A victimless crime

I know that when we say prostitution, we have a lot of common notions that come into our minds. Some of us may instantly think of hooker in skimpy clothes and high heels. For others they would picture a pimp trying to book a costumer for her hoe. Even for others, an image of a strip joint with half naked women dancing and swinging around a strip poles while men clipping money on their g-strings may even come into mind.

In so many circumstances that we even begin to think about prostitution, I’m pretty sure, chances are slim to none, that people could ever see prostitutes as victims of life, circumstance, society and their very own occupation. I’m pretty sure most of us who ever had to take time out of our busy lives to ever think about what goes on in a life of a prostitute would rather consider them a victims of their own wrong doing.

This is why for most people prostitution is a victimless crime where in prostitutes are only prone to abuse, because they have voluntarily put themselves in that situation to gain money and power through it. Contrary to popular beliefs, most prostitutes did not choose their occupation. According to Catharine A. MacKinnon in her book “Liberalism and the Death of Feminism”: ”[In the past, we had a women’s] movement which understood that the choice to be beaten by one man for economic survival was not a real choice, despite the appearance of consent a marriage contract might provide.

… Yet now we are supposed to believe, in the name of feminism, that the choice to be fucked by hundreds of men for economic survival must be affirmed as a real choice, and if the woman signs a model release there is no coercion there. ” Couldn’t we agree more that if a person sincerely had a choice, he or she would chose to have the best option presented? Believe me, the hazards that prostitutes go through in their everyday encounters with pimps and johns is barely a picture near an easy way to earn cash.

Would we ever think that anyone would ever consider this scenario as the best option? Contrary to popular belief, part of the dynamics of the sex trade in prostitutes is for pimps to keep these women under poverty and distress so that they will not seek a better life causing a pimp to lose a hoe along with the commission that goes with her seeking redemption from her simple and ruined life. Prostitutes are also often painted as culprits in the sex industry trade. Little do we know that they are also victims in their own rights.

Melissa Farley, in her paper presented at the 11th International Congress on Women’s Health Issues, in the University of California College of Nursing, San Francisco on January 28, 2000 even mentioned that: “All prostitution causes harm to women. Whether it is being sold by one’s family to a brothel, or whether it is being sexually abused in one’s family, running away from home, and then being pimped by one’s boyfriend, or whether one is in college and needs to pay for next semester’s tuition and one works at a strip club behind glass where men never actually touch you – all these forms of prostitution hurt the women in it.

” Due to the rampant abuse on prostitutes both physically and psychologically and even due to the bad image prostitutes get for their occupation, women’s groups tried to change the term for “prostitute” in the attempt to paint a clearer and better picture of what prostitutes has to struggle with in their day to day lives. For women’s groups there is no such thing as “prostitutes”, instead what we have are women and even young girls “prostituted” by life, society and circumstance.

By this we mean that a person is only driven towards prostitution by her lack of choice instead of the popular belief that prostitution is a voluntary act by a woman to fulfill her dreams to take a short cut to get bigger money the faster and easier way. A study was even conducted by two outreach programs, Paul & Lisa, Inc. , and WHISPER to find out more about prostitution in the eyes of prostituted women themselves. Both programs work primarily with female prostitutes and ex-pimps alike. They conducted interviews with their network of ex-pimps and prostituted women from different parts of the country.

From these interviews the group was able to clarify and eliminate myths regarding the prostitution industry. Besides the health and security problem that our prostituted women face these days, there is also a big social phenomenon that they face given that prostitution is a very misunderstood business. The reality of young girls and women alike selling their bodies and dignity in exchange for money is a phenomenon only prostituted women will ever fully understand. Due to this, many myths has been rising popularity among people with regards to the life of a prostituted woman.

Some people begin to think that prostitution is only necessary in our society given that men have uncontrollable sexual urges that must be satisfied. This is the justification men have in order to shed light to the growing industry of the sex trade. What we fail to see in this picture is that behind the natural urges of man is the cause of pain and suffering of women who has to go through possible physical and verbal abuse in having encounters with men paying them to fulfill their desires and urges.

I mean, lets face it, even if a prostituted women might come across a decent man who would pay her for her “services”, the fact that she was being bought and paid for dehumanizes sex and makes a man want and think about the most absurd things he can do with this woman. He’s already paying for the services right? What would make him think that he would ever have the obligation to treat this woman with the same respect he does his mother or his wife? The reality is that; for a man paying to avail of a prostituted woman’s services, more often than none, he will always see her as object.

