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  • Writer's pictureTrisha Bhattacharya

Eye-candy or Soul-candy?

“Why would anyone want to become a prostitute if they had a great, respectable earning source?”

I kind of held onto this argument before I talked with one of my friends who considered himself to be pro-prostitution. But fear not, if you are one too, because like any other fields, people have mixed opinions on this one as well. Let’s find out.

Prostitution is the occupation of engaging in sexual activity with someone for payment. This activity has attracted many different kinds of views from feminists- critical and supportive of prostitution and sex work.

According to anti-prostitution feminists, prostitution is a form of exploitation of women and male dominance over women and a practice which is the outcome of the existing patriarchal societal order. Prostitution, to them, objectifies women sexually.

Pro-prostitution feminists are of the view that prostitution and other forms of sex work can be valid choices for women and men who choose to engage in it.

Although this shouldn’t be confused with forced prostitution and actively speaking up against the crimes and abuses that happen in the industry is also advocated by these feminists.

Male sex workers are usually seen as engaging in sex work out of their own free will and for enjoyment much more than female sex workers, who are often perceived to be victims of human trafficking and exploitation, especially by second wave feminist activists.

There are 3 main points according to feminist perspectives on prostitution:

1. They condemn the current legal policy enforcing criminal sanctions against women who offer sex in exchange for money.

2. They agree that authentic consent is the condition of legitimate sex, whether in commercial or non-commercial form.

3. Commercial sex workers are subject to poor economic pressure and are often victims of violence, and that little is done to address these problems.

These lead to 3 more views from feminists with respect to prostitution:

The sex work perspective- Prostitution is a legitimate form of work for women who are subjected to more bad work and they have every right to work in the sex trade free of prosecution or the fear of it. It’s in the hands of the governments to eliminate laws that criminalize voluntary prostitution which will allow prostitution to be regulated by governments and business codes, protect sex trade workers, and improve the ability to prosecute people who hurt them.

The Abolitionist perspective- Governments should work towards the elimination of prostitution.

The Outlaw Perspective- The sex trade is a “stepping stone” to a better career or an expression of sexual freedom.

So what makes women choose this way of living?

· Force by a pimp or by human trafficking

· Independent decision

· Extreme poverty, so to earn a handsome amount of money in return to just sex.

· Lack of opportunity

· Drug addiction

· Past trauma

· Low level of education

· Being the most disadvantaged racial and ethnic minorities

Some anti-prostitution scholars hold that true consent in prostitution is not possible. Many rape cases happen in there and they go unreported as money and the need for it plays the bigger hand. Consent is a must but no one will know what actually happens inside the 4 corners of the room, so that’s beyond control.

Anti-prostitutes believe that prostitution leads to serious negative long-term effects for the prostitutes- trauma, stress, depression, anxiety, self-medication through alcohol and drug use, eating disorders and a greater risk for self-harm and suicide.

STDs are a major concern when it comes to having sex with multiple partners.

Some prostitutes argue prostitution has similarities to rape because it is a form of sexuality that is entirely controlled by the client, as rape is a form of sexuality in which the rapist controls the interaction, disregarding the desires, physical well-being or emotional pain of the victim.

82% of respondents had been physically assaulted since entering prostitution, 55% of those by clients. Additionally, 80% had been physically threatened while in prostitution, 83% of those with a weapon.

So many arguments against prostitution, so what do the ones who aren’t critiques of it have to say?

Knowing there is a lot of taboo around prostitution, my friend who is pro-prostitution stand with the argument that prostitution could be a choice of some individual, however to regulate it, he suggests that the practice should be made legal.

So why is legalisation of prostitution important?

  • Legalization will give a voice to the prostitutes, giving them proper representation, and they will be able to fight against injustice with as much will as a person with a regular job would.

  • Sex workers who sign up for it will do it at their own safety risk.

  • The legalised company which hires prostitutes/escorts is not supposed to be involved with any trafficking/ sex trade. A legal system in place will check criminal behaviour and significantly reduce the smuggling and slavery of women and children.

  • Regular testing of the sex workers for diseases and provision of adequate birth control tools will be made available. The brothels implement various measures to ensure the security of both parties.

  • Child prostitution exists. By legalising prostitution and taking strict actions can ensure removal of minors.

  • A decrease in the rate of rape cases have decreased due to legalisation of prostitution. With closure of brothels in 1959, Queensland experienced a 149% increase in rate of rape.

  • An income rate will be fixed and the sex workers have to be paid as they are promised. Legalising it and taxing the proceeds like any other business will provide an incentive for the government and facilitate it in providing regular medical check-ups, and protecting the rights of people engaged in the profession.

  • If any violations regarding safety of sex workers/ non-payment of agreed dues are caused, he/she will have a right to complain and get it redressed.

India has made prostitution legalised, however a number of related activities like soliciting in a public place, kerb crawling, owning or managing a brothel, prostitution in a hotel, child prostitution, pimping and pandering are illegal.

Some other countries with legal prostitution are:

1. New Zealand

2. Austria

3. Bangladesh

4. France

5. Indonesia

Often I found questioning myself as to why would any women work in this profession if it has to be about choice. Is it about the money? There are online sites available where people can go and get admired/judged simply by their body or looks, many do it to seek validation from the outer world when they can’t find it within themselves or near & dear ones. That’s a choice.

Could prostitution be also a way to feel empowered about their body or explore their sexuality or just due to past trauma/need for validation?

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