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Kirk Susong
Kirk Susong
5 months ago

Unherd has a speciality in publishing feminists who are disgruntled with the effects of the sexual revolution… whether that’s the romantic sterility of casual sex, the exhaustion of women aiming to ‘have it all’, the erasure of womanhood by the trans movement, or the appalling effects of pornography on men’s expectations. The specific topic here – let’s call it the horrors of the modern porneia-industrial complex – has not been ignored in these pages. But these authors rarely seem to to understand the close connection between their other cherished beliefs and the ones they reject.
Here, for example… what is the solution, Ms Bindel? She writes, “But prostitution is inherently abusive. There is no way to make it safe.” I wholly concur. But as numerous comments here suggest, making prostitution illegal is hardly sufficient, is it? Can that create a society in which human sexuality is good for men and women both?
I don’t think so. We need have to claw back a vision of sexuality rooted in sexual difference, and which understands how this appetite is importantly different from our others – both more dangerous and more rewarding to ourself and others. One that understands the crucial role of sexual desire in transforming us into nobler and more self-sacrificial people. Please write an article on that, Ms Bindel.
PS. Paging Mary Harrington… who understands that the sexual revolution has cleaved us body and soul, so that what began as ‘freedom of sex (as in the activity)’ has naturally evolved into ‘freedom of sex (as in gender).’ (Apologies for using the same phrase twice in the same comments section!)

Last edited 5 months ago by Kirk Susong
Jane Anderson
Jane Anderson
5 months ago
Reply to  Kirk Susong

Are there any other women writers who you have left out there? Just checking, Mr Susong.
I’m pretty sure that both Mary Harrington and Julie Bindel have plenty of insight into the sort of links you mention.

Kirk Susong
Kirk Susong
5 months ago
Reply to  Jane Anderson

You misunderstand my (admittedly opaque) comment. I think Harrington gets it, and Bindel does not. I have amended my post-script to add clarity.

G K
G K
5 months ago

Legalization comes with regulation as her first example suggests. I’m not sure how it follows that regulation is entirely in favour of brothel owners? If this is the case then it’s an example of a very bad regulation indeed but not necessarily in support of criminalization. I think the entire business is a complete abomination, however legalization is exactly the tool to avoid the worst abuses

Daniel P
Daniel P
5 months ago
Reply to  G K

I would tend to agree.

Sometimes you have to make the choice between two bad options. You pick the least bad option.

If the alternative is pushing it all underground I think that is just more dangerous to the women and for the communities they live in.

Kirk Susong
Kirk Susong
5 months ago
Reply to  Daniel P

These are such reductive false dichotomies. The options aren’t merely ‘grudging legalization’ or ‘underground proliferation.’ There’s another option… changing our society’s view of sex altogether. Men’s desires aren’t going away; can they not be satisfied in ways that elevate women rather than degrade them?

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
5 months ago
Reply to  Kirk Susong

A practical proposal would help. On the face or it the only alternatives would be to magic away men’s desires, or somehow inspire lots of women to feel elevated by fulfilling them for free. What else – sex robots?

Prashant Kotak
Prashant Kotak
5 months ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

But that route (sex robots) is a terminus. Go down that path and there are no more male nor female babies. The species ends in a century.

Last edited 5 months ago by Prashant Kotak
Vijay Kant
Vijay Kant
5 months ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

That problem can easily be solved by outsourcing baby production to artificial incubators, and sperm and egg banks. Baby sitting can also be outsourced to AI nannies…

Paul Nathanson
Paul Nathanson
5 months ago
Reply to  Vijay Kant

I hope that you’re being facetious, Vijay. It’s true that we can use culture to mitigate threatening features of nature (such as disease or famine), but to oppose nature on moral grounds is another matter entirely. What you suggest sounds to me like the transhumanist quest: using technology to create a new and presumably better species. But utopian experiments, including some notorious ones of the last century (such as eugenics and euthanasia) should warn us against technological folly.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
5 months ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

Hardly likely.

MJ Reid
MJ Reid
5 months ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

And saves the planet? What a naive comment. Not every man enjoys visiting prostitutes or even wants to, therefore children will continue to appear on a regular basis. Prostitution will only stop when women get equity with men in the fact that they are no longer seen as inferior, Madonnas or Mary Magdelenes. Or when men who abuse women like this are all criminalised and publicly shamed…

John Davis
John Davis
5 months ago
Reply to  MJ Reid

Since prostitution seems to have existed in every society throughout history, I’m not sure how useful it is to speculate about how we could change society to stop prostitution. Attempts to change society rarely produce the hoped-for outcomes.

Prashant Kotak
Prashant Kotak
4 months ago
Reply to  MJ Reid

I am not at all suggesting that the prospect of sex robots is some kind of justification for men going to prostitutes – that is very unambiguously exploitative of women.

Vijay Kant
Vijay Kant
5 months ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

How about universal basic income and free university level education for all women above the age of 16, say? But no self-elected moral brigade wants to consider that option! This type of articles are therefore waste of time until the moral-brigade puts its money where its mouth is!

Last edited 5 months ago by Vijay Kant
Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
5 months ago
Reply to  Vijay Kant

Well, it would not do anything about men’s desires (as Kirk Susong wants), but it would mean that no one would have to get into prostitution because of poverty..

Vijay Kant
Vijay Kant
5 months ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

It is always the poor desperate ones who get abused in prostitution. The rich escorts flying over a weekend to their client’s yacht or a penthouse are not complaining about abuse!

Last edited 5 months ago by Vijay Kant
Alison Tyler
Alison Tyler
5 months ago
Reply to  Vijay Kant

until they get old!

Paul Nathanson
Paul Nathanson
5 months ago
Reply to  Alison Tyler

Well, Alison, old age presents a problem for almost everyone–not only prostitutes but also actors and farmers and laborers and all people who depend on the physical vigor of youth. This is why rich countries use legislation (and regulation) to provide “safety nets.”

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
5 months ago
Reply to  Paul Nathanson

Exactly.

Kirk Susong
Kirk Susong
5 months ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

I don’t believe this is true. The industrial revolution and capitalism together have raised almost everyone above the level of poverty where there are simply not enough calories to stay alive, no place to get out of the cold, no protection from marauding dogs, etc. No, what constitutes poverty today (in Germany) is something which it turns out is just as important to humans – relative poverty in comparison with other people’s material comforts. Would UBI solve that problem?

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
5 months ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

Exactly. Germany has free University level education for all who qualify as it is.

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
5 months ago
Reply to  Clare Knight

What of the entry standards? If one lowers the standards anyone could go up to university. Shakespeare, Dickens, Austen, Brontes, Kipling, Orwell all finishhed by education by the age of 18 years, for some it was 12 years of age.Michelangelo, Raphael, Brunelleschi, da Vinci, James brindley, George Stephenson , etc never went to university.
I would suggest the problem is that today people lack the foresight, patience, discernment and determination to obtain the education and skills to obtain a well paid job. If we take girls, if they start an apprenticeship in hairdressing, cooking, dress making/tailoring/ jewellery making at sixteen years of age by the age of 26 to 30 years they could be owning their own businsess.
I would suggest an aspect of the problem is that schools and industry/business are not working together to ensure school children have the education and attitude to enter apprenticeships but instead can only obtain low paid casual infrequent work. Once a poorly educated unskilled woman( like her Mother and Grandmother) has a child, the opportunities to be able to undertake prolonged ( five years)rigorous training needed to become a craftswoman is slight.

Jane Anderson
Jane Anderson
5 months ago
Reply to  Vijay Kant

What are you actually thinking about about when you talk about ” the moral brigade”?

Vijay Kant
Vijay Kant
5 months ago
Reply to  Jane Anderson

People who believe that their moral sensitivity is superior to others’. They have no consideration for the economic condition or the environment of others. As such, their values are written in stone!

David Morley
David Morley
5 months ago
Reply to  Jane Anderson

Perhaps I can also add: people who interpret all problems in moral terms – when practical solutions would be more helpful.

Arthur G
Arthur G
5 months ago
Reply to  Vijay Kant

That would require absolutely crippling taxation, and society doesn’t need 100% of people to be Uni grads. 25% is probably the max we actually need.

Mark Goodhand
Mark Goodhand
5 months ago
Reply to  Vijay Kant

I’m not sure about America, but the welfare state is already well established in the UK and most EU states.
According to The Spectator, 5 million Brits are on out-of-work benefits.
Julie’s preferred term of “prostituted people” would seem to deny prostitutes agency. While we should be concerned about any cases of coercion, is it credible that most prostitutes are working against their will? Or do most of them agree to a degrading job because it seems like the easiest way to get the level of income they desire.
There are lots of low-skill jobs out there, for those who want them, and in the UK at least, there’s the fallback option of benefits. Women don’t face a choice between sex work and starvation.
It’s all very sad and seedy, but it seems extreme to view it as 100% exploitation.

Jane Anderson
Jane Anderson
5 months ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

How about self control?

Paul Nathanson
Paul Nathanson
5 months ago
Reply to  Jane Anderson

It’s true that self-control is a necessary feature of human existence, Jane. No one could exist otherwise, and neither could any community. But self-control depends heavily on support from cultural mechanisms (not only punishments for bad behavior but also rewards for good behavior) that have been eroding for several centuries and are by now in serious decline due to the current prevalence of hedonism.

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
5 months ago
Reply to  Paul Nathanson

Cultural marxism has been promoting hedonism since 1919 with the foundation of the Frankfurt School which was opposed by the Baptist, Methodists and Quakers of the Labour Party up to the mid 1960s.

David Morley
David Morley
5 months ago
Reply to  Jane Anderson

Jane – you’ve just demonstrated what is meant by “the moral brigade”.

Kirk Susong
Kirk Susong
5 months ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

“somehow inspire lots of women to feel elevated by fulfilling them for free” – I love it!
You view this as a silly impossibility. I view it as eminently practical and already achieved on a daily basis by millions (perhaps billions, there’s a thought…).

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
5 months ago
Reply to  Kirk Susong

That is how it ought to be, sure. And often is. But the starting point is that men, collectively, desire more sex than women, collectively, want. Prostitution arises from high demand and low supply, to be mercantilistic about it. I cannot see how you can get around that one.

Kirk Susong
Kirk Susong
5 months ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

Sure, you get around it by not allowing economics to be your “Queen of the Sciences.” If you only have a hammer, everything looks like a nail. But there are other dimensions to human sexuality besides supply and demand. We are not (and are not supposed to be) merely rationalistic appetite-satisfying automatons. (And as I’m sure you know, modern economics is rapidly integrating these realities into its models.)

Last edited 5 months ago by Kirk Susong
Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
5 months ago
Reply to  Kirk Susong

Maybe. But if you talk about ‘satisfy[ing] men’s desires‘ (as you say) that does mean giving them what they want. If your solution is that men should stop wanting what they want and start wanting something else instead, or that they should find some kind of substitute (cold showers?), then you should say it clearly.

Kirk Susong
Kirk Susong
5 months ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

No, I don’t think men should stop wanting sex; that’s neither desirable nor practical.
To be sure, there are plenty of married men who use prostitutes. But there aren’t plenty of married men having lots of sex with their wives, who use prostitutes.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
5 months ago
Reply to  Kirk Susong

Now that makes sense. Of course it leaves us where the wives would have to be willing to have those lots of sex and – putting it as gently as I can – I do not think that can be taken for granted.

Kirk Susong
Kirk Susong
5 months ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

There’s a trope where the best man says to the groom: “Are you really willing to have sex with just this one woman the rest of your life?” Imagine instead the trope was this: “Do you understand you have to make this woman happy if you ever want to have sex again?”
Such is my vision for our reborn culture.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
5 months ago
Reply to  Kirk Susong

Sounds a bit one-sided, does it not? What do the bridesmaids say to the woman? “Do you understand that he should spend the rest of his life trying to make you happy, and even if he succeeds you have no obligation to reciprocate“?

Kirk Susong
Kirk Susong
5 months ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

Uh… no?

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
5 months ago
Reply to  Kirk Susong

Well, what *do* they say, then? What is the reciprocal obligation?

Kirk Susong
Kirk Susong
5 months ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

Among many others, to have sex when they don’t particularly feel like it. It’s just love, man, no particular mystery. People have been navigating the bonds of marriage for several millennia.

David Morley
David Morley
5 months ago
Reply to  Kirk Susong

But as Chris Rock puts it “you can’t make a woman happy.”

David Morley
David Morley
5 months ago
Reply to  Kirk Susong

We could give all the money to the men, and then allow the women to come up with ways of extracting it from them.

Oh wait – we tried that. Actually less successful than we would have imagined.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
5 months ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

Is not a large part of the demand men who cannot get sex any other way

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
5 months ago

Quite likely

Albert McGloan
Albert McGloan
5 months ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

“men, collectively, desire more sex than women, collectively” Are you serious? It’s funny how progressives end up spouting such things. The grim reality of human inequality, of ‘superfluous’ males, is far more unpleasant and difficult to address.
The contents of the above article are almost impossibly depressing. Prisoners letting off steam at a brothel? Terribly progressive.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
5 months ago
Reply to  Albert McGloan

I am not progressive.

But anyway – I am saying that the amount of sex that men (including superfluous men) would ,like to have, is more than the amount of sex that women would like to have with them. Do you disagree?

As (I think) Alan Bennett said: “If women wanted sex as much as men do, heteros and lesbians would have cruising grounds just like gay men do”.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
5 months ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

Of course all this depends on the kind of man. Attractive men get plenty, it’s the geeks who don’t.

David Morley
David Morley
5 months ago
Reply to  Clare Knight

Attractive men are only slightly dissatisfied. Geeks, as you call them, enormously so.

David Morley
David Morley
5 months ago
Reply to  Albert McGloan

The grim reality of human inequality, of ‘superfluous’ males, is far more unpleasant and difficult to address.

