Tag Archives: paying for sex

Some Girls Dance For The Love Of The Thing

Some girls dance
For the love of the thing,
And others For the security that a ring
does bring.
While others, with a fixed smile
Dance in bed
For they have bills to pay
Although it has been said
That some would rather be dead
Than go down that way.
Be that as it may
Will you condemn
Those who with men
Consort for pay
When the wolf
is baying at the door
And call them, “Whore”?
Or will you
Metaphorically flay
The lonely men
Who pay
For company,
And more
With a girl you label “Whore”?
Tell me
Who will you condemn?

“Being and Being Bought: Prostitution, Surrogacy and the Split Self”, by Kajsa Ekis Ekman – book review

This review is of “Being and Being Bought: Prostitution, Surrogacy and the Split Self”, by Kajsa Ekis Ekman, (https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1742198767/).

In “Being and Being Bought” Eckman argues that prostitution entails the exploitation of women by men. Women are (in Ekman’s view) “prostituted” (the word being used by her to denote the lack of free agency of those engaged in the world’s oldest profession).

Ekman contends that many of those who are “prostituted” develop a “split self”. The “prostituted” woman attempts to convince herself that she is “selling sex” rather than her very self. However for Ekman the act of selling sex can not be separated from the person (the “prostituted” woman who is doing the selling, for they are one and the same. Sex does not walk around the market place selling itself, for it has no existence independent of the “prostituted” woman. Likewise, Ekman contends one can not sell one’s body without selling oneself. Consequently the customers of “prostituted” persons are not merely buying a “sexual service” they are purchasing a living being.

Ekman gives the example of a woman engaged in the sex industry who, on returning home in the evening drew away from her partner thinking (at some level) that he was a customer. Both the woman and her partner where shaken by the experience which, for Ekman demonstrates the malign effects of prostitution on “prostituted” women.

Ekman is a left-wing Feminist, but she attacks those Feminists (some of whom are on the left) who argue that prostitution should be viewed as “sex work”. In no other work, Ekman argues, would the rate of violence and deaths suffered by “prostituted” women be tolerated. Women engaged in prostitution suffer, according to Ekman, from the kind of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) suffered by the armed forces. Again in no other industry/line of work would this be tolerated (outside of the military). For Ekman the unionisation of “prostituted” women promulgated by Feminists on the left who are “pro prostitution” (to use Ekman’s words) is no answer to the “exploitation” which, she believes constitutes a fundamental component of prostitution. Indeed she argues that very few of those engaged in prostitution are, in fact members of unions.

For Ekman those on the left who oppose the criminalisation of sex buyers are in an unholy alliance with right-wing free market proponents who argue that there is nothing wrong with consenting adults selling sexual services in the market place.

Eckman argues in favour of criminalising those who pay for sex as (in her view) prostitution is essentially exploitative and it is the buyers of sex (not the “prostituted” women who drive demand. Therefore the selling of sex should remain legal but the buying of it prohibited as is the case in Sweden, Norway, France and Canada (please note that when Ekman’s book was first published the buying of sex was not criminalised in France, Canada or the Republic of Ireland, these bans came in at a later date).

Ekman does accept that “a minority” of prostitutes may genuinely enjoy what they do. She puts this number at around 9 percent. However, in her view this “minority” should not prevent the needful measure of outlawing the purchase of sex from being taken. Sex purchase bans have, in Ekman’s view greatly reduced the demand for “prostituted” women.

A number of arguments have been advanced against the perspectives contained in “Being and Being Bought” including by many engaged in (or working with those engaged in) prostitution. It is contended that the sex purchase bans have made the lives of sex workers more dangerous. Prior to their introduction, it is argued that those selling sex could pick and choose their clients. If they didn’t like the look of a particular man they could reject him and accept a client who was more to their liking. However the sex purchase ban has, in the view of some prostitutes driven away the “nice” clients who are fearful of prosecution, leaving the sex worker (who needs money) with little option other than to accept “dodgy” punters (the latter not being put off by sex purchase bans).

It is also contended that while street prostitution has declined this has far more to do with the growth of online prostitution than with the introduction of sex purchase bans. Prostitution still takes place behind the closed doors of massage parlours and in private homes out of sight of the authorities.

