Regulating Prostitution in whose interest by dffhrtcv3


									Regulating Prostitution: in whose
        Sexuality and Society
              Week 7
• The perceived crisis in the legal treatment of
• Discursive constructions of ‘prostitution’ and ‘the
  prostitute’ and their implications for public policy
  prostitution= danger or nuisance to the community
  prostitution=victimises women and children
  prostitution=legitimate form of employment (sex
• Proposed changes to law
• Whose interests are prioritised, and why?
 Recent Home Office documents and
bills proposing/ bringing about changes
          in prostitution policy
• Paying the Price 2004

• The Coordinated Strategy (2006)

• Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill 2007 (clauses
  on prostitution withdrawn, but due to be resubmitted
  to Parliament in a new bill)

• Criminal Justice Bill 2008 to be introduced shortly.
Government interest is a response to
• Decline in prosecutions for loitering and soliciting in the
  1990s (Phoenix 2004)
• ‘Community’ complaints about the effects of prostitution
  on neighbourhoods
• Worries about trafficking (illegal immigration)
• Worries of child protection charities
• Feminist interpretations of prostitution
• Knowledge base of those groups working with prostitutes
• Concerns over safety of sex workers (even pre-Ipswich)
• Challenge of law reform in other EC countries
=‘The laws aren’t working’
    Discourses constructing the
    prostitution and prostitutes
• Prostitution is a nuisance to the public/
  danger to community safety.
• Prostitution victimises women and children
• Prostitution is a legitimate form of work
• Prostitution is ?
(1) Prostitute as a nuisance to others and
             a danger to the community
• In Britain this has long been the dominant discourse: Vagrancy Act
  1824, CD Acts (danger to health). Wolfenden Report
  Its deliberations result in the Street Offenses Act 1959 aiming to sweep
  prostitutes off the street through draconian measures which worsens
  the position of women working as prostitutes. (It covers only ‘common
  prostitutes’, by definition women.). Enforces much harsher penalties
  for soliciting, and loitering with the intent to solicit, including fines
  and imprisonment. Imprisonment for soliciting only removed in 1982,
  but could still be imprisoned for non-payment of fines. Implication is
  that we should control prostitution by punishing prostitutes for what
  they do.
• Women can obtain a criminal record as a ‘common prostitute’ which is
  known by magistrate and police when they come to court for any
• These harsh penalties continue all through the more liberal
  climate of the 60s, 70s and onward.
• Also harsh penalties for living off immoral earnings
  (because is immoral).
• Men’s behaviour as clients not challenged until 1980s.
• 1980s onwards. Community campaigns to rid streets of
  prostitutes who are seen to attract crime, drugs and kerb-
  crawlers who harass ‘ordinary women’.
• Privileges the interests of community (which is not seen to
  include women working as prostitutes). Prostitution is a
  ‘blight’ on neighbourhoods, attracts crime and other signs
  of dirt, spreads disease.
• May be justified by moralism, I.e.prostitutes threaten the
  community because they threaten community morality.
  Prostitute women have put themselves outside the
  community through their actions which deviate from the
  high moral standards women should maintain, tempting
  men into debauchery and commercialising a use of the
  body that should be confined to holy matrimony. Danger to
  families, including leading to the breakup of families.
• To what extent is the problem still framed in moralistic
  terms? Or is it framed in terms of prostitution attracting
  crime, drugs, etc (Smart 1985, Wolkowitz 2006)
  Possible solutions to perceived
• Abolish or limit street prostitution through
‘ Get tough’ agenda:
 punish streetworkers through criminal law
 punish clients (punish kerb-crawlers)
Both seen to make it difficult for street prostitutes
   and punters to meet (rather than ‘easy’)
Indoor prostitution not seen as an important issue if
   doesn’t cause a nuisance.
            Penalise the clients?
Instead of just punishing streetworkers and blaming them for
   prostitution, also punish the clients- even up the blame?
• Kerb-crawling legislation 1985 (Calvert, in Trouble and
• Law strengthened 2001 to include power of immediate
• 2001 law and ideas about strengthening measures still
   further inspired partly by debates in Scandinavian
   countries (new laws in Sweden and Finland)
• Included in both 2007 Bill and legislation to be introduced
   this year.
• For contrary arguments see especially J. O’Connell
   Davidson (2003)
‘Softly, softly’ programmes
 (1) pushing prostitutes out of prostitution through ‘benign’ measures (e.g.
    compulsory drug treatment programmes; re-educating ‘Johns’)
(2) Many issues, e.g. What counts as benign, e.g. Asbos? Can compulsory
    drug treatment work? What view of people do such programmes
    entail? Will this be seen as soft on prostitution by those moralists or
    feminists who seek its abolition?
(3) Identify ‘tolerance zones’ or ‘managed zones’ where prostitutes
    permitted to work (e.g. industrial zones deserted in the evening, where
    prostitutes would not cause a nuisance to ‘communities’

