By Dawn M. Sanders
Credit to Toni Mac.
“Prostitution’s been around since biblical times, as far back as anyone can remember. I don’t feel that it’s ever going to go away.”
Said Connie Wilds, a 58-year-old writer and grandmother.
With austerity on the rise in the UK, there has been an increase in prostitution in recent years.
According to the Office of National Statistics (ONS) as of 2014, the gross domestic product (GDP) grew 0.9% in the second quarter of 2014, this was partially due to using the contribution of sex work for the first time to the UK economy, which was estimated at 0.4% GDP or 0.6% (including male sex workers). With roughly 60,879 female sex workers or 104,964 including men, contributing £5.314bn at that time.
Of these estimates, 42% were male sex workers, which represents an additional £3.542bn, a total of 8.856bn overall UK GDP. These figures are not exhaustive. .
Coupled with these statistics, BBC Newsbeat cites a 40% increase of female students using sugar daddy apps for arrangements with wealthy men.
According to the source, the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) recorded a 7% drop of students working in conventional jobs in the last ten years, while in full time education. Yet over 1/5th of students surveyed (1 in 20) said they had engaged in modelling or various types of sex-related work – as students are pressured to find ways to meet rising costs of going to university.
Nationally, according to a Left Foot Forward article, poverty is the culprit and primary cause for single mothers entering the sex trade.
In 2013-14 a single parent had £46.80 less a year, married couples with children received £52 less – each group saw those projected figures in benefit cuts set to double in 2014-15, with £260 less and £156 less per annum per group, respectively.
The article also stated, 92% of sex workers wanted out of it immediately and 74% went into it solely due to poverty, a Feminist and Psychology study suggested.
Evidence suggests police crackdowns and tightened legislation would never wipe away prostitution.
Credit to Toni Mac.
Laura Watson of the English Collective of Prostitutes (ECP) based at the Crossroads Women Centre in Kentish Town, London, echoed that of the Leftfoot Forward article.
She said most of the women they work with are mothers trying to make ends meet in light of benefit cuts or job losses.
She said: “None of the workers we work with love their job or think it’s fantastic, it’s just a job like any other and we don’t glamorise it in any way.”
Ms. Watson described with police crackdowns, it means the trade is driven further underground.
She detailed raids which often resulted in violence as women have to avoid the city centre and police; escape into unknown industrial areas; engage with unfamiliar clients – making women vulnerable, likely to be abused or killed.
The contingency of the feminist movement arguing against sex work, has a valid point to raise on the implications and conditions within the sex trade.
Broadly, the argument is: prostitution perpetuates male domination and stereotypes over women – often leading to violence or exploitation, in those circumstances, how can it be viewed as, ‘just a job like any other’?
Many feminists ask: “If it is an overwhelming choice, why are the most disadvantaged or impoverished in society most often likely to opt for prostitution?”
However, the movement carries varied perspectives – from a complete ban, to decriminalisation.
Credit to Toni Mac.
Within the Left Foot Forward article, the Women’s National Commission (a UK pressure group) cited statistics of 50 to 75% of women entering the sex trade were under 18 and lacked educational opportunities.
Historically, time and again, poverty, disadvantage or desperation has been the root cause for prostitution – even in richer countries.
Speaking from the United States, Connie Wilds, now in a long term marriage, tells why she went into sex work at 17.
She said: “I ran away from home and was taken to Long Beach California by a friend from school who introduced me to her pimp.”
Recounting an abusive home life, in and out of foster homes and juvenile detention, she said she just snapped.
The pimp turned out to be a 60-year-old man, with an apartment where five other girls lived. Connie was told she could stay for free, but had to work with the others to make money, give him 25% of what she made and sleep with him whenever he wanted her to.
Connie said: “I agreed because I had no money and no place to go, so I decided to give it a try.”
She described working on the ships that came into Long Beach Harbour from all over the world. Getting high on drugs to cope with the degradation, she got out after 3 or 4 months.
They have a cross-party of support from MPs including John McDonnal and Jeremy Corbyn.
Ms. Watson said, decriminalisation would make it easier for women to come forward when abused and access health centres.
However, the police would need to work cohesively with sex workers, but Ms. Watson spoke of their corruption, hostility and bias toward sex workers.
“The police aren’t interested.” She commented in describing when women attempt to report abuse.
Detailing examples of when police search, confiscate and falsify reasons for raids, speaking on behalf of ECP she said:
“The clear evidence we have, suggesting it is a money-making scheme, are raids happening where sex workers are working from premises.”
Watson said: “The difficulty is, the money is eventually split between the police, Home Office and HMRC.”
All of these tactics, resonate from criminalisation itself.
The Nordic model proposes decriminalising the sex worker, yet criminalises clients.
Ms. Watson stressed: “It’s fairly counter-productive, firstly it’s not true that they decriminalise the women. In Sweden, you’re not allowed to set up a brothel – if you are suspicious of being a sex worker – you are banned; this is happening to women of colour as part of their vetting process.”
She said the model works on the presumption that all sex work is violent.
“Women know the difference between consenting and nonconsenting sex and should be empowered to make our own decisions – internally stopping the violence.”
Connie from the US said: “Prostitution’s been around since biblical times, as far back as anyone can remember. I don’t feel that it’s ever going to go away.”