The BBC ran a story today that 200 Women’s Rights Groups are calling for an all out ban on the “right” to sexually abuse people in exchange for payment across the EU. Sweden led the way in this in 1999, and since then fewer men are coercing women into sex from the streets, while trafficking of women into Sweden has all but been eradicated.
Led by the European Women’s Lobby, which is an umbrella organisation for women’s rights organisations across Europe, including in the UK, Engender, Northern Ireland Womens’ European Platform and the National Associations of Women’s Organisation, it states that…
“The most important thing to understand about prostitution is that imposing sexual intercourse with money is a form of violence that shouldn’t be accepted”
This argument is countered most prominently by the UK Network of Sex Work Projects. This organisation – part funded through the University of the West of Scotland, is comprised of a range of organisations, many of which are not directly sex-work related, but associated with violence, imprisonment and drugs use, neither do nearly a third of them involve any client input into the services that they provide states…
[The criminalisation of men who sexually abuse people for payment] creates a legal and policy climate, in which sex workers are more stigmatised and socially excluded, and in which it is harder to offer [them] accessible support services,”
“It erodes sex worker safety and rights. The council of Europe should reject such laws and [instead] support initiatives and legal changes, which improve the social status and safety of sex workers and allow criminal justice authorities to focus their limited resources on violent and other crimes committed against sex workers.
The question that the UK Network of Sex Worker Projects doesnt seem to be asking is WHY THE NEED FOR SUPPORT SERVICES IN THE FIRST PLACE. Yes, people who are sexually abused are stigmatised and socially excluded and, yes, thats wrong, but you can end this stigmatisation of victims while still working towards the eradication of the abuse. Its stigmatised because its a reminder that such abuse goes on.
They talk about workers here. Worker’s rights and safety. The social status of workers. Crimes committed against workers. The professional interests of workers in other professions are promoted by their professional bodies and their unions. These are conspicuous in their absence from the UK SWP, which primarily comprises of state funded agencies and charities. I mean you don’t get support services dedicated to dentists, and even if you did (for I am sure there is a specialist dentist support forum out there), an umbrella organisation which represented them wouldn’t include the Prison Service or Alcohol charities.
They provide safety advice to women in the sex industry. Lets suspend disbelief here, and pretend that the sex industry is an industry like no other, just stigmatised and with poorly treated workers (I guess a bit like toilet cleaners, or abattoir workers), yes, of course some of the activities around it are illegal, but lets ensure that these workers are not prosecuted or legally targetted for their activities. And pretend that its just sex like any other kind of sex, just with money.
Look at their safety advice…
Firstly you are told to “keep your standards”, but then to “plan your exits”, not to be “drunk, stoned or high”. To tell someone where you are going to work, and when you are expected to return, not to look nervous, and again, don’t drink or take drugs, nor accept food or drink from a client unless it is sealed. Be aware of your surroundings, work together and note details where one of your group goes off. Look for weapons in a car, check around it, make sure no-one is hiding. And on and on and on – facilitate the possibility of running; what are the escape routes, how can you get out, how risky is this client…
Now I’m not disagreeing that this is all good advice, but if this is just your normal common or garden industry, why such hard hitting safety advice? Was it given to all estate agents after the Suzy Lamplaugh killing? By giving this advice, you are teaching women how to limit and control violence. Its no less than the “don’t get raped” adverts and actually much of it is very similar. Its saying that what you are doing is a very dangerous thing, and consequently you have to minimise risk. Being a woman, being a whore – both dangerous, both need you to take responsibility to manage potential male violence.
Where as there is nothing is in the equivalent of “don’t abuse women for money”. Its giving a green light to the clients who dont beatup/rape/maim/murder prostitutes to be one of the “good guys”. Not one of the nasty horrible punters, but the “nice blokes” that treat them kind as they fuck them for £50. Surely if they really wanted to eradicate sex worker abuse they would be tackling the very real issue that this is thought of as acceptable. Why not tackle the hideous levels of drug addiction by pointing out to abusers that much of the money that they spend to sexually abuse wo/men goes directly to funding unhealthy behaviours, unhealthy behaviours prompted by being continually and repeatably sexually abused.
The survey of support agencies that UK Network of Sex Work Projects found that the top recommendation was more funding for support services. Now thats not a bad thing, but if it were a coalition of domestic violence projects arguing that they should get more money while opposing the eradication of domestic violence, I’d be dubious towards their motives. Its poverty pimping, making money out of the backs of abused wo/men and doing absolutely hee haw to end the abuse.
With the introduction of £9K fees for students this year, and debt being identified as a reason for many women entering or remaining within the sex industry – students, particularly young female students are at particular risk of being drawn in as a way to cope with the financial demands of attending university.
The Independent has found a company calling itself “SponsorAScholar”, which seeks to link up cash-strapped students with “sugar daddies” that will pay their way through university inexchange for sexual services. Some who may be aware of the risks of entering outright prostitution yet under severe financial pressure be attracted to such an arrangement, although it would seem that it may simply be a preditor to sexually abuse women under the pretense of such a “company”. Either way, it teaches women that what they are valued for is their sexuality, while their intellect is something for which they must pay. Using their brain costs money, allowing their bodies to be used is profitable, as the number of students involved in the sex industry doubles in a year.
We must end this culture of entitlement to other people’s bodies through payment. Support services for those abused in this manner are all well and good, but if they don’t work to end the reasons why the services are needed in the first place, they become an off-shoot of the industry itself. At a time when women are being hit hard by the ConDem cuts, and the young hammered by the introduction of tuition fees, young women, in particular, are being made vulnerable to abuse for payment. Until demand is tackled, and the responsibility of eradicating the sexual abuse is placed on those who would abuse, wo/men will absorb abuse as a means of survival, whether that is to pay university fees or pay their dealers.
It is atrocious that Universities are being funded by money that students are receiving to be sexually abused; it is disgraceful that an umbrella organisation designed to co-ordinate services for sexually abused women see no need to demand the criminalisation of the behavior and it is awful that people are being led to believe that the sexual abuse of wo/men is perfectly acceptable so long as they give money for it.