• Whether hard or soft, do these proposals continue to be based on/
  reproduce the social exclusion of women selling sex?
   (2) Prostitution victimises women and
• Builds on radical feminist perception of prostitution as = sexual
  domination (or sexual exploitation) of women by men. Women ‘pay
  the price’ for men’s lusts.
• Prostitution as an institution legitimates male sexual access to women,
  whether indoor or street prostitution
• Women earning living as prostitutes ‘wounded’ in body and soul, lose
  ability to know own interests (compounded by drugs, ill-health, pimps;
• Difference between prostituting by force or choice neither clear nor
  appropriate criterion for regulation (how could anyone prostitute by
  choice?) Coercion may take the form of force, economic constraint,
  abuse and lack of self-esteem, addiction. Jeffreys uses term ‘prostituted
  women’ rather than prostitutes to indicate that women are turned into
  prostitutes by men. (See summary by Wolkowitz, writings of Barry,
  Jeffreys, more recent (and more rigourous) philosophical essays.
• Whole industries now built around legitimating male access to
  women’s bodies (pornography, lap dancing, etc) are as problematic as
  street prostitution
          Policy recommendations
• Prostitutes need help rather than punishment (‘rescue’, in parlance of
  nineteenth century, ‘support’ for exiting prostitution in twenty-first
• State should not legitimate exploitation of women by men through any
  policy which appears to accept prostitution as inevitable, such as
  tolerance zones (male sexual lusts are socially constructed).
• Male clients should be targeted and punished. E.g. ‘The separation of
  good prostitution and bad prostitution; an evil rapist and just a regular
  guy who’s looking for a good time, must not be allowed to stand.’ Josh
  Berthoud (2008) ‘There is no such thing as “good” prostitution’
  Accessed 10/11/08
• Recognise that women need time to exit, not a straight-forward
  decision. Compulsory programmes won’t work.
• Trafficking of women into Western countries has shown the ‘true
  face’ of prostitution, and led to wider support for this feminist case.
• Is this case convenient for those who see prostitute
  as a nuisance, gain support for harsh measures on
  progressive grounds? For instance, may aim
  mainly to stop illegal migration, or discipline
  disruption, but talk of victims of trafficking.
• Is there an unjustified leap here from the belief
  that prostitution oppresses women, should not be
  celebrated, to the assumption that the way to deal
  with it is to adopt an abolitionist programme,
  making it harder to for women to work or men to
  access prostitutes? How will this affect women’s
  safety? Will it send prostitution even further
  underground? Will it make it harder for
  organisations working with streetworkers to stay
  in contact with them?
    Children as victims of abuse through
• See children as victims of abuse, leading to prostitution and continuing
  in it. ‘Safeguard’ children instead of using the criminal law to punish.
  This has been policy since 2000, but safeguards needs to be
• Degenders victimhood, as compared to (radical) feminist case.
  Tendency to talk about vulnerable ‘women and children’ arguably
  infantalises women my putting them the same way as the law treats
• Talks about vulnerability (to drugs, childhood abuse, etc) rather than
  economic needs, gender relations and exploitation
• See especially Kantola and Squires (2004) ‘Prostitution Policies in
  Britian’ in J. Outshoorn, The Politics of Prostitution, Cambridge
  University Press
  Phoenix, J. (20040 ‘Regulating Sex: Young People, Prostitution and
  Policy Reform’ in B.Brooks-Gordon, et al (eds) Sexuality
  Repositioned, Oxford: Hart Publishing.
(3) Prostitution as legitimate work (sex work)
• Stress that most sex workers enter trade by choice, so not ‘victims’
• Sex workers make rational decision reflecting individual values and
  individual freedom to choose life style (exploit men’s sexual lusts,
  celebrate because prostitute challenges outmoded sexual morality,
  represents independent sexuality, transgressive of wider norms)
  (liberal US version, also some places in Europe)
• Sex workers make a rational decision/ choice in economic terms (in the