I think you know what to do!

David Morley
David Morley
5 months ago
Reply to  Kirk Susong

Now if we can just raise the act of giving a BJ into a deeply spiritual experience we’re home free. It can already involve kneeling. Nick a few of those cushions from the local church. We can do this!!

Better – why not take over the local church.

Last edited 5 months ago by David Morley
David Morley
David Morley
5 months ago
Reply to  Kirk Susong

Can you explain what you mean in more concrete terms?

Kirk Susong
Kirk Susong
5 months ago
Reply to  David Morley

Social expectations and legal norms should reintegrate sexual activity with moral duty, the physical with the spiritual, desire and obligation. Sexual activity is an activity not of the genitals but of the whole person, and ideologies to the contrary are violently cleaving us in two – and it shows, as we treat each other like ‘meat Legos’ to use Mary Harrington’s phrase.
To her credit, Ms Harrington gets it – but most feminists (like Ms Bindel) don’t understand the relationship between ‘freedom of sex (as in the activity)’ and ‘freedom of sex (as in gender)’. They continue to insist on the former but are aghast at the latter – in fact, they are the same underlying ideology.

Last edited 5 months ago by Kirk Susong
Noel Chiappa
Noel Chiappa
5 months ago
Reply to  David Morley

Who on earth gave a down-vote to a polite request for more information?

David Morley
David Morley
5 months ago
Reply to  Noel Chiappa

Bizarre isn’t it

Daniel P
Daniel P
5 months ago
Reply to  Kirk Susong

The answer, based on thousands of years of human history, is no.

Kirk Susong
Kirk Susong
5 months ago
Reply to  Daniel P

Quite the contrary, history is littered with examples of men with happily satisfied sex lives and women satisfying them without degradation, in fact being ennobled and thriving while satisfying them. And what unites these examples (which, by the way, stretch across cultures, across time, etc.)? Well, for one is the legal and social imposition of mutual moral duties. There are other things, too, but that’s a good start for the comments section.

Last edited 5 months ago by Kirk Susong
David Morley
David Morley
5 months ago
Reply to  Kirk Susong

I don’t have the demographics, but I believe that a lot of men begin visiting prostitutes around the time that their wives go through menopause. Not all women lose sexual desire at that point in their lives, but a significant number do.

It is probably the case that a lot of men simply do not want to let that part of their life go yet. I’m not saying that visiting prostitutes is the right thing to do – but we could perhaps try and approach the issue with a bit of humanity and understanding.

Kirk Susong
Kirk Susong
5 months ago
Reply to  David Morley

Post-menopausal women are perfectly capable of sexual intercourse…

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
5 months ago
Reply to  Kirk Susong

And sex doesn’t always have to be intercourse.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
5 months ago
Reply to  Kirk Susong

If they want to do it – that is the problem, no?

David Morley
David Morley
5 months ago
Reply to  Kirk Susong

It’s not capability, it’s desire. And it varies very much between women. Which is the reason for some forms of HRT duh!

Kirk Susong
Kirk Susong
5 months ago
Reply to  David Morley

Men and women alike make promises in marriage to do things for the good of the other person – to love and support one another for richer or poorer… in sickness and health… whether flaccid or erect. Wives of course have an obligation to have sex when they don’t feel like it, and husbands of course have an obligation not to have sex when they do feel like it. Such is the give-and-take of any human (non-transactional) relationship.
It’s like you guys have never met a happily married person.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
5 months ago
Reply to  Kirk Susong

I agree with that one. It does not provide a solution to the problem of incompatible desires, but then there isn’t one. I just thought your comment on “if you cannot keep her happy you will never have s*x again” meant that you thought something else.

The problem is that current culture (probably most women, certainly all feminists), strongly reject the idea that anybody has any obligation whatsoever to have sex unless they strongly feel like it in that moment. While still insisting that the other half of the couple has an obligation to remain faithful and celibate as necessary, no matter what does – or does not – happen in the bedroom. The proposed solution is ‘self_control’, as Jane Anderson says above.

So – if two people get married, what are their expectations of what should happen? What should it be?

Kirk Susong
Kirk Susong
5 months ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

We seem to agree on more than we disagree on. Isn’t it nice when people come together on Unherd? (!)
Husbands and wives both give up something that they want into order to please the other. The fact that this is an interesting thing to say in our society today, will tell future historians all they need to know about why our societies are on the brink.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
5 months ago
Reply to  David Morley

Exactly you don’t have the demographics and you don’t know what kind of men go to prostitutes.

David Morley
David Morley
5 months ago
Reply to  Clare Knight

No – but I have read this, and the information probably does exist. I’m prepared to believe that some of it is as much sad as bad.

Samir Iker
Samir Iker
5 months ago
Reply to  Kirk Susong

“can they not be satisfied in ways that elevate women rather than degrade them?”
In the current climate, no.
First of all, why should men want to “elevate” women? Women don’t enter into relationships to make their partner’s lives more fulfilling or satisfying, they are in it for their self interest, and they are very blatant and even proud of it. Most women would see it normal to reject 80-90%bof men, and only express interest in high earning men. Why should men behave differently and not look out for their interests primarily?

So, the question is, what are the alternative ways of looking at women and relationships/ sex that would be satisfying for a man?

Marriage and long term relationships?
That’s over, thanks to feminism.
Focus on being a good father to your kids?
High chance that you end up losing them anyway in family court.
Be the breadwinner?
That’s toxic masculinity now.
Short term, casual, friendly relationships?
Good luck when she decides a decade later it was non consensual.
Just be casual, normal friends?
Most women take no interest in guy stuff such as sports, gaming, etc – though they would typically support demands for preferential “equity” quotas for women in those fields.

Most men my generation were brought up to respect women, look forward to working hard to build a home for your wife and family rather than casually use them for sex.
And horrified at the cads and uncivilised brutes you see now amongst young males.

Problem is, incentives work.
How do you persuade them to behave better, and not see women as “use and throw”, when the social incentives uniformly work in precisely the other direction?

Kirk Susong
Kirk Susong
5 months ago
Reply to  Samir Iker

“Problem is, incentives work.”
Yes, we have to change the incentives. They were changed in the current direction in a remarkably short period of time; they can be changed back in just as short a period of time. The first step, of course, is to believe they need to be changed.

Last edited 5 months ago by Kirk Susong
Paul Nathanson
Paul Nathanson
5 months ago
Reply to  Kirk Susong

Yes, Kirk, the first step is surely to reject the prevailing mentality of cynicism and hedonism. Otherwise, if we assume that there’s no hope, why bother even to write these comments? Hope is not the same as optimism, which is a feeling and relatively superficial. Hope relies on acts if benevolence, or even altruism, as ends in themselves, no matter what the obstacles are. And we have no time to lose before saying “no” to the corruption that is reducing our civilization to “deconstructed” rubble.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
5 months ago
Reply to  Samir Iker

There speaks a bitter man.

Jane Anderson
Jane Anderson
5 months ago
Reply to  Kirk Susong

We all have desires, and desires by their very nature cannot be satiated. Feeding desires just creates a greater appetite for them. What we can do, as humnan beings, though, is moderate and channel them in more constructive and healthy ways.

Last edited 5 months ago by Jane Anderson
Kirk Susong
Kirk Susong
5 months ago
Reply to  Jane Anderson

Hmm… I can tell you from personal experience that if I am hungry and I eat, I am then less hungry. But I agree that desire must be satisfied in a constructive fashion. I do need to eat healthily.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
5 months ago
Reply to  Kirk Susong

But you’re only less hungry till about 3 hours later.

Alison Tyler
Alison Tyler
5 months ago
Reply to  Kirk Susong

I would love to think so, but there is so much change needed in social attitudes …….

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
5 months ago
Reply to  Kirk Susong

“Changing society’s view of sex altogether” good luck with that!

Kirk Susong
Kirk Susong
5 months ago
Reply to  Clare Knight

Well it’s already happened once in the past century. No reason it can’t happen again.

Nona Yubiz
Nona Yubiz
5 months ago
Reply to  Kirk Susong

In order to change society’s view of sex altogether, we’d have to unpair sex from consumerism, first.

Kirk Susong
Kirk Susong
5 months ago
Reply to  Nona Yubiz

‘Consumerism’ sure – along with many other related ailments in our current mindset… ‘authenticity’ and ‘autonomy’ and on and on. The cynics around here have never met the happily married, and it’s a dang shame. A happy marriage is the bulwark of a happy life for all but a very few.

Jane Anderson
Jane Anderson
5 months ago
Reply to  Daniel P

That is the orthodox argument in favour of leglaisation, yes – but in practice it does seem to encourage an illegal trade to flourish alongside it. The Netherlands, for example, is now a major human trafficking hotspot – with women being trafficked from across the world to supply the demand.
The trialled ‘safe zone’ in Leeds was a disaster and was subsequnetly dropped – as it didn’t make women any safer, and it also encouraged punters to target other women and girls in the areas around which it was set up.
The Nordic model is one that might be worth trying – in that it targets the punters, rather than punishing the women.

Last edited 5 months ago by Jane Anderson
Paul Nathanson
Paul Nathanson
5 months ago
Reply to  Jane Anderson

But no legislation can ever attain perfection, Jane. We’ve always had laws against crimes such as robbery and murder, for instance, and some societies or periods have been safer than others–and yet some level of crime always remains. Elimination of crime is a noble ideal, but mitigation of it is a practical measure. Otherwise, why have any laws?
On the other hand, I don’t see why prostitution per se is, or should be, a crime–not for the prostitutes and not for their customers. Like it or not, prostitutes provide a service that their customers want and usually need. These women (and more than a few men) take money for providing that service, sure, and so what? No one pretends that this transaction is remotely like friendship, let alone marriage (and marriage now needs more support, by the way, than any other institution). Prostitutes should be well paid for what they do. The pimps, however, are exploiters, at best, and should be prosecuted as such.

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
5 months ago
Reply to  Jane Anderson

Another aspect is the inability to cope with organised crime. When communism collapsed many of those employed by the secret services /special forces joined the organised crime who controlled many politicians in former Eastern Block Countries. The Legal systems and Police Forces we have in Western Europe was developed to prevent dictatorship either from Nazis or Communists ever taking place which reduces their effectivness to defeat organised crime. Organised crime is too cunning, ruthless and well trained for Western Countries to defeat with the present police and legal services. What would be needed a force which combined security, intelligence and special forces to operate in countries where Organised Crime is dominant; in effect Mossad after the Munich Massacre but this is unlikely to happpen. Organised crime has probably infiltrated the Police,Intelligence, Legal and Political services of most countries.
The film ” Taken ” may not be far from the truth witth it’s depiction of corruption.
Taken (film) – Wikipedia
McMafia By Misha Glenny | Used | 9780224075039 | World of Books (wob.com)
Cosa Nostra | John Dickie | 9780340935262 | AwesomeBooks

Richard M
Richard M
5 months ago
Reply to  G K

Legalization comes with regulation as her first example suggests. I’m not sure how it follows that regulation is entirely in favour of brothel owners? 

If I understand Julie Bindel’s point correctly, she is saying that because prostitution is inherently abusive, there can be no legislation which in practice benefits the prostitutes. Make as many laws as you like, it still comes down to usually very vulnerable women rendered powerless by the men who pimp them out and the men who pay for them.
Her example from Germany that the law states clients wear a condom, but they never do, would seem to bear this out. The well-meaning law exists, but the clients won’t comply, the pimp won’t insist because they don’t want to hurt their profits, and the prostitute is not able to object in any practical sense.

Daniel P
Daniel P
5 months ago
Reply to  Richard M

Yes yes….we get it. But you are missing the obvious.

For as long as there has been humans, there has been the trade of sex with women for money or something else.

Sometimes it is a straight up trade, sex for cash.

Sometimes it is a desperate woman seducing a man to allow her to live in his house because otherwise she is homeless.

Sometimes it is a woman having sex with a man because he bought her something, an expensive necklace maybe. It could even be she had sex with him as part of convincing him to get that necklace.

Sometimes it is a woman using sex to gain leverage in her business dealings, say seducing her boss. (My fiance just had this happen at her work and she is livid about it.)

Sometimes it is a wife or girlfriend withholding sex until she gets something she wants.

And, sometimes it is coerced and women are forced into sexual slavery.

There have always been women willing to be kept as mistresses of wealthy men who do nothing but shop and have sex with him. Is that prostitution?

All of this has been with us since the start. It is never going away.

We have made it illegal, but it has stuck around. We have arrested prostitutes and pimps and Johns, and it is still with us. We have even published the names and faces of pimps and Johns and it is still with us.

To me, making it illegal is like the US banning alcohol. It just made illegal gangs wealthier and more powerful. In the end, the answer was to make it legal again.

Granted, it is an ugly business and one that leads to abuses. But then, there have always been businesses that had abusive practices or abusive and dangerous environments, not just prostitution.

So, if you cannot make a thing go away, if the drive to have it is more powerful that the will to suppress it, then the best thing to do is to regulate it.

David Morley
David Morley
5 months ago
Reply to  Daniel P

A curious thought here: that perhaps prostitution is not an aberration, but the normal state of relations between men and women. Dissatisfaction occurs when the man feels he is giving materially but getting little of sexual value in return; or when the woman feels she is giving sex for free and therefore feels undervalued – robbed even.

Our romantic relationships are essentially trading relationships, and any attempt to make them equal is doomed to failure. If men and women earn equally, or the man gives uncontrolled access to his resources (shared credit card) then he has nothing left to buy with and she has no interest in selling.

The reason women generally oppose prostitution would be that by servicing multiple men, prostitutes are able to undercut the market and swallow up resources the women feel rightly belong to them.

