UK Puntering, Pimping & Trafficking Laws

The UK Home Affairs Parliamentary Committee is currently undertaking an inquiry into prostitution. Preparing a written submission to that inquiry led me to look at the existing legislation against punters, pimps, and trafficking. The more I looked into it, the more it seemed to me that the legislation is deeply flawed, ineffective, and does not meet our binding obligations under international treaties. In this article I reflect on the legislation and how it suggests that there never was an intention to make it an effective tool for tackling these appalling crimes. As women who see prostitution as both a cause and consequence of women’s subordination, we need to work much harder.

Note: The legislation varies between the different countries in the UK. This article focuses on the English legislation.

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On Torture and Male Pattern Violence

In this essay I argue that male pattern violence, and the patriarchal system it serves to uphold, cause severe pain and suffering to vast numbers of women and children and that this takes place within plain view of the state. And I argue that therefore male pattern violence is a form of state sanctioned torture of women and children. I also critique the analysis of the Persons Against Non-State Torture organisation.

I refer to male violence against women and children as male pattern violence in an attempt to depersonalise it and sidestep all the circular objections that inevitably arise when women attempt to name male violence, such as Not All Men Are Like That and Some Women Are Violent Too.

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Neoliberalism, Queer Theory and Prostitution

Over the past 40 years or so pornography and prostitution have been mainstreamed and pornography has become more misogynistic, sadistic and paedophilic. In many countries prostitution has come to be considered a regular industry that now counts towards the GDP. Pornography has moved further and further into the open, and prostitution has burgeoned and is more acceptable than ever – while the conditions for the women and girls involved remain appalling.

In spite of the advances made by the women’s movement since the 1960s, men still control the big power blocks – the government, the armed forces and police, finance and banking, big business and the media. The ‘sex industry’ is overwhelmingly for men, and feminists have found enduring resistance to its critique. In this article I attempt to draw together some explanation for this resistance and argue for a different approach.

“Perhaps more surprising is the difficulty we have had finding allies in this effort. Even though there is a fairly strong consensus among progressive or liberal people about the value of peace, economic justice, and human rights – and about the negative values of corruption and secrecy in government, excessive concentration of wealth in the hands of small elites, and so forth – there is a remarkable non-consensus about issues of gender power and sexual exploitation. The sexual privileges claimed by men under the rules of patriarchy are often still claimed by ‘progressive’ men marching under the banners of peace and justice.” (D.A Clarke, 2004.)

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Choice in an Unequal World

“At the core of the phenomenon of prostitution is ‘the treatment of the body as an asset, as a means to seek subsistence’. In prostitution, the body itself becomes a commodity, which reduces the human subject, socially and psychologically, to an object to be exchanged” (Melrose, 2000)

In order to understand the meaning of choice in respect to participation in prostitution, we need to understand the context in which the choice is made.  It does not take a lot of imagination to understand that given a certain set of circumstances we might all choose to do things that in other circumstances we would not choose to do. For example, if you were trapped in a tall building that was on fire, you might choose to jump out the window. Is this a free choice? Perhaps, but from a very limited set of options – jumping or being burnt alive. Does that mean we don’t need stairs and lifts and outside fire escapes, even? Continue reading “Choice in an Unequal World”