It is further argued that clients are increasingly nervous so are reluctant to go to the homes of prostitutes for fear of being arrested by the police. Consequently they make arrangements to pick up prostitutes and take them to their own homes which is more dangerous for the prostitute as she is on unfamiliarity territory. Nervous clients are also more likely to behave in unpredictable ways.

Ekman gives the example of the owner of an escort agency who says that he never discusses sex over the phone, however both the client and the woman going to visit him know perfectly well that escorting almost always entails sex. Just how (short of banning all escort services) could one prevent escort prostitution? Even if the authorities where to monitor the communications of all escort businesses, if no sexual services are discussed either over the phone or the internet, then just how are the police to prove that sex is being bought? The answer is with considerable difficulty and probably not at all.

There is, of course also the argument of individual liberty (I.E. the view that the state has no business in involving itself in what “consenting adults” do in private). For the state to poke it’s nose into such matters is, in the view of the libertarian (with a small and a large l) illiberal and should be opposed by all those who care about individual freedom.

Ekman’s view that most prostitutes are deeply traumatised by the experience of prostitution or (as she puts it) by being “prostituted” is also contested by many with knowledge of the “industry”. Opponents of Ekman’s view contend prostitution is just a way of paying the bills as with most other kinds of work. It may well not be a woman’s first choice of occupation, however Ekman greatly exaggerates the unhappiness suffered by most prostitutes. Yes they may well “clock watch” waiting for the end of a sexual encounter, but many other workers look at the clock in offices up and down the land willing the end of the working day. Its Also argued that large numbers of sex workers do take pride in their work, for example some escorts speak of the pleasure they derive from bringing companionship (and other things) to the lonely and the disabled.

Whatever one’s view of prostitution “prostituted” persons may be, “Being and Being Bought” is a thought provoking read and I recommend it to you.

The World’s Oldest Profession Just Won’t Go Away

The All Party Parliamentary Group on Prostitution has recommended that paying for sex be criminalised (they argue that it is paying customers, mainly men, who are driving human trafficking and express concern regarding so-called “pop-up brothels”, where a property is rented for a short period then abandoned by the traffickers allowing them to stay one step ahead of the law.

This piece, by the Press association, https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/may/21/sexual-exploitation-uk-women-pop-up-brothels-report) reminds me of my poem “Circles” in which I ponder upon this highly contentious subject, https://newauthoronline.com/2016/07/15/circles/.


Countless pages,
Throughout the ages,
Filled by people, a few perhaps sages.
It goes in stages,
Toleration then repression
Of the world’s oldest profession.

Some cry “shame!
The men are to blame!
Fine or confine
Them in jail,
Such a policy can not fail
To bust their lust.
One must
The descent
Of women into prostitution. Shame! Shame!
The men are to blame!”

Others say
“Let the men pay.
Providing the women are willing
It is no business of society how a man spends his shilling.
Many do freely choose
To use
Their bodies to obtain financial recompense,
It does not make sense
To fine
Or confine
A man
When a girl can
Continue in her profession.
The answer lies not in repression”.

The nights are growing longer.
The earnest ponder
On the solution
To prostitution,
While John and whore
Go on as before.

This poem was prompted by the following article, by Julie Bindel, advocating that those who pay for sex be fined or imprisoned, (https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/jul/13/decriminalising-sex-trade-protect-workers-abuse

Calls For The UK’s Parliament To Outlaw Paying For Sex

A report drawn up for the All Parliamentary Group on Prostitution recommends that UK citizens who pay for sex abroad should be prosecuted for doing so. It also recommends the UK Parliament legislate to make paying for sex a criminal offence while leaving sex workers free to work. This is predicated on the belief that prostitutes are vulnerable and should not be criminalised, while those who pay for sex are exploiters and, as drivers of demand should be subject to criminal sanctions. Most sex workers believe that criminilising clients will make their lives less safe. For the article please visit http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/love-sex/sex-industry/sex-tourists-who-pay-for-prostitutes-abroad-should-face-prosecution-in-uk-a6888351.html

Being and Being Bought: Prostitution, Surrogacy and the Split Self | By Kajsa Ekis Ekman

Publication of the below should not be taken as an endorsement by me of the views expressed by either Ekman or the reviewer. The book expounds a particular perspective and I would advise that you read it and draw your own conclusions. I am blind and the book is only available in print in the United Kingdom. I have contacted the publisher requesting that it be made available in an accessible format (for example as a Kindle title with text to speech enabled) so that I can read Ekman’s work.




