A case in point.

// 22 January 2008

Remember how I was saying that some men refuse to recognise that violence against women is a gendered crime? Well the same goes for prostitution; witness this comment from one of the posters on this Guardian Comment is Free piece:

What I really can’t understand is why so many women (and girly-men, I suppose) insist on saying there is something wrong with the ‘sex’ trade – it’s just another commercial transaction in a capitalist society in which pretty much everything is for sale. There are laws against any type of coercive sex, or child sex, and that is as it should be, and anyone engaging in violent or coercive behaviour should be locked up for a good long time, as this is a serious crime. But sex between adults, one paying one providing? Get a life, you people who want to stop this – as the old saying goes, this is the oldest profession, and it will be with us as long as men have balls but don’t care to get married just to get f**ked.

Thing is, prostitution in this country, and globally, is not generally about ‘sex between adults, one paying one providing’. It is generally about ‘sex between adults, the man paying, the woman providing’. It is often about ‘sex between a man and an underage girl, man paying, girl providing’. It is often about coersive and violent behaviour committed by men towards women and girls. Prostitution is gendered. We do not have websites listing hundreds of men who can be accessed by women who believe they have a right to sex. Boys and men are not, on the whole, being trafficked into the country to provide for women’s “right” to access the male body. Yes, there are men who use male prostitutes, but on the whole we are talking about male punters and female “providers”, many of whom are not in position to freely consent to doing so:

Research published in 2001 showed that almost two-thirds of prostitutes in three cities said their main reason for selling sex was to fund a drug habit, and the Home Office estimates that 95 per cent of street prostitutes use heroin or crack cocaine. Most prostitutes in Britain come from poor backgrounds, more than two-thirds enter the sex trade before the age of 18, and half have suffered sex abuse at home before being taken up by pimps.

Prostutution reflects and reinforces the power dynamics of patriarchy. To claim that it is simply ‘sex between adults, one paying, one providing’ is to ignore the reality of what is going on right now, all over the world.

Rebecca Mott has kindly allowed me to link to her own personal story of prostitution. This is her reality, and it is a reality that many prostituted women and girls are forced to put up with. I’ll warn you now, it’s upsetting reading:

I was taken back to flats near the club. I went thinking I know what would be like. I know that I would have sex. I guess it may not be nice, but I had no idea.

Before I enter the flats, I had accepted I was a whore. After years of sexual abuse by my stepdad. After seeing images of porn going round and round my brain for so long. After my mother saying –

“You never say no.”

My body was aching with memories of sexual violence. As I entered the flats, I thought I know how much pain men can put you through.

Although, I thought understood, but I know nothing.


I was gang-raped for several hours. It was terrifying, and kill all hope I clung to.

I became a toy where these men could place all their hate of women on.

For those men, raping me was not enough. I had to be destroyed as much as they could. I was beaten. I was raped anally. I had two or three men raping at once.

But, worse was the men standing round watching. Some waiting their turn to rape me. Some just watching. This is what I still see in nightmares.

I wake in sweats, thinking eyes are staring through me.

This is why so many of us have a problem with ‘the sex trade’.

I’d like to thank Rebecca again for writing, and I hope that those people who believe the sex trade is all hunky dorey read her experiences and have a serious rethink.

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