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Archived entry | Matt Wilcox .net

Prostitution: the real facts

Design Observer (bizarrely) has a post by Marc Rabinowitz called ”Prostitution Facts”. It is, like Clinton’s campaign, complete spin and based on bad assumptions, using questionable ‘facts’, from a biased party. But it’s also a good comment on design, because it’s placed inside a ‘classifieds’ section.

Firstly: There is no problem with prostitution itself. The problem is with any abuse surrounding it, which is exacerbated by the fact that it is (in most countries) a crime; thus driving it underground where these abuses can occur. If people are happy to offer sex for money (or status, or whatever) that’s their business and no one else’s. I personally think that should be done in a safe, legalized, and government regulated manner, in order to stop the associated problems that can surround prostitution (which boil down to cruelty in all manner of forms), but the point is that prostitution itself is fine, and a matter between two consenting adults, not anyone else.

Secondly, those figures seem rather overcooked, I want to see the actual data that these figures are extracted from, and the methods used to get that data. Any source that starts off with a wild and inaccurate statement such as “prostitution is an act of violence” is hardly credible, and is clearly biased. No, prostitution is not a “violent act”. By definition it is a consensual transaction. Do not confuse the problems surrounding prostitution with prostitution itself.

By way of further considering the validity of the ‘facts’ being offered; can you trust an organisation who’s Mission Statement is as obviously biased as this:

PRE’s goal is to abolish the institution of prostitution while at the same time advocating for alternatives to trafficking and prostitution - including emotional and physical healthcare for women in prostitution. The root of the problem of trafficking for prostitution is men’s demand for prostitution. Emphasizing the roots of prostitution and trafficking in racism and poverty as well as lethal sexism, PRE collaborates with other organizations in all projects.

About Prostitution Research and Education

Talk about a lot of absurd assumptions. One: the mission goal means they can not be objective about the topic, and thus I question the validity of their ‘facts’. They’ve already decided what ‘prostitution’ means and what they want as an outcome. That will colour their interpretation of events and data if nothing else (God forbid they are doing the research itself, you may as well throw it away if that’s the case). Two: if they think there can be an ‘alternative to prostitution’, they’re deluded. Perhaps for the prostitute, in the event that they do it as a last resort or under duress, but the prostitute is not ‘prostitution’ and an alternative for the prostitute is not an alternative for prostitution ‘the phenomena’. PRE are so focused on “the woman victim” that they utterly negate the fact that the woman is only half of the equation (their assumption, by the way, is ‘woman victim, man criminal’. Read that mission statement again and notice the blatant gender bias. I’m sure they assume that all pimps are men too. And that no woman wants to be in prostitution. And that no act of prostitution can be ‘victimless’).

The reason it’s “the oldest trade in the world” is because people always have, and always will, want to get or give sexual favours for reasons other than love or lust. You can’t wave a wand, remove prostitution, and replace it with something else, precisely because of why prostitution exists, which leads me to absurdity three, their claimed reason for prostitution: “The root of the problem of trafficking for prostitution is men’s demand for prostitution … the roots of prostitution and trafficking in racism and poverty as well as lethal sexism”. No, men do not demand prostitution, they want sex. And it’s as logical to blame prostitution on men that want sex as it is to blame air for our needing to breath. Life would not exist today without the overwhelming desire for sex, and baby it takes two to tango. Men can want sex all they like but someone else has to choose to give it. As for the other ‘race’ talk going on: no, the roots of prostitution have nothing, nothing, to do with racism, and only by extension ‘poverty’ (poverty is largely subjective). I’m not even sure what ‘lethal sexism’ is, let alone understand how gender bias (sexism) could be a key cause of prostitution.

The root of prostitution is that people want sex. It’s the single biological urge that human life is based around. You can argue over the power of a sex drive and rational thought all you like, but the one and only reason the next generation gets here is because people want sex. It’s also the one and only reason why you are here to read this. People are going to get it, as they always have, one way or another, regardless of any thinking, rationalising, or judging you do. So blaming prostitution on men for wanting to have sex is insanity.

The entire mission statement of PRE is fundamentally flawed in a mosaic of ways. If they had been less miopic and decided their mission was to alleviate the abuse that currently surrounds much prostitution; that I could rally behind. Because it’s those surrounding issues that are wrong. But that’s not their agenda, and their ’solutions’ are as absurd as their rationale of the problems.

Let me be clear: there is nothing wrong with two consenting adults, of free choice, reaching an agreement whereby sexual gratification is exchanged for money. That’s prostitution. That’s fine, and a private matter. What is absolutely not fine is if the prostitute is being abused or forced into that situation. There’s a very big difference here. It’s the latter part that needs addressing, because it is wrong, but it will not be addressed by criminalising prostitution. The problems of abuse within prostitution are in fact exacerbated by criminalising the act.

Why is it in Design Observer? Because of the juxtaposition of the content with it’s surroundings on the page. It’s a shame the content itself is so objectionable.

If any further indication of the complete lack of credibility that PRE offer were needed, take a look at their “facts” about prostitution. Complete and utter garbage, produced by flawed thinking and incredibly naive oversimplification of the topic. These sort of blanket assertions are insulting to pretty much everyone. Additionally, I’m not the first to call into question the validity of the research, there are known issues with the methodology, and sampling bias used by PRE, as indicated by professional researchers in the field.


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  1. Lauren Watson posted 3 days, 6hrs, 58mins after the entry and said:


    I didn't care to add to the increasingly lengthy and irrational shitfight on Design Observer, but I wanted to contact you in response to your Design Observer comments on the prostitution issue. It's not often I find myself so resolutely in agreement with a random internet user's opinion that I am repeatedly muttering, "yes, yes!" to my computer. I fear my co-workers already believe I'm mad. smiley icon: smile

    I'm sure you're quite confident in your beliefs and hope you continue to be, but speaking as another who tries to live her life (or at least form her arguments) according to rationality and dispassionate reasoning, I know how frustrated one can get. Particularly in the face of arguments such as those opposing you on DO, which seem to be faulty logic, morality and emotion all mangled together.

    I happen to agree with your view that prostitution - as it is strictly defined - isn't, and shouldn't be, a big deal. But even if I didn't, I couldn't fault your assessment of and approach to the raw material presented. It is such a shame that even though in the long run we all agree that violence is wrong, so many people are willing to issue blanket condemnations based on emotion and a lack of critical thinking. I suppose I'd be considered a "bleeding heart" by most but even I find PRE's assertions difficult to stomach.

    Anyway I just thought you might appreciate knowing that somewhere on the other side of the world there's someone who thinks the same way you do, and though I don't feel it would be productive to weigh into this argument now, I'd be willing to jump in and back you up anytime, if you're always so fair!

  2. Sam Sinfield posted 3 days, 15hrs, 52mins after the entry and said:

    Hi Matt,

    I completely agree with you on this, those that want prostitution made illegal are the same type of moralistic fuckwits that were burning 'witches' many years ago. Any woman in her right mind uses sex to get what she wants. I have a great life, happy, successful, I'm extremely vain and hold myself in high regard, but hey, I like sex and if someone offered me a large amount of money, I'd have sex with them for it, why should that be illegal.

  3. Matt Wilcox posted 3 days, 19hrs, 45mins after the entry and said:

    Thanks Lauren. I'm glad I'm not the only person that talks to their computer sometimes smiley icon: laugh I've abandoned the DO thread now, there's nothing more to say really, people have to make up their own mind about it. I'm glad you understood what I was trying to say anyway.

    Sam - straight to the point! *grin*

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