Depressing I know.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
5 months ago
Reply to  David Morley

I feel very sorry for you if you’ve only seen or experienced romantic relationships as transactional.
Love, respect, affection, compromise, trying to make each other happy, understanding and trying your best to accommodate one another’s differing needs because you care for them, supporting each other through the tough times etc is what healthy romantic relationships are.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
5 months ago
Reply to  David Morley

Come on, man! Surely you will not deny that sex is also about love, mutual desire, bonding, and a commitment to build families together. That does not deny that there is also an element of exchange – ‘I do something for you but I expect you to do something for me’, but do you really think that is the whole story?

Last edited 5 months ago by Rasmus Fogh
David Morley
David Morley
5 months ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

I’m being devils advocate. In fact I’m an incurable romantic. Though there are things I have heard about other peoples relationships and their transactional nature which really give me pause.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
5 months ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

Conditional love is the norm in most relationships including parents and children.

Paul Nathanson
Paul Nathanson
5 months ago
Reply to  David Morley

Gosh, David, you go way too far. Okay, prostitution is not an aberration. But why add that this is “the normal state of relations between men and women”? Do you really want to include marriage?
Andrea Dworkin and Catharine MacKinnon said exactly the same thing by insisting that marriage is the ultimate form of prostitution–that is, “legalized prostitution.” Both marriage and prostitution are based on reciprocity in one form of another, it’s true, and that should, as you say, receive more attention than it usually does.
But marriage is unlike prostitution in several ways. For one thing, it’s based also on a communal goal that goes far beyond the couples themselves: children and the future of society. Until very recently, moreover, marriage has always occurred in the spiritually rich context of religion.

Daniel P
Daniel P
5 months ago
Reply to  David Morley

I wish I could disagree with you, but I think, that at least in the modern context, you are correct.

Women engage in hypergamy when dating and marrying. In other words, they will date across or up the socioeconomic ladder. In general, women treat men the way men treat jobs, as a means to and end, not an end unto themselves. The way a man may have a job he likes and he is content with, if a recruiter calls and offers him a job with higher pay, better benefits and a higher status title, he will say to his employer “Thank you for the opportunity. I have enjoyed my time here. I wish you the best in future, but I need to take this opportunity.”. They monkey branch. In short, women will only stay with a man when she thinks he is the most high value she can get. I would point out here, that the term “high value man” is the creation of women, not men. It is the source of the 6’s. Six feet tall, six figure income, and 6″‘ down below. It is why we have 80% of women chasing 10% of men according to dating site data. This is what women are attracted to despite what they say. How do we know this? Because we see what they respond to. The data is there.

Does that mean that women do not want to be treated well, respected, all the things that they say they want? No. But the part they leave out is that they want those things from the men they are already attracted to not that that is what attracts them in the first place.

In short, you are never going to see a female surgeon “settle” for a plumber or an IT analyst. She will hold out for a banker.

Men on the other hand, essentially look for the youngest, most beautiful woman that brings him peace he can get. High value men have no reason to commit. They have women dropping at their feet. They will settle down when it suits them and they will trade out over and over until it does suit them. These are the Leonardo DiCaprio’s and Drake’s of the world, the wealthy bankers, lawyers, politicians, entertainment and sport figures of the world. Money. Looks. Power.

But, unlike the female surgeon, the male surgeon will date and marry the receptionist at his car dealer if he is attracted to her and she brings him peace. Men do not concern themselves with how much money or education a woman has. It is not our priority. We are not looking for homeless idiot, drug users, but we do not seek out a woman for her college degree and bank account.

Now, toss into this the new social context.

Over the last 30 or so years, feminists have managed to convince women that sex need no longer be tied to emotion or commitment. Certainly the pill enabled this, but the motivation to engage in this, came from the 2nd wave feminist movement. Women were essentially convinced they should have sex like men, not all men, but the worst kind of men, the way feminists thought all men had sex. Ya know, its all fun, no commitment, just a satisfying toss in the hay. Regardless, we now have a generation of young women that see no issue with having a high body count, in fact, it can be a source of pride.

Then, we toss in the “We do not need a man.” movement. In short, there is no reason to have a relationship or marry a man. Which, many men have embraced as kinda liberating as they see it freeing them from any duty to care for a woman or to have children with her. The stats would seem to bare this out. GenZ is not marrying and it is not forming famlies and they seem to have no interest in doing so. Young men and young women do not see a need to have a long term relationship with each other, neither thinks that the other brings anything to the table they need.

SO….if you have a situation in which both men and women have concluded that sex does not require emotional ties or commitment and they have concluded that they do not need the other in a long term relationship to be happy, that neither one is going to get the kind of person they would want, and they see sex as entertainment…..

Seems like the perfect storm for not just a hook up culture but for professional prostitution. Sex is an entertainment service.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
5 months ago
Reply to  Daniel P

There speaks yet another bitter man.

Derek Smith
Derek Smith
5 months ago
Reply to  Daniel P

Excellent comment.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
5 months ago
Reply to  David Morley

Not depressing just way off the mark. Who are these women who oppose prostitution?

David Morley
David Morley
5 months ago
Reply to  Clare Knight

Clare – you are reading an article by a woman who opposes prostitution!

I would say somewhat off the mark – I was certainly trying to be contentious. But a significant amount of dating and marital behaviour could be described as prostitution adjacent. Dating is more a gift giving economy. Gifts are given in the hope of return. It’s why prostitution is sometimes described as more honest – you get what you pay for.

Many of us hoped that feminism would change this. As women became independent earners dating and marriage would become more financially equal – effectively the money aspects would be taken off the table. We would all go “Dutch” as they used to say. Naive perhaps. If there is one thing most people like more than money, it’s more money. It’s a mixed picture.

John Davis
John Davis
5 months ago
Reply to  David Morley

A curious thought here: that perhaps prostitution is not an aberration, but the normal state of relations between men and women.

Behavioural scientists have introduced apes in captivity to the concept of money (tokens that can be exchanged for desirable food). Some of the apes soon learned to exchange sex for money, so it’s not just human behaviour.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
5 months ago
Reply to  Daniel P

Exactly, and there are many marriages which are no more than legal prostitution.

Jake Prior
Jake Prior
5 months ago
Reply to  Richard M

I think clients pretty much always wear condoms. The rate of std’s would rocket so quickly if they didn’t, the whole thing would come to a pulsating end in no time, and client’s are as keen to maintain their sexual health as much as prostitutes. I’m afraid, notwithstanding the veracity of the main thrust, so to speak, of the argument, there is much misinformation in this article. The discussion BTL is of a much higher quality.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
5 months ago
Reply to  Richard M

Why is it that pimps are always men? If women were pimps they might care more about the prostitutes. There are some “madams” but they don’t seem to last very long, perhaps because they are a threat to patriachy.

David Morley
David Morley
5 months ago
Reply to  Clare Knight

It’s more the name. Women operate in similar roles. Prostitution in Ireland was female run, as was the geisha system in Japan. There is evidence that prostitutes with pimps earn more. I assume they also reduce the risk to the women by offering a degree of protection. The idea of the pimp as a pure parasite is a bit of a myth. I assume that in female run systems men are hired as security.

Evidence that women care more about prostitutes is patchy. Obviously it makes good business sense to look after your workers to some degree. In Ireland I believe there was some evidence that prostitutes were cared for better – but the geisha system is very exploitative of young women.

Plenty of women will tell you about bad female bosses in any field.

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
5 months ago
Reply to  Clare Knight

The women who are not part of organised crime syndicate and therefore cannot obtain violent men to protect them will not live long.
What Julie Bindel has not done is to reveal the level of organised crime involved in controlling prostitution. The Krays control of parts of London was immense but compared to the sophistication and cruelty of organised crime today being able to use accountants, lawyers, estate agents, and bribe politicians, police judges, they were amateurs.
The only time an international crime organisation was destroyed was Black September when Golda Meir let Mossad lose and the top 12 twelve were killed and this is not going to happen.
Mossad assassinations following the Munich massacre – Wikipedia
If the West cannot be united against Putin how can corrupt, cowardly and incompetent employees of the State( politicians, judges, civil servants, Police ) and corrupt cowardly people involved in finance take on organised crime ? Once organised crime has free reign in their home country they are safe to work in other countries. What Mossad did was to pursue Black September even in countries which allowed them to operate almost freely.

Jane Anderson
Jane Anderson
5 months ago
Reply to  G K

The article goes into some depth in explaining how legalisation of, and the operation of, brothels is neither more empowering nor even safer for the women involved; in fact they seem rendered even more powerless and without agency. And in coutries such as New Zealand and the Netherlands where prostitution is legal a flourishing illegal drugs and people trafficking trade tends to spring up along side – exerting its own kind of pressure.
The Nordic model criminalises the punter, not the women ( or young men) selling sex, and by all accounts this does seem to drive down demand.

Kirk Susong
Kirk Susong
5 months ago
Reply to  Jane Anderson

I believe most societies have criminalized both, and there’s no reason not to, as both behaviors are socially destructive. The problems arise not with creating the laws but enforcing them. Prostitutes can be prosecuted through ‘solicitation’ charges – undercover cops are solicited by the prostitute, and then testify.
How to catch johns? Female cops can go undercover as prostitutes, but that’s much much harder to manage… the communities are small and can quickly smell a rat. This is also the difficulty with prosecuting pimps (as I noted in another comment) – where’s your source of evidence?
In societies where one night stands are perfectly legal, how do you prove beyond a reasonable doubt that those bills on the nightstand were payment for services rendered, not a love gift?

Last edited 5 months ago by Kirk Susong
David Morley
David Morley
5 months ago
Reply to  Kirk Susong

both behaviors are socially destructive

But are they? Most stable societies have found some way to accommodate male desire. Prostitution often plays a role. Or religious pressures which make it hard for a woman to refuse “even on the back of a camel”.
Religious prostitutes feature in the Gilgamesh epic, with no negative connotations that are obvious. Indeed their role appears to be civilising.

Kirk Susong
Kirk Susong
5 months ago
Reply to  David Morley

The pressures don’t have to be religious (except insofar as every human pressure is religious, but that’s a different argument). But yes, women do actually have to have sex with men to satisfy men’s sexual desires.
The crucial thing to recognize is that sexual desire – such a powerful motive force particularly among men – will inevitably either have positive or negative effects on third parties. Just as Adam Smith articulated that our material desires could be, in the right system, not a justification to subjugate others but a reason to satisfy *their* desires, so too the right incentives, systems, norms, laws, can use men’s sexual desire as force for building up rather than tearing down those around him.
This ain’t complicated, folks. All it takes is disregarding the idea that you can do whatever you want with your genitals without repercussion… a thought that didn’t even exist in the world until about seventy years ago.

Last edited 5 months ago by Kirk Susong
bdank22
bdank22
5 months ago

Binder concludes-“When women’s bodies become commodities, they cease to be human, and the men who buy and sell them can no longer claim to be humane. That is what the legalisation of prostitution achieves.”
So when prostitution is criminalized, female prostitutes are not commodities and are not dehumanized. Of course, the commodification and degradation are there when criminalized, but with criminalization come jails and prisons which most often specialize in degradation and dehumanization. And, of course, the treatment of workers as commodities is not unique to sex work. And just because workers are treated in an impersonal and dehumanized way does not mean they become dehumanized. Many sex workers pass in their everyday life as ordinary people without any stigmata.
The experiences of women who are sex workers are varicolored. Homogenizing them as Binder does is in itself a form of dehumanization. Humanizing means transcending the label, and such transcendence means viewing them as unique individuals. Such is, of course, the opposite of commodification. State intervention generally furthers said commodification. Of course, nothing is really new here, the history of state intrusion into the bedroom indicates that intrusion by do gooders does more harm than good.

Noel Chiappa
Noel Chiappa
5 months ago
Reply to  bdank22

I dunno, I thought that “When women’s bodies become commodities” is in some ways an apt description of what legalization of prostitution means, fundamentally. Irrespective of how the women involved feel about it, that’s what it is, basically. Is that OK, or not? I don’t know.
How the women who are doing the selling feel almost certainly covers a tremendous range: at one end, for a woman who enjoys sex with many men, and has a good set-up (in terms of filtering customers), she might well be good with it; at the other, it’s pretty vile slavery, close to torture. And then we could get into ‘trophy wives’, which I expect similarly cover a wide range; but philosophically, may not be that different.
I take your point that “intrusion by do gooders [may] do more harm than good” (with the emendation I added), but … how do you help the women who wind up in places at the bad end of the spectrum, without getting the state involved? I don’t know what the answer is; maybe like alcohol, with a certain amount of close regulation.

Last edited 5 months ago by Noel Chiappa
Paul Nathanson
Paul Nathanson
5 months ago
Reply to  Noel Chiappa

I don’t agree that prostitution turns the bodies of prostitutes (male or female) into “commodities.” And that’s true whether prostitution is legal or illegal. Prostitutes sell their services, not their bodies. So do clerical workers, farm workers, truck drivers, computer-service providers, lawyers and physicians.

Last edited 5 months ago by Paul Nathanson
Kirk Susong
Kirk Susong
5 months ago
Reply to  Paul Nathanson

Who wants to live in a world in which having sex with a person is comparable to driving a truck for that person?
This reminds me of the famous Sly Stallone / Sandra Bullock sex scene in Judge Dredd. Look it up!

Paul Nathanson
Paul Nathanson
5 months ago
Reply to  Kirk Susong

No one would set out to find love in the context of a routine service, Kirk. That’s why most people have always hoped to marry. Paying for a prostitute is a last resort, not the ideal.

Kirk Susong
Kirk Susong
5 months ago
Reply to  Paul Nathanson

Where does masturbation fit on your scale if a prostitute is the last resort? Perhaps your scale isn’t real at all…

Paul Nathanson
Paul Nathanson
5 months ago
Reply to  Kirk Susong

No, masturbation is not a last resort. Even happily married people can enjoy that now and then for immediate gratification. It’s physical entertainment, nothing more.

