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The greens and prostitutes

(808 Posts)
IceBeing Wed 04-Mar-15 21:21:11

Be gentle as I am new to thinking about this.

I found the Natalie Bennett's comments on decriminalising prostitution pretty persuasive - what am I missing?

She basically said that sex workers would like this policy (having contributed to it) and that research from other countries indicated it was the way forward.

ShirakawaKaede Wed 04-Mar-15 21:59:30

Sarah Ditum talks lots of sense on this issue (see above).

Also, bear in mind that the term 'sex worker' doesn't necessarily mean prostitute. The term includes brothel owners for example - so at least some of these people have a vested interest in decriminalization.

AskBasil Wed 04-Mar-15 22:04:20

Another link re violence decreasing with Nordic model

CrispyFern Wed 04-Mar-15 22:07:17

Maybe you aren't missing anything.
It's good to keep your mind open and be willing to change your mind on things sometimes if you receive persuasive evidence.

ChazzerChaser Wed 04-Mar-15 22:10:39

The 'sex workers like it' position is so disingenuous for me. Which sex workers? They're not a monolith. I find it so patronising. Women with experiences of prostitution be that current or previous have different opinions. So it comes down to a political decision of whose opinions you find more persuasive, and how this fits with the bigger picture. Hiding behind the 'it's the sex workers wot said it' argument is cowardly.

That's in addition to questions around who are the 'sex workers' (it's an umbrella term including phone workers to pimps) and why are they saying what they say.

scallopsrgreat Wed 04-Mar-15 22:13:02

'Sex workers' also tends to be predominately the more privileged within the system and doesn't tend to include those who have exited prostitution.

ShirakawaKaede Wed 04-Mar-15 22:16:51

To be clear, as you said you're new to this issue (I don't mean to patronise you if you know this already!) but the greens are proposing blanket decriminalization of prostitution. The Nordic model would not criminalize prostitutes themselves & part of it is help to get out of it. This seems a better solution to me and there is plenty of research supporting it.

uglyswan Wed 04-Mar-15 22:19:26

OP, here is a study from 2012 comparing the so-called scale effect - decriminalizing prostitution results in the expansion of the prostitution market which encourages traffickers to increase trafficking of (mainly) women and children - and the substitution effect - legal (non-trafficked) sex-workers are given preference over victims of trafficking. The results show that, overall, the scale effect tends to dominate the substitution effect. "On average, countries where prostitution is legal experience larger reported human trafficking inflows".

MadameLeBean Wed 04-Mar-15 22:28:11

It's had terrible effect in Germany .. Google Rachel Moran speech ...

AskBasil Wed 04-Mar-15 22:31:28

I'm just going to post SoccerFunDay's post from the WebChat thread because she said it so perfectly:

"The criminalisation/decriminalisation is all about non-ideal choices I think.

I’m pretty convinced that decriminalisation would make it safer for women who are already involved in sex work, particularly those who currently work on the streets. Surely they're less likely to get raped and beaten in fully legal socially acceptable brothels. I completely get this argument and think it's fair enough.

But what decriminalisation ALSO does is:

1) set a societal norm that it's AOK to fuck people who, at a very basic level, have no wish to fuck you. This is immensely problematic when so many men already don't understand (or choose to ignore) the basic principle of consent.

2) set a societal norm that women's bodies exist to be used sexually by men, and that so long as money changes hands this is also AOK. Women are orifices to be ejaculated into and their humanity is irrelevant

3) make sex work a socially mandated career choice that will inevitably be most attractive to the most vulnerable, most abused, most fucked-up and most addicted very young girls and women - and then leave them at the mercy of 'punters', who are surely one of the most troubling, abusive groups in any society

4) give a broad social mandate/approval to skeevy dickhead men who get off on pimping out vulnerable women and making money from the process

So do we better protect women who are on the streets NOW, or do we work towards much more comprehensive protection of endless generations of women to come? Because you can't do both.

Sex work is not like any other profession or job. It requires huge physical vulnerability and trust, and the correlation between 'men who hate women' and 'men who like paying to fuck women' is immense. Do we want to give a broad societal mandate to that?"

