THE ABOLISHING OF PROSTITUTION
In order to gain a real understanding of the issue of prostitution, a number of aspects need to be considered. These include patriarchy, neo-liberalism, gender equality, poverty, especially women’s poverty, trafficking in women and girls, power relations between the sexes, migrations in a global world, social constructions and myths, such as the construction of masculinity and femininity, especially with regard to male and female sexuality, male demand, neurosexism, the objectification of women, and much more.
For this reason, we would ask you to refrain from statements such as: « The prostitute is an adult, where is the problem if she does it voluntarily? » or « What prostitutes actually need are rights, after which we can take care of abolition ».
These two assertions are false and we want to show you why. The explanation can be found in the arguments for Abolition. What does Abolitionism want? It believes in a world free of prostitution. A world where prostitution is only a marginal phenomenon and is not normalized as it is today.
Abolitionism, unlike most other theories, deals not only with the microstructures of prostitution (the relationship between prostitute and john), but also with the macrostructures (power structures of patriarchy and neoliberal capitalism). Macrostructural phenomena are crucial for understanding and combating prostitution. We also often forget to analyze the origin of prostitution. Upon examination, it becomes clear that prostitution is the result of centuries of double standards. The sexuality of the woman was bound by marriage, while the man was still allowed to have extramarital sexual relations. Therefore, it took a group of women to satisfy these extramarital « sexual needs »; the prostitutes. The control of female sexuality is one of the core elements of patriarchy. Sexual exploitation of women is one of its main goals. This applies both to marriage in the private sphere and sex for money in the public sphere. Prostitution is a product of patriarchy and has always been tolerated. Therefore, the claim that « voluntary » prostitution is a modern form of emancipation, even a form of civil disobedience, a rebellion against patriarchy, is absurd. Progress towards a world without prostitution has been blocked because the real context, the sexual double standard, was never fought.
Prostitution is often understood as a series of personal or individual decisions. This notion is insufficient. Prostitution is a social institution and as such fulfils a social and not individual function. In recent decades Spanish society has understood that violence by men against women is a structural and not individual problem. In the past, the state has acted according to the motto « what happens at home stays at home » and domestic violence has been dismissed as an isolated and disconnected problem between two adults. More recently, however, social perception of this problem has changed; too striking has been the fact that women are always the victims and men the perpetrators of this seemingly unrelated violence. It has been understood that it is not a question of individual phenomena, but of a problem for society as a whole, which must be combated as such. Why is it nevertheless so difficult to understand prostitution as a problem for society as a whole? Why does prostitution continue to be reduced to the consent of prostitutes? This individual focus seems inexplicable in a world where more than 99% of the people who consume prostitution are men.
Prostitution does not exist because there are a few women who want to prostitute themselves (if this ratio of a few is not yet clear, we refer again to our preface), even if the patriarchate in its neoliberal form wants us to believe it. And it works! The question is why? This illusion allows us to look the other way with a clear conscience and continue to believe that the real problem is sex, not prostitution. Too great is the fear of confronting the real scope of the problem. We very much regret having to speak this unpleasant truth, but the real problem with prostitution is its normalisation. And now, honestly, do you really believe that the clients ask prostitutes if they prostitute themselves voluntarily or if they are forced? Or do you believe whether a woman in forced prostitution would answer such a question with « yes, I was forced »?
A study by Sonaid has shown that 90% of clients cannot distinguish between a forced prostitute and a « voluntary » prostitute. The question of how sex trafficking can be effectively combated if prostitution continues to exist in parallel is justified. How can equality between women and men ever be achieved if there is a group of women who have to completely give up their own sexual needs in order to satisfy the « lust and fantasies » of men?
Thus, the problem is not merely the mafia and pimps, but also that of a growing male demand. As long as the need for prostitution persists, the associated trafficking in women and inequality between women and men will persist.
Patriarchy, like all other power structures, will only change when its foundations are questioned and only when appropriate measures are applied. In this sense, the legalization of prostitution is a complete mistake, since it is precisely a legitimization of the existing structures. It is obvious that equality between women and men can never be achieved, or even increased, if this institution, which only favours men, is socially and legally recognised. Moreover, two of the most detailed studies on prostitution show a massive increase in trafficking in women and girls in the countries where prostitution has been legalised:
Abolitionism does not criminalise prostitutes and does not try to prevent women who really wish that from prostituting themselves (although this group represents a minority with less than 7% of all prostituted women). Abolitionism has never aimed to persecute or punish prostitutes. Such claims are targeted strategies of the sex industry to defame Abolitionism. Here Abolitionism is equated with Prohibition, as it is applied, for example, in the USA. In the case of prohibition, prostitutes are punished first and foremost. Thus, prostituted women are doubly harmed, which is absolutely not the sense of Abolitionism. The aim of Abolitionism is to reduce demand by punishing the clients. In other words, it is still legal to prostitute oneself, but the consumption of sex for sale is a punishable offence.
Abolitionism questions the men who pay for sex and their motives. In this context, the word « sex » should generally be used with caution. « Paid sex » rather offers a means of exercising power and oppression. The word « sex » forms here only the cloak, a superficial justification à la « men are just like that… ». Whoever would like to acknowledge johns’ real motives merely has to visit internet forums such as http://www.freier.de.
Abolitionism generally questions the male right to sex. Johns claim again and again that they have a right to have sex. In the case of prostitution, they even claim to have it with whomever they want and without any need to be considerate to this person. They think everything is ok as long as it is paid for. Often it is because they just paid for dinner, or because they were kind enough to listen to « the woman’s problems » for one evening. Johns have no sympathy for women, especially with regard to their « sexual » needs.