Being and Being Bought: Prostitution, Surrogacy and the Split Self | By Kajsa Ekis Ekman | Spinifex Press (January 1, 2014) | Paperback: 223 pages | $21.31

ISBN: 1742198767


The mantra “my body, my choice” has a long association with radical feminism. The term has become synonymous with what we perceive to be the feminist view

of all things related to human sexuality, and gender relations. Within the feminist movement, even to dialogue with the idea that there may be legitimate

restrictions to choice and the unrestrained use of our bodies is the great feminist heresy.


So, to read a book that begins to challenge the view that one has complete license over the body is refreshing, to say the least. Kajsa Ekman, a radical

feminist herself, tackles the hotly debated topics of prostitution and surrogacy, arguing that neither “choice” has helped the feminist cause; she is not

convinced that either choice is truly free, good, or empowering.


While intellectuals and advocates alike argue that women should be able to use their bodies in anyway they see fit, Ekman objects. The idea that prostitution

and surrogacy could be likened to any other contractual relationship is misguided, she argues. Underneath the romanticized narrative of the empowered prostitute

and the benevolent surrogate lies the simple truth that these acts exploit and commercialize not only women’s bodies, but their very being.


How prostitution became “work”


In 1999 Sweden made it illegal to buy sexual services, but not to sell them. Pimping and operating a brothel also became illegal. Sweden practically stood

alone in its strategy to curb prostitution based on it’s own investigation into the inner workings of the industry and the lived conditions of prostituted

people. The Swedish inquiry into prostitution discovered, first hand, that women in the industry were not liberated at all, but on the whole were subject

to violence, engaged in high rates of drug use, and had a death rate 40 times the average of the general population. What is more, researchers established

a very clear link between legalized prostitution and the trafficking of human persons.


One would think that these findings were confronting enough not to be pushed aside. Strangely, instead of drawing on and learning from the Swedish experiment,

countries began to fall like dominoes when it came to the legalization of prostitution. While the raw realities of the prostitution industry were well

documented, politicians ignored the facts and were swayed by the fashionable mantra that all choices are equal. From there they made the leap to treating

this form of modern day slavery as professional work.


Ekman’s explanation of how this happened is intriguing.


At the beginning of the twenty-first century, trade unions became the magic bullet for the problems besetting prostitution. Advocates claimed that these

could be remedied by regulation of the “industry”. Talk of worker rights appealed to the Left as it suggested that prostitutes would organize for fair

conditions. In practice, Ekman argues, this was a ploy to legitimize prostitution. The term “trade union” was introduced to coax people into thinking of

it in terms of work, and to hide the lived realities of prostitutes themselves.


Ekman doesn’t mince words: “It shifts the discussion from being about what prostitution is – inequality between men and women, the fulfillment of men’s

sexual demands, and the vulnerability of women who were sexually abused as children (to name just one reason why women are in prostitution) – to a conversation

about work, salaries, unemployment benefits, work conditions, union organizing.” (p. 70). We are thus led to believe that, while prostitution is not for

the faint-hearted, it is in no way dehumanizing or dangerous.


Her argument is reinforced by the fact that sex workers of the world didn’t actually unite, and neither did their organizations focus on work conditions.

Ekman spent two years travelling to meet with representatives from various European organizations. She discovered that what both trade unions for sex workers

and prostitute support groups had in common was that membership did not actually comprise prostitutes, yet they all presented themselves as representatives

of prostituted people. Ekman gives example after example of how these unions did not engage in industrial disputes, or seek to address the atrocious work

conditions that prostitutes are subject to on a daily basis. The violence, the rape, the economic exploitation by their pimps were never on the agenda;

instead, the unions, by and large, were made up of researchers, politicians, lobbyists and social workers.


The voice of the prostitute herself is relegated to the sidelines and the real purpose of trade unions for sex work becomes startlingly clear; they have

only one real function: to legitimize prostitution as work and ultimately create the image of a strong woman who can separate what she does from who she


“Happy hookers”?