AskBasil Wed 04-Mar-15 22:33:08

Here's Rachel Moran

uglyswan Wed 04-Mar-15 22:36:55

I agree, scallops, Natalie Bennett's broad definition of "sex work" - which encompasses webcam work, stripping and phone sex is unhelpful and definitely skews the issue. Prostitutes experience a far higher risk of sexual and physical violence, STIs, trafficking, coercion and coercive drug dependence than any other sex worker. Decriminalizing sex work might possibly benefit phone sex providers and brothel owners, but it will not make prostitutes any safer.

PuffinsAreFictitious Wed 04-Mar-15 23:04:52

Rebecca Mott's blog speaks clearly about the damage prostitution causes.

Plus what Basil, Scallops and Chazzer have said, far more calmly than I can.

uglyswan Wed 04-Mar-15 23:44:46

Basil, I hate to contradict SoccerFunDay's very good post, but this part:
"I’m pretty convinced that decriminalisation would make it safer for women who are already involved in sex work, particularly those who currently work on the streets. Surely they're less likely to get raped and beaten in fully legal socially acceptable brothels." simply isn't true.
Women working in perfectly legal brothels and strip clubs are humiliated, harrassed, assaulted and raped. Prostituted women working in brothels are coerced into servicing drunk or violent johns. (source: And I'm not even going to go into the emotional and psychological damage and devastatingly high rate of PTSD that sex workers suffer from in equal measure in countries where it is illegal and where it is has been decriminalized (Vanwesenbeeck's studies on sex work in Amsterdam found that 75% to 90% of prostituted women reported symptoms of PTSD). Decriminalizing sex work will not magically result in pimps and johns respecting women and their right to refuse sex or protecting their physical and mental health. I agree with all the other points, the thought of making "sex work a socially mandated career choice" is terrifying.

IceBeing Wed 04-Mar-15 23:47:00

I sort of view it the same way as decriminalizing drug use.

Obvious drugs and prostitution are damaging.
Obviously we want to reduce both.
Obviously we want to make both more safe while we attempt to reduce both.

Maybe decriminalizing is the best way to achieve the final aim of elimination?

IceBeing Wed 04-Mar-15 23:50:32

I understand why, even though all the evidence seems to point to it, that most political parties won't support the legalization of drugs.

Why on earth would anyone support the legalization of prostitution if the evidence didn't support it being effective? It is so obviously a vote loser with basically everyone! You would surely only go that route if you strongly believed it was a necessary first step to dealing with the problem?

IceBeing Thu 05-Mar-15 00:01:00

People also make the argument that legalizing drugs will lead to larger uptake, but again the evidence doesn't really support that. Do people really think that if prostitution is legal, girls will be asking for or getting careers advice in how best to get into it?

I do totally think that the Nordic model is better however. I really do wonder why they haven't gone that way.

uglyswan Thu 05-Mar-15 00:12:18

I don't doubt that Natalie Bennett is acting in good faith. I read a paper by her published in the International Green Journal a couple of years ago, supporting the decriminalization of sex work, so this isn't a new ploy in the run-up to the election. But her paper, and presumably current thinking, a) pertains not to prostitues, but to the much broader category of "sex workers" (see all the arguments above) and b) is based exclusively on findings in New Zealand, where decriminalization has been very very tightly linked to governement regulation safeguarding the rights and health of sex workers. And this has indeed had a positive effect. But it does not address the problem of increased trafficking, nor does she mention other countries where the decriminalisation of sex work has had absolutely no effect on worker safety. And, I'm sorry, I'm not in the UK, but do you really think that intense government regulation of any industry sector to protect the workers rather than the bosses is ever going to happen? Because decriminalisation without regulation sounds the far more likely option.

uglyswan Thu 05-Mar-15 00:14:59

"Do people really think that if prostitution is legal, girls will be asking for or getting careers advice in how best to get into it?" This is already happening, OP. It's called pimping and trafficking. And again, an expansion of the market always leads to an expansion in 'recruitment'.

IceBeing Thu 05-Mar-15 00:20:29

ugly I just wanted to say I really appreciate you taking the time to discuss this.

I realise women are currently being recruited into prostitution....but will legalization genuinely increase that?

Just because a job is legal, doesn't make it desirable, or aspirational.

There aren't a lot of girls volunteering to be binmen and that is perfectly legal.

