With all the Brexit madness that has been dominating British news for the past few weeks, I thought I would share something completely different

 

After a report by Amnesty International earlier this year, a cross-party group of MPs are pushing for a chang to UK prostitution laws.

Note: Human trafficking is not the same as prostitution. Prostitution or sex work refers to the consensual trade of money for sex amongst adults. Human trafficking refers to people who are forced or coerced into the sex trade, many of whom are lured from another country under false pretences and who are then unable to escape. Human trafficking is slavery and will always be a crime.

Under current UK law, prostitution is not illegal. It is in fact perfectly legal to sell or buy sex as long as both parties are of age. But some aspects of prostitution such as brothel-keeping, curb crawling and street selling are illegal. The current law doesn’t make a great deal of sense though. It is far safer to work in a group and in a secure location then to be forced to work alone. The law that currently affects street workers is targeting some of the poorest and most vulnerable people in the industry. Working on the streets is dangerous in any case, and if a street sex worker is abused by a client they cannot go to the authorities because they are likely to be persecuted themselves.

The law as it stands is badly in need of reform. Some are in favour of adopting the ‘Swedish model’, i.e., criminalising the punter rather than the prostitute. But sex workers say this would just push the industry further underground. Making it illegal to buy sex won’t stop the industry. As far as we are aware there has never been a human society without prostitution. What it may do is make clients less willing to co-operate with existing safety measures in place, in turn making it more dangerous for the sex worker.

You may be of the opinion that prostitution cannot be consensual. You may be unwilling to believe that someone would choose this line of work of their own free will. You may also think that prostitution is yet another manifestation of patriarchy; that it is another example of male dominance over women. You might further think that prostitutes are victims who need help, and anyone who tries to paint a different image of prostitution is doing a disservice to those who have been abused by the industry.

This isn’t really true. If you read or watch an interview with a sex worker, they often stress that they have the right to decide what they do with their own bodies. They accuse feminists of being patronising, of labelling sex workers as victims without bothering to listen to what they have to say.

Many claim to enjoy their job. Prostitution is not just about sex; it is about being able to read a person, to give that person companionship as well as sexual fulfilment. Some people go to prostitutes to talk and cuddle without ever having sex at all. There are also severely disabled people who use prostitutes because they find it very difficult to receive sex elsewhere.

A further complication is that not all punters are male, and not all sex workers are female. When you talk about prostitution you will normally be referring to female sex workers and male punters, but this isn’t the only form of prostitution. There are men who pay men for sex, women who pay men for sex, and women who pay women for sex.

Lesbian prostitution exists, even if it is seldom discussed. According to an article published by the Telegraph, the lesbian punter is typically a 40-to-50-year-old woman who is either in the closet, wants to discretely explore her sexuality, or is unwilling or unable to have a real-life lesbian relationship. An interview with a lesbian escort published by the Independent claims the average client is a financially secure older women who is in London for work. While there are many female  escorts who will have threesomes or work in pairs, as well as those who will work with both men and women, there are a few female prostitutes who cater exclusively for women. If prostitution is just about women servicing men, how can lesbian prostitution exist? And what about men who sell sex to other men? Prostitution is a broad industry that caters and employs many different people.

Whatever your opinion, the law cannot stay how it is. So now we are faced with a choice. Do we pretend we can eradicate prostitution? Do we push it under the floorboards and decide what is out of sight is out of mind? Or do we accept that the world’s oldest profession is here to stay, and all we can do is try and ensure it is safe and consensual? I know which one I would choose, how about you?