Full bottles are quiet; it’s the empty ones that make noise. – Chinese proverb
Just over a month ago, the European Women’s Lobby issued another of its moronic “demands” that the European union impose the Swedish model on all member governments, claiming that prostitution can be reduced by doing so; this ludicrous cry for attention rests on a mountain of assumptions, every one of them wrong. It assumes that the European Union has such a power; that the Swedish model works as claimed; that laws can control human nature; that prohibition reduces use of the prohibited thing; that “violence” means “anything I don’t like”; that all whores are pathetic victims; that all women are magically connected together like the tentacles of some immense hyperspatial entity; that EWL has the right to determine morality for all women or all of Europe; and that anyone whose mind is not crippled by neofeminism or whose morality is not crippled by political ambition thinks of EWL and its inane declarations as anything other than caricatures. Those who wish to use the government to violently suppress consensual sex acts they don’t like are atavisms, throwbacks to our tribal past who must eventually be buried along with those who once urged pogroms against racial or religious minorities.
Bizarrely, these evil women cast their bigotry as “progressive”, largely ignoring the fact that humanity as a whole is slowly losing its taste for using violence to suppress the sexuality of individuals (probably because we no longer live in small groups purely dependent upon sheer numbers for survival). I say “largely” instead of “completely” because the very fact that they pretend sex work is “violence against women” rather than mere “immorality” demonstrates that, at least on some level, they recognize that the majority of Western society no longer approves of suppressing non-violent behavior with violence. Though they are fond of claiming that sex workers who want rights rather than “rescue” are “unrepresentative”, this is mere projection on their part; in truth it is they who are unrepresentative of those for whom they presume to speak, and their apparently-influential movement is in actuality nothing but a huge, hollow head, impressing the gullible with its apparent size but lacking any substance whatsoever.
All over the world, advocates for health and human rights are calling for decriminalization; all over the world, sex workers ourselves are demanding it. “Sex trafficking” hysteria has galvanized political resistance to these demands, but this is only a temporary setback which will be reversed as soon as the moral panic implodes. And though yellow press organizations like the BBC are happy to pretend that the neofeminists’ papier-mâché construction is both sound and solid, publications which cater to those unimpressed by hype are considerably more skeptical. Consider these three articles which appeared in Neue Zürcher Zeitung (German-speaking Europe’s equivalent to the Wall Street Journal)* the day after the BBC ran its story on the EWL’s silly screed; they paint a very different picture from that the EWL and BBC want you to believe.
…After a period of mostly liberal handling…since the late 1990s European discourse about prostitution is increasingly characterized by the restrictive, abolitionist-colored Swedish model, which feminists of all stripes (including the European Women’s Lobby)…proclaim as the only proper treatment for commercial sex…as in the 19th century, [self-described] “abolitionists” claim that sex workers should be released from their “enslavement”…and Sweden typifies this with its stance that first, prostitution equals violence against women; second, that there are no voluntary, self-determined prostitutes; and third, that it is the clients who are to be punished…Sweden’s stated long-term goal is to totally abolish prostitution, but a look at history shows that such an undertaking has never succeeded anywhere; prostitution flourishes even in those countries where it is completely forbidden, such as in the Arab world…
The article goes on to compare Germany’s loose legalization with the stricter regimes in Austria and the Netherlands and the persecutory system in France, and concludes that the Germans are moving in the right direction (i.e. decriminalization), that strict legalization regimes create “chaos” by making it too difficult for most whores to work legally, and that women forced by restrictive laws to work illegally are “particularly vulnerable when it comes to exploitation, isolation and violence.”
The second article goes even farther, describing prohibitionist claims as “myths and fairy tales”:
No country is able to provide accurate statistical information on the number and origins of all prostitutes or about the nature or place of their work. It is an extremely diverse industry, ranging from streetwalkers to escorts to dominatrices to ladies who provide sexual services to the disabled. The latter type meets with the greatest public acceptance and is even exempt from some local prostitution regulations…but it never fails that discussion about prostitution usually involves only the most visible workers in the low-price segment…The German Confederation of Counseling Services for Sex Workers (BUFAS)…warns that the numbers being bandied about in Europe…are usually extrapolated in a fictitious and adventurous way. “Virtually every time we searched for the source of these figures,” said Holger Rettig from Adult Business Association, “we ran into a bubble”…many long-circulated myths and stories persist, and a study by Christiane Howe of the Technical University of Berlin demonstrates that the majority of negative comments about prostitution are based on hearsay and not on the commenter’s own experience.
The third article expands on the statement that public conversation about prostitution is nearly always restricted to streetwalker stereotypes:
If prostitution is discussed in print or digital media, there will never be a matching photograph but rather one showing the same thing…high heels and lots and lots of flesh…all over Switzerland for the past three years, the same type of photos was always shown: headless women, lit from behind and photographed from below, and preferably showing a lot of skin. But why this monotony, why the cementing of a cliché in almost all media? Nicole Aeby…working for Zurich’s Office for Gender Equality…analyzed the pictures and presented her findings…at a public meeting in the Town Hall…Aeby says that this reduced and voyeuristic view reinforces and cements the prejudices of some readers and probably some editors…
In the US and UK, politicians consider it part of their job to reinforce old stereotypes about whores and invent new ones, and major newspapers assiduously devote themselves to spreading a moral panic; in Switzerland, the government wants to fight whore stigma and major newspapers make a point of deconstructing the same moral panic. And while some governments demand their people bow down and worship the neofeminists’ ridiculous pasteboard idol, wiser heads are working to set it on fire.
*I am indebted to regular reader Frans van Rossum for calling these to my attention, and to Google for closing the numerous gaps in my execrable German.