establishment can serve the percentage of men who can keep their dominance fantasies just that -- fantasies;  and it can serve the smaller percentage of men who really want just physical sensation, or even company or someone to talk to, or the kind of physical cuddling that men are ashamed to admit needing unless it is disguised by sex :-)  but it does not serve the (larger, one fears) percentage of men who want to hit or hurt or threaten someone, take out their frustrations or anger on someone, enjoy the fun of seeing fear in someone's eyes, use a woman as a toy or prop or offering in a bonding ritual centred on another man, or enjoy the satisfaction of "making her do things" that they know no self-respecting human and equal would willingly do.  thus this "market share" remains constant no matter how much sanitised, inspected, State-approved commercial sex is on offer.

so the "hydraulic theory of male sexuality" is imho just BS.  if it were that simple, any guy with at least one working hand would be quite contented :-)  it does not explain why men with sexually willing wives or girlfriends still use prostitutes, nor why men with sexually willing wives or girlfriends notoriously try to wheedle or coerce their partners into doing bizarre things seen in porn or while using prostitutes.  obviously simple, ordinary sex is not the point.  the point is "making her do things," and that is all about the power trip -- neither the primal, animal experience of orgasm nor the emotional satisfaction of companionate intimacy and affection... intersubjectivity, if we want to get technical, is what prostitution and porn are NOT about, the dreaded intimacy with an equal from which they provide an escape into a simpler, less threatening master/servant, consumer/commodity, Subject/Object relation.

male-dominated cultures are not going to admit the possibility that prostitution might be unnecessary or even a bad thing, any more than affluent Americans are going to give up their SUVs without whining and stamping their feet.  it's all about power and status and self-image.  it takes an enormous ideological push, a conscious commitment to gender egalitarianism, to challenge the model of women as sexual consumable or merchandise/property.  the Maoists managed it for a while, but it took a degree of ideological reprogramming that most people would find alarming/repugnant (though ironically we don't find the ongoing destruction of women's and girls' lives, or their forcible "seasoning" and programming by pimps, nearly so repugnant).

when we think that the sex trade can be legalised and cleaned up and made harmless to women, what we ignore is the large percentage of its customers who are paying precisely for the amusement and thrill of harming women, and who will not be satisfied with less.  one solution of course would be escalating, draconian punishments for battery, sexual torture, rape, femicide, etc. -- but more effective would be abolishing female poverty, ensuring a living wage and the opportunity for full legit employment, ensuring shelter, health care, child care and drug rehab or addiction management programmes.  we can try to catch and punish all those who prey on the vulnerable (a big task and difficult to do justly) or we can try to 'drain the swamp' by reducing as far as possible the size of the vulnerable population on which they prey.  since the latter path has all kinds of other beneficial side effects for society, it seems like the winning strategy to me...  

a "war on prostitution" makes no more sense than "war on drugs" or "war on terror," but at the same time,  I have to agree (I think) with myriad, that blanket legalisation seems like a societal endorsement of the traditional male "right" to dominance over women, and has failed in enough cases (failed, that is, to do anything but expand and stratify the market, raise tax revenue and render pimping an approved State function, and offer newly legitimised investment opportunities for capitalists) that it doesn't seem like any kind of silver bullet.

The difference between theory and practise in practise ...

by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Wed Nov 30th, 2005 at 01:32:40 AM EST
[ Parent ]
There is an enormous difference between one's hand and actual intercourse.

In fact, far more men turn to prostitutes in order to BE dominated than to dominate.  

Men do not go to prostitutes to see "fear in someone's eyes" - they are far more likely to see boredom, impatience, even open contempt.

There is no "social consensus" towards prostitution - it is precisely the opposite.  It is either tightly controlled or downright illegal in most of the world.  Both prostitutes and clients reguarly face public humiliation or even imprisonment.

It is an artificial consensus backed by old-style sexual repression on the right and new-style feminized sexuality on the left.

by tyronen on Wed Nov 30th, 2005 at 02:02:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]
In 1996 there was one of the few extensive studies done of women in prostitution in Australia. Over 60% reported that the thing they liked least about their work was the contempt and disrespect they were treated with by their clients, even if there was no actual physical abuse. The women in various significant percentages also gave examples of being asked to perform humiliating positions and sex acts, being referred to as "bitch", "whore" and verbally abused through the exchange.

I don't think this is about who can 'understand men', I think this is about empirical evidence.

"This can't possibly get more disturbing!" - Willow

by myriad (imogenk at wildmail dot com) on Wed Nov 30th, 2005 at 03:25:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Your earlier comment said that the Australian sex trade is divided between a legalized upmarket brothel sector and an illegal downmarket street sector.  I'd guess that most verbal abuse happens in the latter category.  

