People aren’t angels woven of light, but neither are they beasts to be driven into stalls. – Vladimir Korolenko
One year ago today I published “November Miscellanea (Part One)”, which reported on an attempt by the U.S. Congress to censor the internet; the fact that the U.S. government hides the proof that 95% of “missing children” are simply living with the parent they prefer rather than the one to which clueless judges assigned custody; the widespread resistance to the HPV vaccine; weird search terms; a Los Angeles man who reacted violently to a proposal rejection; and prostitute “Don’t Panic” plans. These stories were all U.S. based, but today we’ll look at several stories from the “other side of the pond”. The first two are from the U.K. and demonstrate once again why legalization (rather than decriminalization) does no good for sex workers; this one’s from the October 6th Lancashire Evening Post:
A man who ran a brothel masquerading as a ‘gentleman’s club’ has been told to pay back almost £750,000 of his ill-gotten gains – or face prison. John Williams Burrows, 63, funded a “lavish lifestyle” from the proceeds of the business…he pleaded guilty…to managing the brothel…and…was given a 10-month prison term suspended for 18 months. But now, a Proceeds of Crime Act hearing at Manchester’s Minishull Street Crown Court has ordered him to pay back £742,759.83. He must pay in six months or face four years in jail, after which he would still owe the money…He could now be forced to sell his assets and hand over his savings to meet the POCA ruling.
Other residents in the remote Hough Clough Lane area said they were shocked by the news…[a spokesman for the police] said: “Brothels are a blight on our communities and we fully understand the concerns of residents who live in or near areas affected by the illegal sex industry. Burrows enjoyed a lavish lifestyle from the exploitation of young women. He has a property portfolio that will now have to be sold to fund this repayment”…[another] said: “This shows that anyone who profits from criminal acts will be pursued through the courts and we will do everything in our power to seize their assets.”
As you can see, the fact that prostitution is legalized in the UK doesn’t stop the persecution of sex businesses, the overblown dysphemisms, the governmental propaganda against sex work and the use of excuses to justify blatant money-grabbing (how can one “pay back” money to the government that didn’t come from the government in the first place?) Change the “£” to “$” and the names of places and institutions, and this is indistinguishable from an American news story. The same could be said of the following “sex trafficking” story from the October 4th Northumberland Journal:
A sex trafficker has been jailed for three years and four months for controlling prostitutes in Newcastle and elsewhere around the UK. Stephen Craig, 34, was jailed for arranging travel, accommodation and advertising for 14 women. His co-accused, Sarah Beukan, 22, was jailed for a year and a half for her part in the human trafficking network operated by Craig. They admitted at an earlier hearing to moving 14 people to various addresses…to work as prostitutes…they also provided accommodation for the women to work out of, put out advertisements for their services in newspapers and online, and took a cut from their wages…there is no evidence to suggest Craig and Beukan were trafficking people from overseas into UK…there was “never any pressure, force, threat or compulsion of any kind directed at the women involved”…Detective Inspector Stephen Grant, from Strathclyde Police major investigation teams, said Craig and Beukan were “despicable individuals”.
In other words, Craig and Beukan ran a business. Period. They hired people to do legal work as independent contractors and charged a management fee; part of that covered travel, advertisement and accommodations. And this makes them “despicable individuals”…how? Is Detective Inspector Marx simply opposed to capitalism? Or, as is more likely, is he simply a prancing savage who imagines that sex is magically different from all other human activity unless a shaman shakes his sacred rattles over the couple first? Just as in the United States, prostitutes are imagined to be infantile lackwits who can be “controlled” by anyone male, yet this outrageous sexism is cheered by neofeminists as supportive of “equality”.
I’m not suggesting that legalization is inherently bad for whores; it’s certainly possible to imagine a legalization structure in which we are treated fairly. But as we can see in the U.K. and Canada, most legalization schemes aren’t much better than criminalization and all of them open the door to police and governmental abuse of prostitutes nearly as widely as criminalization does. The previous examples came to my attention through Harlot’s Parlour, but the following example from a different regime (published October 19th on IPS) was sent to me by regular reader Bandoblue:
The severe financial and economic problems in Portugal are driving many women to desperation and pushing them into prostitution as a last resort to support their families. The decision to sell one’s body cannot be taken lightly. But for many mothers the alternative is to condemn their children to hunger, which is why “increasing numbers of women in their thirties, who are victims of the crisis, are resorting to prostitution,” said Inês Fontinha, head of the Associação O Ninho (Nest Association). Fontinha…said that…[in addition to] the fear that is natural in novices to the game, many of…these inexperienced women are also afraid…of falling victim to human trafficking networks, often controlled by the so-called “Eastern mafias”, in comparison with which the local pimps seem almost harmless…
Alexandra Oliveira…a researcher at the Faculty of Psychology and Education Sciences at the University of Oporto…[said] “Prostitution should be legalised to make it socially acceptable”…adding that it is still “highly stigmatised”…Her findings indicate that most sex workers, especially streetwalkers, come from the lower socioeconomic strata, have little formal education or professional training, and are from poor backgrounds…
What causes a woman to become a sex worker? IPS asked two women who took up the life because of the crisis. Pamela and Xana (their working names) said they are only in it for the money…”Lots of people mistakenly say that women who prostitute themselves do it for sexual pleasure, but they have no idea why we do what we do,” said Xana, a 29-year-old divorcée from Lisbon with two children she has to “feed, clothe and educate.” Pamela and her partner also split up. “From one day to the next he left home, and when a woman is left on her own with two children and the bills mounting up every day, life becomes pretty grim,” said Pamela, who worked in the textile industry up to a year ago…Both Xana’s and Pamela’s families are unaware of their activities. Most sex workers lead a double life that their relatives do not know about…As for the sex itself, both women stated that they themselves set the rules, defining very clearly what was acceptable and what they were not prepared to do. “We always insist on condoms. It doesn’t matter if a client offers more money to have unprotected sex, we won’t agree,” said Pamela. Can one be happy in such a life? was IPS’ final question. Xana answered for both of them, with Pamela nodding agreement. “When you are constantly judged and condemned, naturally you don’t feel very good…If our line of work was regarded in the same way as any other profession, I think we would feel better about what we do.”
Though the reporter is no less ignorant and the story details are no less lurid and sensationalized than one would find in the U.S. (including the typical emphasis on streetwalkers and pimps), the women are not portrayed as criminals, idiots or wantons, and it is notable that the Myth of the Wanton is specifically refuted by one of the interviewees. Furthermore, though “human trafficking” mythology is unquestioned, the solution proposed by the quoted experts is neither the universal police-state crackdown to which American “authorities” masturbate nor the “end demand” dogma of fanatical neofeminists, but the simple and obvious solution proposed by sex workers the world over: decriminalization, which is mistakenly referred to as “legalization” in the story (prostitution is already legal in Portugal). Considering the success of drug decriminalization in Portugal and the generally more sensible attitude toward sex prevalent in Mediterranean Europe, this is not at all unlikely; there is even hope for a more rational policy in the UK and Canada. Within the next few years it’s entirely possible that the only countries which completely deny women control over our own sex lives will be the U.S., its financially-dependent satellites in East Asia, and other oppressive Asian and African regimes.