Sunday, 25 July 2010

What's wrong with prostitution?

I've met a lot of prostitutes in my time. The first encounter was as a student looking around Leicester Square. It was one of those places I'd seen on the Monopoly board, so I thought I should take a look. I couldn't see what all the fuss was about, a shabby square full of tramps and litter with a big cinema at one side and nothing else of note. As I wandered back towards the tube station, safe in the knowledge I never need go there again, a woman aged about thirty walked towards me, stopped and said "Hello, nice to see you again, how are you?" Unlike today, at the tender age of twenty my brain was not addled by decades of booze. I was able to discern that I'd never seen her before in my life. I was also able to discern a bra strap hanging from the corner of the bag she was carrying. She must have been pretty desperate to think a fat slovenly twenty year-old would have enough cash to make the exercise worthwhile, but there it is, each to their own.

A few years later my encounters were almost daily as I plied my trade in the Magistrates' Courts of central London learning the rudiments of advocacy. As I waited for my tiny case to be called I would witness the old Toms being dragged up from the cells to face the Stipendiary Magistrate they had faced so many times before. The charge of soliciting as a common prostitute would be read out and met by a guilty plea, all the prosecution advocate had to say was "last appearance three days ago, £30 fine" or "three days in a row, £50 fine yesterday".

Stipendiary Magistrates still exist although they are now called "District Judge (Magistrates' Courts)" - actually the apostrophe might be omitted, but it should be there so I'll keep it. It was so much better when they were "Stipes", there's no handy abbreviation for their new title.

They know about prostitution. They know there are women working the streets who will always do it because they can't find anything better. They are at the bottom end of the trade and the fines are a business overhead. Some of them are funding cripplingly expensive drug habits but far more are funding children. It's their job. The Stipes know it's their job and they know they will go out again to earn the money to pay the fine, so they are realistic. For so long as soliciting is a crime they have to enforce the law but they try to do it realistically. London's cheapest and mankiest tarts might charge £20 for a sight of their boobs and a few moments in which their calloused hand is in contact with the punters excited member, then a wipe with a Kleenex and they're off looking for another customer. Five such deals will be required to pay today's standard fine and some nights won't earn them even that.

There's a better class of business to be seen in so-called "massage parlours". The girls have to look appealing or they won't be selected - unlike the street girls who encounter the punters with very little cash those who own the parlours know their customers will have rather more to spare so they must be offered a better quality of product.

More lucrative still are private arrangements which have been made much easier since the advent of the interwebnet. It is more risky for the girls than the massage parlours because they won't even see the punter until he turns up or she gets to his front door. But the money is better so they can turn way from a deal that doesn't feel right and still earn a living. And, of course, there is a top end as in any service industry, expensive girls for rich clients.

The street girls are arrested frequently and given small fines that reflect their circumstances. The massage parlour girls are in trouble only when the place is raided. It happens, but not often. Private arrangements hardly ever trouble the courts unless the girl steals something or the punter gets violent, and even then the matter is only reported if the punter doesn't mind people knowing he uses prostitutes or the girl doesn't fear loss of her future livelihood.

I raise this topic today because last night I went to my favourite Thai restaurant and found that two of the usual waiting staff were not present, one male one female. They are both students and had been working there for over a year. Being a polite sort of fellow I asked the manager about them and was told they had left in order to do other work. I asked him to pass on my good wishes if he heard from them again, but there was something in the way he said it that set my mind whirring.

Later I collared one of the supervisors and requested further details. He divulged that both were finding it difficult to make ends meet on what they earned from the restaurant so they had started advertising more intimate services on websites a few months ago. Both found it sufficiently lucrative that they could give up their old job. It wasn't surprising to hear that. A couple of years ago the Brazilian chap who made deliveries for the Chinese takeaway close to FatBigot Towers did the same thing. Once he was established it was a choice between six-midnight for £50 or one punter for a hour and £80 the tax man would never know about.

The cheap street girls and boys are often pitiful creatures. They scrape small fees from the lowliest punters because they can't attract a better class of custom. Most are simply unfit or unqualified for any better paid job, so it suits them to work as prostitutes whether or not they are on crack cocaine. The rest are doing very much the same thing albeit without the additional risks associated with working from the streets and having to sell to dubious customers.

Most importantly, each of them is providing a service for which there is a demand. They don't create the demand, they satisfy a demand that is already there. What's wrong with that? We usually think of prostitution involving men hiring women for sex, but women also hire men, men hire men and (I suppose, although I've never heard of it) women hire women. In each case there is a willing customer who is prepared to pay a certain fee for a certain service. He/she is prepared to pay that fee because they want the service.

Say it costs £100. A person has £100 available and is prepared to pay that sum for nookie. They are not prepared to pay it for a curry because it is not their curry money, it is their nookie money. It has been set aside to spend on satisfying a need that can only be met by someone offering nookie. The punter's desire for nookie is not going to subside if prostitution is outlawed. Nor is it going to be satisfied without payment - if it could be he/she wouldn't be throwing a ton at it. So, it's going to happen anyway either within or outside the law. In any situation like that prohibition is absurd. America saw it with booze and every country that outlaws prostitution and/or homosexual activity sees it also. It's going to happen anyway.

I then ask the question that is the title of this piece: "What's wrong with prostitution?" Today's Puritans - you know the sort, they bleat about smoking, drinking and eating meat - claim it's rape in disguise. If it is rape then it's rape and not prostitution, if it's not rape it's consensual conduct between two adults and none of anyone's business.

Others claim is contravenes their god's law. Fine, if your god doesn't like it don't do it, but do mind your own business because your god probably has something to say about those who interfere in things that are none of their business.

My money's on the girl from the restaurant making more money than the boy. He has sticky-out ears. Then again, you never know. What I do know is that I can't think of a single thing wrong with prostitution.


Anonymous said...

"Today's Puritans - you know the sort, they bleat about smoking, drinking and eating meat - claim it's rape in disguise. If it is rape then it's rape and not prostitution, if it's not rape it's consensual conduct between two adults and none of anyone's business."

I would reply that there is something seriously wrong with the social and political conditions that force women onto the street, giving God knows what kind of "services" to complete strangers for a small amount of cash to feed and clothe their children. Hopefully, we will never find ourselves in this demeaning and dangerous position. We are lucky, many more are not.

Anonymous said...

It's the oldest profession Anonymous, so welcome to planet Earth.

Andrew W

TheFatBigot said...

Mr Andrew gets it, Mr/Mrs/Ms Mous doesn't.

What is demeaning about selling sex?

I asked the old tart who lives a few doors away whether she found it demeaning. Her answer, not surprisingly, was that she can earn more from selling sex than from doing anything else and the hours suit her to a tee.

Anonymous said...

"What's wrong with prostitution?"

They rarely take credit cards.

They rarely have discount coupons.

They rarely give a guarantee.

Pogo said...

I earn my meagre living by renting access to my brains and experience to willing customers. I see no difference between that and renting access to my body (except that the market for my body would be so limited that I reckon I'd starve!).