A Serious Question for Abolitionists

Posted on “A Tale of Six Johns” August 16, 2015 by Karen Ingala Smith

Can you answer a question for me?
Prostitution is often framed in the context of women’s choices, those of us who oppose prostitution accused of denying women’s agency, their capacity to choose and their right to do so. But a choice based on necessity, on a lack of viable alternatives isn’t really a choice.

When this is the case (which, having been there myself, and fighting for for the past 25 years I am not about to deny as a significant aspect) punishing the buyers of sexual services only has a spectrum between two possible outcomes:
1. Making it harder and more dangerous for them to sell sex
2. Making it impossible for them to sell sex.

Still leaving them with the same “lack of viable alternatives” they had in the first place, and, believe me, unless (as some do) you see sex work as a positive choice, it usually takes a situation verging on life and death desperation to drive you to even feel able to face trying to sell sex.

Using a combination of abolitionist and neutral statistics I have come up with a claim that over 1,000,000 men in the uk buy sex, Even assuming that the 6 men above would not have killed if they had been unable to buy sex for fear of prosecution (very unlikely) in cold hard figures that is a 1 in 167,000 chance of being killed by a client.

I wonder what the chance there is of a person in a situation of near life and death desperation surviving with no viable option left at all?

It would be nice to think we lived in a world where a couple of ould demos and a wee bit of lobbying would fix every kind of desperation by Christmas, but we do not. Have you seen the death toll among sick and disabled people due to austerity? And the total lack of impact of many, many demonstrations that were, ultimately, sick and disabled people pleading for the right to life falling on deaf ears?

How much less sympathy do you think there is for economic migrant, single parents, addicts? Those already driven to sell sex in desperation would not have a cat’s chance in hell without a market for sex work – that is why they do it.

An abolitionist lobby that refuses to listen to sex workers is not just going over their heads to get their own way, it is also providing “resources” that are not of the slightest use or relevance to those who need them because they have already silenced and ignored the voices they needed to listen to to know what was needed for decades.

I suggest that if there is even a trace of genuine concern for sex workers as human beings and women the entire abolitionist lobby should be taking their focus away from striving to damage and destroy the last option of desperate women and leave them with nothing to section 8 of the Amnesty Resolution:
Evidence that sex workers often engage in sex work due to marginalisation and limited choices, and that therefore Amnesty International will urge states to take appropriate measures to realize the economic, social and cultural rights of all people so that no person enters sex work against their will or is compelled to rely on it as their only means of survival, and to ensure that people are able to stop sex work if and when they choose.

I think this is my answer.


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