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


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?



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?


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?

Department of the blazingly obvious

This really isn\’t "Jeepers" material.

The grandparent who plays babysitter is not only the cheapest and most easily exploited form of childcare but also the safest, research suggests.

An American study has confounded fears that grandparents are likely to be out of touch with the best modern childcare techniques by showing that they cut the risk of a child getting injured by up to half.

In that Darwinian sense the point and purpose of life is to have grandchildren who then go on to have their own children. That grandparents take care of their grandchildren well is really the most unsurprising finding.

After all, they\’re caring for, looking after, an investment that they started 30 or 40 years before, when they first selected their own mate.

A ban on shagging

This really rather surprises me.

Since July 2007 it has been a criminal offence to "procure, test, process or distribute" any gametes (sperm and eggs) intended for human application without a licence from the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority.

That seems to ban shagging.

Eying up some bloke, noting eye colour, height, checking his teeth, is, or can be seen as, testing out a prospect. The shagging is procurement without a doubt. Insertion into the vagina/womb, even if using the natural draught method, is processing….and OK, I\’ll admit that distribution is the subject of rather more specialist films than most of us watch.

It\’s amazing the powers that the powers that be will take to themselves, isn\’t it?


Men who buy sex from women who have been coerced into prostitution or trafficked for sexual exploitation would be prosecuted under proposals to be announced by the Home Secretary tomorrow.

It would be an offence in England and Wales to pay for sex if the woman was being controlled by a pimp, had been coerced into the sex trade or was trafficked into Britain for sexual exploitation. Last year Jacqui Smith said: “We recognise that there is considerable support for us to do more to tackle the demand for prostitution and to prevent the trafficking of people for sexual exploitation.”

Gordon Brown recently indicated his determination to legislate in this area, when his spokesman said that he believed it was wrong for men to pay for sex.

The Home Secretary will make clear that the measure will not affect sole traders or women selling sex of their own free will.

All depends upon the definitions of "trafficked" and "free will" doesn\’t it?

That there are some who are literal slaves I have no doubt. That there are some who are "trafficked" under the UN definition who are so trafficked by their own free will I also have no doubt.

The problem is that the number of the former is tiny, miniscule, while the number of the latter is large (by comparison at least).

Off Street Prostitution

So The Guardian has found a woman who is in the sex trade, is in the sex trade by choice (for purely economic reasons), enjoys it and is happy doing it.

She can also write a pretty clear article.

OK, great, that will rather annoy the Julie Bindels and the Harriet Harmans of the world which is all to the good.

Lara (for that is her performing name) says that most of her clientele are middle aged businessmen.

Mhhm, hmm.

So, enquiring minds want to know. Which Guardian executive is it that knows a mid-30s escort who is happy in her job in the sex trade and can write? Mmm? Mmm?

Oi! What\’s wrong with British women?

This story of a woman putting her virginity up for sale sparks a memory.

Showgirl and men\’s magazine model Raffella Fico, 20, told an Italian magazine: "I can\’t wait to see who\’s going to pull out the money to have me."

Miss Fico, who appeared in the Italian version of Big Brother earlier this year, said she would use the cash to buy a house in Rome and pay for acting classes.

"I don\’t know what it\’s like to have sex," she told the magazine, Chi, adding that if the man who bought her virginity was ugly then she would quickly get over it.

"If I don\’t like him I\’ll just have a glass of wine and forget about it," said the aspiring actress from Naples – hometown of screen siren Sophia Loren.

Her family insisted that despite her good looks and sexy image, she remained a virgin.

"She\’s never had a boyfriend. I swear on my mother\’s grave. She\’s a devout Catholic and prays to Padre Pio every night," her brother told the magazine.

She is the not the first woman to auction her virginity for a large sum. An 18-year-old US student in San Diego, Natalie Dylan, recently told the Howard Stern show she would have sex for the first time for $1 million to pay her college fees.

In 2005 a Peruvian model, also 18, put herself up for sale to help pay her family\’s medical bills but ended up having second thoughts and turning down $1.5 million.

Large sums being offered indeed. Most strangely really, for one of those things better aquired second hand.

But there\’s something scratching away at the back of my mind. Some British bird did this a couple of years ago. Got a bit of attention as she said she was doing it to pay for the horrors of university fees as I recall.

I also seem to remember that she was offered….and I think the deal was consummated (sorry, couldn\’t resist)….some £8,000.

Is this simply another example of the way in which we Brits invent ideas but never manage to take proper financial advantage of them? Do we need a task force, an OfVirgin, to coordinate our approach to the international markets?

Or was it that our plucky British entrant was in a committed lesbian relationship at the time?

Or even that she was ginger?

More research required here I fear.


Trafficking in Prostitution

I was reading the Poppy report on the sex industry in London and found myself being referred to another report to get the definition of trafficking. So here it is.

For the purposes of this report, trafficking will be defined using the United Nations Protocol To Prevent, Suppress And Punish Trafficking In Persons, Especially Women And Children, Supplementing The United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organised Crime (2000), commonly known as the Palermo Protocol. Article 3 of the Palermo Protocol states that : (a) \’Trafficking in persons\’ shall mean the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs, (b) The consent of a victim of trafficking in persons to the intended exploitation set forth in subparagraph (a) of this article shall be irrelevant where any of the means set forth in subparagraph (a) have been used.

