Why British men are rapists
In the world of stag-night excess, lad mags and lap dancing, paying for sex is losing its stigma and more and more men do it. These "clients" are responsible for a grotesque crime, yet they get away scot-free. By Joan Smith
A patriotic pants man.
I first starting thinking seriously about the politics of prostitution last year when I was in a uni tute with a room full of radical feminists, and off-handedly mentioned that I didn't see anything wrong with prostitution if that was the occupation that someone chose for themselves. Little did I realise that my remark was such a controversial one. The looks of disgust in my direction were harsh and severe and made me feel like a butcher at a vegan's convention. Clearly not a popular position.
The more I think about it, the more I realise that I have an ultra-liberal position on prostitution. To me it is a perfectly legitimate choice of occupation, and one that should carry no stigma. Prostitution is ultimately no different from any other occupation - it is the selling of one's skills for the betterment of another in exchange for money. Whether you're laying bricks (no puns, please), answering phones or healing the sick, you're selling the skills that you have acquired (muscle, personality or intellect). The fact that prostitution involves the selling of an intimate and very personal skill does not differentiate itself from other occupations.
Indeed, in a free society, people ought have the right to trade with each other. Though it's not something that I think I'll ever be interested in buying (or, indeed, selling), I don't believe that the state has the right to intervene. With the usual caveats applying - that all participants are of age, that participation is voluntary - there is nothing wrong with people chosing to be, or to use, a prostitute. Far from prostitution being a human rights abuse, as some feminists argue, the restriction of freedom of choice is itself a violation of rights.
The fact that many prostitutes live and work in dangerous conditions is not an argument against legal prostitution - in fact, it's an argument in favour of it. If we accept that prostitution will always be with us (and it will) then if prostitution can be practiced legally and safely, with proper regulation, just like all sorts of other industries operate, then it would be an ideal outcome. Realistically, street prostitution can never be completely safe, so it's rightfully outlawed. As for registered and regulated brothels, leave them be. The present mix in Victoria - the regulation of brothels and the criminilisation of street prositution - seems about right.
The problem, and this is mentioned in the article, is that enforcement of regulation is slack. The fact that human trafficking and sexual slavery can occur is an indictment both on those who carry it out, and those who are expected to police it. Defending the right to prostitute does not entail defending the right to traffick or enslave. It is the enslavement and manipulation of trafficked women that constitutes the crime, both moral and legal, not the act of prostitution. The right solution is not to try to ban prostitution, but is to rigourously police and prosecute people traffickers.
Am I a sexist male? Perhaps. But part of living in a liberal society is giving people the freedom to make their own choices without the paternalism of the state constantly protecting them. If people of their own free choice decide to sell access to their bodies, then it's their choice to make. However, for those who traffick women, and those who exploit them, they themselves have breached a fundamental tenant of liberalism and their acts deserve nothing but undying scorn. There is nothing inconsistant in condemning trafficking and defending prostitution, and liberal values should support them both.
Update, 26/1, 12:45am: It was great to see a post from a new contributer, R Berman. RB, if you could send me your email or a phone number, I'd love to get in touch. Email addy is email@example.com. Thanks.