Certainly in the case of physical abuse or rape, the illegal prostitute fears arrest for her work, and is less likely to turn to police for help.

Furthermore, I'd argue that a society that bans prostitution is more likely to do so out of a hatred of, rather than respect for, female sexuality.  The prostitute is seen as an 'evil' temptress or slut, and would be more likely to be stigmatized and abused.

Historically, more tolerant attitudes towards women's sexuality have been accompanied by more tolerance of prostitution.

by tyronen on Wed Nov 30th, 2005 at 05:45:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Your earlier comment said that the Australian sex trade is divided between a legalized upmarket brothel sector and an illegal downmarket street sector.  I'd guess that most verbal abuse happens in the latter category.

No, this was a survey -the largest undertaken in Australia - of women in both legal brothel work, and street work, with separate findings for each. I would link to it, but it doesn't appear to it online, so I'm working off hardcopy.

The findings with regard to denigration and verbal abuse of women were 1) universal across both sectors, and 2)what I reported above was for those in brothel work. It was higher for those in street work, and also closely entwined with assault in the latter case.

Your point about bans on prostitution is nonsensical in this context.

"This can't possibly get more disturbing!" - Willow

by myriad (imogenk at wildmail dot com) on Thu Dec 1st, 2005 at 02:18:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]
what about private sex work?

women who dont work either in brothels or on the street?

women like me.

i work for myself, when i want, i see who i want, i do what i want, and i have never ever felt dehumanized, abused, threatened, or unempowered.....the exact opposite is true.

why cant we come up wih a solution to this situation that deals with every facet and every different group of persons involved?

by anna in philly (jrsygir1@aol.com) on Thu Dec 1st, 2005 at 09:25:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It's a good question, and it's really not clear from the Australian survey if single private workers were included. I can tell you that a brother was defined as "a residence or other suitable legal premises where 2 or more women were undertaking sex work" - and from prostitutes I know who work privately from home but often share premises, this would include some of them.

why cant we come up wih a solution to this situation that deals with every facet and every different group of persons involved?

In a perfect world maybe there would be, it sure would be nice. At present the fact remains that legalising prostitution buys some safety for some women, and a great deal more illegal and degrading activity for others. I am simply not willing to sacrifice particularly women from the developing world who have precious few choices about any aspect of their life, for the sake of 'choice' for predominantly middle-class women in the first world.

"This can't possibly get more disturbing!" - Willow

by myriad (imogenk at wildmail dot com) on Thu Dec 1st, 2005 at 09:03:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]

The Fates are kind.
by Gaianne on Wed Nov 30th, 2005 at 04:36:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It is not true that the primary motivation of clients is to demean or oppress women.  I challenge you to link to one survey or study that indicates that it is.

Clients pay for sex because, often, it is the easiest and fastest way to obtain physical pleasure.  Lust of the flesh.  That's all.

Men's sexuality is different from women's.  Men place less emphasis on long-term emotional bonds and more on physical sensuality.  Many more men than women are interested in short-term, impersonal, sexual encounters.  This imbalance creates the demand for prostitution.

Buying sex is not buying a woman.  Selling sex is not selling one's body.  It is a service.  A more intimate and personal service than almost any other, true, and one emotionally difficult for most women.  But it remains a fact that when the client leaves the room, he has no further right to any more sex without paying more.

Many feminists find this hard to believe, but going to a prostitute can feel demeaning to a man as well.  He wants sex.  This desire is not transitory, not fleeting, but deep-seated and powerful.  His own partner may not be willing or able to provide it, or he may not have a partner and lacks the social ability to get one.  

There are thousands - millions - of women physically capable of having sex with him but they will all refuse.  To him, sex is a basic desire, even a need.  To a woman, it is something she will not do with him unless paid.  He leaves with his hormones temporarily satisfied but with the awful feeling that no woman wants him, personally, only his money.

by tyronen on Wed Nov 30th, 2005 at 01:07:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I challenge you to link to one survey or study that indicates that it is.

See my post above in response to yours.

Buying sex is not buying a woman.  Selling sex is not selling one's body.

Excuse me, but if you're not a woman engaged in this, how would you know? You are pushing your frame of what prostitution is onto women.

Men place less emphasis on long-term emotional bonds and more on physical sensuality.  Many more men than women are interested in short-term, impersonal, sexual encounters.  This imbalance creates the demand for prostitution.

  1. There's growing evidence that a significant proportion of women enjoy casual encounters, but are so demonised ('slut', 'whore') for admitting it that they don't, so we don't even have an accurate picture of this because the male frame of reference dictates how female desire should be interpreted.