With prostituted women “voluntarily” entering the industry, we also have this misconception that these women can never be victims of abuse resulting from their own choice to be put at risk. What we fail to see that in the ideal set up of prostitution, women should only be selling sex in general. No one eve signs up for the possible physical and psychological abuse these women phase in their given profession. If you really think about it, even in countries where in prostitution is legal, the verbal and physical abuse that these women normally endure has never been justified by any law that exists.

What a man ideally pays for in the prostitution industry is the act, not a woman’s soul. With this as a given, couldn’t we agree more that crimes resulting in prostitution will be justified as victimless? The most ridiculous myth of all myths that I have heard so far would have to be that prostituted women chose their way of life in this industry to live the life of the rich and famous to earn money as fast as they can, the easiest way possible. Well, the truth is, if there was any reality to this myth, I’m guessing that the world wouldn’t be experiencing as much poverty as it is facing now.

Let’s try to picture it, say for example, there are ten women now that enters prostitution to be rich. After 3 years of service, they earn enough start their own business. Then follows 10 more prostituted women in the industry and so on and so fourth, would that not imply that a majority of women will be tempted to take this course in life given how lucrative it is? The sad reality is that being a prostituted woman entails the exact opposite. Entering the industry, especially with a pimp would mean being chained to it to the brink of insanity or death.

No power comes in not having the choice to pick who you sleep with and how much you get to earn since you are being dictated by your pimp. The fact that you are paid to do everything a man wants you to do will never give you any form of power that some people seem to depict with women in the sex trade. If a man pays you, what would ever make you think that he will not treat you like he owns you. Also given that a pimp feeds off your existence in the brink of failure that you had to be prostituted only entails a pimp doing everything in his capacity to keep you there.

It’s pretty safe to say that last on a pimp’s list is telling a prostitute to go and find a better life beyond the darkness of the sex trade. That would automatically mean his loss of business given that he will no longer have women to sell. The saddest myth with regards to prostitution is that the industry makes prostitution deterrent to sexual crimes. Given the nature and the dynamics that I previously mentioned in men paying women for “services” most people think that sexual abuse simply comes with the job description. As I also previously said, the only thing that a woman signs up for in prostitution is sex, not abuse.

Its simply sad to think that men would think that they have license to treat women that way simply because they pay for it. The saddest part of this scenario is that given that people think that sexual abuse is part of the prostitution industry society convinces prostitutes themselves that they deserve this kind of abuse. That’s not true. If a married woman has the right to deny a man sex when she is not up to it and file for rape is she is coerced into doing it, why cant a prostitute file for rape for being physically and verbally abused in the process of intercourse?

If I have my knowledge of basic human rights correct, isn’t physical abuse a crime in general? As far as I know paying for sex does not give anyone a free ticket out of being punished for this kind of abuse. I know the reality behind the prostitution industry is shocking and overwhelming, but I do believe that we must face the cold hard facts to this industry in order to save what left of our suffering sisters in the industry. Just to prove that prostitution has real live victims, there are statistics published in Farley’s Fact Sheet stating that:

“78 percent of 55 women who sought help from the Council for Prostitution Alternatives in 1991 reported being raped an average of 16 times a year by pimps, and were raped 33 times a year by johns. 62 percent reported having been raped in prostitution. 73 percent reported having experienced physical assault in prostitution. 72 percent were currently or formerly homeless. 92 percent stated that they wanted to escape prostitution immediately. 83 percent of prostitutes are victims of assault with a weapon.

75 percent of women in escort prostitution had attempted suicide. 67 percent meet diagnostic criteria for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). If these statistics do not speak for itself, then I don’t know what makes sense anymore; that we allow men abuse our women the way they do in the prostitution industry or that in the crimes caused by prostitution, we still think that our prostituted women are not victims but perpetrators in killing their own selves slowly each day they decide to go out there and put themselves in risk of these abuses.

References:

Leidholdt D. and Raymond J. (eds), The Sexual Liberals and the Attack on Feminism, (1990), New York: Teachers College Press. National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), Female Juvenile Prostitution: Problem and Response (1992), Arlington, Virginia, USA Farley M. , (2000) Paper presented at the 11th International Congress on Women’s Health Issues, University of California College of Nursing, San Francisco.