Sunday, November 30

The Ethical Sex Trade?

Now while this was written fully in the sarcastic tongue in cheek flavour, it bears thinking about. I quote the offending paragraph in full


Jacqui Smith’s plan to criminalise sex with illegally trafficked prostitutes offers an exciting new business opportunity – ethical sex trade.

Fair-trade prostitutes will not only be legally sourced but will be able to sign waivers making clear that they are here of their own free will.

Ethical tarts will also be legally trafficked and organically produced, reared only on the finest uncut heroin. A higher percentage of their income will be sent back to their home village – though not necessarily to their families. Those locked in their rooms will be guaranteed a minimum square footage. Fair-trade hookers will still offer a full range of services but will be guaranteed a maximum 48-hour working week, except for executive tarts and those covered by the British opt-out. Men will have to pay a little more but in return will feel much better about themselves. Many will openly carry hemp bags with the slogan “I only sleep with fair-trade whores.”

Firstly, the moralising note by the politicians make me very leery. People trafficking notwithstanding, the very silly posturing by the senior politicians, of both sides, is very hypocritical.

Can you actually have ethical paid sex? A host of troubling questions arise and makes one think about our morals quite worryingly. We are happy to pay for somebody to clean our toilets, our cars, etc. We are happy to get state funding to get plastic surgery or even dig into our savings to go get a boob job. But we are not able to go to a sex worker to get the itch scratched. Hmmm. I also read an interesting leader in today's economist. Quoting the main bits:

The situation is shameful, but the proposal the government unveiled this week—to make those buying sex liable to criminal charges if it subsequently emerges that the prostitute was controlled for another person’s gain—is no way to remedy it. This newspaper tends toward a liberal view of these matters, but even those who do not will find this amber light a waste of space. Better by far either to criminalise outright the purchase of sex or to legalise it and regulate what ensues.

Britain’s dilemma is not unique: all countries have prostitutes of varying sexes and nationalities. Some, such as New Zealand, have tried to minimise the problems that usually accompany the trade—violence, coercion, drugs, exploitation of minors and migrants—by allowing prostitutes to operate openly. This seems both fair to those who choose to sell sex and good for exposing any abuses. Other countries, including most American states, have sought to expunge prostitution’s unpleasant aspects by banning it altogether. Sweden, and some imitators, have opted to criminalise only the clients.

No system works brilliantly. But this British proposal would only make matters murkier in a country that already has some of the world’s most confusing vice laws. Buying and selling sex is legal now (a situation that older voters, in particular, support, as the chart shows), but most of the things that make it possible—kerb-crawling, soliciting, pimping and brothel-keeping—are not. As the law stands, punters who knowingly have sex with an exploited woman can face charges of rape. The new law would criminalise the oblivious as well.

That is unjust, and inconsistent with the law in other areas. A man who has sex with an underage girl, for example, may be acquitted if it emerges that he was fooled. There are areas where the law rejects ignorance as an excuse, as any tourist caught driving in London’s congestion zone knows. But that refers to ignorance of the law, not ignorance of facts that were withheld. Furthermore, women deemed to be “under the control of another” could include those who support their boyfriends, or work with a mate. The most ethical punter could easily be caught out. Good, says Jacqui Smith, the home secretary: it will make potential clients “think twice”.

No comments: