November 16, 2013
Perhaps the world is full of happy prostitutes who never come to anyone’s attention because they lead such busy, fulfilled, prosperous lives, but I rather doubt it. For one thing there would have to be very large numbers of them if they were to outweigh the numbers of unhappy, exploited, abused, and drug-addicted prostitutes who clearly do exist and are much more visible than the happy ones. The only happy prostitute I ever met was a dominatrix who flew around the world flogging judges from Alabama to Hong Kong. She found the whole business amusing as well as lucrative.
I suppose that a woman receiving unemployment benefits who was told by social security to become a prostitute might claim that she lacked the requisite skills, but I once lived in a house into whose district numerous prostitutes were transported in vans from outlying districts. They did not seem to me to require much skill except the ability to run away when the neighborhood watch my redoubtable neighbor organized came into view and took down the numbers of the cars of the curb-crawlers, subsequently tracing the owners and sending them stiff letters. These prostitutes seemed to me about as sexually attractive as dead sheep, but they found customers nonetheless, at least to judge by the used condoms that festooned our rose bushes the following morning (the city council distributed free condoms to the prostitutes from a large white van that toured the area in an attempt at “harm reduction”), and if these women could find customers I could see no reason why the average unemployed woman between ages 18 and 65 should not do so, however ugly or deformed. Indeed, there is probably a niche market for the most severely deformed.
In France the government, as if it had nothing better to do, is considering penalizing not the prostitutes but their customers, on the reasonable grounds that if there were no demand there would be no supply. (It is unlikely that they will apply this logic to the supply and consumption of illicit drugs.) This has provoked lively polemics on both sides of the question, polemics as firmly detached from reality as they are attached to abstract principle. Some say that women have an inalienable right to sell themselves as they wish, while others say that they have an equally inalienable right to be protected from the need to do so which is the inevitable consequence of living in an unequal capitalist society. (Obviously, they had never stayed in the Intourist Hotel in Moscow in the good old days.)
I have no solution to offer, except to sweep the whole problem firmly under the carpet under which so many problems properly belong.