Have you ever seriously thought about the women in the sex trade? How they got there? What they feel about it?
This blog entry got me thinking: An Ex-Hooker’s Letter to her Younger Self. This is a very moving story of Stella Marr’s successful effort to get out of prostitution and start a new life. She links to a similar post by another ex-prostitute: A Thankyou Letter to Punters. This woman’s story is equally moving.
But what really led to my post is this: The Sneaky Language of the Sex Industry Lobby. You may have noticed they don’t call it prostitution anymore. It’s now the Sex Trade, like it’s a legitimate trade, just like plumbing or carpentry. I don’t think they teach it at our local trade school.
Over the last couple of years in Canada, a series of court cases have kept prostitution in the news. I haven’t followed it closely, but the latest news is that the Supreme Court will hear the challenge to the prostitution laws. But notice that it’s some “group representing sex-trade workers on Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside” that is behind these court cases.
In Canada, prostitution itself is legal, but most other activities associated with it are not, including soliciting, running a brothel and living off the avails. So if a prostitute is walking the street, a guy propositions her, they go to a local motel and do their business, the prostitute has not broken the law (although the guy did by propositioning her). But if she takes him to her home, it becomes a brothel and she is now a criminal. If she hires a bodyguard for protection, she is also breaking the law. Pretty much anything she might do to make her work safer is a crime.
This is the essence of the court cases, that prostitutes should not have to unnecessarily endanger themselves. This was really brought into focus by the case of Robert Pickton, a serial killer who preyed on prostitutes for years with apparent impunity, possibly killing close to 50 women.
The Real Issue
The real issue that’s not being discussed is whether these women want to be prostitutes. Now it may be that there are some women who freely choose to take up this “trade”, the so-called “happy hookers”. If there are, they certainly shouldn’t be treated as criminals, and should be allowed to do their work in the safest way they can. It’s their body, their choice. But that’s the issue, it really has to be their choice.
But seriously, how many women would freely choose to become a prostitute? I mean freedom from addictions, from violence, from dire economic situations, from anything that forces them to do it to survive. They are not workers just trying to go about their business and being harassed by the government. They are victims! Whether they were violently forced into prostitution, forcibly addicted to drugs such as heroin to make them cooperative, sexually abused and made to feel worthless and subhuman, or forced out of necessity to survive (this last one shouldn’t happen in North America or Europe, but certainly happens in Central and South America and Asia). They didn’t choose this way of life. Not really.
Women in these situations don’t need criminal charges. They need compassion. They need counseling and addiction treatments. And they need help starting a new life, in an occupation they do freely choose. Where they can have self-respect and the respect of others.
The pimps and madams, on the other hand, should have the book thrown at them.
One final note: I wrote this article about the most common situation of female prostitutes and male customers. But the same principles apply regardless of the gender of either the prostitute or the customer.
What do you think?