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Stop harassing my dear clients
[From the Swedish by Sirocco]
Riksdagen [the Swedish Parliament] passed the Sex Purchase Act in the late 1990s, swayed by the argument that it was needed to improve the social standing of women. Criminalizing sex would make women think twice before starting to sell sex, it was maintained. They would more easily resist pressure to offer sexual services, and those already in the sex trade would find it easier to quit (which they were all assumed to want). And perhaps most importantly, criminalization would show that society takes a moral stand against trade in sex.
A majority of MPs bought this argumentation right off the shelf. For me and many other prostitutes, however, reality is a little too complicated for that.
To begin with, one should bear in mind that the Sex Purchase Act criminalizes all commercial sex regardless of whether the parties are consenting. This came as a surprise to those of us who thought sex between consenting adults ceased to be a matter for the police when homosexuality was made legal in 1944. The explanation is the ever-repeated political cliché that prostitution always amounts to violence against women and is never done with genuine consent.
I have sold sex to men for four years now and have no plans to quit. I chose to leave a stable but dull white collar career for the more uncertain, but all the more rewarding, prostitution. My new career in the sex industry has gone through various phases and not always been a cakewalk. I have at times worked for small money to pay my bills, debts, and other expenses, but usually I have made enough to afford all that life has to offer. And no matter how dire my straits, it was always a choice. Noone has forced me to do this. To me it has been purely a question of consensual sex between adults, and after four years in the business I daresay this goes for the great majority of prostitutes I have met - men, women, and those in between.
My clients belong to every layer of society, though most earn above median income. Their reasons for seeing me vary: They may feel lonely or insecure, need adventure or relaxation, or - typically - be horny and unwilling to spend time, energy, and money on the non-commercial sex market. I have to be sure encountered the odd bastard, just like in my office job, but the vast majority of my clients are really, really sweet men who would never dream of threatening or beating me or anyone else.
Unlike the government officials who penned the Sex Purchase Act, I have practical experience with the activity they have outlawed. And that is why their argument rings so very false to me and many other prostitutes. I have so far met noone who has abstained from selling sex due to criminalization, and those I know who quit did so for quite different reasons. On the other hand, many prostitutes and social workers can attest to how the Sex Purchase Act has done nothing but worsen the situation, especially for street walkers and those arriving through trafficking. And if prostitution is violence against women - how come the law also curbs activities like mine, where no woman was ever involved?
I realize that the decision to sell - or buy - sex is incomprehensible to many, but for those of us who chose to enter the sex trade it has seemed the best available option. A lot of us would appreciate for the government to stop treating us as little children in need of being saved from ourselves and put the resources into more sensible undertakings than to punish people who have done no harm.
Fortunately the world is slowly noting what is going on in Sweden. In Norway - despite intensive marketing from the Swedish side - there is now a broad political majority against criminalizing the purchase of sexual services. The difference is that the Norwegian debate lets prostitutes offer their views on how criminalization would affect them. I sincerely hope the Swedish government will do the same one fine day. The sooner the better - enough have been punished and tarred unnecessarily.
Recently the pro-criminalization side has been gaining ground here in Norway as well, for no more principled reason than an influx of African prostitutes on tourist visas annoying the good citizens of our capital. There may soon be passed a ban here as well, I regret to say.
The world's northernmost desert wind.
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