A Very British Sex Scandal.
Tonight, wherever you live in the UK, in a town near you,young women are being raped.
I am defining “rape” as sexual activity that is forced upon one partner to the advantage of another. Rape is when one partner has no choice. Rape has been part of human society perhaps forever, and I very much doubt that any law could stamp out all rape everywhere. However, in the case of women kidnapped and smuggled across the globe to Britain, we can stop this slavery. And we must. However, at this time, I doubt that our current Government, or the likes of Tessa Jowell or Harriet Harman in Labour will do anything truly effective.
Since the globalisation of the economy caught up with the liberalisation of attitudes towards sex and sexuality, what was once a furtive niche business has become a mass market free-for-all. The Sex Trade makes Billions from every corner of society – confident outre members of the middle classes perform and whoop it up at Burlesque nights, celebrating their individuality (in big groups). Lapdancing and “private” clubs are to be found across the country, from Newquay to Norwich (Newquay???? Norwich????), where the distinction between striptease and prostitution is very often slim at best. In the worse areas of your nearest town, odds-on there is at least one flat where women can be bought for less than one weeks pay. Many of these women have have been kidnapped, tortured and forced into sex, often as many as ten times a day or more.
Young women now have the image of Belle de Jour to look up to – somehow” ITVs most popular prostitute” is presented as a confident feminine icon. Classy books are written by well educated, comfortable youngish female academics on the supposed power held by eighteenth century “courtesans”, as if Moll Flanders had a happy ending…
Dispatches, Channel Five, The Daily Mail and most of the Red-tops regularly run prurient “exposes” of this genuinely dark and depressing world – purely to boost circulation rather than to defend the vulnerable, and the media have been doing so for more than a century. The latest “Grooming” investigations, with their accent on racial defilement and lost innocence mirror the “White Slavery” stories of the yellow press before 1914 – only the religion has changed.
The scapegoats have changed, but the problems remain – we can blame the internet, Hollywood, Pop Music, The Sixties, The Seventies, Lads Mags, men, women, whatever. It gets us nowhere. Our politicians are, like most of us, unwilling to face home truths when it comes to sex. It really would be too much to ask of anyone seeking office that they give an opponent the chance to ridicule them so easily, but as I would have little chance of standing for anything, let alone high office, I can speak my mind.
And should anyone wish to use quotes from this blog, please feel free, simply note that this is a personal opinion, not published in support of any candidate, and certainly not Labour Party policy, nor the policy of any Labour Candidate for any office. Nor is it ever likely to be.
Firstly, it is highly unlikely that either Prostitution or The Sex Trade in general are going to disappear. Not only are they age-old, but Billions are invested worldwide. Just think of all the “film rentals” in hotels – do you really think anyone in their right mind would pay money to see “National Treasure”?
As prostitution is sadly a fact of life, it is up to Society as a whole, through the law to regulate it, protecting the vulnerable, and rooting out violence and rape. Prostitution, and the exchange of money for sex should become legalised. To those who look at the model of Swedens no tolerance policy, do you not realise it doesn’t work? Anecdotal evidence suggests that most slavery rings in the UK have been brought down by men who paid for sex and then told the Police. Criminalising the one free agent who can supply accurate intelligence to the Vice Squad cannot be a vast help here.
Pimping, Grooming and all kinds of coercion into prostitution should be crimes on a legal par with Rape, and carry the same consequences.
Prostitutes should be allowed to work alone, or in co-operatives, in strictly defined areas. These Brothels should be away from residential areas, with health and safety checks, and a police presence.
“Escorts” of the Belle de Jour type should also have the right to the protection of the law – as long as they are registered and the “agencies” they work for can be proved not to be simply high class pimps.
All sex work becomes a taxable service industry.
Lapdancing and the whole dodgy area of “Gentlemans Clubs” should be taken out of the current licensing scheme, which also covers Pubs, Bars Hotels etc, and treated as what it is – a totally different industry. An enhancement of local powers will simply not do anything, as the system is open to huge abuse. Any club where sexual services of a physical nature are offered, even by one dancer in exchange for money, will lose their premises license, and the Manager their personal one. The Dancers should be treated as employees, NOT free agents, paying a “Club Fee” to work there. How about Equity rules?
These places should again be moved away from both residential and High Street areas, and policed much more actively.
I am not a prude, I am English, so therefore probably just as dirty-minded as the next man, but we need to find, and collectively redefine the boundaries here.
What you or I do in our own homes, or in specially licensed venues, should be no concern of others, unless coercion is a factor, or laws concerning Child or animal abuse come into play. Consent has to be the key here.
The current state of debate on this subject is generally sterile posturing from either side, and often clouded by religious zeal or money. Young men and women are putting their lives at risk every day because of our double standards, and most of us do not even care. Can you name the victims of The Ipswich Rapist? I very much doubt it …