In all the heated debate of the last few days this post by Mark Cowling seems to have been overlooked.

I think he actually asks some really interesting questions, so I hope Mark doesn’t mind, but I’m giving him a thread of his own:

I am an academic writing a book about a variety of sexual issues, with the general theme that most ideologies have something to offer on most issues, but also produce foolish and inhumane results if taken too far.

I would like to add some questions to this discussion:

  • do some of the abolitionists take the view that there is something essential about a prostitution relationship, meaning that selling intimate sexual acts is always and necessarily wrong because sex is such a central part of a woman’s being? My impression is that some women have this view of sex based on personal experience, whilst others are more able to detach themselves from sexual acts. Someone who feels less intimately bound up with sexual acts she is performing will obviously have a more pragmatic view of prostitution.
  • Similarly for clients: websites where they discuss their experiences suggest that most of them are aiming for something quite close to a ‘girlfriend experience’. I’m inclined to take this at face value, but I think it’s obvious to some of the contributors that this couldn’t possibly be what clients want.
  • I think the diversity of women engaged in prostitution needs to be acknowledged. A drug addicted 14-year-old coerced onto the street by a violent pimp is in a very different situation from a 35-year-old independent escort advertising services at £100 per hour from her own website. It is obvious that men should be discouraged from having sex with the adolescent, but less obvious that they are doing anything wrong with the independent escort.
  • I think it is helpful to distinguish between people trafficking for sexual purposes, which involves tricking and coercing smuggled people into prostitution, and people smuggling, which involves getting someone illegally from one country to another. The problem is that once someone has arrived illegally they become extremely vulnerable, so that smuggling tends to take on aspects of trafficking. My impression is that the government is tending to assume that any evidence of migration is evidence of trafficking. Immigration policy is obviously bound up with this issue: if there is free migration there is much less scope for trafficking.
  • There is also a relationship between drug policy and prostitution: if drugs were simply legalised or freely available from the health service there would be little reason to engage in prostitution because of addiction, and street prostitution would be a less desperate enterprise than it is now.

I think that underlying the heated debate there is basically a different set of attitudes to each of these issues.

Anyone got any answers…..