  2. The "imbalance" isn't what creates prostitution, it is the male imperative in believing that if such a desire exists they have a right to fulfill it that leads to prostitution - because that along with male power and dominance creates an environment where women will give their bodies in return for some material exchange, and men force many women including all-too frequently their daughers and wives into the business because it is so profitable.

And really, if prostitution leaves men feeling so shamed, one wonders if the 8 minutes is really worth it? Perhaps they feel bad as much because the macho stereotype of men not wanting as much emotional connection as women is as much bullshit as fact. The most touching stories from prostitutes talk of lonely men who want to be held, not have sex.

But this macho frame of reference seems to explain why you appear to be arguing for society to be more permissive of prostitution, because that way all those poor blokes paying wouldn't feel so bad.

I'd also frankly question whether the majority of men do feel bad as the situation currently stands - prostitute's stories certainly don't back that; it's still tradition in many parts of the world for eg to send a young man to a prostitute to lose his virginity. It's a rite of passage. Many young men in particular visit prostitutes as a group and egg each other on.

as for this -

His own partner may not be willing or able to provide it

There are thousands - millions - of women physically capable of having sex with him but they will all refuse.

Aww, poor men. I'm sorry, but the picture you attempt to portray of men as the victims is tired and profoundly inaccurate. Look at the rape statistics. And by the way, what about women?

"This can't possibly get more disturbing!" - Willow

by myriad (imogenk at wildmail dot com) on Wed Nov 30th, 2005 at 03:39:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Prostitution is a service.  Once it's over, the client does not own the service provider.  Criminal sex rings do, indeed, effectively own prostitutes, but that is a consequence of it being illegal and would be reduced or eliminated if it weren't.  

It may indeed feel like selling one's body, especially if forced into it - but again the use of force and the confiscation of earnings is the issue, not the sex itself.

It's true that women are stigmatized more than men for casual sex.  But the same patriarchal forces that attack 'sluts' are the ones calling for prostitutes to be harassed and imprisoned.  And even without the stigma, there is no evidence suggesting the number of women willing to do casual sex is even remotely close to the number of men.

This is why heterosexual male prostitution is virtually unknown - there are hardly any women who will have such utterly impersonal sex.  Even one-night stands and bar encounters usually have a courtship ritual, starting with flirtatious glances, that may last several hours.

But the ultimate reason for legalizing prostitution isn't for men's sake, it's for the women's sake.  They wouldn't face imprisonment.  Kidnapping, trafficking, and sexual slavery would largely disappear.  It would be much, much easier to protect prostitutes from assault, rape, or murder - today if a prostitute reports rape, she faces arrest herself.

by tyronen on Wed Nov 30th, 2005 at 05:55:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Prostitution is a service.  Once it's over, the client does not own the service provider.

This is again your imposition of interpretation - and is fundamentally disproved by the testimony of real live prostitutes. The fact that you keep repeating it as if it makes it any more real is not doing much for your argument.

Criminal sex rings do, indeed, effectively own prostitutes, but that is a consequence of it being illegal and would be reduced or eliminated if it weren't.  

Except that as I and others have pointed out, decriminalising or even legalising prostitution in many countries has not stamped out such criminal activity, in fact it has served as a front for it in many cases. So just how many women are you prepared to sacrifice?

But the same patriarchal forces that attack 'sluts' are the ones calling for prostitutes to be harassed and imprisoned.

Conservative patriarchal forces want to both use women and demonise them. Liberal patriarchal forces just want to use them. Big step up - not.

 Kidnapping, trafficking, and sexual slavery would largely disappear.

I accept that you genuinely believe this, but the fact remains that you are dead wrong. That is not what those involved in fighting the illegal sex trade will tell you. Once again, they have categorically documented how legalised systems effectively create havens for the illegal sex slave trade. IOW what is driving the trade is demand, and that will only disappear with a change in societal attitudes; legalisation or otherwise is a localised bandaid that offers some protection at the local scale for some women, but ultimately endangers thousands more.

"This can't possibly get more disturbing!" - Willow

by myriad (imogenk at wildmail dot com) on Thu Dec 1st, 2005 at 02:25:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Buying sex is not buying a woman.  Selling sex is not selling one's body.

Excuse me, but if you're not a woman engaged in this, how would you know? You are pushing your frame of what prostitution is onto women.


well i AM a woman engaged in this and i DO know....but i only know my experience and i dont discount the experience of others.

for the record i think you are both right....the truth is more complex than either of you seem willing to admit.

by anna in philly (jrsygir1@aol.com) on Thu Dec 1st, 2005 at 09:29:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think I've acknowledged the truth, and yes it's not black and white. Even going by the Australian study alone, there were about 30-40% of legal brothel workers who expressed overall satisfaction with their work. I don't discount their experience. However across the spectrum of all prostitution, it remains very much in the minority.

