Simon Häggström – Man of Shadows

I disliked Simon Häggström on sight…the silly grin combined with the same name as my youngest brother who specialises in hiding malignancy behind a mask of goofiness was not exactly on his side (or entirely fair).

“Shadows Law” surprised me, not least because I had already seen selected excerpts that made him look deeply weird. However, I like to judge for myself.

Firstly, if Häggström ever obtains an autism diagnosis “surprise” will not feature high on my list of reactions. The indicators are there, obsessive drive, gullibility, social awkwardness, and the less obvious ones like hypervigilant emotional defensiveness.

Häggström hasn’t the first clue how people feel, or how to react to it that is not learned by rote. In contrast his perceptions of people are sharp, just and objective. He has, indeed, painted a very accurate picture of one element of street work…I remember them well, though it was drink more than drugs in those days in Dublin. The trouble is that they only represented about 30% of street workers. Strangely the same 30% from which sex workers willing to interact with Ruhama at first, were drawn. He hasn’t got a clue about the rest unless he has spoken to them, and it becomes obvious that the Swedish Police are not very good at finding indoor workers.

He cares, he cares like hell, to the edge of a kind of PTSD, at one remove, that constantly threatens to take him down, but he is oh, so gullible. He is incapable of recognising that there is more to being helpful than announcing you are “the help”, and equally incapable of evaluating the resources on offer in terms of real life, because, in his heart, he knows what I know…that there are too many good people that you just cannot save.

He watches them from a squad car as I did, and his unconscious keeps whispering the siren song “take this cup from me”…and handing it away to the first offer.

He lacks my deeper knowledge of the system and has no trouble convincing himself that the resources that claim to help really do…he needs to believe that.

I have gone through such phases myself (though never in the context of sex work), but now I am older, wiser and nothing but the REAL best option will do.

…and the real best option is full decriminalisation. It just does what Häggström tries to do AND gives women the respect and the tools to find their own best options…

Remember Lovisa? She found hers alone…as tragic as the ending was, let other women in trouble have the same chance without coercion into useless or harmful services, or making her livelihood harder.

A policeman’s job is to administer the law not evaluate it. Häggström, like many policemen, does his job and tells himself it is for the best because “they” tell him so, as is his right. What will never be his right is to tell the world that it is “for the best” without establishing that it is in fact, not in hearsay. It isn’t even fair to ask a policeman to express any opinion on the validity of the goals of legislation, only on whether and how well those goals have been achieved, to which this book gives a resounding “NO”.

You could police your own way in a tolerance zone, with far better results. “Resources” are what they are (usually dreadful), regardless of legislation. Decriminalisation frees sex workers to use the only resources they can trust, their own, at optimum.

Oh and all those pimps? Don’t eat strong cheese after 8:30 and 90% of them will vanish, leaving more time to focus on the real ones. (They leave their passports with someone else to prevent you learning their real names and/or deporting them, plenty of illegals do that, not just sex workers. Also when they advertise availability 24 hours a day it is just to maximise the advertising spread. They don’t WORK 24 hours a day, they just switch on the sex work phone whenever they are available.) The only threat to the families of most immigrants is that of lethal destitution without the money they send home…but they tell you whatever you want to hear to get better treatment, and any sex worker is a genius at working out what people want to hear.

As for Farley, I suggest monitoring her twitter with a view to re-evaluation @prostitutionres

This is a surprisingly good book, even if the photographs at the end are in abysmal taste. It will make a good TV series. Unlike most abolitionist books it has a clear and engaging narrative and lacks pseudo psychology and feminist dogma.

It would be far better if Simon Häggström stuck to what he does best, being a conscientious and compassionate police officer,  rather than allowing himself to be used like a door to door salesman for a disastrous legislative model. I only hope the two roles have not become permanently interdependent.

Incidentally, I bought this book. It was worth it.