Tag Archives: sweden

Lets Talk About Eugenics

In 1913 the British Parliament enacted The Mental Incapacity Act. The legislation had it’s origins in the Eugenic idea that the poor, the mentally incapacitated and other marginal groups where placing an intolerable burden on the state and should be sterilised and/or confined to secure facilities (hospitals for “the mentally defective” as they where then frequently termed). Eugenics was predicated on the belief that defective genes where responsible for poverty, unmarried motherhood and other things which the eugenicists wished to eradicate. As a consequence of the Act 40,000 individuals where confined to institutions, those imprisoned ranging from those with learning disabilities through to petty criminals and unmarried mothers.

Eugenic measures where widespread with America being particularly zealous in their promotion via the Eugenics Society (a similar organisation existed in the UK). As a consequence of the murder of people with disabilities under the Nazi’s Action T-4 Programme eugenics, not surprisingly became a dirty word but as late as the 1970’s eugenic measures where being employed in Sweden against people with certain disabilities.

Support for eugenics has come from people with divergent political views. The Socialist Fabians (Sidney and Beartrice Webb) where strong proponents of Eugenics and the Labour MP Will Crooks described the poor as “almost like human vermin”. The Liberal Beveridge (the man responsible for drawing up the modern welfare state) advocated for Eugenics while Winston Churchill (a Liberal and, later a Conservative politician) advocated for Eugenics.

In “An Act of Mercy” I imagine a UK in which eugenics has been adopted as official government policy. Individuals are tasked by the government to visit families and identify those with disabilities. Anyone so identified is removed from their family and subjected to special measures. Such an idea was, in fact proposed by Leonard Darwin in the early 20th century although he did not support the killing of so-called “defectives” but their separation from the rest of society.


For an interesting article on the support for Eugenics by people on the Left please see the following piece in The Spectator, http://www.spectator.co.uk/features/5571423/how-eugenics-poisoned-the-welfare-state/. (The article is skewed as it fails to mention that many non-socialists also advocated strongly for eugenics, a fact mentioned in the comments following on from the piece. It is, none the less worth reading).

The New Statesman has a good article on Eugenics which can be found here, http://www.newstatesman.com/society/2010/12/british-eugenics-disabled.

For information on Will Crooks please see, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Will_Crooks.

For my collection of short stories, An Act Of Mercy And Other Stories please see, http://www.amazon.com/An-act-mercy-other-stories-ebook/dp/B00EHS74CS. An Act Of Mercy is free in the Kindle Store until Monday 1 December.

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).


Being and Being Bought: An interview with Kajsa Ekis Ekman.

An interesting post on Feminist Current entitled Being and Being Bought: An interview with Kajsa Ekis Ekman. The author is a supporter of the Nordic model of prostitution law under which clients are punished. For the interview please visit http://feministcurrent.com/8514/being-and-being-bought-an-interview-with-kajsa-ekis-ekman/.
The views expressed in the above interview are diametrically opposed to those set out in my post of 28 March in which 2 academics argue that the Nordic model of prostitution law reform does not do what it says on the tin (I.E. it fails to protect those engaged in sex work and actually harms prostitutes), http://newauthoronline.com/2014/03/28/the-nordic-model-of-prostitution-law-reform-is-a-myth-a-post-on-the-conversation-argues/).
I haven’t read Ekman’s book (one more weighty tome to add to my ever growing list of “must reads”). I am, however a little concerned regarding the (apparent) comments policy of Feminist Current. The overwhelming majority of the comments on the interview with Ekman endorse her perspective and comments in respect of other posts are, by and large non-critical of the blogger’s message. I usually wouldn’t comment on the comments policy adopted by other bloggers however having attempted to comment several times only to see my comments not appear I have reached the conclusion that Feminist Currentt only (or largely) accepts comments which endorse it’s ideological perspective. If this is, indeed the case then it is a great pity as it is through debate, the cut and thrust of differing opinions that democracy lives. The only comments I have ever not approved are those which clearly belong in the spam queue for debate is one of the things which makes blogging interesting. I don’t want newauthoronline to become a blog where debate is curtailed but other bloggers appear to think differently.

The Nordic Model Of Prostitution Law Reform Is A Myth A Post On “The Conversation” Argues

A very interesting article on The Conversation by May-Len Skilbrei, Associate Professor at University of Oslo and Charlotta Holmström, Assistant Professor at Malmö University, entitled “The Nordic Model of Prostitution Law Is A Myth”.

The “Nordic model” of prostitution is often heralded for being particularly progressive and woman-friendly, built on a feminist definition of prostitution
as a form of male violence against women.
has moved to adopt a Nordic-inspired approach; policy makers are
the UK to do the same. But the idea of such a model is misleading, and in no way tells the whole truth about what is going on in the region where it supposedly

We recently gave a talk titled “The Nordic model of prostitution policy does not exist”. The aim was to provoke reflection and a discussion, but also to
tell the truth about prostitution policies in the Nordic countries.