IceBeing Thu 05-Mar-15 00:21:46

I think if the Greens were in power than tight regulation in favour of workers not bosses is a more realistic possibility than otherwise! They are by far the most socialist of the English parties.

uglyswan Thu 05-Mar-15 00:36:40

There are a lot of jobs around that are neither desirable nor aspirational, but people still do them! Girls presumably aren't volunteering to be 'binmen', but there are a disproportionate number of women working in the cleaning sector. People will take up work they hate, for crap pay, and under terrible conditions, if their economic situation is dire enough (whether these are global, national or personal circumstances) and if there is enough government pressure to take up any form of paid work (sanctions etc). And trafficked women don't volunteer, they are coerced.
I like your optimism re the Green Party - as I said before, I'm not in the UK, but I really do hope you're right!
This has been a really interesting chat - like you, I was on the fence about this for a long time until I started reading some of the empirical studies on the effects of decriminalization - you can't beat the facts! I've really got to get to bed now, but would be happy to pick this up again!

rivetingrosie Thu 05-Mar-15 00:40:14

IceBeing - I see your point here, this is a common assumption.

I'm afraid the evidence does suggest that legalising prostitution leads to greater demand and therefore greater numbers of women being exploited and abused:

The drugs analogy doesn't really work here. I personally think drugs should be legalised, and not simply because the current laws don't prevent people from taking drugs, but also because there aren't any ethical problems with taking mind altering substances IMO. As long as you don't drive etc., there's no reason why getting high should hurt anyone else. There might be some negative health effects, but then the same is true of alcohol.

Buying sexual access to women's bodies, however, is highly unethical. Even if we made it entirely safe - no STDs, no violence, no rape - there would still be the central act of sex without meaningful consent. Perhaps there are some people in the world who really truly see sex as no big deal, have no emotional attachment to their sexual partners, couldn't give a monkeys whether or not they fancy them, and have nothing invested in their own sexual desires and identities. Maybe these people exist, but I don't think I've ever met one of them. For most people, sex is different from other social interactions and desiring your sexual partner is fundamentally important. This is why rape is such a traumatic act of violation, after all.

And actually plenty of voters do support the legalisation of prostitution, particularly men who like buying sex, which is quite a lot of men! Latest estimates are about 1/8 British men have bought sex at least once (I think! Anyone with better stats please correct me if I'm wrong). Then there are all the people who buy into misogynist ideas about women's bodies being commodities to be bought and sold.

There are plenty of people who see no problem with the idea in theory of selling sex as a form of work, but then ask them if they'd want that for their sister/daughter/mother and they're appalled. We're so used to this idea of a class of invisible women who no one really cares about - prostitutes aren't real people in the minds of many voters.

This twitter exchange between Rachel Moran and Laurie Penny is amazing...

This idea that prostitution is alright for some women, just not for me is so offensive. Laurie Penny really gets told here!

FloraFox Thu 05-Mar-15 00:48:48

Why on earth would anyone support the legalization of prostitution if the evidence didn't support it being effective?

There is very little evidence that is not influenced by the political views of the person collecting the evidence. Most of it is highly contentious. Many people involved in the prostitution issue have formed their views on political principles, either a libertarian approach to choice, a patriarchal desire to maintain the availability of women for sexual services to men or an analysis of prostitution as a factor in the oppression of women.

There is some good evidence that decriminalisation leads to an increase in trafficking and also an increase in demand. That is highly logical because an increase in demand requires an increase in supply.

There is also good evidence that decriminalisation does not reduce street prostitution, which is the most harmful type. This is because the men specifically seek the street prostitution experience and the women often have addiction and other problems that would make them unemployable in a brothel.

There is a lot of money in prostitution for the pimps so they have heavily invested in promulgating the myth of sex-loving empowered prostitutes.

ChunkyPickle Thu 05-Mar-15 08:26:54

I read an article, and I have no idea where, but possibly linked from here, which was written by/about a woman in one of the new (ish) German super-brothels.

There was nothing safe, regulated, or good about the work she was doing, and she was planning to just be doing it while she qualified to do something else. She still couldn't really go to the police with problems because she didn't want people to know what she was doing, she had to switch her self off for the entire day because the job was just constant unwanted sex - it was horrific.

I can't support the greens because of this. Having read articles covering all sides and viewpoints I cannot support government sanctioned prostitution being the norm.

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