Yesterday, Laurie Penny published an article in the New Statesman. It was entitled “This strange neo-Victorian desire to save prostitutes and porn actresses”. As you can probably imagine, that caught my attention. However, it is the sub heading that is currently being argued on Twitter and elsewhere.
Sex work isn’t stigmatised because it is dangerous. Sex work is dangerous because it is stigmatised.
That (of course) set off the alarms in the underground Crouch End lair of Julie Bindel. Her response:
Awful, libertarian, patronising crap. Hope the growing group of prostitution survivors knocks this down.
Now, putting aside the fact that you really don’t want to get me started on the sudden (and almost magical) influx of “prostitution survivors” who will attest to the fact that everything Julie and her ilk say is not only Gospel, but an understatement. I do find most of what she says about the sex industry to be awful, totalitarian crap which I hope the growing group of outspoken sex workers will knock down, but hey ho…
I don’t see the problem with Laurie Penny’s article. The reason I don’t have a problem with it is that she has obviously been listening and paying attention to sex workers and who better to tell people what we need, than us? Oh yeah, I forgot… Radical feminists. Because of course, we should be denied our autonomy if what we profess to want doesn’t tally with what they have decided we should want.
Along comes an American chap who agrees totally with Julie Bindel, thinks that Laurie Penny has lost her mind and tweets the following:
So wrong. Sex work is dangerous because its often not a choice. Look at these stories please
Now, what I want to know is this:
A sex worker is a sex worker. Regardless of which part of this extremely varied industry he or she works. The fact is that bad people who want to do bad things to others without getting caught know that sex workers are seen as sub-human by many and street workers especially may be missed by few. That’s what makes it dangerous. The fact that those people feel that they have no rights and are seen as disposable. Whether they have chosen sex work or felt compelled to do it through lack of choice isn’t what causes the danger. It’s society’s attitude to them.
And while we’re on the subject of people who turn to sex work out of desperation.
Where is the logic in thinking that eradicating prostitution will help them?
I can assure you that if you wander up to a street worker and say “Ah, you are destitute and have been forced to sell your body on a street corner to survive, so I’ve done you a favour, I’ve completely done away with prostitution. You don’t need to do it any more. No, honestly, no need to thank me. It was the right thing to do”. He or she will probably take a moment to consider the implications of what you have just said and then punch you really really hard.
Those of you who think that getting rid of the sex industry is a wonderful idea. Just think about that for a moment. Forget the people you consider privileged and not representative and concentrate on those for whom prostitution is the only option. If you take it away, what exactly do they have left?
Oh and as for the chap I quoted earlier. He is a photographer who takes pictures of deprived areas. I’m sure that his wading in has nothing whatsoever to do with wanting to sell his pictures. Oh no. I’m sure that Mr “I used to work on Wall Street, but now I’m an artist” has purely altruistic intentions.