Ekman tackles the glaring problems associated with the narrative of the “happy hooker” used by prostitution advocates to promote legalization and social

legitimacy. Post-modern intellectuals have created a romanticized view of prostitution under the claim that all sex is equal and empowering. The prostitute

is a businesswoman and an entrepreneur, never a victim of violence and rape, let alone death! Post-modernity has made the topic of sex taboo in the sense

that, since all sexual acts are empowering, all challengers are merely prudish and anti-sex.


block quote

“Nothing is said about what prostitution is, why it exists, or how it works. Instead, we have heard a contemporary saga of progress, a romantic tale of

how an old, decaying tradition long tried to keep people down and tell them how they should live – until some brave individuals rebelled in order to gain

the right to live the way that they wanted, standing up for freedom and sexuality.” (p.80)

block quote end


A common theme in Ekman’s research is that academics, advocates and politicians alike claim to speak for the prostitute but rarely take the time to acquaint

themselves with the stories of a wide range of prostituted women. They claim to present the authentic voice of these women but do not. With all the talk

of sexual empowerment and high-class escorts who get paid to have sex, the lived reality of prostitution – based on facts and statistics – is replaced

with a glamorized version of the prostitute’s story.


Take, for example, the research of Petra Osttergren. Her work is held up as an exemplar for documenting the experiences of prostituted women. While Osttergren

does focus on the experiences of women in the trade, her sources are telling: she interviews twelve women, all because of the positive experiences that

they have had. In turn, she relegates any women with negative experiences to the sidelines, silencing her and the statistics confirming that her “work

conditions” are not to be revered, let alone envied.


When all notions of victimhood are forgotten, however, so too are the perpetrators. Those who buy sex are excluded from this story, along with the violence

that they inflict. Everything becomes defensible within a relativistic narrative; even child prostitution and sexual trafficking become justifiable.


For example, social anthropologist Heather Montgomery comes to some disturbing conclusions based on her observation of children in prostitution in Thailand.

She documents their plight in one Thai village where at least 40 of the 65 children under the age of 15 have worked in prostitution. And yet she concludes:

“The children that I knew did have ‘a sense of control’ and to deny them this is to deny the skillful way that they used the very small amount of control

they do have. The search for victims of child abuse sometimes obscures the acknowledgement of children’s agency.”


While she recounts the effect on these children in the form of bruises, STDs and drug use, she refuses to pass judgment: ‘I do not believe that Western

models of psychology can be applied directly to children in other countries and still be useful.” Thus, even children are no longer victims, and the men

who prey on them are automatically exempt from their transgressions.


Surrogacy: prostitution’s twin sister?


Like prostitution, the hiring of wombs has become a booming trade in recent years. Although it is currently legal only in the USA, Ukraine and India, many

countries (such as Ekman’s native Sweden) are considering whether surrogacy should be legalized. This is partly the motivation for Ekman’s book – she wants

to draw out many of the ethically dubious theoretical and practical assumptions that cannot be separated from the act of surrogacy itself.


One might struggle, initially, to see the link between prostitution and surrogacy but Ekman does a good job of highlighting key similarities between the

two industries. Essentially, what binds the two together is that in both instances the human person is reduced to a body that can be bought and sold like

any other item on the free market. Ekman states:


block quote

“[T]oday’s prostitution is not limited to sexuality. It has expanded into other parts of the woman’s body. For thirty years now, we have seen a trade in

pregnancy. A reproductive type of prostitution has arisen in which women are inseminated and made pregnant in exchange for money. They are paid to bear

children of others and they give away these children shortly after the birth.” (p.121).

block quote end


The story of surrogacy, she argues, resembles that of the sex worker; pregnancy, too, can be work. As with prostitution, there is little critical reflection

on exactly how surrogacy happens, and the consequences of it. Surrogacy, too, is glamorized, in this case within a narrative of benevolence and service;

surrogacy becomes progressive and selfless instead of dehumanizing and degrading.


What lies beneath the façade of creating happy families, Ekman argues, is an extremely lucrative industry that trades in the human person – not just women

but babies as well. In India thousands of children have been born in this way – in 2006 analysts estimated the value of the Indian surrogacy industry to

be around 449 Million USD.