Last edited 5 months ago by Paul Nathanson
Kirk Susong
Kirk Susong
5 months ago
Reply to  Paul Nathanson

“It’s physical entertainment, nothing more.”
There is no such thing.

Daniel P
Daniel P
5 months ago
Reply to  Paul Nathanson

Semantics. Selling their bodies or selling a service with their bodies as a tool of the trade.

Richard Calhoun
Richard Calhoun
5 months ago
Reply to  bdank22

It’s ‘Bindel’ and you are talking total rubbish

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
5 months ago

It’s also “stigma” not “stigmata” (guffaw!) and i agree.

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
5 months ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

It’s also ‘I’ and not ‘i’.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
5 months ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

Does my use of “i” change the entire meaning of a sentence? No. It’s a perfectly valid choice to use it.

Andrew Dean
Andrew Dean
5 months ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

What would an ‘imperfectly valid’ choice look like? Look up ‘pleonasm’.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
5 months ago
Reply to  Andrew Dean

Look up “pedant”.
Then look up the type of misunderstanding that could arise from the use of “stigmata” instead of “stigma”, as opposed to the examples cited by yourself and CW; neither example reduce the purpose of language, which is to impart meaning.

Last edited 5 months ago by Steve Murray
Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
5 months ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

i guess your rite

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
5 months ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

“Guffaw”

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
5 months ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

What’s happened to CARADOG WILLIAMS?

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
5 months ago

Have I missed something on the news?

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
5 months ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

You’ve turned back into an ENGLISHMAN?…Bravo!

bdank22
bdank22
5 months ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

I use stigmata rather than stigma since for me stigmata means that the person in some way is publicly marked as a prostitute. As I said persons who are prostitutes in the West go about their daily life “passing” as ordinary everyday women. Yes, prostitution is stigmatized, but prostitutes are generally invisible with no identifying marks.

Tyler Durden
Tyler Durden
5 months ago
Reply to  bdank22

This critique of the classical feminist position might be better directed towards the college-age girls if not teenagers who ‘perform’ nude on the Only Fans site from their bedrooms (at best).
They claim to be happy to commodify themselves to make money they would simply not see elsewhere at their age or stage in life. Naturally, they describe this moneterisation of sex as ’empowering’…

Daniel P
Daniel P
5 months ago

Wow, ok.

Well, since we are talking about “legal” prositution and we are talking about women who are employees of a company that is selling sex with those women, like any other employee at any other company providing a service for a fee, there are gonna be some basics set for any service charged. AND…employees conform to the rules or they quit or they are fired.

Now none of that is to say this is a good thing, just that if you are going to have legal prostitution where it is run like a llegit business, this is probably about what you should expect.

As for the commoditization of women’s bodies, well, that gets kinda complicated.

If a wife says to her husband that she will not have sex with him until X changes or Y is done, is she commoditizing her body for something in exchange?

If a women sleeps with her boss with the intent of getting a partnership, is she commoditization her body? You laugh, my fiance just had this happen at her work and sure enough the woman got her partnership. It is one reason that she is thinking about quitting.

Seems to me that there is a lot of commoditiizing of women’s bodies and a lot of it is done by women for something. Granted, not all of that involves intercourse, but there does seem to be a lot that would fall on a scale of commoditization. At what point does should it be illegal? Modeling underwear? Offering to flash your boobs to get into a nightclub? (seen that happen). Where does it cross or is it all illegal?

And granted, there are clearly people with business interests in trading on women’s bodies, but it is not all men. Two Chinese women were just arrested in NY for sex trafficking hundreds of other women who were brought to the US illegally. These two sisters had other women beaten with bats to keep them in line. So, it is not just men looking to make a buck off commoditizing women’s bodies. Seems like the whole society, both genders are doing it.

My feeling on it, in the end, is that prostitution has been around since the start of time in one format or another. The poor woman out on the street offering BJs for $20, looking for drug or food money. The high end courtesan or kept mistress getting thousands a night or kept in an apartment. The Sugar Baby phenomenon. Some of these women have no choice, for whatever reason their lives lead them to a place where they will trade their bodies for money. Some, probably figure that they can make a lot of money really quick. Heck, if I could get $4K a night I could get rich quick too. Some, probably have no marketable skill for whatever reason but they know how to give a good BJ. But, in the end, so long as there are women ready, willing, and able to sell or trade their bodies for money or something else like drugs, then prostitution will be there.

The only question to ask is; Are these women better off on the streets doing this illegally OR are they better off in a brothel doing it legally? My guess, is that as bad as we might find it, the brothels are generally going to be safer and potentially healthier. Are cities better off having controlled districts that can be monitored or having illegal brothels and street walkers? Again, I suspect that having this off the streets under controlled circumstances is better.

Julie would like the whole sex industry to die off. Maybe it would be lovely if it did. But, the reality is that through millennia of human existence it has been there and it is very likely to never go away. It may all go digital and robotic someday, but until then, women will continue to commoditize their bodies in the trade.

David Morley
David Morley
5 months ago
Reply to  Daniel P

If a wife says to her husband that she will not have sex with him until X changes or Y is done, is she commoditizing her body for something in exchange?

Not to mention women for whom financial considerations form a significant part of mating and dating choices. It’s not prostitution perhaps – but it is, to some degree, using sex for financial gain. Our culture is perhaps a bit more compromised in this regard than we like to think.

Kirk Susong
Kirk Susong
5 months ago
Reply to  Daniel P

You haven’t quite said it, but you’ve hinted at a false equivalence – wives sleeping with their husbands is a commodification no different from prostitutes sleeping with their johns – that is sometimes raised around here. It’s transparently reductive and duplicitous. I think people who do say this kind of thing are trying to fool themselves, not others.
The whole world can at a glance see that marital sexuality and its attendant activities – you know, raising kids together, eating meals together, sitting by the hospital bed for one another – is nothing like the kind of relationship that transactional sexual activity creates (ie, none).
“But the world has always had prostitution!” Yes, and the world has always had ethnic conflict – but not every society commits the Holocaust. The brokenness inside the human soul is a universal feature of the human condition, but many societies establish guardrails in legal and social norms to restrain our worst impulses. We can do so again in the sexual realm.

Last edited 5 months ago by Kirk Susong
Alison Tyler
Alison Tyler
5 months ago
Reply to  Kirk Susong

yes please. I have grandaughters and very some very anxious daughters.

Daniel P
Daniel P
5 months ago
Reply to  Kirk Susong

I do not see that as a false equivalence.

In my opinion, anytime anyone trades sex or access to sex for something they are engaging in commoditization of sex.

The minute you make sex something that can be traded for something then you have essentially created a price for sex and you have engaged in trade.

Anyone with an economics degree will tell you that the price of a thing is not necessarily dollars.

Maybe the point is that no wife or GF should ever use sex as a bargaining chip. Just saying.

As for the comparison to ethnic strife? Now there is a false equivalence.

Prostitution is closer to illegal drug use than ethnic strife.

And ultimately, what do you do with a situation where you have willing sellers and buyers?

Are you prepared to say that no woman should ever be allowed to sell sex to any other person?

This article talks about the low and mid market for sex workers. Do you think that those high end escorts getting $4k to $20k for a weekend at Davos want your protection or your pity or for you to interfere with them? Do you think that the Sugar Babies online want you to interfere? Do you think they want you to come save them from themselves?

Never mind that we have not even talked about porn yet. Are we going to tell women they cannot take a few grand to get naked and have sex on camera too? Really, how is that much different?

None of us have to like the sex industry. None of us need or are forced to participate except those that are sex trafficked and that is closer to slavery than prostitution.

But I am not sure that gives us the right or imposes on others choices or gives us any obligation to insert ourselves and our morals and our judgements.

And, as I said, prostitution has existed in one form or another for as long as humans have existed, for as long as women who want or need something have known they can trade sex for it.

Kirk Susong
Kirk Susong
5 months ago
Reply to  Daniel P

“But I am not sure that gives us the right or imposes on others choices or gives us any obligation to insert ourselves and our morals and our judgements.”
Of course it does. I absolutely have a right to advocate for a society where people treat each other with dignity and respect, and to campaign for laws and norms to shape and guide individual choices to that end. Indeed, not only have I that right, it’s also a duty.
Marriage is blindingly obviously different from prostitution. Get back to me the next time you bring a prostitute to your son’s baseball game, the next time you invite a prostitute to your father’s funeral, the next time you name a prostitute as a beneficiary on your 401(k).
If you believe that marital sex is equivalent to prostitution then all I can say is, as Wittgenstein says, “I feel very intellectually distant from you,” and there’s not much more to say between us.

Daniel P
Daniel P
5 months ago
Reply to  Kirk Susong

I think you are naive and I think you feel superior to others.

I am a firm believer in minimal government intrusion in peoples choices and lives, whether that is a COVID vaccine, the choice to have an abortion, the choice to become a fuzzy or to be a prostitute.

We are all free to judge. Judge away. Shun if you choose. Do not participate certainly. But I have a hard time accepting that the government should be able to tell anyone what they can or cannot do with their own body.

What you are desiring is for the government to legislate good behavior, good manners, kindness. Government cannot do that. It does not have the power, Those are items for social pressure, cultural norms and acceptability. But advocate away.

We could have a long debate about whether or not dating and marriage are transactional. But, I will point out to you a few things.

First, women date and marry via hypergamy. The science is there. They date and marry across the socioeconomic ladder or up it. In other words, they date and marry men with better educations and more money, they do not go the other way. Women will seek to date and marry the most high value man they can. Women treat men the way men treat jobs.

Second, men, given the choice, will choose a younger and more attractive female. The inverse of women dating and marrying via hypergamy is that men will date down and over the socioeconomic ladder.

You could look also at divorce. Go to a divorce court and you will very quickly learn that a marriage is a business contract, a partnership agreement, with the terms dictated by the government. Do not believe me? Try having a ceremony without a marriage license and see if anyone will legally recognize the woman you were with as your “wife”.

Kirk Susong
Kirk Susong
5 months ago
Reply to  Daniel P

You are to be commended for not feeling superior to others! That’s something I’m working on. I will look for inspiration in the Unherd comments section.
But while you think I feel superior to others… you also think I am naive – because I cannot see something you can see, due to your age, experience, wisdom, insight, education? (I guess I will have to keep looking for inspiration on not feeling superior in the Unherd comments section.)
I have been divorced, I am aware of what women seek in men, and I am aware of what men seek in women. I don’t believe the realities of the ‘meat market’ and divorce court are in dispute around here.
No, what seems to be in dispute is whether govt should play any role in protecting the weakest in society. Because it is the weakest who are hurt the worst by these bad choices.
The rich kid who dabbles in drugs will have excellent rehab programs, second chances in education or employment, a big warm house to return to. The poor kid who dabbles in drugs will set himself on a life course that he may never recover from. The same goes for sexual misadventure. It is children, the poor, the weak, the dispossessed who suffer most from poor sexual choices.
For those who reject centuries of social tradition and wisdom about sexual morality, there are also plenty of social science data establishing these common sense observations.

Last edited 5 months ago by Kirk Susong
Daniel P
Daniel P
5 months ago
Reply to  Kirk Susong

But we tossed all those norms out over the last 3 generations.

BTW….It mostly was not men that did the tossing.

I agree with you. There were a lot of constricting social norms that in retrospect served a purpose, a purpose for which the were probably originally conceived.

I’m all for marriage til death do us part.

I will happily support the idea of not having sex before marriage as a gold standard. For a lot of good reasons, not least of which is that the higher the body count the lower the chance of having a long term, healthy relationship later.

I’m all for chivalry, opening doors, pulling out chairs etc. Think that did more to train men than it ever restrained or demeaned women.

BUT that is not where we are today. Let’s operate from the assumption that men have almost always been more promicuous than women and women, for better or worse, fair or unfair, were the gate keepers of sex and the rituals and standards around it. Yes, we also worked hard at different times to train boys and young men to also be abstinant til marriage.

But we stopped that decades ago. We have spent decades teaching young people, women more than men given the original baseline, that sex is not required to be linked to feelings or to committment, that it is there to enjoy, a form of entertainment, that only requires consent.

Sex itself was commoditized. That is where we are.

Once women accepted that, then all holds were off.

That did two things. It legitimized sex work as just one more entertainment business and it opened the floodgates for the worst kinds of men.

We are now in a world where 80% of young women are now chasing the top 10% of men they consider to be “high value”. High value is defined as 6′ tall, with a 6 figure income and 6″ down below. This data is from examining the likes and swipes of women on dating apps. That means that that 10% of men have ZERO pressure to settle down. Like Leondardo DiCaprio, they just trade out one hot young thing for the next and there is always another ready to take her place.

Young attractive women attempt to get the most high value man they can to commit.

There is CLEARLY an intent for a relationship to be transactional, at least at the outset.

And, if we are being completely honest, women, even women in long term relationships, will use sex as a means to manipulate their men. They may use it as a reward for something or they may deny it as a punishment for something. All women? Of course not. But a significant number of them? You bet.

Kirk Susong
Kirk Susong
5 months ago
Reply to  Daniel P

“That is where we are.” Agreed! Similarly Ms. Bindel has well reported on the state of legalized prostitution in Germany. That, too, is where we are.
But I think we can move from where we are to somewhere better.

John Davis
John Davis
5 months ago
Reply to  Kirk Susong

But I think we can move from where we are to somewhere better.

Everyone always thinks they are making changes for the better. We’ve had hundreds of years of societal changes “for the better” in dozens of different countries to arrive at where we are now. This is not to say we shouldn’t try to improve, just to recognize how difficult it is to make real improvements.

