Morning Star: Letters – response to article ‘Prostitution Is Not Work – It is a Uniquely Extreme Form of Commodification and Abuse’

Unpublished 16 November 2017

Mick Parkin’s in his article Prostitution Is Not Work – It Is A Uniquely Extreme Form Of Commodification And Abuse joins a long line of men (and women) with apparently no qualms about defining sex workers’ experience for us.

He claims to be concerned that our “intimate parts” shouldn’t be objectified but says nothing about the horrors and traumas many face in other jobs. Is it really only sex work that is destructive of our humanity when under capitalism we are all compelled to sell ourselves and to spend our waking lives in activities which we have not chosen or designed?

The McDonalds strikers did us all an enormous favour by spelling out the horrendous conditions now rampant in many industries: zero-hours contracts, starvation wages, abusive, bullying and exploitative bosses, living in homeless hostels because they couldn’t afford to rent. If this is the alternative, no wonder thousands of women feel less exploited in sex work.

One woman described it this way:

“I can earn £240 for four hours. Worse case, I walk out with £60 and that’s still more than I would earn in a day job at £6 an hour.  For the first time, when my mum couldn’t afford a pair of school shoes for my brother, I could help her.  If politicians are offended by the work we do, then give us the financial means to get out of the industry.”

If the imperative is to get women out of prostitution then train your fire against austerity cuts, 89% of which have targeted women. The policy of benefit sanctions alone is recognised as the major cause of massive increases in prostitution.[22] [23] [24]

Criminalising clients as suggested by Parkin wouldn’t help women in this situation. It would make it harder and more dangerous for sex workers as there would be less time to check out clients fearful of arrest. Swedish law which criminalises the buying of sex was found to “negatively impact sex workers”[i] who face increased stigma and are more vulnerable to violence.[ii]

We in the English Collective of Prostitutes are fighting police raids, arrests, prosecutions, imprisonment, deportation; and we are denied protection from violence, all for working for our own and our families’ survival. Parkin says nothing about this and therefore nothing about the reality of sex workers’ lives.

We want decriminalisation to get the law off our backs. Safety and rights are our priority. We are for prostitutes against prostitution, just as we are for the McDonalds workers and against McDonalds.

[i]Global Commission on HIV and the Law, 2012

[ii]  Jakobsson & Levy, 2014