India is a perfect location for (typically) westerners seeking surrogates. Third-world surrogates come at a cheap price for first-world earners; Indian

women receive between $2500 and $6500, which could be up to 10 years’ salary for a peasant woman in India. These women are made to stay at clinics throughout

the duration of their pregnancy where their every move and mouthful is supervised, and where they are administered painful injections and medicines without

much say in the matter.


Another conveniently neglected point is that many of these women are coerced by their husbands or families to become surrogates. This adds yet another layer

to the abysmally unjust transaction that is occurring; “free choice” and “consent” can now be bought at a very cheap price. Ultimately, the human person

becomes a commodity, and in this case, those who are more economically advantaged are given free reign to exploit those who go without; one person’s desires

trump another’s right to be valued by virtue of their dignity as a human person.


Anyone can now have a baby, whether they are childless, infertile, heterosexual or homosexual, old or young. In fact, if one so pleases, she can outsource

her bodily hardship for less than the minimum wage, and have her own biological baby without having to go through pregnancy or labour! If pregnancy can

be conceived of as just a service, it begs the question, what is the product in this commercial exchange? The product can only be the child, says Ekman.

“The woman bears and births, and hands the product over. At the same moment that she gives up the child, she receives payment. Why is this not considered

human trafficking?” (p. 147-148)


Rights, needs and human dignity


One of the most perceptive points of this book is that both surrogacy and prostitution — and I dare to say this is true of other moral issues of our time

— are legitimized through the claim that they are human rights. It is a man’s right to have access to sex whenever he wants it or claims to need it. It

is a right of infertile and gay couples – or even those too busy working to get pregnant — to have children. In truth, human rights derive from basic

human needs – in the first place, survival – and not simply from desires, even noble ones such as wanting a child, especially when they infringe the rights

of others.


Ekman claims, correctly, that we never have the right to buy another’s very self to satisfy a personal desire. In her straight-talking analysis she spells

out exactly what is happening in these two situations: the human person becomes a commodity and is reduced to a mere body, an empty vessel used and disposed

of once their own desires have been fulfilled.


As a feminist myself (of a different variety to Ekman, might I add), I found this book an extremely powerful critique of these two industries; the author

is rigorous in the empirical data she collects, and she knits it nicely into an easily digestible piece. I did, however, find some of her theoretical considerations

not as palatable. Ekman’s work is essentially written through the lens of a Marxist feminism, which tends to make her forget the agency of the human person:

their ability to be virtuous and transcend imperfection and injustice, their ability to change and their ability to grow.


This applies also to the faceless perpetrator, whom Ekman never addresses. What is it that contributes to his (or her) downfall? Do they have the capacity

to change, and if so how does this change come about?


I am aware that these questions might take another thoroughly researched book to answer, but they are important questions to ask in the context of building

a thorough defense of the rights of women, and ultimately a defense of the rights of the human person.


Pauline Cooper-Ioelu is an academic in the area of educational innovation at the University of Auckland, New Zealand. She has an interest in radical histories

including trade unionism and feminism.


(For the original article which is freely available under a Creative Commons License please go to http://www.mercatornet.com/articles/view/being_and_being_bought).


A Question of Interpretation

“Wonderful to meet you Becky. The pictures on the website really don’t do you justice” Colin said rising to pull out a chair for his date.

“I’m sure you say that to all the girls” Becky said smiling warmly at Colin.

“No I always say what I mean and you, Becky look absolutely stunning in that blue dress”.

“Thank you” Becky replied, “This is a nice restaurant, I’ve never been here before. I just love traditional restaurants, those oak beams look to be several centuries old”.

“Yes its rare to find a place like this that hasn’t been ruined by some god awful corporate chain. The boards of those places should be lined up against the wall and shot”.

“Shooting is a little extreme. Making them eat in their own restaurants every day for the remainder of their lives would be sufficient punishment”.

“I’ll settle for that because I’m opposed to the death penalty on principle” Colin said smiling broadly. “What would you like to eat or would you like a little longer to choose?”

“The roast venison looks delicious”.

“Good choice. I’ve had the venison several times here and its always been excellent. Would you like to choose the wine?”

“I’m happy with a bottle of the house white”.

