Pontifications on England’s brothels
I CAME across a blog post yesterday on the subject of the brothels of Bournemouth, posted by a student named Dawn at the resort’s Uni. Update: she’s now removed it as a result of this post (see comments).
Anyway, it’s cached here.
I found it well-intentioned but depressing and above all, ill-informed and full of stereotypes. “The dark and dangerous world of prostitution on our doorsteps,” it verblessly proclaimed at the beginning.
Now to be fair to her, she seems a sweet and well-meaning person judging from the speed with which she withdrew it, and it was apparently written for a “Writing for the Media” assignment, so it could be that she had the subject thrust upon her. Nevertheless, if this is the stuff of tomorrow’s media, I for one will cancel my copies.
“Just Google ‘Bournemouth’s brothels’ and with the first few results it’s blatantly evident that there is a serious problem in the area,” we read.
What the problem is, we never discovered, so presumably it’s either that they exist or that there’s a shortage.
You would presume that if there was a brothel on your doorstep, there would be bright flashing lights, loud noise, and the stench of disgrace in the air. However this is not the case, due to the recent involvement of the police many of these brothels have been forced underground making the world of these poor women even more treacherous.
Bright flashing lights? Loud noise? No, Dawn, check your law and you will discover that neither bright flashing lights nor loud noise doth a brothel make, to the intense relief, I imagine, of Dorset police.
And if you check your law very carefully, you will discover that if you and a female mate get plastered one night and are deemed to be acting lewdly in any building in the presence of at least one man, the owners and managers of it (if aware) could be prosecuted for running a brothel, and that not one penny need change hands.
And as for “stench of disgrace”?! “I was proceeding in an easterly direction, Your Honour, when I happened across a Stench of Disgrace which appeared to be coming from the vicinity of the building in question.” Hmmm… Still, just one more phrase with which to further stigmatise the already marginalised.
Now the next sentence made sense. Yes, police action has forced brothels underground, increasing danger to the sex workers involved. What does it teach us? That the laws not only don’t work but actually increase the danger to sex workers. At this point I was hopeful that Dawn’s piece would redeem itself. I hoped in vain.
There followed a great call to arms and a proclamation that “it is our problem and every citizen has the moral obligation to act.” But just before you switch off your computer, dive into your car and dash to Bournemouth, I should warn you that it is by no means clear what on earth you are supposed to do when you get there.
So some people exchange sex for cash in Bournemouth. What on earth has it got to do with anyone else? Is there anyone under-aged or coerced? In fact, is it a problem at all, or would the assembled millions flocking to Dawn’s request be better to spend their time litter-picking?
“…there will always be those willing to pay for sex and those willing to pay for the manipulation and control of women,” we were told.
Yes, there always will be. And if one happened to sell one’s sexual services, the fact that there will be those willing to hire one would be rather reassuring, one would feel. But while there may always be “those willing to pay for the manipulation and control of women,” what evidence is there for their existence in Bournemouth?
There followed ex-Home Secretary Jacqui Smith’s quotes from the Labour Conference 2008, beefing up the kerb crawling laws that have caused the death of, among others, Amanda Walker, and introducing S14 of the Policing and Crime Act, criminalising men who arrange sex with those who turn out to be trafficked or coerced and thereby making it impossible for them to report the plights of these women to the police.
We were then informed that:
These laws are becoming ever more complicated and fraught with loop holes, making the prosecution of those soliciting sex and those orchestrating the selling of these services, ever more difficult to control and punish.
I see. So we’ve just established that there will always be demand for sex and that the laws we have in place, supposedly to protect the vulnerable, make life more dangerous than it need be for sex workers, but what we want is not to get rid of these laws, but lots more of them in order to close “loop holes”? A good dose of “control” and “punishment” to stop consenting adults from consenting in ways thought unfit by what Maggie Thatcher (whose administration brought us kerb crawling laws) would call “people like us.”
What, specifically, Dawn had in mind we don’t know. But, as with all laws, they will only be complied with by the law abiding, and seem unlikely to persuade serial killers such as the Stephen Griffithses, the Peter Sutcliffes and the Steve Wrights of this world to instead settle down for an evening with Coronation Street and a mug of cocoa. Indeed, laws to suppress demand would make sex workers more dependent on such monsters, and would be a blackmailers’ charter.
Dawn now slips beautifully into patronising rescue mode. These women, we are told, need help and education. No Dawn, sorry, it’s you who needs help and education. I wouldn’t be in the least surprised to discover several of the women are studying at your Uni, may well be doing PhDs and could even be teaching there, who knows? Heard of Belle de Jour and Brooke Magnanti? Try searching the AdultWork site for female escorts in Bournemouth, there’s well over a hundred of them so there’s a good chance you’ll know somebody.
And if you do, for God’s sake speak to them. Leave pontificating about sex work without having a clue what you’re talking about to the Home Office. That’s what they’re paid for and they do it endlessly. The right people to talk about sex work are sex workers.