  face of poor opportunities, lack of education, low wages, inadequate
  benefits, no benefit) (UK version, especially English Collective of
  Prostitutes. ‘No bad women, just bad laws’ is their slogan.
• Proportion of prostitutes (street or brothel) who have been trafficked
  exaggerated by recent estimates. Also many smuggled rather than
  trafficked, knowing they will be working in the sex industry.
• Nothing intrinsically wrong with prostitution or prostitutes’ way of
  life. Their problems caused mainly by legal harassment, absence of
  social respect, difficulties in accessing services, housing, etc.
           Policy perspectives
• Struggle to make prostitution socially acceptable,
  so sex workers seen to deserve same rights as
• Legalisation of some or all forms of prostitution
  through the regulation of sex markets
• Decriminalisation of sex work and sex markets
• Improve safety through all means possible as
  priority (which often conflicts with attempts to
  limit trade)
• Organise trades unions and other forms of group
  solidarity and representation
None of this accepted by Home Office reports.
                Alternative approaches
• Rejection of both radical feminist abolitionist and individualistic sex
   worker arguments
• Stress variety of forms of prostitution and sex markets which give sex
   workers a very variable degree of control over aspects of their work
   and existence. Therefore do not attempt to generalise in ways other
   commentators do,
• Pragmatic attempts to reduce harm to sex workers caused by bad law,
   ‘funny punters’, lack of access to services
• Adoption of harm-reduction strategies including tolerance zones,
   access to health care and support, decriminalisation. Support in leaving
   the trade. Post –Ipswich saw formation of Safety First Campaign.
• Human rights of sex worker as human being sometimes seen as a
   priority- including right to choose to continue in sex work.
• Build on sex workers’ survival skills rather than see as passive victims
• Male clients can be divided between the violent/ abusive and others,
   and it is important to offer sex workers protection from the first
   category. (See Sanders studies of clients). Evaluate policies in terms of
   whether empowers sex workers to reduce their ‘unfreedom’
   (O’Connell Davidson)
See especially work of J.O’Connell Davidson, J. Phoenix, M. O’Neill, J.
   West,T. Sanders, and sex worker organisations and projects.
      Paying the Price (July 2004)
• Identify the harm caused by prostitution to communities and those
• Make good use of information garnered by some sex worker support
  groups working with street prostitutes
• Little mention of economic situation of sex workers or failure of case
• Recommendations do not allow for support for sex workers who want
  to stay in the trade.
• Home Office later acknowledges the report did not do justice to issues
  regarding indoor prostitution, nor did it recognise opinion in favour of
The Coordinated Strategy (2006)
        says it aims to
• Challenge the view that street prostitution is inevitable and
  here to stay (i.e. avoid legitimating street prostitution in
  any way)
• Achieve an overall reduction in street prostitution
• Improve the safety and quality of life of communities
  affected by prostitution, including those directly involved
  in street sex markets
• Reduce all forms of commercial street exploitation
    Main components of the strategy
•    prevention – awareness raising, prevention and early intervention measures
    to stop individuals, particularly children and young people, from becoming
    involved in prostitution
•    tackling demand – responding to community concerns by deterring those
    who create the demand and removing the opportunity for street prostitution to
    take place
•    developing routes out – proactively engaging with those involved in
    prostitution to provide a range of support and advocacy services to help them
    leave prostitution
•    ensuring justice – bringing to justice those who exploit individuals through
    prostitution, and those who commit violent and sexual offences against those
    involved in prostitution
•    tackling off street prostitution – targeting commercial sexual exploitation, in