Kirk Susong
Kirk Susong
5 months ago
Reply to  John Davis

Spoken like a true conservative – like me! I’d like us to get back to the time-tested and well-worn model of human sexuality, one in which sex is meaningful, significant and has consequences. One in which the idea that physical gratification is possible without the entanglement of the soul is rightly mocked. Things do change, one way or the other. Which way will they go?

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
5 months ago
Reply to  Kirk Susong

Thanks for saying this.
What a way for the love and commitment of a marriage to be framed in such an ugly, transactional way by many on here.
I do my best to make my husband happy, and he does the same for me, because we love, appreciate and respect each other. We obviously have different needs and try to accommodate accordingly because we care about each other.
The transactional marriages they talk about are unhealthy ones with obviously emotionally unhealthy people. Its tragically sad for them if that’s their only frame of reference.

Last edited 5 months ago by UnHerd Reader
Daniel P
Daniel P
5 months ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

I agree. That said, they exist.

But then, we are raising and entire generation that see any interaction between men and women as transactional.

It is where we get terms like “high value men” and the 6’s.

Somewhere along the line we taught a very large part of the next generations that commitment and marriage are bad, alternatives for the losers who could not have a high powered career.

Somewhere along the line we taught them that sex is for entertainment, that it has no connection to intimacy or relationships. It is just a fun way to wrap up a night out.

Once that happened, it was not a leap to the idea that trading sex for things you want is also acceptable, in fact, it is to be encouraged and those who are best at it admired.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
5 months ago
Reply to  Daniel P

Good points and very sad.
I’m actively trying to teach my children the value of loving, committed relationships through discussion and role modelling. I feel one of the best gifts I can give them is seeing the healthy, loving marriage of their parents (it helps that my husband is a great guy).
Anyway, I’m really hoping that will help them along in the face of the relentless social conditioning that you described.

David Morley
David Morley
5 months ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

Good for you. But some people (men and women) are selfish and exploitative. And they prey on nice people, not each other. Telling them to be nicer probably won’t help.

Richard Calhoun
Richard Calhoun
5 months ago

Excellent article informing what I suspect many of us are unaware.
It seems legalisation has facilitated abuse and violence against vulnerable.women and will surely destroy values in a society that allows it.

Christopher Darlington
Christopher Darlington
5 months ago

Nice to see all the apologists on here. It’s legalized rape with an economic gun to your head. Tell yourself whatever makes you feel better.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
5 months ago

Agree entirely. Some people just don’t want to know the truth.

Kirk Susong
Kirk Susong
5 months ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

I would characterize this comments section differently… once upon a time perfectly nice, virtuous people (you know, great neighbors) thought nothing was wrong with keeping fellow humans in chains to be bought and sold. Nowadays very few people will admit to that. What changed was the great re-education of social norms, views of moral duty, ideas of what basic human decency means – and what it is grounded on. This was done through education, legislation, persuasion of all kinds.
The views of human sexuality which I have tried to propound on Unherd were once the norm for humanity, but have been undermined by deliberate, self-interested, short-sighted ideologues whose basic goal was ‘to do what they wanted’ – (“they” of course always being the rich and powerful.)
While I agree that those who support transactional sexual activity on Unherd ‘don’t want to know the truth,’ I think moral education can enlighten them. If enough people vote with their ballots, their dollars, their words, we can resurrect a society in which men and women are not separated by differences of sexual desire, but united by them.

Paul Nathanson
Paul Nathanson
5 months ago
Reply to  Kirk Susong

I applaud most of what you say, Kirk. But I don’t understand your assumption that legalizing something makes it morally acceptable or even undermines society. There are significant differences between legal and moral codes.
Apart from anything else, legal codes have authority from the state and are more coercive than the voluntary moral codes of communities. Legal codes are minimal (the standard being high enough to prevent chaos but low enough to prevent totalitarian governments), moreover, and moral codes are maximal (the standard being high enough to foster idealism or even altruism but low enough to be attainable by most people most of the time).
In any case–as we all know from the daily news about the shenanigans of politicians–many things that most people would consider immoral are actually not illegal at all. It’s not necessarily true that making prostitution legal is either going to make it a desirable career for most people or threaten the social order (more than it already is). To get there, we’d have to continue diminishing the status of marriage or “reimagining” it in ways that serve the interests of adults instead of children, to interfere with the right of parents to guide the education of their own children, to foster rampant hedonism or cynicism and so on.

Kirk Susong
Kirk Susong
5 months ago
Reply to  Paul Nathanson

“I don’t understand your assumption that legalizing something makes it morally acceptable or even undermines society.”
Is there some law that is *not* an expression of our morality? (I accept the malum in se and malum prohibitum distinction!) The typical way for libertarians to articulate their view of the distinction is that “Your right to swing your fist stops at my nose” – so anything should be legal so long as it doesn’t hurt someone else.
I address this argument in another comment in this thread, but since there’s no way for me to link to that post – thanks, Unherd! – let me just briefly articulate why this is wrong… Swinging your fist near my nose is threatening, unwise, provocative, and (of course) actually illegal. Swinging fists without landing punches is still socially destructive.
The real real difference most people see between ‘law’ and ‘morality’ is premised on an assumption that ‘morals’ are differences of opinion about how to live life, whereas ‘law’ is the result of consensus about social harm. But this is not correct: there must be consensus on both for society to function well because ‘morals’ are also about forms of social harm, though admittedly more attenuated than raping and killing and thieving.
But though attenuated those harms are still real – and now that we live in a society that has decided to embark on the grand experiment that is the sexual revolution, the evidence of that attenuated harm is all around us, in increasing loneliness and childlessness, impoverished sex lives, decreasing life spans, increasing anxiety, depression, addiction and overdose. Obviously there are complex causal factors involved in all of these, but the breakdown of family bonds is a huge and central role in all of it. (And this is to ignore the role these sexual mores play in exacerbating racial differences, obviously a whole ‘nother source of social conflict these days.)

Last edited 5 months ago by Kirk Susong
Paul Nathanson
Paul Nathanson
5 months ago
Reply to  Kirk Susong

Thanks for your essay, Kirk. The relation between morality and law is complex and therefore the topic of considerable debate. You mention one common distinction: between preventing disorder and inspiring good lives. But I referred to another: between coercion and relative lack of coercion. And yet not all societies recognize either distinction.
Rabbinic Judaism, for example, has avoided any theological or philosophical distinction between what Christians call “moral law” and (sometimes derisively) “ceremonial law.” It’s true that the rabbis tried hard in their commentaries on scripture to find moral implications in most ritual observances, no matter how obscure, but those pastoral discussions do not provide the basic motivation for performing those rituals. Like “Honor thy father and mother,” after all, “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy” is a divine commandment and therefore of divine importance. And the same is true of all 613 commandments that the rabbis derived from scripture–including the dietary laws–although most of these have been dormant since the Temple cult was destroyed in Roman times. From this perspective, whatever is moral is also legal, and whatever is legal is also moral (at least by implication).
Rabbinic law does not set the tone for secular societies, of course, but the distinction between legal and moral codes remains, as you say, fuzzy. Legalizing prostitution can indeed, therefore, suggest moral acceptability in a secular world. This is why religious or dissenting communities in democratic countries must take responsibility for perpetuating their own moral worldviews without imposing those on other communities.

Kirk Susong
Kirk Susong
5 months ago
Reply to  Paul Nathanson

Well thanks for your essay, too. I’ll pass on engaging with your view of Rabbinic Judaism. But I will say that there is simply no such thing as a ‘secular world.’ All societies are religious, in the sense that our social mores, psychological assumptions, legal principles, etc. are underwritten by a set of unprovable beliefs about the transcendent meaning of human existence.
And hence as you acknowledge, legalizing prostitution signifies that society finds it to be morally acceptable – and *that* belief is being imposed on the minority religious community! Obviously the minority community is powerless (in a democracy) to impose its views on the majority. There’s no point in telling the minority not to impose its views on others, they can’t.
All we have is persuasion – and the Unherd comments section…

Paul Nathanson
Paul Nathanson
5 months ago
Reply to  Kirk Susong

It’s true that, from a religious point of view, that of rabbinic Judaism or any other religion, there’s no such thing as secularity. That’s partly because that word has come to mean “not religious” or sometimes even “anti-religious” (despite its long history in English, especially among Catholics, as a reference to religious activities that occur in non-ecclesiastical settings or even to religious personnel who do their work in non-ecclesiastical settings). Both traditional Jews and traditional Christians, for instance, describe the world, depending on circumstance, as either “profane” (ordinary) or “sacred” (holy). The profane is superficial, in other words, not evil. As the venue of holiness, moreover, it is not secular. A piece of bread can be either ordinary food or a holy presence, therefore, but not secular.
Traditional religions do not recognize any “secular” category at all. In my field, comparative religion, that word is extraneous (except for those who study modernized and therefore highly “secularized” forms of older traditions). Like anthropologists, we (now) take our informants seriously and try not to follow Max Muller by indulging in reductionism–as in, “They” think that they’re worshiping a deity or contacting the spirits, but “we” [sociologists or anthropologists] know better; “they” [the natives] are really doing something else entirely.
So, I can agree from a religious perspective) that “there is simply no such thing as a secular world, but I can also disagree from a non-religious perspective. Whether you like it or not, Kirk, we live in a world with both religious and non-religious people. And non-religious people are in the majority, which makes a big difference in any democratic society.
You say that “There’s no point in telling the minority not to impose its views on others, they can’t.” Yes, Kirk, they can and do. There’s nothing at all “obvious” about your claim–certainly not in the Western democracies of our time. The latter have long had ways of avoiding any tyranny of the majority, it’s true, but they’ve also developed ways of allowing any tyranny of the minority–that is, any alliance of minorities. This is precisely what happens right now, for example, when various racial and sexual minorities become allies, even if for the sole purpose of claiming their joint status as victim groups. They routinely intimidate politicians who worry about getting their votes and thus thwart the majority’s will.

Kirk Susong
Kirk Susong
5 months ago
Reply to  Paul Nathanson

Now the discussion has moved from a question of sexual morality to an analysis of voting patterns and political science! I think your analysis is internally inconsistent but no matter – this topic is too far afield of the original article. Hopefully we can renew this discussion sometime on its heartland soil.

Daniel P
Daniel P
5 months ago

Where consent exists there is no rape. It might be something else, but it is not rape.

You speak of an economic gun to their head. Precisely how is that different from anyone else living in a society where money is required to live?

Some people end up garbage men or cleaning out septic systems or burning the dead dogs at a shelter because they lack the skills to do anything else.

Seems to me that you are assuming that these women universally have a skill that will allow them to live that does not involve getting on their back. Some very well may. Some could potentially be trained. But can you say that all these women, if you took away prostitution would not then immediately fall into something worse? Could you guarantee that they would not end up living under a bridge in a tent giving BJs to the guy that shared his hamburger? Could you guarantee that they would not then just latch onto the first man that will allow them to live under their roof and feed them but who may use that leverage over her for all kinds of things?

Seems to me that a lot of people want to jump in and take away what is apparently the only means of making a living these women have. That may be awful but it may also be true. What happens to them when they no longer have that means of making their own money? Answer: They fall prey to whoever it is that will give them the things they need.

OR….are you suggesting that we shut all this down and put every one of these women on welfare? What do you think they are going to do when that welfare is not enough to make them happy?

Before you go taking away someones living for your moral ends, you should probably have a plan for how you are going to replace that income for them.

Jarle Fagerheim
Jarle Fagerheim
5 months ago

One aspect that hasn’t been mentioned here is how legalization affects the “marginal buyers”. As long as buying sex is illegal, a substantial group of men who’d otherwise be open to visiting a brothel will be very reluctant to do so, because they have a lot to lose if they were to be caught: their marriages, community reputations, positions that require a spotless criminal record, etc. (Not that the risks are zero under legalization — plenty of wives would still be quite unhappy about their husbands frequenting such establishments — but it’s a lot easier to get away with actions that aren’t policed.)
It’s easy to imagine that this group might be rather large. Who wouldn’t want to just buy a night of fun with sex guaranteed instead of suffering endless Tinder swipes in the hope of a one-night stand — or have a convenient alternative when wife has a headache? — but still be extremely hesitant to commit any sort of crime? And when legalization opens the market for such men, demand increases, creating incentives to increase supply. Since most women don’t want to do “sex work” (and most parents certainly don’t want their daughters to engage in it), even when it’s extremely well paid by the hour, as long as half-decent ordinary work is available, new workers are likely to be recruited from the poorest and most vulnerable (i.e. single immigrant mothers, even illegal immigrants as long as the policing isn’t very strict — c.f. the pervasive use of illegals in other legal businesses such as construction). With contiinued high immigration and rising poverty rates, the supply can be increased to the point of driving down prices without ruining the pimps, getting even more marginal buyers into the market, and so the cycle continues.
My understanding is what we have seen happen in countries such as Germany and the Netherlands over the last few decades. In contrast, the Scandinavian model (criminalizing the punters, not the women, implemented in Sweden and Norway appears to have been effective in curtailing the demand side. No, prostitution hasn’t been abolished, but among the alternatives, this model might well be the least awful.

David Morley
David Morley
5 months ago

Very good post. Do we know (is there research to show) that legalisation leads to significant increase in demand?

Daniel P
Daniel P
5 months ago
Reply to  David Morley

It is an interesting question.

My guess would be yes it does for the reason he states.