I'd also point out that at least I have sourced my views from the voices of prostitutes, not decided for them.

"This can't possibly get more disturbing!" - Willow

by myriad (imogenk at wildmail dot com) on Thu Dec 1st, 2005 at 09:07:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Dworkinite stereotypes are, I think, at least a little closer to reality and more up-to-date than the quaint Edwardian or Victorian notion of females as having no innate sexual appetite, while poor, pitiful males are driven willynilly (ahem) by their rampaging hormones...

It's funny how, when we're talking about women in positions of power and authority, the Edwardian line is that they are hormonally unstable and undisciplined -- you know, menstruation and menarche and all that messy emotional stuff -- and hence don't have the self control and mental balance for responsible office;  whereas men are rational, in command of their emotions and conduct, etc.  But as soon as it comes to sexual access and privilege a special exception is made -- and it is men, poor dears, who are the victims of their own raging hormonal impulses and women -- a bunch of levelheaded, profiteering, calculating Jezebels -- who are allegedly in control and in power.

What's even funnier is that this Edwardian/Victorian line is still accepted as rational or realistic by many in the early 20th century.

Selling sex is not selling one's body.

Ever done it?  for a living?

And btw, when a punter pays a hooker to pretend to dominate him, it doesn't change a damn thing about the material conditions of that transaction.  He has the money, and she needs food and a roof over her head.  He's the one who sets the scene and determines the script.  She's the one who has to fulfil his expectations and engineer his satisfaction.  If the power relation were truly reversed, she'd be paying him to submit to being dominated.  Which probably happens now and then -- rich women presumably can keep "toy boys" if they can find young men venal and/or hungry enough to take the job, but it's an exceptional case.

What on earth next -- are "honour killings" OK too, because men just can't be expected to control their deep, innate, biological primate feelings of ownership and jealousy?  How about the innate impulse -- very deeply wired and powerful in us all -- to hit or throw things at other monkeys that we really don't like?  Dear me no, must be terribly harmful for us to contain or tame those deep impulses.  Say, I think I'll go throw some fruits and nuts at that annoying Bush-supporting bus driver on my way home :-)  Or better yet, I think there should be a special brothel full of Republicans who get paid a measly wage for me to go and throw fruit and nuts at them.  After all, I shouldn't be expected to deny my true feelings and forego one of life's greatest satisfactions.

The difference between theory and practise in practise ...

by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Wed Nov 30th, 2005 at 03:55:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Nothing, NOTHING in my or anyone else's posts here claimed women are "hormonally unstable and undisciplined".  That's a straw man.

The core assumptions you seem to be making are that:

  1. exchanging sex for money is inherently abusive; and
  2. society encourages the above.

The presence of strict prostitution laws gives the lie to #2; if society really wanted to encourage prostitution, it would never be illegal.  Furthermore, the societies with the strictest prostitution laws tend also to be the most patriarchal and hostile to women's sexuality.

As for #1, yes it is abusive if a woman is left with a choice between starvation and prostitution.  That, however, isn't how it works.  Your diary points out that most women don't choose prostitution voluntarily, they are forced into it.  If prostitution were legal and free of stigma, it would also be free of organized crime, and women wouldn't face the problems of kidnapping and coercion.  Those few prostitutes remaining would be voluntary.

But is it abusive for a woman who enters the trade voluntarily, in an effort to earn more money?  No.  If sex for money is abusive, it follows that sex itself, at least the casual variety, is borderline abusive.  This strikes me as the feminization of morality; what women prefer sexually is 'moral', what men prefer is 'immoral'.

I would not want my own daughter doing it; nobody does.  That alone isn't reason to make it illegal.  I wouldn't want her to join the military or become a marijuana dealer, but I do not support banning those either.

Besides, how does arresting clients help the prostitutes?  Suddenly, their income stream has disappeared.  How do you expect them to survive?  Only by providing other jobs, which should be provided in any case, prostitution or not.

I'd contend that, even in an ideal world with no poverty, there would still be prostitution, because of the differing nature of men's and women's sexuality.  In such a situation, prostitutes would have higher earning power than other jobs, and there would always be some women willing to accept the emotional difficulties of the job in exchange for the higher wages it would offer.  Why should they be banned from doing so?  

by tyronen on Wed Nov 30th, 2005 at 05:30:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I am not fully in line with you on this. There are women who differentiate between sex and deep, emotional feelings, and they are not prostitutes. Women can have fulfilling sexual intercourse with a man even if the relationship is purely based on pleasure shared, even if it is only about "flesh lust". There must be minimum respect on both sides, but does it not make it more enjoyable for a man to have sex with a woman he respects and trusts, a woman who genuinely enjoys it ?

