‘Prostitution is a cause and consequence of women’s inequality…

Men need to be educated out of the belief that paying for sex can ever be a right’.


[Image courtesy of Cédric Puisney via flickr.com ©©]

Up and down this country – in cities, towns and villages – there are brothels in which so many  women are being abused and harmed. They are often trying to escape violent fathers or  husbands, as well as dire poverty. They are trafficked in from Africa, Thailand, the Balkans, and also from within the UK.

Some of these women, advertised on the Internet, in phone booths, and in local papers by pimps and traffickers masquerading as businessmen, were abused into prostitution as children.

Who are the men who buy them, and who create the demand for prostitution?  Ordinary, everyday folk, apparently,who seem to feel entitled to rent the bodies of other human beings as though they are  inanimate objects without feelings or histories.

Paying for sex is unacceptable. One piece of research in which over 100 buyers of prostitution services were interviewed found that many believed they would "need" to rape if they could not pay for sex on demand. One told me, "A desperate man who wants sex so bad, he might rape." I concluded from this that it's not just feminists such as Andrea Dworkin and myself who are responsible for the idea that all men are potential rapists – it's sometimes the men themselves.

Why do I choose to say this now?  Because the government has recently included ‘prostitution’ as a form of violence against women and girls.  They’ve done so as a debate rages between the government and the Association of Chief Police Officers, with the latter suggesting the legalising of brothels as a way forward.

On this, the government is right and the police wrong.  Legalisation is not the answer. What brothel owner accustomed to raking in thousands literally off the backs of women would consider giving her employment rights? What trafficker of foreign illegal migrants would give up using women who are cheaper and more compliant than local women? Also, how can simply licensing the premises protect prostitutes from violent customers?

I do not condemn the practice of buying and selling sex from a position of Victorian prudery, seeing it as some sort of moral crusade.  No - the fact is that tolerating or (worse) legalising prostitution is simply an official endorsement of gender inequality;  it maintains and sustains the idea that somehow women are subordinate.   Prostitution is a cause and consequence of women’s inequality.

So what is the way forward?  Men need to be educated out of the belief that paying for sex can ever be a right, let alone a harmless leisure pursuit.  And government and police need to stop further punishing the women, and instead start focusing on the men who create the demand.

Once, we abolished slavery.  Today, surely it’s not too much to ask for there to be no room in our society for the buying and selling of women’s bodies?

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