I question the degree to which that would be true though.

jf2023
jf2023
5 months ago
Reply to  David Morley

Good question. I haven’t been able to find any really good research on this. By its very nature it’s difficult to estimate the size of the illegal market, which even in Germany is believed to dwarf the legal market by a magnitude of 10. (The total estimate ranges from 200,000 to 800,000 — number of registered prostitutes 28,000.)
What I can say is that here in Norway, not even proponents of legalization are arguing that the Nordic model has led to a larger underground market. (The earlier situation placed prostitution in a grey zone — legal in principle, but pimping was prohibited, and the threshold for falling into the pimp category was really low; ordinary prostitutes ran a risk of this merely by sharing apartments and the like). The main arguments are ideological (to quite some extent put forward by gay men and transwomen who’re in the business), and some also argue that the law stigmatizes prostitutes and in effect makes it more difficult to provide protection and social services to them. But only anectodal evidence is presented, and there is also anectodal evidence the other way.
The popular conception here is very much that buying sex is for losers, incels and stock traders (not to demean any of those groups, just trying to give an impression). This to me seems quite different than the prevalent attitudes in Germany, and there exists research indicating that Norwegian attitudes towards prostitution have become more negative since the new legislation was introduced in 2009.
As for the effects on the extent of prostitution, there’s only been one study of the effects of the Nordic model here — a methodologically rather weak “evaluation” commissioned by the government that introduced the law — but the scant statistics it presented gave an impression of a slight decrease during the five years following the introduction of the new legislation.
I suspect there might be more research coming out of Sweden, but am afraid that won’t be methodologically strong either. The question is so incredibly polarized, even (perhaps particularly) among researchers, and the willingness for a genuine dialogue between the sides and joint efforts to investigate the facts on the ground seems low indeed.

David Morley
David Morley
5 months ago
Reply to  jf2023

Thanks for this

Alison Tyler
Alison Tyler
5 months ago
Reply to  David Morley

probably does increase demand as the shame and embarassment possibilities diminish, and it can be freely discussed so gives people ideas

Daniel P
Daniel P
5 months ago
Reply to  Alison Tyler

I am not so sure that there is any real social pressure anymore about either going to a prostitute or being one.

From the prostitute side, people are terrified to s**t shame.

From the John side, if prostitution is normal then so is going to one.

AND…if we are being completely honest, something has gone on in our culture over the last 15 – 20 yrs where we have started to openly discuss all relationships between men and women as transactional with men providing resources and women sex.

If I had to hazard a guess, I would chalk it up to the movement away from connecting sex to emotions or commitments on one hand, which was the logical follow on from not s**t shaming. And, the decision by women that they do not need men. Well, if men and women do not need each other for anything other than sex and sex is for entertainement purposes then the next logical follow on is that sex can be sold as entertainment.

Fiona English
Fiona English
5 months ago

Indeed. The Nordic model is the way to go. It criminalises the buyers rather than the prostituted women (and boys/young men) and provides practical support for survivors of prostitution to get out. This system has proved to be effective in reducing prostitution and the harms – not just to those prostituted but to the wider community who live in proximity to ‘red light’ districts where women and girls have had to run the gauntlet of expectant punters. #NordicModelNow

Daniel P
Daniel P
5 months ago
Reply to  Fiona English

Fiona,

That sounds good, but the reality is, at least here in the US, is that we have gone so far as to publish the names and faces of Johns in addition to criminal sanctions. We STILL had street walkers. We still had brothels pop up.

Maybe that kind of thing can work in small countries with small, homogenous populations, but in a place like the US where you have huge cities with huge migrant communities living in close proximity, speaking dozens of languages and coming from dozens of cultures, policing that kind of thing is a bear.

I wonder too, how much of that former street prostitution and brothel prostitution has simply moved online.

Do a Google search ( I just did one to prove my point) and you will find DOZENS of sites where women are advertising themselves in couched language. Are some of these cops? Probably, but hundreds of them?

This is a game of whack a mole. It is no different than the new laws passed here on online porn. They require that a person provide an ID to access these sites like Porn Hub. We all clapped ourselves on the back only to realize that the sites are going offshore, changing their names regularly, and that kids are learning to use VPNs. There are not enough cops to keep up.

jf2023
jf2023
5 months ago
Reply to  Daniel P

Only the most ideological of prohibitionists argue that the Nordic model can abolish prostitution. I think the argument against legalization is the strongest — as there are solid indications that it makes the overall problems worse compared to the alternative — and that the Nordic model is the least dysfunctional way to practice a prohibitionist policy.

David Morley
David Morley
5 months ago
Reply to  Fiona English

Pragmatically you may be right, but morally it is an approach that seems rather odd. Rather like making the buying of drugs illegal but the sale of them legal. It is far from clear that it is the customers of the prostitutes that are doing the exploiting (rather than being exploited) and it is therefore not clear why only they should be punished.

The internet has shown that significant numbers of women will enter into sex work of various kinds, which is clearly exploitative of men, entirely without coercion. The great mystery is not that the the women do it (for some it is clearly very lucrative), but that some men are so easily exploited.

Daniel P
Daniel P
5 months ago
Reply to  David Morley

That is an interesting take.

Who is exploiting who for what purpose?

At the end of the day, I think what most people are concerned about is not so much the morality of one person trading sex for some financial benefit. I mean that goes on throughout society in various forms.

I think what concerns people is that this industry seems to have a lot of participants that are being coerced into the business and put at risk of physical harm.

SO, maybe the question we should be asking ourselves is not whether prostitution should or should not be legal but rather how do we deal with the coercive elements and the dangerous elements

Kirk Susong
Kirk Susong
5 months ago
Reply to  Daniel P

What is interesting is our inability to think of ‘mutual exploitation’ and to see that it is the norm in transactional sex. Both sides think they are getting one over on the other, but in fact each is impoverishing himself as much as the other.
That said, I’m all for criminalizing the buying of sex, but I fail to see why not to also criminalize the selling of it. And of course “distributors” (pimps) are more responsible than “dealers” (prostitutes).
The biggest problem with that is that our police are generally unable (or unwilling) to protect prostitutes from pimps, and prosecuting pimps is difficult without prostitutes’ testimony. We’ll need much more robust dedication of law enforcement resources to prosecute pimps.
The reason that doesn’t happen, of course, is because (as these comments show) a large percentage of the electorate doesn’t view transactional sex as a big deal. We can’t expect anything to change as long as I continue to think *my* desire for transactional sex – maybe not prostitution, maybe just a one-night stand – is healthy. It’s not.

jf2023
jf2023
5 months ago
Reply to  Kirk Susong

The argument against criminalizing selling is that it’ll put yet another burden on prostitutes who tend to have difficult enough lives already — giving them fines they won’t be able to pay or landing them in prison for crimes they would never have committed if they had the slightest chance to make money in other ways.

Kirk Susong
Kirk Susong
5 months ago
Reply to  jf2023

Employers everywhere are desperately searching for employees… Prostitutes turn to prostitution I’m sure for a wide variety of reasons. But I think it is very rarely because there is no other way to avoid starving – there are many jobs available which pay well enough to avoid starvation. The problem is that humans aren’t satisfied simply not starving… they also want to feel a sense of purpose, progress and *relative* success. And perhaps the things the prostitutes want – often illegal drugs, unfortunately – are not available on a waitress’ wages.

Paul Nathanson
Paul Nathanson
5 months ago
Reply to  Kirk Susong

Is there nothing at all, Kirk, between (for want of better words) good sex and bad sex? In my opinion, the ideal context for sex is marriage (and especially marriage in a religious sense). What you call “transactional sex” is surely not that ideal. But this does not necessarily mean that it’s inherently either sick or evil, something that deserves punishment by law.

Last edited 5 months ago by Paul Nathanson
Kirk Susong
Kirk Susong
5 months ago
Reply to  Paul Nathanson

Sure, there are gradations of almost everything, including just how bad and/or unhealthy certain sexual misadventures are. And as a result they deserve different social responses. I’ve never given it a lot of thought, but I doubt one-night stands should be criminalized! Adultery is worse… and prostitution is far on the other side of that line.

jf2023
jf2023
5 months ago
Reply to  David Morley

I think the likelihood that a prostitute is directly or effectively forced into prostitution is much greater than that of the man being somehow forced to seek out a prostitute for sexual gratification. And if that is the case, I think it’s clear who’s mainly exploiting whom. Sure, cravings for intimate touch and orgasms might be challenging to deal with — but I wouldn’t compare them to the plight of a single immigrant mother with three kids to feed and no realistic prospects of decent employment.

Paul Nathanson
Paul Nathanson
5 months ago

But it does have a down side, Jarle, and its a profoundly important one. By prosecuting the customers, it makes the point that there’s something inherently wrong with their desire for sex–that is, with sexuality itself. In my opinion, there’s nothing wrong with that. If there were–if we send that message to boys and men and use the law to prosecute offenders–then no society could endure.

jf2023
jf2023
5 months ago
Reply to  Paul Nathanson

I don’t see how that follows, Paul. Does criminalizing theft of meat and potatoes signal that it’s inherently wrong to desire a good meal? That there is anything wrong with hunger itself?

Paul Nathanson
Paul Nathanson
5 months ago
Reply to  jf2023

No, jf, but consider the cultural-historical context of this particular message. We’ve had almost half a century of ideological conditioning, which has included precisely the idea, expressed both implicitly and explicitly in countless productions of both academic and popular culture, that male sexuality is inherently wrong–that is, oppressive for women.

Richard M
Richard M
5 months ago

As a matter purely of principle I don’t object to people selling their own bodies for sex if that’s what they freely choose to do. After all, I hold that we should all be sovereign over our own selves to the greatest possible extent.
However, the practical reality as I understand it, is that the vast majority of prostitutes do not choose this freely in any meaningful sense of the term. Large numbers are trafficked or otherwise coerced by violence, debt, drug addiction, and desperation. Some years ago, in support of a grant application for health services, a colleague who ran a small welfare charity conducted a series of interviews with local street prostitutes. She wasn’t shocked by much of it as she was already aware of the violence and degradation these women endure every night. Except how many had started selling themselves so young, often facilitated by older female relatives. It was essentially a “family trade” they were pushed into when they were too immature to make any kind of choice.
I’ll admit, I don’t really have an answer to what should be done instead. But I don’t believe for a moment that legalisation helps the vast majority of prostitutes, because it does nothing to disrupt the network of abuse, violence, exploitation and desperation in which they are trapped.

Mike Buchanan
Mike Buchanan
5 months ago
Reply to  Richard M

Hi Richard. You write:
“However, the practical reality as I understand it, is that the vast majority of prostitutes do not choose this freely in any meaningful sense of the term. Large numbers are trafficked or otherwise coerced by violence, debt, drug addiction, and desperation.”
You only “understand” this because you’ve been brainwashed by decades of feminist lies and myths, from people such as Ms Bindel.

Richard M
Richard M
5 months ago
Reply to  Mike Buchanan

The very high levels of violence and abuse against prostitutes has been demonstrated by numerous research studies. Many of them Google-able.

Jane Anderson
Jane Anderson
5 months ago
Reply to  Mike Buchanan

Head in sand!
Julie Bindel has spent her whole career talking to women involved in prostitution. She’s the expert.

David Morley
David Morley
5 months ago
Reply to  Jane Anderson

Not really. And there are others (including female researchers) who disagree with her. There are also prostitutes who disagree with her. Hence the debate and the slogans “sex work is real work” and the rest. Even within feminism this is an open debate.

Paul Nathanson
Paul Nathanson
5 months ago
Reply to  David Morley

And I’d add, David, that most prostitution–not all but most–involves both women and men. By that, I mean not only female prostitutes and their male customers but also male prostitutes and their male customers. No one who spends a whole career talking to female prostitutes can understand more than one side of the coin.

Mike Buchanan
Mike Buchanan
5 months ago
Reply to  Jane Anderson

She’s no expert, she’s a feminist propagandist who wishes to deny women the agency to do what they want with their lives in general and bodies in particular.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
5 months ago
Reply to  Mike Buchanan

And seems like you’ve been brainwashed by the ‘happy hooker’ trope.

Peter Johnson
Peter Johnson
5 months ago

A bit like euthanasia this may be an example of where we should make policy based solely on principle – as making it legal always cheapens human worth and makes us colluders in misery.

Dominic A
Dominic A
5 months ago
Reply to  Peter Johnson

A bit like euthanasia, and drug taking, in the sense that many of the ordinary citizenery seem to be reassured by ‘out of sight, out of mind’, zero tolerance treatment – not matter the cost. When something is illegal it is ‘other’, taboo and needs only one answer – prison time – and so the good people can settle into navie comfort. Meanwhile, the reality is that, legal or illegal, it effects vast swathes of the community, always has done, even in societies with the most draconian punishments. From what I have read, there are many ways in which the problems with euthanasia in Canada, marijuana legalisation in USA, and prositution in Germany could be eased by evolving and adapting regulation and culture, without falling back on illegalisation. The question in my mind is why these steps are not taken.

Peter Johnson
Peter Johnson
5 months ago
Reply to  Dominic A

I am much more open to the ‘slippery slope’ argument than I used to be because it seems that behind every government policy there is an activist group successfully pushing for radical change.

Dominic A
Dominic A
5 months ago
Reply to  Peter Johnson

True, but what to do – simply banning well ok, but that runs the risk of plugging one’s ears: worsening problems due to making them un-admitable. Take mining (metal, coal etc), or ownership of land – we’ve gone from what I imagine was a free for all situation at first, to a industrial system often with terrible exploitation, to communism, and now to some hybrid socialism-capitalism system. At no point was the answer to make demand for these things-from-the-earth illegal.

Paul Nathanson
Paul Nathanson
5 months ago
Reply to  Peter Johnson

Worse, many people (including government leaders) don’t understand that the burden of proof should be on those who advocate change, let alone radical change.

Kirk Susong
Kirk Susong
5 months ago
Reply to  Dominic A

“Meanwhile, the reality is that, legal or illegal, it effects vast swathes of the community, always has done, even in societies with the most draconian punishments.” Vast swathes? I think this is patently untrue. Making something illegal and imposing draconian punishment certainly suppresses it.
Prostitution isn’t going to disappear no matter what. But we shouldn’t pretend that nothing we do matters, either. People do indeed respond to incentives, norms, laws, expectations. Societies are different, have improved, have degraded, have changed. It’s up to us to decide whether we want to live in a world where sexual activity depersonalizes us.

