Miscellaneous

Prostitution: What if we only criminalized the men?

This is an interesting Q+A put on thestar.com this morning

Sweden did, and with stunning success, says a new book about johns. Could it work here?

STAFF REPORTER

In the international exploitation and trafficking of women for sex, it’s men, the customers, who have been overlooked, writes Victor Malarek, in his new book, The Johns: Sex for Sale and the Men who Buy It. One of Canada’s top investigative reporters, Malarek urges governments to go after the johns, whom he calls “the users and abusers.”

Some claim that women choose to work as prostitutes, but you call it the ultimate act of humiliation and desperation.

A very small number do it by choice. Studies show that the vast majority, 89 per cent in one, desperately want out. They’re hungry, need to feed children or give health care to aging parents, and the only alternative is to take their clothes off and service platoons of men.

They can’t get any other work?

Not in many Third World countries or where sex tourists go. For women in Moscow, Kiev, other parts of Ukraine, there is absolutely no work for young women. They are in abject poverty … There are so many escorts, from Third World countries, you have to ask, “How did they get here?” They don’t have business acumen or language skills. On the lower east side in Vancouver, the vast majority have serious mental-health issues, drug issues, or are native women tossed off reserves. They’re controlled by pimps with a bag of white powder. The drug is their handcuffs.

You say men are the root of the problem, and in seeking a “moment of bliss,” they deepen the misery of the women they pay for sex.

These men never ask how she is, how did she get here, is she being forced. They don’t look into her eyes beyond the veneer of gaudy makeup, stiletto heels and cheap clothes. They just want to get their rocks off. When money changes hands, it’s the ultimate conscience pacifier. They don’t have to deal with guilt.

Most johns you encountered express entitlement, like the one who urged his fellow “mongers” to get out there and “enjoy what man was put here for.” Do johns know what women really think of them?

They delude themselves into believing that every moan and groan is because of their magnetic masculinity. They want to believe it, and the women are trained to do this.

The story of Norm, a john who confesses his capacity to “ignore” the effects of his hobby, is revealing. His insight was rare?

When anyone on the world (online) sex sites raises the question about conscience, they are immediately asked, “Are you a feminist, a fem-Nazi, a fundamentalist? Who are you?” They don’t want anyone to raise the question.

You have no patience with what you call the “happy-hooker lobby,” which claims that these are pros who take pride in their jobs and exercise choice.

The happy-hooker crowd is shilling for the porn industry, the strip clubs, pimps and escort services. The big hot button is health. Women carry health cards to show they are disease-free. Why just women? Why should they be the ones playing Russian roulette every time a guy comes in? Guys are the vectors of disease. On those sites they say, “I like to go `bareback.'” It’s the men who go home and transfer it to their significant others. Then there’s harm “reduction.” They don’t say “elimination.” They can never guarantee a woman will not be beaten up by her next john.

Many people think it’s safest for women to legalize prostitution. Why don’t you?

In Amsterdam, the mayor is saying, “What a big fricking mistake.” Women are still controlled en masse by pimps, beaten, trafficked, forced. They are on drugs. Organized crime is all over this. Unions never happened. Escape clauses for women who wanted to get out – they didn’t put in place the measures they were supposed to. When a country legalizes prostitution, it lives off the avails of prostitution through taxation and in effect becomes a pimp.

If johns are charged, as you recommend, how would women be protected?

I strongly believe the vast majority of women are victims and shouldn’t be charged or picked up in vice raids. You should pick up the men. They are demanding it, doing whatever they want. Sweden decriminalized the women and criminalized the men. They know it is a human-rights violation, that you’ll never have equality and dignity and respect for women as long as this is allowed. Sweden is a beacon. The number of prostituted women has been reduced by half. Norway just introduced legalisation in January.

Would it work here?

I believe it would. We have a mishmash of laws that don’t seem to make sense. Sweden is concerned with equality of women … and an option for women to be retrained, to seek psychological help, all the safety valves. Here, there is certainly no protection for women.

Why do you say we can’t “give up” and say prostitution has been part of life and likely always will be?

You hear clichés that prostitution is the oldest profession. I counter that it’s the oldest oppression. I don’t live in a dreamland. I know it will always exist, but we have to put breaks on what has become an absolute sexual calamity around the world. Look at the planeloads of men arriving in Thailand, or Costa Rica, bars filled with Canadian men, and think of millions of young women around the world servicing from three to four to 20 men a day. This seems to be more and more accepted. Traffickers, pimps and brothel owners can’t find enough local women, so they hunt down petrified girls who have never wanted to do this.

Can you see any circumstance where you’d understand why a man would visit a prostitute – invalid wives, sexless marriages, and men with disabilities?

I tell them, “Go look for a relationship.” There are a lot of men who are extremely lazy. They say they don’t want the drama, they don’t want to invest in relationships.

You’ve written about your own difficult youth. Did you ever have any such encounters?

No … I was in a hotel talking to a prostitute, she said, “By the way, I normally charge $175, but because you’re good-looking I’ll charge you $100.” My jaw dropped. I didn’t know what to say …

I walked away.

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