A response to Rhoda Grants proposal

December 18, 2012 at 11:55 am 1 comment

I am submitting this as an individual and would request that it be considered an anonymous submission.  I want to be able to express my personal opinion without a negative impact on my family or my work. I have witnessed happening throughout the course of the consultation and do not want my personal response to be taken and used for broader  ‘political’ reasons.  The pro-sex work lobby in Scotland has attacked individuals online and as a result they have experienced high levels of harrassment and abuse.   I do not feel this is a positive way to engage in debates and so would prefer if this submission could be considered as anonymous.  It highlights how much the pro sex work lobby wants to silence dissent and instead label any objections as “mis-guided, ill-informed or moralistic.”

 

I support the aim behind Rhoda Grant’s proposal, which is to reduce the harm for those who sell sex in Scotland.  I think this legislation is a forward thinking development and also support it on the basis that it promotes gender equality.

 

Other countries who have decided to turn the focus onto those are willing to exploit others social and economic availability, are those with the highest level of gender equality.  This proposal would allow Scotland the same opportunity to show how we really consider the value of women.  I know that the vast majority of those who sell sex are women and the vast majority of those who buy it are men.  This proposal is gender neutral and so would offer men who sell sex the same level of protection as women and in turn treat both men and women who chose to purchase sex in the same way.

 

I am not directly involved in prostitution but have experience of working alongside those who do or have done in the past.  I do not want to speak on their behalf as their own and other’s responses will do that but I have seen first hand the impact on those who feel they no other option than turn to prostitution for their own and their family’s survival.  I have worked in areas with high levels of unemployment, deprivation and disadvantage with young women and men who feel that prostitution in the only way for them to bring money into their homes.  I have seen young women becoming involved without a full realisation of what it may mean for their emotional and mental health.  Their entry into the sex industry was made without this information and was certainly never covered as part of the recruitment process by escort agencies and brothel managers.  Many found it very difficult to leave again, feeling even more trapped and limited than they were before. It is time that we removed prostitution as the final option for survival and instead of focusing on the individual and their choices – we acknowledge that it only exists because there is a demand for it.

While the women were involved they spoke of it as their “choice”, even whilst describing horrific experiences at the hands of customers or punters.  Those punters chose to use, exploit and abuse vulnerability.  They were the ones who inflicted emotional harm and physical hurt.  They were the ones to exercise free choice and walk away with little or no consequences.  This legislation will finally make them face up to the fact that prostitution is not harmless nor just another form of entertainment. If they want to continue to purchase sex, then they can now deal with the consequences.

 

I have read, watched and heard the media coverage of this proposal.  I have seen which voices have dominated the debates and have been appalled and disappointed by how the system of prostitution has been described. I have heard vulnerable women described disrespectfully by “sex-work” representatives as “drug addled prostitutes,” with little empathy for their situations and how they have ended up involved.  I have heard the negative impacts on those who sell sex described as “occupational hazards” and as just another aspect of the “job.”  I have seen the victim blaming, misogyny and sexism directed at women who speak against this industry, which has served to keep alternative voices out of the media spotlight.   What about the women who have not had media training or had the chance to polish their media personality? What about the women who don’t write blogs about how transgressive, revolutionary and empowering prostitution is?  What about all those women who are struggling to cope and don’t position themselves to get book deals or plays written about them? Their negative experiences are presented as somehow the exception in the sex industry as opposed to the reality many women and men face everyday in Scotland.  When survivors have spoken out – their perspectives have been silenced, mocked or labelled as hysterical.  This is indicative of what happens when a survivor names the violence they have experienced which challenges more comfortable views.

 

It has also been suggested that the only credible voices in this process are those of “sex-workers” as they have the direct experience of prostitution and the sex industry.  Whilst I do not have this experience – I would question that I am not allowed a place in the debate on this fundamental change to how we view prostitution and therefore women in general. We do not say the same of other forms of violence so why this area?   What makes this form of violence so distinct that those affected are not allowed to voice their opinion?  It is acknowledged that women who have not directly experienced sexual violence, domestic abuse, sexual assault and harassment are still affected by its existence.  The continuing acceptance and condoning of the right to purchase sex affects all women in Scotland.  When it is thought acceptable to purchase sex as another commodity from those who feel they few other options, it then frames it acceptable to consider all women as potentially for sale.  The same is not said for men.

 

I have noticed a distinct lack of representation from those who choose to buy sex.  Why has the media not engaged with them and if those men thought it was so acceptable and harmless, why have they not come forward to openly express their experiences?   This legislation is aimed at them so one would have thought they would have demanded their presence and time in the spotlight. They have not needed to do this as the pro-sex work lobby has undertaken this on their behalf.  This legislation will make the punters come out of the shadows and be confronted with the reality that their actions contribute to.  I heard one interview which described the “ashen faces of male MSPs” when they have seen “sex workers” in the Scottish Parliament as part of the consultation process.  I think this reflects the previously unspoken idea that this type of legislation will not be progressed in Scotland as too many men in positions of power and influence have been punters and clients.   With this sex workers statement out in the public mainstream media, I would like to see this being addressed in the next stages of the consultation.  Previous legislation on other aspects of violence was not impeded on the basis that some men in politics would be perpetrators.  Legislation on prostitution should not be either.

 

 

I question any motivation to support a system, which is clearly based on inequality.  Those who choose to purchase sex are the ones in the powerful position.  By the very virtue that they have money or goods/ services, they will retain the control of what has been deemed a transaction. They want sex whereas those who sell need the money, shelter, food, drugs, alcohol.  No-one has ever died from not having sex or from not having the specific types of sex they want.  Vulnerable women and men can face no homes, food, warmth / heat, or clothes if they decide to not take this final option which has been presented as somehow empowering.  If an individual declares something empowering – does that then make it so for everyone else?   Others have justified the existence of prostitution on the basis that disabled men will not be able to have sex otherwise.  This needs to be challenged as it perpetuates the idea that men with disabilities will never be able to have a sexual relationship without paying someone for it.  This reinforces inequality and positions men with disabilities as somehow “other” than men without.  I notice this justification is rarely applied as the only means for women with disabilities to have sexual satisfaction. It is a more likely assumption that men are entitled to sexual activity and therefore there must be a group of women and men available 24 hours a day

 

I know that many women and men rely on the money / goods / services they get for selling sex.  I also know that it must be frightening to contemplate alternatives – especially when we are going through few job opportunities for all and especially so for women.  This is why this legislation must have funding available for effective services to support those involved.  A considerable part of that must be on counselling to come to terms with what happened in a safe environment and move on.  This is not saying that those in prostitution are victims but is recognising that they may have had experienced something which could be harmful.

 

I think this legislation is a positive step forward.  It is only part of what is needed.  We need the sale of sex to no longer be an offence.  This takes the pressure and stigma away from those who may well have come from a background of disadvantage, poverty, violence, abuse and limited options.  This means Scotland also has to acknowledge that inequality exists, that women are more negatively affected by economic changes and have fewer options in which to earn a liveable age.  With that acknowledgement we have to address the broad systematic inequalities to ensure that there are social safety nets in place so no one sees prostitution as all they have left. 

 

 

 

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Entry filed under: againstsexualexploitation, prostitution.

http://www.womenssupportproject.co.uk/content/news/210,1,373/SCASEBulletinAugust2012.html Response 3

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. scaser  |  December 18, 2012 at 12:18 pm

    Thank you for sharing this with us.

    Reply

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