Dominic A
Dominic A
5 months ago
Reply to  Kirk Susong

I hold by that claim, including as it does, those indirectly affected by drugs/prostitution & even euthanasia. For example it’s estimated that the immediate reason for 30-50% of crime is to fund drugs purchases; the spread of STDs I imagine has been greatly increased by prostitution; and, I’d guess that the relief of suffering from Drs and nurses giving that little extra opiate dose towards the end of life (common practice I believe) is immeasurable.

Kirk Susong
Kirk Susong
5 months ago
Reply to  Dominic A

It is an interesting question to ask… Does making rape illegal have any effect on the incidence of rape? Does setting a speed limit have any effect on the speed of cars? Does making payment of tax compulsory have any effect on the payment of tax? I maintain the answer is obvious… legal demands, social expectations, cultural norms are pretty darn important in shaping behavior.
But then I am also daily amazed at the fact that some people deny things that seem undeniable to me. What a world!

Dominic A
Dominic A
5 months ago
Reply to  Kirk Susong

ok – I get your point….however things are more complicated than just that point, and than the ‘common-sense’ examples you gave. No-one, no country has ever successfully banned drugs, for example. Prohibition was a failure, one that probably metastasised with the ‘war on drugs’. All sorts of evil flowed from that. Why? Because people will not cease these activities and may even increase them when they are banned (look at Iran or Philippines drug problems, and alleged problems with trafficing and prostitution). Moreover, Western societies lack the social cohesion, submissiveness that work in places like Singapore. Finally, the extent of taxation, speed limits, laws on rape etc are hacked out in compromise/agreement between, power elites, academe, the people etc….and whilst there is, probably 99% agreement that killing and rape should be illegal, and 80% agreement that there should be speed limits (I’m just guessing) – I’d be very surprised if there is anything like that agreement over prostitution and drugs, euthanasia issues. Hence people’s anger over lockdowns and enforced vaccines. So I’ll take a pass on your brave new world.

Kirk Susong
Kirk Susong
5 months ago
Reply to  Dominic A

We are already entering a brave new world, with or without your or my consent.
I am advocating – in the Burkean tradition – that we stop making up new morals on the fly, ignoring centuries of wisdom and observation about how individual sexual choices affect society.

Simon Neale
Simon Neale
5 months ago

When women’s bodies become commodities, they cease to be human, and the men who buy and sell them can no longer claim to be humane. That is what the legalisation of prostitution achieves.

No, that’s what the legalisation of prostitution involves; and whether it is legal or illegal makes no difference in this respect.

Alison Tyler
Alison Tyler
5 months ago

As a former probation officer many of my female clents endured prostituion and abuse, in order either to feed the children they had been left with, or the drug habits they had been introduced to in order to turn them to prostituion in the first place, or they had been traficked just to be placed in an illegal brothel. There are few good outcomes for women in either legal or illegal sex trading. When young, fresh and unspoiled some women may find it tolerable for a time and the money is good then, but with age often comes increasing insecurity, degradation and desperation.
I have no ideological axe to grind, only the experiences of weeping and abused women to remember during some of my nighmares. I so wish that it did not happen and that all sexual relationships were joyful, mutally enjoyable, neither transactional nor risky, but between consenting adults.
The tone of all Unherd discussuions relating to sex or gender issues seems invaraibly contemptuous by some of your correspondents, so I hestate to join in, and I would certainly be afraid to meet some of them.

David Morley
David Morley
5 months ago
Reply to  Alison Tyler

Bear in mind that as a probation officer the people you see may not be typical or representative. I don’t think anyone doubts there are desperate cases like the ones you describe.

Elaine Giedrys-Leeper
Elaine Giedrys-Leeper
5 months ago
Reply to  Alison Tyler

Please don’t hesitate to join in.
As you have probably noticed there is a dearth of relevant, real life narratives in this forum on all subjects.
Accounts of real life are the best mechanism for countering half baked opinions even though they are classified as “anecdotes” and therefore in the strict scientific sense, not relevant to the big picture.
It is my fervent hope that more contributors such as yourself, with actual practical experience choose to put fingers to keyboards here as, in the main, people are pretty respectful on UnHerd.

Cley LM
Cley LM
5 months ago

A lot of men in the comments with strong opinions about how abusive is for a woman to let a stranger use her body, for money. Is it easier than cleaning a house? Is it easier than going down a mine? Perhaps it is like work in the sewage? All I know is that it is her body, her mind and her integrity that is at play and some do it out of real necessity, while others just because it is ‘ easier’ than working at a factory. As a woman, in my little dream world, little girls would never become prostitutes out of necessity, safe or not safe, it isn’t what women dream of becoming someday. Obviously do not want to generalise, but I do not see how there will ever be dignity in let yourself be used solely for pleasure day in, day out, but people who need to pay for it. But what do I know, I am just another woman.

David Morley
David Morley
5 months ago
Reply to  Cley LM

But what do I know, I am just another woman.

If you are a woman without an ideological axe to grind, then that probably makes you a particularly useful commenter.

Jane Anderson
Jane Anderson
5 months ago
Reply to  David Morley

It seems to me that you have an issue with women having ideas or with looking at things from a female perspective – and that too seems to be fairly ideologically rooted.. You seem to position women ‘en masse’: without distinction, or without any differentiation towards the persepctives and views that are being offered.

David Morley
David Morley
5 months ago
Reply to  Jane Anderson

Quite the opposite in fact. One of the things I like on Unherd is that women do not always follow the ideological line expected of them. JBs position is always deeply ideological and predictable. It’s also quite hard for men to question without being accused of being an apologist or worse. So I welcome women offering a different angle.

I should just say that I don’t really think there is a “female” perspective any more than there is a “male” perspective or a “black” perspective. Women are as capable of free thought as men, and therefore disagree with each other just as men do. To be honest there isn’t even just one “feminist” perspective.

My comment to Cley was entirely meant. Did you think I was being sarcastic?

Christopher Darlington
Christopher Darlington
5 months ago

I’m sorry but there is never going to be a time that prostitution is safe when you have an appendage inside you. The apologists on here is sickening. It will never be a safe no matter what you say.

m_dunec
m_dunec
5 months ago

Abso bloody lutely!

Yet again, Julie Bindel is excellent at driving the facts of male violence home, but for some, yet again, that’s a little too close!

Last edited 5 months ago by m_dunec
Paul Canon
Paul Canon
5 months ago

Prostitution in the towns is like the cesspool in the palace: take away the cesspool and the palace will become an unclean and evil-smelling place. – St Thomas Aquinas

Richard Calhoun
Richard Calhoun
5 months ago
Reply to  Paul Canon

Such a simplistic and uninformed response, it’s a question of the State facilitating abuse of women and young girls

Paul Canon
Paul Canon
5 months ago

I think it’s a little presumptuous to say that prostitution is always abusive. It removes women’s agency by denying the idea that a woman may actually choose to sell sex because making 100-500 pounds per hour as a prostitute is a better option than making 10-20 in another retail job. Of course abuses and exploitation exist, as they do in many sectors such as the exploitation of underpaid factory workers from Chongqing to Leicester, but that is no reason to remove any sort of legal oversight of their activities. We need better legislation, not prohibition and criminalisation of consenting adults.

Daniel P
Daniel P
5 months ago

That is one view.

First, if a woman does this through choice, because she finds it an easier way to make a buck than working a factory line, is that abuse?

Second, is the state “facilitating” or “regulating”. Facilitating implies that the state is actively aiding the creation of something. Regulating implies controlling and limiting an already existing thing. Be pretty hard to say the state is not just regulating given that prostitution in one form or another has existed as long as there have been people.

Vijay Kant
Vijay Kant
5 months ago

Is this benign state willing to pay universal basic income to women to protect their honour and dignity? I don’t think so. The state should then keep its nose out of prostitution between consenting adults, and just concentrate on preventing violent crimes.

Last edited 5 months ago by Vijay Kant
Kirk Susong
Kirk Susong
5 months ago
Reply to  Vijay Kant

But it turns out that prostitution (legal or not) prompts violent crime. Is this surprising? – Man’s sexual desire is aggressive… we are all familiar with cultural concepts of man as sexual hunter, man as sexual conqueror, man as sexual victor. ‘Notches on the bedpost’ and such. The idea that we can wave the magic wand of legalization to undo this basic feature of sexual difference is bizarre.

Paul Nathanson
Paul Nathanson
5 months ago
Reply to  Kirk Susong

How do you know that “prostitution (legal or not) prompts violent crime”? It does in the sense of providing opportunities for other crimes, of course, such as selling drugs, trafficking, robbery and so on. But you’re not making that argument. You’re arguing that violence is inherent in the very act of seeking the service of a prostitute.
Do you really believe that men seek prostitutes in order to demonstrate martial or sexual prowess? If so, you’ll have to provide some convincing evidence for that. I see no need for such grand theories. On the contrary, I suspect that most of these men accept the simple fact that they have no other access to sex, which happens to be a common human need.

Kirk Susong
Kirk Susong
5 months ago
Reply to  Paul Nathanson

Eh, the relationship between sex and violence is complex, but I agree that having sex with a prostitute is not necessarily a violent act. My argument is more that men are aggressive, and that this expresses itself in everything including their pursuit of sexual opportunities.
PS. I don’t know what to make of the idea that sex is a ‘need’ – this reminds me of the idea that ‘healthcare is a basic human right.’ Even deep and abiding desires, as are men’s for sex, are not needs if we can fashion significant and satisfied lives without them.
And many men have done that – though of course those were not men living under the spell of the sexual revolution! It is more that the sexual revolution has transformed this (perfectly noble) desire into something which expresses our authenticity, defines our worth, and measures the quality of our lives. No wonder they say sex is our society’s new religion.

Paul Nathanson
Paul Nathanson
5 months ago
Reply to  Kirk Susong

It’s a pity that the word “aggressive” has taken on a very negative connotation in common parlance, Kirk, because human existence would be impossible without it. So, it would be helpful if those who use that word (beyond the realm of professional psychology) would include some explanation in order to avoid promoting the illusion that men are not only more aggressive than women psychologically but also better than women morally. In short, aggression is not a synonym for violence.
But I used the word “need” carelessly. Although I avoid the word “right,” which has taken over public discourse but remains without any philosophical foundation (or even any theological foundation in biblical religions), I do see how a need, once identified as such, can become a right–or at least the demand for a right. As you say, it’s risky to argue that people have a need for sex–and therefore a right to it. On the other hand, it would be just as risky to argue that people have a need for love. I do think that this is psychologically true, but I can’t see how that could become a legal right. After all, how could any law force people to love someone? And if a law cannot be enforced, I suggest, then it shouldn’t be a law.
There are people who can live in good health without sex, as you say, although I suspect that most of them choose celibacy for various reasons: theological, philosophical, emotional and so on. But, Kirk, these are very unusual individuals. To argue from their status as exceptions that people in general do not need sex is another matter–especially in view of the fact that we live in a secular society that runs on rampant hedonism and offers nothing but bare toleration for cultural solutions such as monastic communities.
Moreover, society itself needs sex. We could not endure as a species, in fact, without sexual reproduction (although that might change if the transhumanists succeed in creating a new species).

Kirk Susong
Kirk Susong
5 months ago
Reply to  Paul Nathanson

Aggression is indeed different from violence. But there is a link there.
PS. How would we determine if the celibate were unusual individuals or not? What’s unsaid in your comment is that the desire for sex is outside our control. It’s not. We live in a time and place where it is valorized, and assumed to be so totally fundamental to everything, that we cannot imagine the world centuries ago, when it was an appetite to be mastered and controlled.

Paul Nathanson
Paul Nathanson
4 months ago
Reply to  Kirk Susong

It’s probably too late for anyone to read this, Kirk, but I’ll try to answer your useful question–just in case you see it.
I don’t think that sex is beyond our control. In fact, I myself am a voluntary celibate–which is not the same thing as an asexual (that is, someone without sexual urges at all). When I refer to sex as a “need,” I could just as well refer to it as an “appetite” that can indeed be controlled or channeled in ways that are helpful for both the individual and the community. This is why so many religious traditions acknowledge the contributions of ascetics or monastics as worthy exceptions to the norm of marriage.
My own tradition, rabbinic Judaism, is a rare exception in offering no ascetic or monastic alternatives to marriage. Like every other culture, of course, Judaism channels sexual urges into contexts that not only support the family but also make holiness accessible. As you say, the secular society of our time is hedonistic to the core and turns people into prisoners of sexual desire (which is not the same, of course, as love).
P.S. Yes, of course, there’s a link between violence and aggression, just as there’s a link between atomic bombs and atomic power. And aggression is by no means restricted to male biology. Women have less testosterone than men do, but they can be very aggressive in one way or another. I don’t know which hormones or mechanisms are involved in women, but any observation of daily life should be enough to indicate women have and use it in both constructive and destructive ways.
P.P.S. I see no reason to renew my membership in UnHerd, because–apart from you and one or two others–hardly anyone even reads my comments, let alone asks questions. So, in a few weeks, I’ll probably be gone.

Last edited 4 months ago by Paul Nathanson
Richard M
Richard M
5 months ago
Reply to  Paul Canon

Bit hypocritical from the same man whose self-proclaimed first principle was that “good should be pursued and evil avoided”.
Or perhaps I missed the addendum “except when it comes to paying women for sex, because then we should put up with a bit of evil, especially when it would be a lot of bother to sort out.”

Paul Canon
Paul Canon
5 months ago
Reply to  Richard M

I guess it would depend on whether you think Aquinas was a consequentialist like Jeremy Bentham, in which case he would have said indeed to put up with a little evil to avoid a greater evil. He would probably have disagreed with deontologists like Immanuel Kant though as they would have said any evil is never justified.

