Tag Archives: swedish law on prostitution

“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.

“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.”

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


Among the arguments advanced by those who believe prostitution should be prohibited is that it constitutes the exploitation of women and men by those who purchase sex. According to this perspective no one would voluntarily choose to sell their body,consequently prostitution is conflated with sex slavery. In some countries this has given rise to a ban on the selling of sexual services (although of course prostitution still persists) while in other nations, for example Sweden the selling of sex remains legal while the purchasers are subject to a fine and/or imprisonment. Underlying the Swedish Law on Prostitution is the view that those who purchase sex have no right to buy the bodies of prostituted persons. The prostitute is the victim so should not be punished while the sex buyer who is fueling the industry must be deterred by criminal sanctions.

As a writer I am interested in the subject of prostitution. My latest book, Samantha (http://www.amazon.com/Samantha-ebook/dp/B00BL3CNHI/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1364109422&sr=8-2&keywords=samantha+k+morris) tells the story of a young girl forced into the sex industry in Liverpool (a city in the north-west of England). Sam is drugged, compelled to participate in sex acts and then blackmailed into becoming a sex worker. Consequently Sam’s experience fits into the view of prostitution as the exploitation of the prostitute by selfish pimps and sex buyers. Sam’s experience is horrendous and her pimp, Barry richly deserves his grizly end, however Samantha’s experience of prostitution should not be taken as constituting the experiences of all sex workers.

In my story, The First Time (http://www.amazon.com/The-First-Time-ebook/dp/B00AIK0DD6/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1364111659&sr=8-2&keywords=the+first+time+kevin+morris) we meet Becky a young graduate with a degree in English literature who enters the world of prostitution, as a professional escort in order to clear a credit card debt. Unlike Sam Becky’s entry into prostitution is a choice (there is no pimp to use and abuse her, only her fellow escort and friend, Julie who tries to discourage Becky from becoming a prostitute). Is Becky exploited by her clients? Becky visits her client’s of her own free will. She doesn’t want to have sex with her first customer, Mike. She wants to return the money and leave. However Becky chooses not to do so due to her need for cash. At no point during her encounter with Mike is Becky threatened in any way, indeed Mike offers her wine and knowing that it is her first time does his best to put Becky at ease.

The First Time does not gloss over the emotional and psychological effects of prostitution. Becky gets drunk in order to cope with her first encounter with a client. After the appointment she is violently ill from a combination of over indulgence in alcohol but, more importantly as a result of her feeling of worthlessness. She feels that she is “not a mere receptacle for men to pour themselves into”, but despite this she is minded to continue as a prostitute until her debts are cleared.

Becky is a free agent who chooses her path in life. One may (and certainly should) have sympathy for Becky however, in the final analysis responsibility for her situation (unlike with Samantha) rests with Becky. Mike does not exploit her. Becky is an adult and makes a conscious decision to enter sex work. Her dire financial position places great pressure on Becky to obtain money fast, however other people in similar positions do not make the same choices as Becky.

In my short story, Rent (http://newauthoronline.com/2013/03/15/rent/) Leah becomes the mistress of a wealthy stockbroker in order to escape from her life of poverty on a rough council estate in East London’s Tower Hamlets. On one level Leah’s rich partner is exploiting her as he knows that she only stays with him due to the financial stability which he can provide. He feeds Leah money as a drug pusher feeds an addict drugs. On the other hand Leah is an adult and relishes the luxurious lifestyle which her relationship with Ian allows her to lead. She exploits Ian as she stays with him not out of love but due to her liking for the expensive gifts he showers on her. Both Leah and Ian are exploiting one another, they are mutually dependent, each gaining something from the connection however unpleasant that may appear to some people.

The issue of prostitution is highly complex. While exploitation does take place this is by no means the whole story. Of course to acknowledge that not all prostitution is, necessarily based on exploitation is not the same as saying that sex work is desirable or the same as any other job.