    particular where victims are young or have been trafficked
Criminal Justice and Immigration
           Bill 2007
• Contains a (very) few amendments to the Sexual
  Offences Act 1959)
• The measures the press had previously said Government
  was considering were ignored (e.g. tolerance zones;
  exempting 2 or 3 women working together from laws
  against brothel-keeping, further criminalising clients)
• Removal of stigmatising term ‘common prostitute’ from
  statute book
• Allow courts to jail prostitutes arrested for soliciting if
  they fail to attend three meetings with a court-appointed
  expert to discuss ending their involvement in
• Measures to make it easier to arrest and charge kerb-
 New legislation to be submitted to
Parliament by Government this year
N. Watt (2008) ‘Prostitution: Red Light Crackdown
Home Secretary Jacquie Smith announces crackdown on the
   ‘blight’ of prostitution at Labour Party conference:
• kerb-crawlers can be prosecuted for even a first offence
   (rather than for persistent kerb-crawling)
• Councils’ powers to close brothels strengthened
• Men can be prosecuted for paying for sex with a woman
   ‘who is being exploited’, which Smith is reported to define
   as ‘controlled for another person’s gain’.
   Response to these initiatives
• English Collective of Prostitutes 8 October
• Woman prostitutes seen as the problem in nineteenth century (and still
  by many moralists and communities) who see prostitute as a nuisance,
  a danger to health and community safety and want street prostitution
  (or, for some, all prostitution) eradicated. These measures make it
  harder for sex workers to work, and therefore less safe and less
  dignified as human beings.
What are the possible progressive alternatives?
• Prostitute still seen as nuisance but deal with through non-punitive
• Criminalise the behaviour of men who exploit wome (pimps,
  traffickers, clients). This has merits of being more even-handed but
  doesn’t make it safer for women who continue to work.
• Prostitution is a response to social and economic conditions and sexual
  ideologies. Criminalising prostitution makes things worse for women,
  not better. But implications for trafficked women and children very
  complicated, because the conditions which impel women and children
  into migrating into sex work are complicated (and can’t necessarily be
  dealt with within the UK). (We can make it easier for them to escape
  trapped condition, but will be seen as favouring sex workers over
  other deserving cases.)
          Useful documents and
• International Collective of Prostitutes (Includes English
  Collective of Prostitutes and USProstitues
• UKNSWP (UK Network of Sex Worker Projects)
• NSWP (International Network of Sex Worker Projects), including its research journal,
  Research for Sex Work, at
• The Poppy Project
• International Union of Sex Workers
  Can also access the GMB union branch for sex workers
  through this site.
    Additional academic reading responding to
     the Government’s Co-ordinated Strategy
    M. O’Neill (2007) ‘Community Safety, Rights and Recognition: Towards a
    Coordianted Prostitution Strategy?’ Community Safety Journal Vol 6.
    Issue 1. pp 45-52. Available at

•   Keith Soothill and Teela Sanders (2005)’The Geographical Mobility,
    Preferences and Pleasures of Prolific Punters: a Demonstration Study of
    the Activities of Prostitutes' Clients’ Sociological Research Online, Volume
    10, Issue 1,

•   Teela Sanders and Rosie Campbell (2007) ‘Designing out vulnerability,
    building in respect: violence, safety and sex work policy’ British Journal
    of Sociology 58 (1): 1-19.
 Background on radical feminist
• Summarised in Wolkowitz (2006) Bodies at Work, pp 125
  Jeffreys, P. (1997) The Idea of Prostitution Melbourne:
  Barry, K (1995) The Prostitution of Sexuality New York
  University Press
  Barry, K. (1985) Female Sexual Slavery, New York
  University Press
        Alternative approaches

O’Connell Davidson, J. (2002) ‘The Rights and
   Wrongs of Prostitution’ Hypatia 17 (2): 84-98
O’Connell Davidson, J. (1998) Prostitution, Power
   and Freedom Cambridge: Polity
(see also discussion in Wolkowitz, Chapter 6, et
And J. West, on reading list.

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