In a week where we see Amnesty International attempt to push through policy supporting the discriminalisation of sex buying, pimping and brothel keeping, here comes a report from The Institute of Economic Affairs claiming that 'Decriminalising Britain's' £4billion sex industry would increase protection of women'. It is a claim that further entitles men to pay for the bodies of women, because, well ...they just can't help it. This couldn't be further from the truth.
Prostitution is violence against women and girls, an industry based on a foundation of inequality, male privilege and an abuse of human rights.The idea that men have no control over their sex drive is ludicrous, and most men don't buy sex. Anyone with the most basic understanding of prostitution and the sex industry knows that sex is not the fundamental driver; power and entitlement are.
Would full decriminalisation increase the protection of women? No, it would increase the power of male sex buyers and pimps. What it would protect are the millions of pounds they pocket every day.
The report seems to say that the comparable 'sexual desire and motivation' between men and women is not only a vast gulf, but that this 'sexual deficit' will be increasing in the 21st century where 'male demand for sexual entertainments' is growing and ineradicable';
So no responsibility is assigned for massively unequal power relations in prostitution. No analysis of the availability of increasingly violent pornography within a culture that commonly presents women as existing to satisfy the sexual needs of men in our individualistic, instant gratification, fast food, takeaway, throwaway culture.
However, worry not. Because according to the reports author Catherine Hakim, 'all available evidence points in the direction of prostitution and erotic entertainments having no noxious psychological or social effects and may even help to reduce the crime rates' Have I actually read this right? This is so offensive and far from the truth of countless studies that show increased mortality rates, trauma and PTSD among prostituted women world wide.
It also completely ignores the intersections of misogyny, racism and class, while happily throwing the vast majority of women's lived experience under the bus; that would be the bus full of men celebrating a stag do, on it's way to Germany to pay a flat rate in a brothel; just like a buffet. There they can do whatever they want to women, who will in most cases not be German but Eastern Europe or Nigerian, for as long as they want to do it.
No damage here folks; but do pass the numbing cream women routinely use to numb their aching vagina's after being penetrated by countless men. Because that's what we are talking about and it's rarely mentioned in these academic discourses. Does the author really believe that having the most vulnerable women and girls in our world, available to be sexually sacrificed to men actually drives down the crime rate? I'm assuming she means rape and I'm assuming this then saves the privileged 'good women' from sexual assault. I'm amazed this kind of statement would even be implied in public such is it's ignorance of both rape and prostitution.
I believe that you can never put a price on human dignity but this report tries; it reminds us we are in 'a time of austerity' and points out that 'the sex industry is worth £4bn to the British economy'. We don't want to be wasting money on helping women exit abuse or hold sex buyers and pimps accountable do we? They can't help it, it's their hormones.
The report says that 'economic growth drives demand for luxuries' Here again we see women and girls compared to inanimate goods where 'the distinction between amateur and professional sexual encounters is becoming increasingly blurred'. As a survivor of supposed 'high class' prostitution and being trafficked overseas I can tell you that what is blurred is your eyesight after you've been battered, and the blur of one man after another doing exactly what he wants regardless of your saying no.
Removing ethics from being part of any analysis exactly mirrors the practice of the sex industry itself; where a woman and her humanity are stripped of both clothes and dignity and viewed as an expendable commodity.
This report reads like a charter for pimps, brothel owners and male sex buyers, offering them even more justification than they currently afford themselves; to buy women's bodies as if it is a need that must be met.
The author describes prostitution laws as ' outdated, misinformed and redundant', the very words I would use to describe the theories and recommendations in this report.
As a survivor of prostitution and trafficking and someone who has supported women to exit the trade for nearly 20 years, I know that the Sex Buyer's Law
I want to see prostitution decriminalised for those selling sex with resources provided to support them to exit. I want to see the rest of the UK fulfil its obligations to promote equality and human rights, to address prostitution within a violence against women and girls framework and to recognise the clear links with trafficking and modern day slavery. We need to demand the criminalising of sex buyers where they are finally held accountable for the ongoing misery they create.
Diane Martin CBE is a Survivor and Activist, and director of the Dovetail Initiative