“The house white it is then” Colin said signalling to the waiter.



Bret ascended the stairs. Christ the flat was on floor 21 and he was only on the 7th floor. Typical the lift was out of order and as was so often the case with these council built 60’s tower blocks the stairs stank of urine. Thank god he didn’t live in a place like this.



“So, Becky have you met many men through the agency?” Colin asked as he poured wine into their glasses.

“This is our evening darling. It doesn’t matter about anyone else” Becky said taking Colin’s hand, “lets not spoil it by talking about other people”.



Thank Christ he was there. Bret pressed the door bell. It was opened by a lady in her late fourties or early fifties with iron grey hair.

“Come in Bret. How are you?” she said closing the door behind him.

“I’m fine thanks Molly. How are you? Who’s working?”

“We have a lovely new black girl, Caroline. She’s petite, just five feet with long black hair and 36d cup. Monica’s also working”.

“I’ll see Caroline”.

“OK but she’s with a customer at the moment. Would you like a drink while you wait?”

“No thanks” Bret said trying to make himself comfortable on the ancient sofa. Something sharp pearced his skin.

“Fuck not a bloody needle?” he said jumping to his feet.

“We don’t allow drugs here. You know that Bret”.

Bret glanced at the sofa. A rusty metal spring protruded through the threadbare fabric.

“You should get the bloody thing replaced!”

“Sorry Bret I’ll speak to the owner”.

Bret nodded. He knew that nothing would happen. The next time he visited the same sofa would be standing in that filthy corner. Did they never clean this place!



“I love Keats Ode to a Nightingale. Every time I read it I’m reduced to tears”.

Colin raised his eyebrows.

“You weren’t expecting a girl like me to derive pleasure from literature. I’m the kind of lady who reads chick lit or those trashy novels you pick up in airport book shops am I? Is that what you think of me?” Becky said. She smiled but beneath the smile Colin could detect something else, was it sorrow?

“I must admit to being surprised but, of course there is no reason why you shouldn’t enjoy reading great literature”.

“I read English literature at Notingham university. You look shocked. What is an educated girl like me doing in a business like this. That is what you are asking yourself isn’t it?” They both spoke in low voices but given the noise emanating from their fellow diners it would have been almost impossible for their conversation to have been overheard.

“Yes I must confess that I was”.

“I need to pay off my student loan. Most jobs don’t pay the kind of money to clear it quickly. OK I could pay it off gradually, through my taxes but I want to get a mortgage on a decent place and I don’t want the loan hanging over me. Plus, if I’m honest I like nice clothes and fine dining” Becky said.

“I’m sorry if I offended you”.

“You didn’t darling” Becky said allowing her right foot to rub discreetly against Colin’s leg under the table.



A door opened. Bret could hear muffled voices followed by the closing of the front door.

“Caroline there is a customer for you”.

Caroline entered and without speaking motioned to Bret to follow her. Closing the bedroom door she asked

“What do you want?”



Bret handed over the money and undressed. Wordlessly Caroline followed his example and began to massage his back.

“Turn over” she said after only 5 minutes, “Come quick for me babe there is another client waiting”. As she spoke Caroline rolled a durex down over Bret’s erect penis. straddling him she started to sway her hips rapidly in circular motions.

In the distance the sound of running feet could be heard. A crash of breaking wood reached the couple’s ears. Caroline leapt off Bret just as the bedroom door burst open admitting two men in police uniform.

“I’m arresting you sir on suspicion of paying for sex. You do not have to say anything but anything you do say will be taken down and may be used in evidence. Do you understand?”

Bret desperately attempted to cover his privates with the bed sheet. This couldn’t be happening. He would wake up in a minute at home in his own bed. Bret had heard about the new law which criminalised those who paid for sex, however he had taken the view that police resources being extremely tight the force was highly unlikely to go out of it’s way to enforce the legislation.

“But what about her?” Bret asked pointing to Caroline.

“You haven’t answered my question sir. Do you understand the caution?”

“Yes, but what about the girl, aren’t you going to arrest her?”

“The law says that she is a victim sir so no we aren’t going to arrest her”.

Bret looked stunned.

“But that isn’t justice, its fucking Alice in Wonderland! Everything was consensual”.

