Banning prostitutes from hotels doesn’t seem such a great idea…

// 25 September 2008

Leftwing MEPs are calling on the European Parliament to bypass hotels that enable prostitution, reports EUObserver.

Unfortunately, the story is a bit unspecific on what this means – if it means boycotting hotels that help businessmen find prostitutes to buy, or offer such ‘services’ – yeah, sure, good idea. But if it means boycotting hotels which do not ban prostitutes from entering, then, obviously, not so much!

This bit I agree with:

“The background for this decision is of course the growing understanding of the harm that prostitution causes for the people involved in prostitution as well as the role of prostitution in organised crime,” the Nordic MEPs said, noting the “praxis of many hotels as providers of sex trade with humans, as if they were dealing with an ordinary commodity.”

But if this photocaption is accurate, I cannot:

Nordic MEPs want their colleagues to only patronise prostitute-free hotels in Strasbourg

It may be that the reporting is not clear enough on this distinction, but it’s an important one. “Prostitute free hotels” – what does that even mean? That women suspected of being prostitutes will be barred from the door?

This, for example, is just wrong:

Hotels deny they would ever help a guest find a prostitute, while some smaller guest-houses exclude prostitutes who normally live with them in order not to put off EU clientele during the plenary sessions.

That’s not about protecting prostitutes, it’s about protecting our elected representatives from having to have day-to-day contact with women in the sex trade, because we couldn’t have that, could we?! It’s about the presence of prostitutes driving away business, not making sure that the hotel isn’t acting as a pimp.

Meanwhile, this too hit the wrong note for me:

“Not all men are clients,” Ms Collot added. “I hope there are still some faithful [European] deputies, for the sake of their wives.”

What’s with the implication that the bad thing about prostitution is that it involves men cheating on their partners?

Following on from Sokari’s post earlier today, I think this story a really good example of how it’s important for feminist critics of prostitution to be absolutely specific on what is and is not good policy, and be 100% clear on being anti-prostitution but pro-woman.

Photo of MEPs being entertained by an orchestra by inyucho, shared under a Creative Commons license

Comments From You

Melanie // Posted 25 September 2008 at 7:43 pm

A few years ago my husband and me stayed in a hotel in Moscow. We couldn’t walk into the lobby, bar or restaurant without him being continually pestered by prostitutes who were there all the time, with their pimps lurking in the background. The fact that he was clearly with me didn’t deter them one bit. And whenever I came in or went out on my own I felt like most of the men there were looking at me as if I was a prostitute, and I had to show ID to get back in the hotel, i.e. prove I wasn’t a prostitute. The whole experience was incredibly annoying and uncomfortable. I would never go back there.

Hotels without prostitutes? Yes please! People are always banging on about their rights. What about mine?

JENNIFER DREW // Posted 25 September 2008 at 11:13 pm

This report is very unclear but certainly if the content means hotels which provide pimping services in order that male customers can buy prostituted women then yes they should be boycotted. But if it is about stigmatising prostituted women no. Ms. Collot is wrong prostitution is not about husbands being unfaithful to their wives rather prostitution is about many men believing it is their right and entitlement to buy prostituted women in order to commit any sexual act or violence they wish upon the woman.

Research has consistently shown that male buyers come from all social spheres. Some are married, some are single, some are young, some middle-aged, some elderly. All have one similarity – their belief in right of buying prostituted women for their sexual gratification.

Note it is a group of leftwing MEP’s and if they are in fact recommending that prostituted women be targetted they are once again ignoring the real issues of prostitution. Because the targets must be the male buyers, pimps and businesses such as hotels, taxis, and travel agencies who all promote prostitution as just a ‘sexual service’ to men. Target the real culprits – not prostituted women.

Jess McCabe // Posted 26 September 2008 at 10:36 am

Melanie, while I can sympathise with that being a very uncomfortable and unsafe-feeling situation, I think it’s really important to stress solidarity, rather than just say “not in my backyard”. After all, the women in that hotel, with the pimps lurking around, were not just there for a few days on a trip.

Melanie // Posted 26 September 2008 at 1:54 pm

Stress solidarity? Okay. Fine. How exactly was I supposed to do that, Jess, in that hotel while my husband was being pestered and both of us were feeling uncomfortable and unsafe? Show solidarity with the people harassing us?

butterflywings // Posted 26 September 2008 at 5:44 pm

In defence of Melanie, she didn’t say anything deogatory about those prostitutes.

If you haven’t been travelling you don’t necessarily know how wearing it is to be constantly harrassed…and I mean EVERY TWO MINUTES…if it’s not prostitutes it’s to buy stuff, come to their restaurant, or just begging.

I mean yes I can sympathise with the people that have to do that, who don’t have the priveleges I do – I do appreciate that having the money to travel (well, kind of, I’m not exactly in the luxury tourism market) is a privelege, and try to make the best use of that time and money I can by giving something back.

It’s still incredibly draining and annoying to get constant attention, not to mention, as you say, sometimes threatening – e.g. the gang of guys on a recent holiday that tried to get me to take a taxi when I dared walk back to my hotel from a restaurant alone – my hotel was 2 minutes’ walk away so I said no thanks and walked on, to be followed by mocking laughter and mimicking.

