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Pontifications on England’s brothels

by on May 3, 2011

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.

  1. dawnannieobrien permalink

    I feel you have taken my small article completely out of context. I have taken your criticisms on the chin and I feel I have been rather good natured about the comments which you left on my blog.

    However, your reply blog post I find to be rather distatsful and slanderous towards my work.

    To avoid any further confrontation with yourself I have removed the “Bournemouth’s Brothels” article.

    Again I would like to reiterate to all those reading your blog post, mine was merely a comment on what I had read and what I could see going on around me. And as you are free to write your blog, I was free to write mine!!

    I can see that your sarcastic tone and sometime aggressive writing style is feature across your work. I hardly felt that this was a necessary tactic to use against a small blogger such as myself. May I suggest that your anger on the subject be directed at different persons in future. A personal attack upon myself was not the way in which I feel this could of been handled.

    I defend my opinions and always shall, but the purpose of my blog is to encourage free thinking and not confrontations behind a computer screen, hence the reason the post has now been removed.

  2. Well, I’m sorry you’ve seen fit to delete your post, rather than engage in debate. Where exactly free thinking ends and confrontations behind a computer screen begins is a moot point.

    But I do hope if you write on this subject again, you will consult with a range of sex workers over what they think the laws in this area should be. I do realise that you went to some trouble to research your post, and did in fact reproduce a quote from the English Collective of Prostitutes condemning police crackdowns in Bournemouth.

    However, this is an extremely complex area, notorious for people with hidden agendas other than harm reduction campaigning.
    If you’re still interested in the topic – which is a fascinating one – I suggest you Google Hilary Kinnell and read her work.”Violence and Sex Work in Britain.”

  3. I can’t find the original post on the ‘cached’ link, but if the standard of spelling and punctuation on what is still available to readers is anything to go by, plus the woeful lack of fundamental general knowledge (even including the difference between slander and libel, as demonstrated in the comment above) is in any way indicative of the standards of higher education in Bournemouth, the place has far more to worry about than a few punters and prossies going about their business.

    I would add to your reading recommendation for Dawn and other idle Googlers the work of Teela Sanders, Belinda Brooks-Gordon and Nick Mai. They would follow some of the links over on the right of this very page, too.

  4. dawnannieobrien permalink

    Again, thanks for the constructive criticism Amy.

  5. Xena permalink

    @Amy: SNAP! 😉 I agree. Education is the biggest priority where harm reduction is concerned. Prohibitionist propaganda harms sexworkers far more than the work ever could, if misinformed cops, punters and social workers weren’t an issue.

    I may have some free time this summer. I know what to do with it now, thanks to your suggestions. I will definitely be looking into that reading list.

  6. Xena permalink

    Oh, Stephen, I had to read that one a second time before sending this comment your way. You’ve put the makers of the movie Hot Fuzz to shame with your wit. Really. If Dawn were some jerkoff MP who KNOWS how rich he can get off hookerbashing, Id be ROFLMAO. Well,ok, I admit it. I’m still LMAO into my hand and trying hard not to.

    But Sugarbreeches seems so young. She can’t be past what? First year? You might want to try toughening her up a little more gradually, Sargeant Paterson, Sir 😉 Toughen her up, educate her and all the rest. She desperately needs some of that if she wants to be a journalist. But let the poor thing keep a little of her self esteem.

    She’s adorable. You two should do your own Hot Fuzz style Spoof-you-mentary on British sex work ‘crackdowns’. Sugarbreeches can be one of the leading ladies, and you can be one of those silly British cops. I’d pay to see something like that.

  7. Xena permalink

    I stopped by Sugarbreeches’ blog to offer her some words of encouragement about her lifestyle, restaurant&tourism articles. Those areas are her strength. Politics and investigative journalism are her weaknesses, but I didn’t mention that (I suspect the focus of her postsecondary education was literature or something). I stayed positive, and gave her praise for the writing that was praiseworthy.

    SHE DELETED MY COMMENT! >:-( Feed her to the dogs, Sergeant Paterson. The child avoids all discussion with a good journalist like yourself, and can’t even accept a compliment from a stranger? It looks like she doesn’t really care about her employability as a journalist. The ones who take such a firm Prohibitionist stance are usually the ones who are working on their Mrs. degrees anyway. I hope her future husband is very strict about keeping her in the kitchen and away from positions that would allow her to undermine Harm Reduction advocacy in the UK. *MEOW!! HISSS!!!*

  8. It’s sad to see such ignorance amongst the younger generation; at least if it were just Daily Mail-reading old fogeys we could comfort ourselves with the knowledge that such attitudes were a product of their time and on the way out. Unfortunately it seems not to be the case. I call it “student union feminism” because of its prevalence amongst university students, who like to believe that they are ushering in a new age of equality but are actually just repeating clichéd prejudices about the poor little women being oppressed by horrible evil men. If they actually bothered to do about five minutes’ research they would quickly discover that there are plenty of female sex workers who willingly choose such a lifestyle and enjoy what they do, but these so-called “feminists” prefer to avoid evidence altogether in order to uphold their moralistic preconceptions about how other women should be forced to live their lives.

    As for Dawn’s “reply” above, I can’t figure out what the hell she’s even trying to say. It seems little more than “Boo hoo, somebody criticised me and I don’t like it.”. I suggest if people have a problem with criticism they should probably avoid writing uninformed nonsense in the first place.

  9. Livvy permalink

    So important that we don’t do stereotypes I reckon. And we don’t want to be patronised either: OrientalMassage

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