Archive for July 26th, 2011

The society girl meets more dangers than the girl on the stage. There is more danger at a tango tea than in the theatre.  –  Lillian Russell

The world is an imperfect place, and anyone who favors endlessly-increasing nanny-state laws under the battle cry, “One is too many!” is doomed to disappointment because no system, no matter how perfect, can prevent every single problem (especially from those who purposefully work to circumvent that system).  Any job in which one has to deal with people exposes one to the possibility of violence from customers, and as I discussed in my column of one year ago today that’s more true of prostitution than of many other jobs, largely due to criminalization.  Largely, but not entirely; most people if asked to list dangerous jobs probably wouldn’t include waitress, teacher or Wal-Mart greeter, yet people are killed in those jobs because, as I said, the world is imperfect.  So even though working in an Australian brothel is generally safer than working as an independent escort (and dramatically safer than working as a streetwalker), there are always exceptions…especially when the brothel’s management ignores the safety of employees and allows a dangerous situation to develop.  This story appeared in The Melbourne Age on July 13th and was called to my attention by a friend who lives in Melbourne:

Butterflys yellow pages adA prostitute who had a gun pulled on her for refusing to have unprotected sex plans to sue a suburban brothel for failing to protect her.  The woman…said her former workplace, “Butterflys of Blackburn”, had turned a blind eye to workers having unprotected sex, creating false expectations and a sense of entitlement among clients.  It also failed to video record people coming and going from the premises and did not have security guards.  She said this partly led to a man assaulting her last August when she persistently refused to have sex with him without a condom…[which] caused the man to aggressively grab her, flip her onto her back and attempt to rape her.  Although she escaped, the man pulled out a gun before leaving and threatened her.  “He pointed it at my head and said he could do anything to me.  He said, ‘No one can stop me’,” she said.

The woman has since been diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder, whiplash in her neck and a torn muscle in her shoulder.  She said although other brothels provided excellent security for their workers, Butterflys had allowed workers to charge extra for unprotected sex, creating an impression that clients could get whatever they wanted.  “It never used to be a big issue…but about 12 months before I got attacked, it became a regular occurrence.  More and more guys were coming in asking for sex without a condom.  They were under the impression that most of the girls in that place would do it,” she said.  “If they didn’t let that happen, I wouldn’t have been attacked.”  While it is illegal for people to have unprotected sex in brothels, Butterflys’ website says its aim is to provide clientele with ”everything they may desire and more”…

No reputable brothel or escort service anywhere in the world allows its employees to have unprotected sex; it endangers both girls and customers and feeds into the “dirty whore” myth all professional sex workers want to dispel.  But there are unethical members of every profession, and if the woman is telling the truth Butterflys is run by such.  Failing to have proper security procedures is bad enough, but allowing desperate girls to provide “bareback” is completely unconscionable.  The bad economy is almost certainly behind this; the woman says the problem started just over a year ago, and her weekly income is listed later in the story as A$1000 (not terrible but not all that great either), so I suspect Butterflys is struggling along with many of its employees.

The really important thing about this story, though, isn’t that there are some bad brothels (just as there are bad examples of any business); what’s important is that the prostitute had recourse, unlike her sisters here in the United States.  She was able to report her employer for unsafe working conditions without fear of arrest, and has filed a grievance as any other employee in any other industry might; the later part of the article even mentions that she is now collecting unemployment since she cannot work at present.  Australia’s version of legalization is about as close to full decriminalization as any country has without actually being there, and prostitutes there are treated almost exactly like workers in any other industry; thus when the rare problems do crop up, as in this story, they can be dealt with properly instead of becoming fodder for the sick fantasies and wild exaggerations of prohibitionists as they would in the United States.

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