No doubt everyone is completely familiar with the dreadful goings-on in the GOS's own part of the world, in which five young prostitutes have been murdered and their bodies dumped in the countryside.
It's all come as a considerable shock to a corner of East Anglia that has always regarded itself as pleasantly old-fashioned. There's an old saying round here, "Suffolk do different", by which we mean that Suffolk people are stolid, stubborn and hard to move - all in the best possible way, of course. Flighty they are definitely not. They don't take easily to modern fads like vandalism, road rage and mugging, and they still follow such outmoded habits as talking to each other in shops. Quite a few of them probably never realised there were any prostitutes in Ipswich.
The GOS did know, actually, because he's seen one or two of them while driving round the town. They have a habit of bending at the knees to look at you as you drive past. When the GOS first saw them he thought it was a rather charming traditional mark of respect for his age.
No matter what their calling, no matter how much they may have messed up their lives, these five young women didn't deserve to be stripped, strangled and dumped in a ditch. There have been many calls to legalise prostitution in the hope that women could then carry on the oldest profession somewhere other than a street corner.
There has also been a pronouncement from government minister Harriet Harman. She thinks that instead of targeting the prostitutes themselves, we should target their customers, the men who pay for sex.
Maybe the GOS is a naïve old codger, but he can't quite get his head around the logic here. If he wanted to, he could sell the fruits of his intellect (the alleged intellect, I hear you cry) for money - in fact, he did so for many years by working as a teacher. And it was all perfectly legal.
If he wanted to sell the sweat of his brow and the fruits of his physical labour, perhaps by digging your garden or sawing logs for your stove, that would be OK, wouldn't it? Unlikely, given the GOS's almost terminal idleness, but legal.
And if the rather pretty girl next door wanted to do the same, for instance by offering to massage the GOS's aching back for a tenner, that would not only be legal but a bloody good idea.
Yet if she offered to massage a slightly different bit of him, using a slightly different bit of her (dream on, oh, dream on), suddenly that becomes a crime, does it?
The GOS understands that the crime is not so much in the act as in the soliciting of the act - in other words, approaching someone else in the street to discuss this particular kind of business transaction. It would be permissible, presumably, to meet someone on the pavement outside Woolworth's and talk about a spot of light gardening for £5 an hour, or piano lessons, or even a massage. But if the job under discussion involves someone's naughty bits - that's a crime?
To someone with the GOS's naïve simplicity, it seems that a woman ought to have the right to do what she wants with her own body provided she doesn't actually hurt anyone with it. Indeed, if she were a professional footballer or boxer, the hurting would be part of the territory too. There are plenty of precedents, after all. A famous model can take her clothes off, look as sexy as she likes, inflame the delicate senses of the nation's manhood, and nobody turns a hair. A porn star can actually have real live sex on camera and get paid handsomely for it, but we don't arrest her or call her a prostitute. But if she does it in the dark, on a street corner because she's desperate and hasn't got anywhere else to go ….
According to the papers the vast majority of prostitutes are drug addicts. They need large sums of money to satisfy their desperate craving, and if some men are prepared to give it to them in return for some brief sexual service, this doesn't seem so very wrong. It's a bit too easy to say that the women should exercise some will-power. The GOS is trying to stop smoking at the moment, and completely understands that stronger addictions like heroin can be impossible to deny by will-power alone.
So really, Harriet Harman, you need to think a little more deeply about this. Or possibly explain a little more thoroughly. Because the GOS for one, just doesn't understand why it's necessary to "target" anyone for putting money and sex together. Porn stars, pop stars, actresses, models, newspapers, girlie magazines, films, television, and those gold-digging floosies who marry rich husbands twice their age have been doing exactly that for years. Target them, why don't you?
The GOS says: Found the following on the very intelligent and readable Stumbling & Mumbling website:
"Harriet Harman wants to make it illegal to buy sex. Call me an autistic economist, but not only should buying sex not be illegal, but prostitution should be much less restricted than it currently is.
The first rule of economics is that trade benefits both parties - that's why people do it. So, why is the trade in sex different? I don't find the arguments persuasive.
1. "Prostitutes are forced into the business by their poverty, drug addiction or by gangsters who control the trade in illegal immigrants."
There's much truth in this. But this is not an argument for criminalizing prostitution. It's an argument for giving women more options. The solutions instead are: a citizen's basic income; cheaper drugs - through legalizing that trade too; help for addicts; or freer immigration.
In the absence of sensible policies to help desperate women, prostitution is their least bad option. Why deprive them of the chance to make the most of it?
2. "Prostitution exploits women."
It does, insofar as it takes advantage of desperate people. But so do many other capitalist acts between consenting adults. Ordinary employers exploit people's need to earn a living. The difference between my renting my brain to my employer and a prostitute renting her body is only a matter of degree.
3. "The only thing that separates having sex with a prostitute from rape is a cash transaction."
This is just absurd. The only thing that separates shopping from theft is a cash transaction.
4. "Prostitution embodies a view of women which is intrinsically brutalising, dehumanising and predatory. That is why the violence to which it gives rise is routine. That is why it is so appalling that anyone should be arguing that it should be regularised and thus condoned." (Mel P)
It's probably true that the men who visit prostitutes are disproportionately likely to regard them as mere objects, and thus disproportionately likely to assault them. But criminalizing prostitution exacerbates this problem in three ways. It deters more law-abiding, moral, men from visting prostitutes, thus exposing the latter to more dangerous men. It stigmatizes prostitutes, thus helping to legitimize violence towards them in the perverted eyes of their attackers. And it deters prostitutes from reporting their attackers to the police.
5. "Prostitution devalues the true and special meaning of sex."
I don't get this. Lots of things are very special and valuable: music, art and intellectual endeavour. But we see no problem in paying musicians, artists and intellectuals."
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