Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Amsterdam Discovered Prostitution is Rape

Women who prostitute have described it as “paid rape” and “voluntary slavery”. Prostitution is sexual harassment, sexual exploitation, often worse. His payment does not erase what we know about sexual violence, domestic violence and rape.

This understanding of the realities of prostitution by the john and the woman he buys is at odds with the notion of prostitution as slightly unpleasant labour that should be legalised. Whether or not it is legal, prostitution is extremely harmful for women. Women in prostitution have the highest rates of rape and homicide of any group of women ever studied. They are regularly physically assaulted and verbally abused, whether they prostitute on the street or in massage parlours, brothels or hotels.

Sexual violence and physical assault are the norm for women in legal prostitution. In one Dutch study, 60 per cent of women in legal prostitution were physically assaulted, 70 per cent were threatened with physical assault, 40 per cent experienced sexual violence and 40 per cent had been coerced into legal prostitution.

In nine countries, we found that 68 per cent of women, men and transgendered people in prostitution had post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a prevalence that is comparable to that of battered or raped women seeking help, and survivors of state-sponsored torture. Across widely varying cultures on five continents the traumatic consequences of prostitution were similar whether prostitution was legal, tolerated, or illegal.

Yet some who may not be familiar with the sex industry believe that legalisation will decrease the harm of prostitution, like a bandage on a wound. They ask: “Wouldn’t it be at least a little bit better if it were legalised? Wouldn’t there be less stigma, and wouldn’t prostitutes somehow be protected?”

Underpinning laws that legalise prostitution is the belief that prostitution is inevitable. Public statements by pimps emphasise that prostitution is here to stay, with Dennis Hof in Reno and Heidi Fleiss in Sydney repeating the mantra that “boys will be boys”. Although false, these stereotypes about men mainstream prostitution and they are also good business strategy, relieving johns of ambivalence regarding the social acceptability of buying sex while at the same time inviting men to spend like suckers.

Pimps do not suddenly become nice guys because prostitution is legal. Legal Amsterdam brothels have up to three panic buttons in every room. Why? Because legal johns are not nice guys looking for a normal date. They regularly attempt to rape and strangle women.

As Amsterdam began shutting down its legal brothels a few years ago, Mayor Job Cohen acknowledged that the Dutch had been wrong about legal prostitution. It did not make prostitution safer. Instead, he said, legal prostitution increased organised crime. It functioned like a magnet for pimps and punters. Trafficking increased after legal prostitution—80 per cent of women in Dutch prostitution have been trafficked.

Do not believe what you see on Cathouse. They are acting. A colleague was telling the truth about her experience of prostitution on a TV talk show. During a break in filming, she was approached by a second woman who had been escorted in front of the cameras by her legal Nevada pimp. Whispering, the frightened woman begged for help, saying the pimp had coerced her to say on camera how much fun prostitution was. Leaving behind her purse and coat so the pimp would assume she was returning, they both ran and the woman was helped to escape.

The dilemma is not that there is no legal redress for coercion, physical assault and rape in illegal prostitution. There are laws against those forms of violence. The dilemma is that once in prostitution, there is no avoiding sexual harassment, sexual exploitation, rape and acts that are the equivalent of mental torture.

What do johns say about prostitution?

You get what you pay for without the "no," a sex buyer explained.

Non-prostituting women have the right to say “no.” We have legal protection from sexual harassment and sexual exploitation. But tolerating sexual abuse is the job description for prostitution.

It’s a myth that johns are harmless.

Research shows that a majority of johns refuse condoms, pay high prices to desperately poor women to not use condoms, or rape women without condoms.

Research compared frequent and infrequent sex buyers. The men who most frequently used women in prostitution were the most likely to have committed sexually aggressive acts against non-prostituting women.

Read the full article here.

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