Given that the waiters had tried to tell me a “shortcut” back – yeah, he may have been genuine but hmmm, a couple of guys knew exactly when I would be walking along a deserted path at 11pm and hotel was already 2 mins, how much time could it save…I decided not to risk it – I already felt unsafe. What I am getting at is, it’s not one event that is relatively small in isolation – her guy being approached by prostitutes once or twice would be no big deal, but if it’s every day, every 5 minutes it’s a different story. It’s the cumulative effect.

Also, she wasn’t saying “not in my backyard” – just sharing her experience. It is a valid point that if prostitution/porn culture is very visible men start to think *all* women are their commodities – like someone said on the other thread, it’s a continuum to her getting her arse pinched by a random man at the bus stop.

Russian men really do think any woman alone is a prostitute – it’s true. Ask anyone who has been. Read any guidebook.

Having recently been harrassed by a gang of them in a pub – I’d gone to get a table while my 2 girl friends got a round – I can attest to this. They kept asking me why I was alone, despite the fact that I didn’t even have a drink (so anyone with a brain could have worked out I was waiting for someone) and made lewd comments, so I had to leave and find another table, warning my friends on the way – even when my friends came with the drinks, *sarcasm* why on earth would a group of women be out if not to look for men? Couldn’t possibly be just for a chat and catch up, could it?*/sarcasm*.

If I HAD been alone, and why on earth wouldn’t a woman have the right to pop into a pub for a quick drink on their own, I do sometimes, I would have felt very threatened.

I agree with the article, though. I mean not encouraging prostitution is a good idea, but seriously, they don’t have to have an outright ban – it’s not Pretty Woman, the thing is, the obvious prostitutes will be targeted and that will include women who aren’t but are assumed to be because they dare to be on their own, and /or wearing skimpy clothing. Which is just misogyny. It’s like a hotel in Thailand which is known for being very anti sex tourism…I thought, great idea, except I met a backpacker who they had asked to leave assuming a Western woman on her own who dressed in less than a hijab (in 30C plus heat! and yes she does respect the local culture so she wasn’t wearing next to nothing).

Why is being anti porn and prostitution seen as being all about traditional Victorian “moral” objections – feminism is not about that, it’s the real damage these do to women. I don’t blame any woman who chooses to engage in sex work, it is not about them. Why don’t we place the blame where it belongs, where the demand is – MEN.

(No, I know not all men buy sex or use porn…)

Anti-prostitution, pro-woman. Exactly right.

Renee // Posted 28 September 2008 at 12:43 am

@Melanie while you may have found the experience disturbing imagine the lives that these women are leading. What would have been the consequence if they did not approach your husband for sex? Also think about the global economy and how it limits the choice of women. I understand that your personally felt unsafe but the blame should be on the institutions that support prostitution and the johns that think that they should have the right to buy women. Heaping vitriol on the prostitutes does nothing to correct the situation. You should also think about the possibility that these women could be trafficked women.

tom hulley // Posted 28 September 2008 at 9:13 am

Slightly off the topic but how frightening is this snippet:

Prostitute raped

A 26-year-old prostitute was raped at

knifepoint after she got into a man’s

car in Preston early yesterday.

Lancashire police said the incident

should serve as a warning to other

street workers.

The Observer 28.9.2008 News in Brief p.5

Is rape a punishment approved by Lancashire police?

Anna // Posted 28 September 2008 at 11:56 am

Christ almighty. That’s too much. Something has to be done about that. Ideas, people?

Tony Moll // Posted 28 September 2008 at 12:17 pm

Hey people, lay off Melanie…

She is right to be annoyed at prostitutes pestering her husband right in front of her. They were being rude and they know it.

Laurel Dearing // Posted 28 September 2008 at 1:49 pm

a warning theres a guy about i suppose… but they face that every day. most of them cant do anything about it unless they want to starve till everyone that abuses prostitutes is off the streets. 0_o

that is a horrible choice of words. puts the blame fully on the prostitutes and youre right it does sound like an approved punishment.

Shea // Posted 29 September 2008 at 12:39 am

I would really like to see prostitute collectives (well no I’d like to see the end of prostitution and full gender equality, but accepting the present limitations of our world……)— stay with me… . Warm, clean, safe and well run fully licensed establishments, that insist on safe sex practices and the security of the men and women working there. Where the sex workers could go about their business without the threat of arrest or having to walk the streets. It wouldn’t be an end to the abuse and trafficking that goes on but it might be a start.

joseph // Posted 24 February 2009 at 7:58 pm

Radical feminists see prostitution as slavery, liberal feminists see prostitution as a choice of work. People who have actually seen prostitution up close see it as dangerous, abusive and corrupt. To try to fix that is about as laughably unfeasible as organising unions of drug dealers.

lisa // Posted 16 May 2010 at 10:35 pm

being in the sex industry myself and having worked in several different places,street hotels and brothels.(p.s just to make it clear i dont pester peoples husbands lol )

You wouldnt even know what i do just by looking at me or talking to me,not all sex workers are the same so banning them from hotels is going to be VERY difficult.And also very dangerous as women would just resort to meeting people in cars or clients houses,VERY dangerous(take the ipswich killings for example – only published because there was more than 1 girl being killed)

Some girls – perhaps these ones who pester,have pimps,and those have tom ake acertain amount by the end of the night or they have to face alot of trouble.

Anyone who has never been involved in it themselves cannot say what it is like.

The best thing that can be done about it,is people could open thier eyes to it and brothels be legalised,it would solve alot of abuse and problems for outsiders who get harassed by working girls :)

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