We have researched Nordic prostitution policies since the mid-nineties, and in particular headed a large comparative
on Nordic prostitution policies and markets in 2007-2008. In our work, we examined how Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden approach prostitution
through criminal justice and welfare policies, and reviewed the evidence for how these policies impact Nordic prostitution markets and the people who work
in them.

We found that the differences not only between, but also within, the Nordic countries are too great for there to be anything like a shared “Nordic” model
– and that the case for their success is far more fraught than popular support would suggest.

Only Sweden, Norway and Iceland have acts unilaterally criminalising the purchase of sex. Finland has a partial ban; Denmark has opted for decriminalisation.
The “Nordic model”, then, is in fact confined to only three countries.

These countries’ laws prohibiting the purchase of sex are often
as ways to redistribute the guilt and shame of prostitution from the seller to the buyer of sex. However, this was by no means the only argument for their
introduction. Contrary to many common
feminist appraisals,
these laws do not in fact send a clear message as to what and who is the problem with prostitution; on the contrary, they are often implemented in ways
that produce negative outcomes for people in prostitution.

In truth, while these laws have attracted flattering attention
the politics and practices associated with them are very complex. In particular, they are sometimes applied in conjunction with other laws, by-laws and
practices specifically aimed at pinning the blame for prostitution on people who sell sex, particularly if they are migrants. For these and other reasons,
the Nordic countries’ approaches must be judged with caution – and none more so than the most popular example, the case of Sweden.

Where Sweden leads

Sweden often attracts particular attention in discussions of how to deal with prostitution, not least since reports from the Swedish government conclude
that the law there has been a success.

It has often been
that the number of women in visible prostitution in Sweden has decreased since the Sex Purchase Act (Sexköpslagen) was introduced in 1999; the Swedish
the act as an efficient tool for keeping trafficking away from Sweden. The law has broad support among the general public in Sweden, and this has been

as a result of the law having its intended normative effect on opinions of prostitution. But given the available evidence, none of these points is fully

The claim that the number of people involved in prostitution has declined, for one, is largely based on the work of organisations that report on specific
groups they work with, not the state of prostitution more generally: social workers, for example, count and get an impression based on their contact with
women in street prostitution in the largest cities. There is no reason to believe that other forms of prostitution, hidden from view, are not still going

The oft-cited 2010
Skarhed report
acknowledges this – but still concludes that the law is a success based on the number of women in contact with social workers and police. Men involved
in prostitution, women in indoor venues, and those selling sex outside the larger cities are therefore excluded from the scope of the report.

This excessive focus on street prostitution handicaps many
of the law’s implementation, which tend to simply repeat Swedish authorities’ claims that the Sex Purchase Act has influenced the size of the prostitution
markets. They ignore the fact that since 1999 or so, mobile phones and the internet have largely taken over the role face-to-face contact in street prostitution
used to have – meaning a decline in contacts with women selling sex in the traditional way on the streets of Sweden cannot tell the whole story about the
size and form of the country’s prostitution markets.

Meanwhile, the Swedish Sex Purchase Act is often
to be an effective tool against human trafficking. The evidence for this claim is weak; Swedish authorities have backed it up with
something said
in a call intercepted by the police. The official data that does exist is vague;
some authors
have also pointed out that the act may have raised prices for sex, making trafficking for sexual purposes potentially more lucrative than ever.

There is also scant evidence for the claim that the law has had its advertised effect on the perception of prostitution and people in prostitution. Even
among the general public indicate great support for the law, the same material also shows a rather strong support for a criminalisation of sex sellers.
This contradicts the idea that the law promotes an ideal of gender equality: instead, the criminalisation of sex buyers seems to influence people to consider
the possibility of criminalising sex sellers as well. This rather confounds the idea that the “Nordic model” successfully shifts the stigma of prostitution
from sex sellers to clients.

Values in practice

Ultimately, prostitution laws targeting buyers have complex effects on people far beyond those they are meant to target. In addition to this complicating
factor, the Nordic countries also police prostitution using various other laws and by-laws. Some of these regulations do, in fact, assume that the women
who sell sex are to be punished and blamed for prostitution. This goes to show that one should be careful in concluding that Nordic prostitution policies
are guided by progressive feminist ideals, or that they necessarily seek to protect women involved in prostitution. The most telling example of this the
way the Nordic countries treat migrants who sell sex.

In Sweden this is embodied by the
Aliens Act,
which forbids foreign women from selling sex in Sweden and is used by the police to apprehend non-Swedish or migrant persons suspected of selling sex.
This reveals the limits of the rhetoric of female victimisation, with clients framed as perpetrators: if the seller is foreign, she is to blame, and can
be punished with deportation.

In Norway, we see similar gaps between stated ideology, written policies, and practice. Even though it is completely legal to sell sex, women involved in
prostitution are victims of increased police, neighbour and border controls which stigmatise them and make them more vulnerable. The increased control
the Norwegian police exert on prostitution markets so as to identify clients includes
document checks
on women involved in prostitution so as to find irregulars among them. Raids performed in the name of rescue often end with vulnerable women who lack residence
permits being deported from Norway.

