Our idiot Home Secretary

Home Secretary Jacqui Smith announced last month that men would be committing a crime if they paid for sex with a woman who has been trafficked into the UK or is working for a pimp, even if they did not know she had been forced into prostitution.

How did we end up with someone so blitheringly stupid in a position to write laws for us?

There is no connection between working for a pimp and being forced into prostitution. Toms and their pimps are in an economic relationship and like all voluntary such they benefit both sides. The evidence is here.

Please, can we at some point return to being governed by grown ups?

Hope beats eternal

From a survey of young British womens\’ attitiudes to sex.

Four out of 10 said they would marry for money or sleep with their boss if it meant they would get promoted, while a quarter would have an affair with a married man.

Britons not confused about sex!

I know, a bit of a shocker really. The Office of National Statistics is to ask whether people are straight, gay, bi, other, and the head honcho says:

But National Statistician Karen Dunnell defended the plan, saying: “The vast majority of people are willing and able to answer the question.”

See, we\’re able to answer the question so we\’re not confused about sex, are we?

Eh?

Some 5-10% of girls and 1-5% of boys have been subjected to penetrative sex, usually by a family friend or relative. If sexual abuse is defined more widely – as anything from being shown pornographic magazines to rape – it is estimated that it will include at least 15% of girls and 5% of boys.

Does anyone actually believe these numbers?

Honeymoon disappointments

This really sounds rather bizarre:

Around 10 per cent of newly-married women are seeking counselling to cope with their "secret sadness", according to psychologists.

Many are turning to marriage guidance websites for reassurance about what they should expect after the excitement of their big day wears off.

Did anyone really ever believe the "get married, live happily ever after" bit?

Still provides an opportunity to retell an old joke, from back in the day when sex was something that happened after marriage rather than before.

Niagara Falls has been the second biggest disappointment for many a newly wed bride……

Excellent piece!

These new laws on prostitution are in fact worse than I had thought.

For starters, the new offence of \’paying for sex with person controlled for gain\’ is so broad that it will be unworkable. Under existing laws \’controlling\’ can include advising what to charge, and \’for gain\’ currently means \’any financial advantage\’. \’Trafficking\’ already includes providing food or transport on a journey – even giving someone a lift to a train station. Theoretically, the proposals criminalise a prostitute\’s landlord as well as her client.

As for trafficking, the only official report from the police operation Pentameter 1 shows a tiny proportion, just 0.11 per cent, of people in the sex industry have in fact been trafficked. A subsequent operation, Pentameter 2, found 167 trafficked people, which is still only 0.21 per cent.

All of which is bad enough but:

The proposals are based on myriad flawed and inadequate reports written by lobby groups who have a vested interest in the criminalisation of clients and the victim status of women.

Couldn\’t be talking about Ms. Bindel there, could we?

Quite

I\’ve known women who would rather spend their afternoons servicing a punter than scrabbling from low-paid job to low-paid job. Who is Miss Smith to decree that pouring Limelite down my lavatory for a low wage is less oppressive than selling sex?

Penalising the punters

I think I can answer this question.

The home secretary has caused a storm with plans to change prostitution laws. She tells Julie Bindel why she is following the global trend to target men who buy sex.

She\’s telling Julie Bindel because Julie Bindel is one of the near hysteric lesbian activists* who have been pushing the line that all prostitution is rape, that all women are forced into it and that it should be abolished (as if we could!).

She explains that demand is one of the main reasons so many women are involved in the sex industry,

I suppose there\’s hope for us all then. At least one Cabinet Minister seems to have realised that "demand" is the reason that most things happen in the economy.

"We need to send out a message to men and to society in general, that most women do not choose to be in prostitution, whereas the buyers have free choice."

Again perfectly correct. Most women do not choose to be in prostitution. There\’s an estimated 80,000 "sex workers" in the country and some 35 million or so women of various ages.  I\’m willing to believe that 34,920,000 out of 35,000,000 is "most".

But that\’s not the question we want to know the answer to. We actually want to know what portion of the 80,000 have chosen prostitution as the least bad of their available options and there the water is murkier. I very seriously doubt whether there\’s more than a few hundred that have been forced into it in the sense of sexual slavery (such slavery obviously being a bad thing and something which is already illegal). I\’m perfectly happy to agree that many more will have been "forced" into it by economic pressures (seeing it as the above "least bad option") but then I\’ve been "forced" into writing for a living rather than riding the paddock ponies at F1 races by economic pressures too: my complete lack of skill at anything at all to do with cars being an unfortunate fact of my life. Similarly, at times I\’ve made my living by washing pots, sorting used ink jet cartridges, risking my life with the Russian metals Mafia, delivering newspapers and waiting table. All of which (at least most of them) earning me less than turning tricks would have done.

It should soon be a criminal offence to pay for sex with someone who is controlled for another person\’s gain – and it will be no defence for buyers to claim that they were unaware that a person was trafficked, pimped, or debt-bonded to their drug dealer or landlord.

We\’re actually at serious danger of debasing the language here. What does "trafficked" mean for example? There\’s what I think everyone would agree was such, kidnapped, smuggled in, held prisoner….a slave in fact. Here\’s what it seems to mean to campaigners like Bindel though….an illegal immigrant who works in the sex trade. And that\’s a much more expansive meaning. For example, somone might have paid to be smuggled, voluntarily, in order to enter the trade. Someone might have simply moved in order to do so: Gary Becker looked at this decades ago and pointed out that becoming a prostitute lowers your social capital. Thus people tend to do it away from home which is where your social capital is essentially located. While women used to move from hometown to next town (and anyone who has travelled on late night InterCity in the 80s and 90s would know that women would travel from S Wales to Swindon for example, the smoking carriages were full of loud conversations about the night\’s takings) with travel ever cheaper, why not country to country?