When through hell, just keep going. W. Churchill
by Agnes a Paris on Wed Nov 30th, 2005 at 06:02:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Casual sex has nothing to do with abuse. The difference between casual sex and prositution is, to put it bluntly, the same as confiding in a friend and seeing a shrink. The former will share and be, to some extent involved, and it is for free, the latter will have you pay the price of neutral, professional yet understanding listening and advice. Money in psychanalsis is needed to keep the distance, to avoid the confusion that the shrink is a friend indeed, it is the price for him to keep up with neutrality. But it also rewards listening all day long to people's problems. No matter the shrink is cut out for the job, would he do it for free ? Not sure.

When through hell, just keep going. W. Churchill
by Agnes a Paris on Wed Nov 30th, 2005 at 06:25:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
What Edwardian notions?

quote To him, sex is a basic desire, even a need.  To a woman, it is something she will not do with him unless paid.

that to my ear had a very Edwardian ring to it -- sex is a basic drive for men, dear, the poor brutes, so you must just put up with it.  lie back and think of England, etc.  as if the desire for sexual pleasure never occurred in women -- that is, outside the dutiful attentions owed to a lawful hubby :-)  (or as the OT has it, "And thy desire shall be to thy husband and he shall rule over thee.")

what is interesting I think is the persistent assumption that while it is women's or society's responsibility in some way to cater to men's sexual desires -- a kind of sexual welfare state? -- it is no one's responsibility to cater to women's... the Edwardian assumption is that this is just fine because women don't have any.

The difference between theory and practise in practise ...

by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Thu Dec 1st, 2005 at 01:37:10 AM EST
Here is what always puzzles me.  I would not want my own daughter doing it; nobody does.  (Actually this doesn't puzzle me at all, it seems like simple common sense.  I would worry about a parent who thought otherwise.)

What's puzzling is the coexistence of this frank admission that no one would want a young woman they cared for and loved to be selling sex to male strangers on a routine basis, with the assertion that, "there is nothing wrong with it, it is no different from any other kind of work, anonymous sex for money is not immoral, men have a right to buy sex, it should be perfectly legal, etc."  If it is really all that fine and moral and nonproblematic, then why is it that no one wants their own daughter doing it?  Why is it OK to get a blow job from someone else's daughter for $25 in a dark corner on a cold night, but not for one's own daughter to be in the same position with some stranger?

Because one's own daughter is private property and not to be "stolen" or sold at too low a value to other men?  Because one's own daughter is "a better class of woman" and hence deserving of respect which is not offered to hookers?  Or what?  Every prostituted woman and girl is someone's daughter -- a cliche to be sure, but quite true nonetheless.

The difference between theory and practise in practise ...

by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Thu Dec 1st, 2005 at 01:44:25 AM EST
I don't think it's fine or non-problematic, but what good does criminalizing it do?  Parents don't want their children to grow up to be a lot of things, but if the kids do end up say, being strippers or prostitutes, parents don't want them in prison, either.

Maybe we can eventually make language a complete impediment to understanding. -Hobbes
by Izzy (izzy at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Dec 1st, 2005 at 03:00:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
ok ill bite

i dont want my daughter working at her chosen profession in the place she has decided to work because its dangerous.

i would prefer she chose my profession where she will make more money and be much more safe.

that doesnt mean she walks the streets...there are lots of different types of prostitutes out there...just like there are lots of other legal jobs out there that arent much fun...i have done a lot of jobs i hated....where i had to lie to people and where i had to favor one over another for political reasons....or where my boss made me feel degraded.....where i wasnt paid what i was worth....where i had to put up with abuse from bosses as well as clients and say nothing....

should we make sneakers illegal because of the work conditions of most of the people who are employed in china making our sneakers?

i appreciate many of the points you have brought up in the discussions i have read but you generalize an awful lot and you dont include all the different possible types of sex work in your examples.

for example i also make porn.....i dont believe i objectify women.....i do objectify men at a certain level....mostly i objectify clowns....got any problems with objectifying clowns? i make money humiliating men....is this bad?  the men come to me consensually....they agree to it...they beg for it...am i hurting them?  i believe im giving them a vacation and indulging them in their fantasies that dont hurt anyone. why is this bad?

by anna in philly (jrsygir1@aol.com) on Thu Dec 1st, 2005 at 09:41:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]

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