After the idea of anyone under the age of 18 engaging in any form of sex, nothing excites the British quite so much as the idea of paying for sex. Paying with money that is. We have never made up our mind whether it is paying money for sex or receiving money for sex that is the greater crime.
You note that I stipulate ‘money’; in the current act payment is defined as ‘financial advantage’ or the provision of ‘goods or services’, but the idea that the expensive bauble draped round your neck over dinner might be exchanged later that night for sexual relief doesn’t seem to upset people to quite the degree that using dirty pound notes to establish consent to a contract for a mutual exchange of bodily fluids does.
The increasingly pessimistic view of the male of the species which is currently infecting the Feministas on the left as brutish hordes who must be restrained before they violate even the Lesbians amongst them has long had a problem with prostitutes. They renamed them ‘sex-workers’ to give them due dignity as liberated women, but then realised that this still left men with an outlet for their ‘darker side’ as it is now known. ‘We can’t be having that’, they cried.
And so, for 2014, ‘sex-workers’ are being re-cast as ‘victims of Human Trafficking’. Such an evil, redolent of the chains of slavery, must be extinguished, banned, outlawed. Across the nation, worthy moral guardians have girded their loins and pontificated at length on the perils that befall vulnerable females who have been forced into deciding to have sex – not by the man with the filthy lucre, but by even more evil men who have terrified the poor mite into doing so.
Where did we first begin to lose the sense that these were intelligent women who had made the decision that they would support their children – or their drug habit, let us not be picky – by taking the cash rather than the diamonds?
I would suggest that the first sign was the 2008 publication of the report by the Human Trafficking Centre in Sheffield. Now being a Libertarian, rather than a Feminist, I do question the wisdom and cost of establishing the Human Trafficking Centre before setting them the task of finding out whether there was any Human Trafficking going on in Great Britain. It does make their conclusion less than surprising; of course there was, and they were just the people to tackle it!
Jackie ‘the bath plug’ Smith announced to loud cheers that ‘Operation Pentameter Two’ had been a ‘great success’ – ‘arresting 528 criminals associated with one of the worst crimes threatening our society’.
Oh dear; the truth dissolved into mere assertions faster than ‘Operation Yewtree’ claims of more ‘celebrity arrests next week’. The Guardian, to its credit, dug deeper and discovered an embarrassing shortage of sex traffickers, despite the six months of trawling by 55 different police forces in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland together with the UK Border Agency, the Serious and Organised Crime Agency, the Foreign Office, the Northern Ireland Office, the Scottish government, the Crown Prosecution Service and various NGOs in what was trumpeted as “the largest ever police crackdown on human trafficking”.
Those 528 arrests vaporised into just five men convicted of trafficking – all five of whom had been arrested before Operation Pentameter had commenced. The police had raided – and disrupted a business which contributes £5bn to the UK economy – in 822 brothels, massage parlours and saunas, and failed to find a single new victim besides the two they already knew about.
Cambodia is not the only country where you wait in vain for the appearance of the ‘Lesser Spotted Sex Trafficked Victim‘.
The Moral Guardians are not dissuaded by mere facts though. Reason can be buried under a tottering pile of speculative claims and crushed by hysterical allegations. Perhaps a country with two trafficked sex-workers was not in need of legislation to outlaw prostitution – but surely a country that had arrested 528 ‘criminals’ associated with one of the ‘worst crimes threatening society’ needed to protect their ‘victims’? Truth fled in the face of moral outrage, reason shook its head and departed the scene. The Moral Guardians drew up legislation…
Across the UK, variations of Human Trafficking acts came into play; though where the International definition of trafficking in the UN Protocol defines it as a person ‘trafficked for sex against their will or with the use of coercion or force’, the UK version says simply arranging air tickets for someone intending to work in the sex trade – of their own free will – means that you will have contravened the 2003 Sexual Offences Act.
The drive was on to see all women, everywhere, as victims of beastly men. Harriet Harman was pressing to be allowed to outlaw ‘paying for sex’. She didn’t succeed.
What she did succeed in doing was to make independent women more vulnerable. She hid them away, banned them from the streets or operating out of cars with other people around. The strumpet house which had operated since Shakespearean times has always been a bone of contention; it is probably the safest way for prostitutes to operate – with a maid, and other girls around, or even God forbid, a man for security – but has been illegal since 1956. Isolated in this way, they are more vulnerable to the attentions of a pimp. It is a curious way in which to protect women, should that be your intention.
“Sex workers, for good legitimate reasons, choose to work through agencies or brothels. These agents offer sex workers security, anonymity and general companionship. It would be considered an abuse of our human rights if the government were to force every worker in the land to work alone and without contact with fellow workers.”
Now the attention is turning to the customers. Sweden has had ‘tremendous success’ following criminalisation of those purchasing sex services – ‘since 1999 the number of women working the streets has halved’.
Advertising of prostitution through the internet has increased in Sweden. This is not due to the law, but to the development of online technology generally.
So lone women, advertising on the Internet, working alone in apartments, scared to let the neighbours know to ‘keep an ear out’ in case their customers are prosecuted, is considered an advantage, a success, a model we should be following?
It’s not as simple as that, naturally – and tomorrow I shall be looking at the economics surrounding the ‘rescue’ of this new variety of ‘vulnerable victim’ that is being created out of the oldest profession.
The sex-workers are not taking it lying down.