Adapted from comments on “Women in prostitution won’t be protected by Amnesty’s plan” Julie Bindel, The Guardian, 4 August, 2015
Criminalisation is a pimp’s best friend and the Nordic Model is no different
Pimps have always been a lot rarer than anyone ever supposed, partly because claiming to be “forced by a pimp” is the most reliable way for a sex worker to avoid criminal charges in the short term and stigma for life, anywhere in the world, under any form of criminalisation. Just as “abducted by trafficker” is becoming free pass for migrant women to get them past everything from immigration law to drug trafficking charges.
I do not blame these women, in the vast majority of cases they were selling sex, or even trafficking drugs out of sheer economic desperation that is just as dangerous and threatening as any lurid “coercion” story they could come up with and it isn’t their fault if the hand they were dealt is so harsh that the only way they can get any kind of fair deal for themselves or their families is deceit. In such circumstances I honestly cannot see how they can reasonably be expected to give a flying feck about the long term impact on other people’s lives of their deceit either.
But the fact remains that the stereotypical pimp is as rare today as he was in Victorian England when not one of Jack the Ripper’s victims had one…
Sex workers do not have a special regressive gene that compels them to submission. They are feisty and independent by nature and more likely to resist any attempt to coerce them into selling sex or (more common, but hardly mentioned because it doesn’t support the “helpless dumb animal victim” the abolitionists are determined to impose over reality half so well) extort money from them after they have sold sex.
It is very rare for anyone to be able to impose either form of exploitation with just a “stick”, particularly in a situation where sex workers can welcome the presence of police rather than having to hide from them to either avoid arrest (classic criminalisation) or make the money they need (Nordic Model).
There has to be some kind of a carrot too, and criminalisation provides that.
Street sex work (the only fully independent kind at the time) was recriminalised after 10 years in Ireland with harsh new laws specifically aimed at pimps. Organised crime were moving in on the street sex workers as soon as the law was proposed. They were not threatening to beat the cr*p out of them, they were offering to give them seamless ways they could go on working and earning the living they needed uninterrupted when the law passed. They were (genuinely) going to be able to continue to make good money, without living in fear of arrest or having to take any client they could get at any price they could pay.
Because of pending criminalisation the women had a huge and terrifying problem, and organised crime were offering the only viable solutions – at a price – but that was a lot better than the alternative…for real…
Before anybody kicks off at me for pointing that bit of reality out I wound up with a price on my head for standing up to the biggest “face” involved over that and as a result would never have been able to sell sex again WHATEVER even as I campaigned against that law for OTHER women (I was feeling very bitter, I wasn’t going to, but then I remembered all the amazing kids I knew who’s mums depend on sex work to nurture and protect then and I HAD to do something even with no hope of a future for me).
So that all those wonderful, colourful, brave, smart, strong, waspish, bitches of free sex workers wound up crushed under the foot of organised crime, having to hand over earnings to third parties to be able to have earnings at all for the first time in their lives. Women started to get beaten and killed…Belinda and Sinead…they were people with names. Belinda was quiet and well educated, Sinead was doing well in college DESPITE a severe drug problem…not exactly the dumb, submissive animals unfit to speak for themselves the abolitionists like to imply.
Criminalisation killed them both, as sure as a bullet…and terrorised, injured and broke the spirits of many, many more…
After about ten years things began to level out – but now it is all starting to happen over again with the promise of the Nordic Model.
But this time it is better organised and even more dangerous.
Sex workers do not benefit from living under the foot of ruthless and clueless abolitionists any more than under the foot of organised crime.
Sex workers fare best under full decriminalisation that let’s them make their own decisions and a reliable living with access to the same rights and protections under law as any other workers.
Personally I have always favoured limiting decriminalised sex work to self employment but all these sex workers keep getting up in my face and insisting they prefer to work together or for agencies or brothels (WEIRDOS) so I’d better support them too… or risk a bad case of personal hypocrisy.