“I don’t make the laws sir. I just enforce them. Now just get some clothes on as you will need to accompany us down to the station”.



“I’ll need to go soon darling” Becky said giving Colin a kiss on the cheek, “can I use your shower please?”

“Of course. There are clean towels in the airing cupboard”.

“Thanks sweetheart. Don’t get up, I’ll take a shower and let myself out. I hope to see you again soon” Becky said climbing out of the bed.

Colin lay there listening to the sound of the shower. The agency was a good one. They always provided top quality girls and the ability to pay by credit card prior to the bookings meant that you didn’t have the unpleasant task of handing over brown envelopes to your date. Under the new legislation what he was doing was technically illegal. However in the unlikely event that anyone did ask questions he and the girl would say that they had met through the agency which provided dates for social events. They had enjoyed one another’s company and had ended up in bed. Payment was however (as stated on the agency’s site) for companionship only, consequently no offence had been committed. Alice in Wonderland? Perhaps but no prosecutions had taken place of clients using escorts and Colin very much doubted that any such prosecution would meet with success.


The end

Shades of Grey

“Prostitution is the exploitation of women and children by selfish men. In order to protect sex workers those who purchase sex should be criminalised while prostituted women ought to be assisted to exit prostitution without the risk of prosecution”.

“Prostitution is the oldest profession. You will never abolish sex work. The only practical way of dealing with prostitution is to legalise and/or decriminalise it. What consenting adults do, in private whether entailing payment for sex or otherwise is no concern of the state and/or society”.

The above is, I believe a fair representation of the two main attitudes to prostitution. However there is another perspective, one in which sex work is perceived as a complex issue. According to this viewpoint prostitution is a grey area which can (and frequently does) entail exploitation but one in which abuse is not necessarily part and parcel of working as a sex worker. It is to this latter perspective that I subscribe.

In my short story, “The First Time” we meet Becky, a young graduate who enters the world of prostitution as a professional escort in order to clear her debts. I pull no punches. Becky feels a sense of shame during and after her encounter with her first client, Mike, however no one compels Becky to enter sex work, she does so of her own free will.

In contrast to “The First Time”, “Samantha” tells the story of a lady forced into prostitution in the city of Liverpool. Unlike Becky Sam is raped by her brutal pimp, Barry and is, in effect a sex slave.

The two contrasting portrayals of sex work in “The First Time” and “Samantha” provide a more realistic picture than the above (admittedly simplified) perspectives on sex work. Prostitution is for many ladies (and a few men) a choice as in “The First Time”. It isn’t Becky’s idea of the perfect job by any means! It is, for all that still a choice. In contrast Sam has little (if any) choice regarding her entanglement in prostitution. She is a victim of her brutal pimp, Barry and deserves our compassion. Of course Becky is worthy of compassion to but one can not contend that she has been forced into the sex industry.

So what of the clients? In “The First Time” Mike is polite and considerate in his treatment of Becky. That doesn’t stop Becky from attempting to dissociate herself from the sexual act (she thinks of country walks with her grandfather while Mike is having sex with her). However Becky’s attempt to disassociate herself from the reality of her situation (having sex with a man she finds physically repulsive) should not blind us to the fact that she has taken a conscious decision to work as an escort.

Should people who pay for sex be criminalised as is the case in Sweden, Iceland and a number of other countries?

First let us look at the practical problems with this approach. While it is relatively easy for the police to apprehend men paying for sex on the street it is extremely difficult to enforce such a prohibition on those who use the services of escorts. Escorts provide sex in private accommodation (usually homes or hotel rooms) and most liberal minded people (including me) would be horrified at the idea of the police bursting into people’s residences to arrest them for paying for sex with consenting adults. Also how would the police/the authorities know that an individual escort was providing sex as opposed to company? Of course one could imagine fake agencies being set up and when sex is requested the requestor is arrested, however one needs to ask whether this would be an effective use of police time. I understand that this approach has been adopted in America but the escort industry still thrives there.

There is also the ethical question as to whether acts which are perfectly legal when no payment is entailed should be rendered criminal when cash is handed over. The consensus in Sweden is that this should be the case but I, as a liberal have my doubts.