Vijay Kant
Vijay Kant
5 months ago
Reply to  Richard M

Puritanical attitudes lead to this dilemma. Treat sex just like any other service, and this problem of good versus evil vanishes!

Jane Anderson
Jane Anderson
5 months ago
Reply to  Vijay Kant

Do you actually know any women?

Daniel P
Daniel P
5 months ago
Reply to  Jane Anderson

Gotta say, that was kinda my gut take too.

First though, I think the topic at hand is that it appears we have already turned prostitution into just any other service, at least legally that appears what we have done.

Second, should we be legislating morality? I can think of a lot of laws that make things illegal that most people would see as harmless and I can think of a wide swath of things that are legal but morally reprehensible.

Third, we need to ask the question; Do women have the right to sell their bodies if they so choose? That is the first question.

If we say that they do have that right then the following question would be; Do they have that right under all circumstances?

Followed immediately by; Do other people have the right to sell her body even with her consent?

It may be that what we ultimately conclude is that independent prostitution should be legal but organized prostitution should not.

But, what if the woman in question feels safer in an organized brothel as opposed to being independent?

Are we then left with a situation in which independent women, acting as prostitutes would then pay a fee to lease a space and for security on hand?

If that is the case, then how is that substantially different from working for a pimp?

The answer may be that it is different in the sense that she is an independent contractor paying for a service herself as opposed to being an employee. So, she has the choice to mover her business to a new location that suits her better. In essence, the brothels have to earn her business the way that an office building needs to make itself attractive to a business.

Kirk Susong
Kirk Susong
5 months ago
Reply to  Vijay Kant

What does it mean for the ‘problem of good vs evil’ to vanish? There is good, and there is evil. Our goal is to create social norms to encourage the one and discourage the latter. Beyond that will be for God to sort out.

Paul Nathanson
Paul Nathanson
5 months ago
Reply to  Kirk Susong

Okay, Kirk, that’s your goal. My goal is to avoid ever-increasing polarization (which I see throughout these comments) so that we can all live together with at least some respect for each other despite our diverging beliefs.
It’s very easy to distinguish between good and evil in philosophical or theological theory, sure, but it’s very difficult to do so within the ambiguous reality of daily life in a finite world and even within ourselves. It’s true, as you say, that we can–no, must–use the law to establish order and even to proclaim moral ideals. But the law is a very blunt instrument and can turn easily into a weapon. Moreover, even the law acknowledges ambiguity, especially in connection with motivation.

Kirk Susong
Kirk Susong
5 months ago
Reply to  Paul Nathanson

Yeah, sure, the world is messy. But this realization supports my perspective. You appear to agree… “we can–no, must–use the law to establish order and even to proclaim moral ideals.” The law is indeed a blunt tool – but in every legal system there are gradations, room for maneuver, discretion and judgment calls, etc.
I use to be a criminal defense attorney… I’m under no illusions about the difficulty of using law to change human behavior.

David Morley
David Morley
5 months ago
Reply to  Vijay Kant

Ditto, romantic attitudes – ie those which hold sex to be something special. You may be right. I’m just too romantic to agree with you.

David Morley
David Morley
5 months ago

If JBs argument is that legalisation inevitably makes the situation worse, then I think she has to be wrong.

If she is saying that the particular approaches taken in these countries have failed to improve things, then lessons should be learned and better approaches should be taken.

There is, of course, the argument that the state becomes morally compromised through its involvement (similar arguments can, and are, made about abortion, for example). But these states have chosen to be more pragmatic, and I think they are right. Simply turning a blind eye is unlikely to lead to better outcomes for the women concerned.

Jane Anderson
Jane Anderson
5 months ago
Reply to  David Morley

Why do you think she “has to be wrong”? Have you done much research on the matter yourself? I don’t think she’s talking about ” better or worse” anyway. She is suggesting that legalisation doesn’t empower or protect women in the way its supporters suggest it does.

Last edited 5 months ago by Jane Anderson
David Morley
David Morley
5 months ago
Reply to  Jane Anderson

Regulation of dangerous activities may make them more dangerous if the regulation is poorly thought out. But it’s rarely better to have no regulation. Think speed limits, seat belts etc.

Also, if you notice the word “if” at the start of the first two paras you will understand better what I am saying

Paul Nathanson
Paul Nathanson
5 months ago
Reply to  David Morley

Yes, David, that’s a good argument.

Paul Nathanson
Paul Nathanson
5 months ago
Reply to  David Morley

But is the only alternative to banning prostitution really “turning a blind eye” to it? I don’t think so. That’s a non sequitur. Things are more complex even in connection with alcohol. Having tried prohibition and failed by fostering organized crime, a cure that was worse than the disease, did we cut out all legislation on alcohol? Of course not. We still have at least legal age limits and other laws (such as those that prevent adulteration, control imports and so on).

David Morley
David Morley
5 months ago
Reply to  Paul Nathanson

Yes – you could say that’s a policy of containment or control rather than banning. And perhaps an acceptance that we are not purely moral beings. We need a balance that works.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
5 months ago

Prostitution is a filthy business, and always attracts criminals, whether the business ess is legal.or not. Morally, it is a shockingly abusive transaction.

Daniel P
Daniel P
5 months ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

Ok, then what is your suggestion?

Oh, and by the way, please define prostitution for me.

I got a feeling you will not like the process of answering that question.

At its core, what is prostitution? Is it trading sex for money? Is it trading sex for anything of value or even just something that the person trading the sex wants?

Is a woman who seduces a man to live in his house because she has nowhere to go a prostitute? She is trading sex for shelter and that shelter has a value.

Is a middle class wife who withholds sex from her husband until he does X or Y, trading sex for something? Is that prostitution?

A woman who trades access to sex to an older man to gain access to his connections and money a prostitute? Think Sugar Babies.

Is a kept mistress a prostitute? She is trading sex for not having to work and to live well.

Is a wife that marries a wealthy man only because he is rich and can give her the life she wants a prostitute? She is clearly trading sex for wealth.

Is a woman who prioritizes a man’s income in selecting a husband selling herself for money? Is she engaged in prostitution or is it ok because she got a ring?

A woman that has sex with her boss for career advancement a prostitute?

What about lesser things? I watched a young woman negotiate flashing her boobs with a bouncer to get bumped in line and free entry. Is that a form of prostitution?

OR, are we only saying that poor women who directly trade sex for cash are prostitutes.

Which of these behaviors would qualify for criminalization? Who should be prosecuted?

Then, finally, how exactly, given that prostitution in all its forms has been with us as long as there have been humans, do we expect to eradicate it? Nothing has worked at eliminating it. Not criminal penalties. Not fines. Not publishing the faces of pimps and Johns. It is still there, it just gets pushed further underground and that would seem to put the women at greater risk.

jf2023
jf2023
5 months ago
Reply to  Daniel P

Prostitution generally involves an explicit and enforceable agreement to trade sex against some sort of compensation (usually money, but might in principle consist of any good or service). When there is no prostitution, both parties can revoke or suspend consent to sex at any time without risking any sanctions that can’t be applied independently of the sexual state of affairs.
One example: A husband might divorce his wife mainly on the grounds of too little sex, but (at least in the Western world) he can also divorce her for any other reason, or no reason at all. A binding contract explicitly linking regular sex to material benefits within the marriage would fall into the prostitution category, at least under the Nordic-style legislation.
Another example: A landlord might provide his tenant with lower rent given an implicit agreement to have sex now and then, but unless he has other legal reasons to do so, he can’t kick that tenant out or increase the rent if she happens to change her mind — and making an explicit written agreement would constitute prostitution by definition and be illegal.
By this definition, sugar babies and kept mistresses would usually not qualify as prostitution in the legal sense, and I think most people would find that quite reasonable, even if they find such practices morally reprehensible.

Last edited 5 months ago by jf2023
Malcolm Knott
Malcolm Knott
5 months ago

The choice seems to be between having something which is 100% horrible (illegal, unregulated prostitution) and something which is only 95% horrible (legalised prostitution). The only long-term solution, viz., women declining to do it, evidently ain’t going to happen any time soon (i.e. not in the next 1,000 years); certainly not while young girls enjoy stripping off for their iPhone fans and lefties tell them that sex work is real work.

Arthur G
Arthur G
5 months ago
Reply to  Malcolm Knott

Except when it’s legal, there’s a lot more of it going on. Just look at pot use now that’s it’s effectively legal in the Us; it’s everywhere.
So if it’s a choice between X amount of something 100% horrible and 3X amount of something 95% horrible the former is preferable.

Malcolm Knott
Malcolm Knott
5 months ago
Reply to  Arthur G

I cannot pretend that my figures were precise, but I take your point.

Timothy Baker
Timothy Baker
5 months ago

Don’t punish the girls, punish the client. A quick appearance in Court, with a paragraph or two in the local paper, would soon put the brakes on most men. it is also a fact that sex and drugs are often sold side by side.

David Morley
David Morley
5 months ago
Reply to  Timothy Baker

it is also a fact that sex and drugs are often sold side by side.

But we punish the pushers more heavily than the users!

Daniel P
Daniel P
5 months ago
Reply to  Timothy Baker

We have tried that in the US in different places. We even went so far as to publish their photos and names in the paper and online.

Yeah, made no difference in the end. Like most crimes, people do not do them thinking they are gonna get caught.

And, to be honest, I am not sure that in our modern culture that a lot of men would feel ashamed or be made to feel ashamed. I am not even sure that a lot of young women today would judge them harshly.

I mean seriously, all over social media and online publications and podcasts, you have many many young women discussing exactly how they commoditize sex for their own ends. They openly discuss how to get things from men using sex and it is not just on the fringe anymore. Now, is that formal prostitution? Probably not, but from a practical perspective?

Now, you would THINK at first that the men would be cool with this, but in the end they realize they are only a wallet to be tapped.

Gross as it may seem to those of us who are older, we have a generation of young women that increasingly disassociate sex with intimacy or commitment. Once you do that then sex is just entertainment. Once it reaches that point it is not a far leap to realize that since sex has no value, no cost, beyond being entertainment, to saying that you should be able to sell it for something you want. Now, that might be getting something directly like a car or maybe a watch OR it could be the cash to go get those things yourself.

Its the same mentality that allows porn companies to keep attracting college age girls who will do porn shoots to pay for their spring break.

We could argue all day about how the culture got to where it is, but it is where it is.

Rory Hoipkemier
Rory Hoipkemier
5 months ago

Thank-you, Ms. Bindel. I have not read any comments, but whole-heartedly agree that the legalization of prostitution is the worse possible world for vulnerable women and girls. The criminal element in illegal prostitution is always the buyer or the pimp. Only they should be prosecuted, as the drivers of the this sordid “business”. Women (and we seem to know what women are when it comes to most prostitution), need assistance, counsel and friendship to get out of this terrible situation.

Tyler Durden
Tyler Durden
5 months ago

Few people were convinced by the mass decriminalisation of brothels in Germany following the Amsterdam. Few except the users who are now able to avoid the police on the streets or in the odd raid.
It has also happened in my part of Spain and it’s obvious that the police go to the bordellos (called ‘clubs’ or even ‘nightclubs’) to take their percentage from the gangs who run them.
If anything, the consequence of the expansion of this still frightening trade is the emergence of ‘cam’ sex shows on the Internet. There the girls are not protected from pimps but at least the clients are down an electronic wire. Again, these new websites are making a fortune for their owners who are the real exploiters of these girls, even if the (First World) OnlyFans performers claim their accounts are making them rich and ’empowered’.

Frank McCusker
Frank McCusker
5 months ago

Any man who uses prostitutes is a loser and a scumbag. Women enjoy sex. It’s not difficult to find, despite the bleatings of cissy, self-pitying incels. Part of the joy of sex is the courtship and being desired by a woman. Any man who’d pay to have a woman do that which millions of women do because they want to, well words fail me. Well no, actually: “loser scumbags” covers them nicely.  
No, if brothels are your thing, the Japanese do it somewhat better. Women own the latest Japanese brothels. They don’t hire prostitutes. They figured that you didn’t need to – and they were right. It works like this: If you’re a guy, and you fancy sex with a random stranger, you leave your photo and details of any relevant preferences in a notice-board in the foyer (it’s checked to make sure it’s a reasonable likeness). You hire a single room for an hour. It’s private; there aren’t any voyeurs. During lunch, and again after work, ordinary working women in Tokyo check out the notice-boards. They don’t pay. The man doesn’t pay them. The only payment is for the hire of the room.
Of course, that allows women to select, and one would assume that yer average Western brothel customer wouldn’t fare too well if he was reliant on women picking him lol.

David Morley
David Morley
5 months ago

There seems to an unstated assumption here that the Pimps/business people running the brothels are exclusively male. Is this the case? I believe that in Ireland, before they were closed, the brothels were run by women, and that in Japan part of the history of the geisha system was a takeover of the sex industry by women.

And if they were women business people, would that be any better? It wouldn’t support JBs narrative of the exploitation of women by men, but would the women doing the work really be any better off?

Ben Shipley
Ben Shipley
5 months ago

Prostitution as described here isn’t that much different or worse than working conditions in the Industrial Revolution. Maybe what is needed now is less moralizing about the work itself and more effort, supported by government, to unionize the work force. No matter how much moral ink was spilled, it wasn’t until the advent of widespread industrial unions that western workers crawled out of their disgusting conditions into the modern middle class.

Paul Nathanson
Paul Nathanson
5 months ago
Reply to  Ben Shipley

That’s an unusual and interesting argument, Ben.

bdank22
bdank22
5 months ago

Oops, it’s Bindel not Binder.

Susan Scheid
Susan Scheid
5 months ago