Now I\’m not all that good at bureaucratese but "the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person" sounds to me like "go and sell your body in London, you\’ll make lots of money" is defined as trafficking. And that even if somone agrees to do so, this consent doesn\’t count.

Hmm, wonder how many people actually would include that in their own definition of trafficking?

Big Brothel II

Prostitution helps to construct and maintain gender inequality. To achieve gender equality we need to start from the understanding that these differences are social, not biological, constructions. We need to develop diverse kinds of interventions to challenge and change these perceived, artificial differences. Nowhere is the inequality more stark than in the case of prostitution, where the roles of women and men are constructed as fundamentally different, in ways that support and maintain gender inequality. For example:

• Buyer/bought

• Sex drive/sexual object

• Hunter/prey

Well, just so we know where this report is coming from I guess.

Julie Bindel on Trafficking

There\’s a lot of getting hot under the collar here. But not much actual information.

The men were undertaking research for Big Brothel: a Survey of the Off-Street Sex Industry in London, the most comprehensive study ever conducted into brothels in the UK. The project, which gathered information from 921 brothels in the capital, was commissioned by the Poppy Project, the only British organisation that offers support for women trafficked into prostitution.

OK, look forward to the results. How many women are indeed trafficked as opposed to entering the trade voluntarily?

They were to telephone brothels, posing as potential punters, with a list of questions including "What nationalities are on offer tonight?",

Hmm, is nationality proof of trafficking? I think not really….as has been pointed out the move into prostitution rather destroys social capital. Thus people tend to do it away from home rather than at home. In a more globalised world we\’d expect more people to be doing it in the country one or two over rather than just the village over, wouldn\’t we?

Further, given the economic divides between countries….especially here in Europe, where there are no immigration problems….we\’d also expect to see foreigners plying their trade.

We primed the telephone researchers to look for evidence of trafficking. There was plenty. Brothels offered women of 77 different nationalities and ethnicities, including many from known-source countries for trafficking. One researcher was told by a brothel owner, "For no condom and anal, call tomorrow. Eastern Europeans promised later in the week."

Erm and that\’s it. That\’s all the evidence of trafficking given.

That there are foreigners doing the work.

It\’s not the most convincing of evidence, is it?

Cash and Sex

There\’s an implication or two here.

In Russia good grades are traded for cash, in Iowa for sex.

Implication 1): cash is more valuable than sex in Russia, sex than cash in Iowa.

Implication 2) there\’s not enough cash in Russia and not enough sex in Iowa.

Implication 3) There\’s sufficient cash in Iowa and sufficient sex in Russia.

Presumably then one\’s preference for which country to live in will change over time. As youthful abandon gives way to pension worries, one will become miore desirous of moving from Russia to Iowa.

Or would it work the other way around? As sex with young women becomes more difficult to achieve as one becomes richer in maturity, would one become more desirous of moving from Iowa to Russia?



Lies, damned lies and Government Ministers

So Harry Harperson is still plugging away at making the purchase of sex illegal.

Harriet Harman will today step up her drive to make buying sex illegal when she releases new figures showing that more than half of men and women support the move if it will reduce people-trafficking for sexual exploitation.

Labour\’s deputy leader, the minister for women and equality, will also highlight cultural double standards after some respondents, particularly older men, condoned buying sex but condemned those who sell it.

A Home Office-led review into the demand for prostitution, due to report this year, is looking at whether ministers should make it illegal to pay for sex. The review is looking at a range of options to curb demand, but the Home Office minister, Vernon Coaker, has given a broad hint he will back criminalising the purchase of sex if there is a sign of a national consensus on the issue.

OK, so they\’ll do it if there\’s public support. And they\’ve got that public support if it will reduce people trafficking.

Hmm….but is there actually any people trafficking?

I\’m sure there is, yes….but a great deal less of it than the general public seems to think.

Yes, people do indeed travel to the UK in order to sell sex. People are also smuggled into the country to do so.

That\’s the number of people that we are told are "victims of people trafficking". But the vast majority are not in fact victims at all. They\’re people making a rational choice: they wish to come to the UK in order to sell sex and so they break whichever laws might stop them from doing so.

As I say, there are indeed people who are forced into it, people who are indeed "victims", but that\’s a tiny number. Certainly nothing like the tens of thousands numbers that are thrown around. That number is the number who do it voluntarily.

But apparently that\’s how you get your pet laws passed these days. Scare the pants off the public by telling them that there are tens of thousands trafficked, knowing full well that you mean something very different from what people are hearing, then manufacture support for your own grossly illiberal proposal on the back of that misunderstanding.

Statistics, statistics

Bryony love?

while the average age to lose your virginity in the 1980s was 17, today a quarter of young people are sexually active before they turn 16.

Averages are just that, averages. It\’s entirely possible that when the average age of virginity loss was 17 that 25% of people lost their cherry before they turned 16. Some lose their virginity after they\’re 18 you see, and it, umm, averages out.