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Paying For It

Marcus Philipps MP shifted uncomfortably in his seat. It was hot in the BBC studio, he could feel the perspiration running down his neck. At only 34 he was tipped as the next Home Secretary. Marcus possessed all the attributes required by a politician in the media age to reach the heights of political power. His boyish good looks and winning smile made him a hit with the electorate and, in particular the ladies. Coming from a working class background (his mother worked as a dinner lady while Marcus’s father was employed as a caretaker in the same school) it was impossible for opponents to accuse him of being out of touch with the electorate. His children attended the local comprehensive and he could often be seen in the company of his photogenic wife, Jenny travelling on public transport. Dig as they might the tabloids had failed to unearth any skeletons in Marcus’s cupboard.

“Thank you for joining us to talk about your private members bill to make paying for sex a criminal offence in Britain. Is this proposal really necessary? Its already a criminal offence for a prostitute or client to solicit in a public place. The law criminalises paying for the services of a person who has been forced into prostitution irrespective of whether the purchaser is aware that the prostitute has been coerced. Shouldn’t the government concentrate on enforcing existing legislation rather than adding yet another law to the statute book?”

Marcus leaned forward a look of outrage on his face.

“It simply isn’t acceptable in the 21st century for men to buy women and children. Slavery was abolished in the 19th century and yet it still persists in 21st century Britain. My bill would impose a fine or imprisonment on anyone paying for the sexual services of another. We must put a stop to the buying and selling of human beings”.

“But, in the words of the song doesn’t it “take two to tango? Is it really any concern of the state if two consenting adults choose to enter into a financial arrangement for the purchase of sexual services provided that the service takes place in private and not in a public place?”

“No one chooses to become a prostitute. Those engaged in sex work do so out of desperation, to pay for their drug habit. Many of the prostitutes working in our cities entered prostitution at the age of 14. Obviously 14-year-olds can’t consent to prostituting themselves. The men (and a few women) who use prostitutes are perpetuating the misery which goes with the sex industry. They are responsible in part for fueling the drug trade and the other criminality which inevitably accompanies prostitution.

All the evidence from Sweden, the first country to prohibit paying for sexual services, indicates that the introduction of the law has seen a dramatic decline in the presence of street based prostitution. This is because clients know that they risk arrest which has lead to a substancial decrease in those paying for sex”.

“Surely adult men and women who voluntarily prostitute themselves have some responsibility for their own actions? Is it right to penalise the customer while leaving the sex worker free to continue to operate?”

“It is the prostitute who is being exploited by selfish individuals who’s only concern is their own sexual gratification. Prostitutes are, in the overwhelming majority of cases victims of circumstance who possess only minimal control over their own lives. My bill will help to put a stop to modern slavery”.

“Isn’t that a bit dramatic? What about the ladies who work as professional escorts and who can earn thousands of pounds in a month?”

“That is a red herring. Those who work as escorts are a tiny percentage of prostituted men and women. I wouldn’t want my 13-year-old daughter to enter prostitution and I’m sure that the vast majority of viewers will agree with me that any legislation which can protect our young people must be supported”.

“We are out of time I am afraid. Marcus Philipps many thanks for coming into the studio”.

“Thank you for inviting me”.

The girls shivered in unison as a cold blast of wintery air blew down the alley. Bare arms many of them scarred as a result of frequent injection of heroin where wrapped around their bodies in a vain attempt to keep warm. In the depths of winter their flimsy attire (short skirts and low cut tops) indicated to anyone other than the most obtuse observer that they where ladies of the night.

The man eyed each girl intently as he sauntered past. That familiar frisson of excitement coursed through his veins. He loved his wife but married life was tedious. Indeed his whole existence ran along deeply rutted tracks which would in time take him to the pinnacle of his profession. With a prostitute he could do things which his wife would never entertain. Above all the man was able to escape from the glare of publicity and, for a brief moment let go and be himself.

The girl stood apart from the rest. Unlike most of the ladies her bare arms where smooth and unblemished. She was obviously new to the game.

“How much?” he asked.

“What do you want?”

“A full personal”.

“Sex is £50”.

Reaching into his pocket the man extracted the money and handed it to the girl. Flash bulbs popped.

“Marcus would you care to tell our readers how you square paying for sex with your proposals to criminalise those who pay for sexual services?” The young reporter asked.