For this reason, one of the goals of abolitionism is to finally shift the focus away from the woman and towards the man, towards the perpetrator. Because, while there are both female prostitutes and a small quantity of male prostitutes, the consumption of prostitution is an almost exclusively male activity! The proportion of male clients is over 99.9 percent!
Prostitution is even presented as a liberation of female sexuality. This could not be more hypocritical, given that prostitution obviously exists for the satisfaction of men!
Many studies and polls prove that most prostituted women want to get out. To gain a better understanding of their reasons for leaving, please read the texts of survivors (women who have left prostitution) such as Amelia Tiganus, Sonia Sánchez, Tanja Rahm, Huschke Mau, Rachel Moran, Rebecca Mott, Simone Andre, Rosen Hicher, Chelsea Geddes, Alika Kinan and others. These women have stood up and fought to abolish prostitution. Visit also the page « Space International ». There you can find the personal experiences, stories and statements of the over 90% of prostitutes who still want to get out of prostitution today.
Why doesn’t anyone listen to these women?
Because the motivation to listen to these women is not very high, if we were to do it, we would be ashamed for this society, which allows such a violation of the human rights of prostitutes. But it is not only the dignity of women employed in prostitution that is taken away, women in general are degraded to a sex for sale. Prostitution is an institution where men who want to have sex get everything as long as they can pay for it. This reinforces the misconception that men have a kind of innate right to have sex. There is no such thing as a birthright to sex! It reinforces the idea that male sexuality is more important than women’s sexuality, which is only there to meet men’s needs. This in turn is exactly what patriarchy wants, with or without payment.
As an introduction to the next topic, we invite you to watch the documentary « Miss Representation ». Or just watch music videos, commercials, movies or pornography directly and analyze how women are portrayed therein.
The main goal of modern patriarchy is the objectification of women. Some of you will probably wonder, how did we come up with that? We ask back: can it be a coincidence that in Western cultures, where legal equality between men and women has been achieved, such inflation of women’s sexualization and their reduction to pleasure objects has taken place? Isn’t that suspicious? The worst thing is, not only do men see women as sex objects, but the patriarchy manages for even women to believe it is normal, even right, to objectify themselves as women. Patriarchy educates women so that they perceive themselves as sexual objects rather than as subjects. The difference is grave. The subject knows what it wants and what it doesn’t want. It can follow its own desires and set limits. The object, on the other hand, is passive, it needs for someone else to think and decide for it. The object has sex with a person not because it wants to, but because the other person wants it to.
Objectifying a person is the first step in using violence against that person. This has long been a well-nown basic fact in criminology. Objectification is « dehumanization » and why should I deal empathically with something that is not human? Isn’t it obvious that there is a connection between the everyday objectification of women and domestic violence, etc.?
As already mentioned, it is even claimed that prostitution is emancipation and empowers women [empowerment]. How is this supposed to work? Careful; we are not talking here about theoretically possible individual cases, but about prostitution as a social institution. How can an institution be empowering for women in which men pay for having sex with as many women as they want and with which women they want? In which men pay for practices that no one would be willing to engage in with them without pay. As long as they can pay for it, they believe they have the right to take what they want. What is there to be empowering for the woman? Even if there may be individual prostitutes who find pleasure in their work, the institution of prostitution is not designed for the pleasure of the prostituted; what they like or want is irrelevant. Since when is the lack or absence of will empowering? Abolitionism has nothing to do with prudery, moralism or sexophobia. We believe in empowering sex by recognizing the other, by mutual rather than one-sided pleasure, enjoyment and respect. A sexuality in which no one is reduced to an object and used. In prostitution there is no reciprocity. The john wants something and the prostitute is in need. And please stop saying things like « everyone prostitutes themselves in some way », « We all sell ourselves when we work for someone ». This is an insult to the suffering of millions of prostitutes. Cleaning a toilet cannot be equated with licking a stranger’s anus, or sucking 15-20 cocks a day, or letting your body be used as a sperm container. That is not comparable! 80% of prostitutes suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. How many toilet cleaners with PTSD do you know? The majority of prostitutes suffer from a so-called dissociation from their own bodies. A kind of separation of the body from the self in order to avoid suffering further pain. Many take drugs or alcohol to numb themselves.
Abolitionism focuses on male privileges. There are already six countries that have opted for the so-called Nordic model (Abolitionism), in which the clients are punished instead of the prostitutes. This is the only way to finally end the prevailing sexual double standards. These countries also invest to help prostitutes leave the trade and find another job. In addition to fines, clients caught consuming prostitution must take part in awareness courses. This creates empathy and makes clear to clients the consequences of their actions. However, it is still legal to prostitute oneself, if you like. We abolitionists have nothing against individual women who want to prostitute themselves. However, prostitution as an institution, as a normal occupation for women, is completely unacceptable to us! Everyone can do what he wants with her body privately. But the fact that the government is legalising the commercialisation of women’s bodies is another matter. In this way, we will never achieve real equality, we will never end male privileges! It is finally time for the state to take its own constitution seriously and stop manifesting inequality between men and women! Patriarchy wants us to be whores. We are fighting patriarchy!
We hope we can sensitize you to this topic and so in the future there will be fewer statements like « what is the problem, if they want it so? » Such statements represent a massive simplification and are an insult to the suffering of millions of prostitutes.
Thank you very much!
Translated from German by TRADFEM