And "pimped"? Are these twits unaware that many working girls actually prefer to use a pimp? Not read Steven Levitt\’s research, showing that even after the slice taken by the pimp the nett earnings were higher for those who did? This is exploitation in the same way that an actor hiring an agent is.

According to government statistics, 4,000 women and children have been trafficked into prostitution in the UK at any one time, but the police suggest the real figure is far higher – studies have found that at least 70% of women working in UK brothels are trafficked from places such as Africa, Asia and eastern Europe.

This is where our definition of "trafficking" is so important. The use here is "imported" which is not the same at all (see Becker above) as the meaning of "sex slave".

Lithuania and Finland both have laws similar to Britain\’s new approach, making it illegal to pay for sex with a trafficked woman.

If "trafficked" means "sex slave" then this is already illegal in Britan as well. Sex without consent is known as rape, no? If it means imported then you\’d better not think of shagging that Spanish bird you met on holiday and invited over then.

but well over half agreed that paying for sex with a trafficked woman should be criminalised.

Indeed, our varied meanings of "trafficked" again.

In 1984, for instance, Victoria was the first Australian state to legalise prostitution, and the main arguments put forward for the move (including by pimps and brothel owners) were that this would sever prostitution from organised crime and make the trade much safer for the women involved.

The reality does not match that early promise, as underlined by the occupational health and safety advice that is handed out to women by states that have legalised the trade. Women are advised to pretend they have a stomach upset if a buyer "insists on anal sex without a condom"; they are told to be careful when injecting local anaesthetic into their vagina, as it can mask more "serious injuries". (The idea that anyone would inject anaesthetic into their vagina is a stark reminder of the trade\’s brutality.) Then there is the advice that women should "learn basic self-defence", "be aware some clients can be rough" and that, when visiting a buyer\’s home, they should check for signs of a planned gang-rape, including loud music and too many cars in the drive.

Are we to assume that none of these things happen in places where prostitution is illegal? In fact, if you go and scour the net (as I once did for a sadly unpublished book project) you\’ll find the blog of a black escort in London where she says she\’s very glad that it is legal for her to sell here: it means that if she is threatened with violence by a customer she has the same rights to call the police for help as anyone else facing assault does.

This reflects the situation in Nevada, the only US state to legalise brothels, where the illegal prostitution industry is currently nine times larger than the legal one.

That\’s simply shameless. Prostitution is legal in a small number of counties in Nevada. They happen to be the counties with very few people in them. Of course the prostitution trade in Las Vegas (illegal but many people) is larger than that in somewhere with 3 residents and a few horses.

"I am willing to accept that there are women out there who say they have chosen to sell sex, but they are in the minority, and laws are there to protect the majority."

No love, that\’s the part of your case that you haven\’t made yet.

*The phrase here is "lesbian activist", not "lesbian" activist. Bindel\’s not just arguing (correctly of course) that lesbians have as of right the same civil liberties we all do. She\’s arguing other things which come directly from a certain view of human sexuality.

Fiona Mactaggart: idiot

A significant number of women are controlled by violent gangs, some have been trafficked across borders, some between different towns where they offer "fresh meat" to clients who see the women they pay for as a mere commodity for pleasure.

Jeepers. That a Government Minister doesn\’t know the most basic point about prostitution (as pointed out by Gary Becker decades ago). That entering the sex trade tends to reduce one\’s social capital…thus people tend to do it away from the community they come from. That\’s why they move around, not to provide "fresh meat".

 

Mary Warnock

What?

But for those who regard consensual sex as one of the nicest of nice things, prostitution is a corruption, a devaluing. Though it is consensual, it is so only through the medium of money. No one would put up with it without being paid. This is far from the bliss of Adam and Eve.

The existence of prostitution devalues sex for those who have unpaid consensual sex?

That\’s the same argument as the one that the existence of same sex marriage devalues heterosexual marriage, isn\’t it? An argument that I certainly laugh at and one that Mary Warnock would certainly never try to put forward.

And people listen to this woman on the subject of ethics?

Sheesh.

Amusing

Labour supporting women are more likely to cheat on their partners – and also more likely to forgive their partners for being unfaithful. More than one in five (22 per cent) of Labour supporting women have cheated on their partners compared with less than one in ten (8 per cent) of Conservative supporters.

 

Now there\’s a surprise.

But faced with too much choice, however, they resort to crude approaches such as choosing solely on looks.

When we have to make a quick decision like this, we don\’t have much else to go on – and that\’s because of our largely monogamous nature, said the team.

Monogamous species have fewer secondary sexual characteristics such as peacocks\’ colourful tail feathers.

Does it matter? Not if what you\’re looking for is a quick fling, Miss Lenton told New Scientist.

Research suggests that we don\’t look too hard for signs that a short-term partner is our ideal mate.

Who would have thought it? When looking for a shag we make selections based upon what might make a good shag. When looking for something more than a shag we consider other matters, over and above what might indicate good shaggability.

My, aren\’t we human beings such complex creatures?

Obviously….

Women with a high body mass index are more likely to have sex than those with a normal weight, a study has shown.

The study into the relationship between body mass index and sexual behaviour has ruled out the widely held stereotype that overweight and obese women are not as sexually active as more slender women. In fact, the researchers concluded that the opposite was true.

Err, fat birds are easy?