Taken together, the Nordic countries’ ways of approaching prostitution have been presented nationally and understood internationally as expressions of a
shared understanding of prostitution as a gender equality problem, an example of how women’s rights can be enshrined in anti-prostitution law. But after
looking closely at how the laws have been proposed and implemented, we beg to differ.

For the original article please visit, http://theconversation.com/the-nordic-model-of-prostitution-law-is-a-myth-21351).



On 26 February Members of the European Parliament (MEPS) voted to criminilise paying for sex, http://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2014/feb/26/meps-vote-criminalise-buying-sex-european-parliament. The vote, which is non binding may, none the less put pressure on members of the European Union where paying for sex is not illegal to introduce such a prohibition. Proponents of the Nordic model argue that Sweden and the other nations which have followed the Swedish example have seen a decrease in prostitution since the introduction of the ban. They contend that prostitution is, in effect rape and that those who use the services of prostitutes are helping to fuel trafficking and encourage sex slavery. Opponents of the Swedish style law, including many sex worker organisations argue that prohibiting paying for sex merely forces prostitution further underground placing sex workers in danger from clients. Other opponents also argue that the state has no business to interfere with consenting adults do in private and that resources should be concentrated on combating trafficking. In response to opponents of the ban it’s supporters argue that there is no such thing as genuine choice in prostitution, those engaged in it are desperate persons being exploited by the buyers of sex, pimps etc. It will be interesting to see how the debate plays out over the coming months.


My collection of short stories, Street Walker And Other Stories is free in the Kindle Store until Saturday 1 March. To Download Street Walker free please visit http://www.amazon.co.uk/Street-Walker-other-stories-Morris-ebook/dp/B00HLRNDP4

“To want to abolish prostitution seems to me as dumb as wanting to abolish rain.”

Today’s Daily Telegraph carries an article entitled “343 French Sign Don’t Touch My Whore Petition”. The petition was prompted by a proposal, due to be debated by the French parliament which, if passed would impose heavy fines on those who pay for sex. Opposition to the proposal is summed up by one signatory of the petition who said

“To want to abolish prostitution seems to me as dumb as wanting to abolish rain.”

French feminists are strong supporters of the proposal to criminalise those who pay for sex and have expressed their outrage at the petition. According to some (but not all feminists) prostitution always constitutes the exploitation of women by men. Men have no right to “purchase” ladies and those who do so ought to be criminalised in order to deter others from exploiting women. This perspective underpins the Swedish Law on Prostitution which imposes a fine and/or imprisonment on those who pay for sex in Sweden. Sex workers are not criminalised on the basis that they are the exploited party and one assumes that proponents of the French legislation wish to criminalise clients rather than sex workers.

Opponents of the Swedish legislation and similar laws contend that consenting adults ought not to be criminalised merely because two or more adults decide to enter into a voluntary arrangement for the provision of sexual services. Prostitution is, according to this view a free choice for many adults who enter into the profession. It may not constitute most women’s first choice of career. It is for all that a choice freely entered into by the majority of adults engaged in the sex industry. Proponents of this view argue that the state should concentrate it’s resources on tackling forced prostitution rather than interfering in the lives of consenting adults.

To supporters of the criminalisation of those who pay for sex there is no such thing as choice in prostitution. People enter prostitution out of desperation (frequently after having suffered sexual abuse as children). Consequently those who pay for sex are perpetuating that abuse and should be fined or imprisoned for exploiting vunnerable individuals.

In my 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 and avoid the threat of homelessness. There is no brutal pimp compelling Becky to enter prostitution so on one level it can be argued that she becomes a sex worker of her own free will. On the other hand the fear of losing the roof over her head acts as a powerful incentive for Becky to become a prostitute so although she is not subject to physical or verbal compulsion Becky is, it might be argued compelled by the dire financial situation in which she finds herself to enter the sex industry. She is, in effect left with Hobsons Choice which is, in reality no choice at all. Against this it can be contended that many people faced with severe financial difficulties do not go down the route taken by Becky. Therefore Becky does, in the final analysis still make a choice, she is not a mere victim of economic circumstance. For the Telegraph’s article please visit http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/france/10415267/343-French-sign-Dont-Touch-My-Whore-petition.html. For my Amazon author page please visit http://www.amazon.co.uk/K.-Morris/e/B00CEECWHY/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0


“To want to abolish prostitution seems to me as dumb as wanting to abolish rain.”

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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Is the Game Up for Sweden’s Prostitutes?

A recent article in The Independent suggests that Sweden’s criminalisation of the purchasers of sexual services while leaving sex workers free to ply their trade has resulted in a dramatic decrease in prostitution. The Swedish approach is predicated on the view that prostitution constitutes the abuse of prostitutes by men who hold the levers of power. No woman would voluntarily choose to sell their body, consequently buyers of sexual services are exploiting vunnerable women and must be punished by fines or imprisonment for doing so.

A number of comments in response to the article question the view that prostitution is necessarily exploitative and (rightly in my opinion) point to the bias of the piece’s concentration on the opinions of the Swedish police force. Little if any room is given to voices questioning the effectiveness or equity of the Swedish Law on Prostitution.

For the article please visit http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/features/why-the-games-up-for-swedens-sex-trade-8548854.html