Thursday, July 10, 2014

TO BUY OR TO SELL, WHO'S TO BLAME IN PROSTITUTION?

A few years ago in an internet search frenzy (you know where you find out about a subject then must search EVERYTHING there is to know about them), I became obsessed with Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir, Iceland's now former prime minister. A rockin' lesbian feminist who seemed to be kicking butts and taking names, she had put in place a series of laws to penalize men who paid for sex. She wanted to shift the blame from women who were selling sex onto men who were buying, presumably because those women were already in a vulnerable and marginalized situation. It seemed that if you lessened the demand, prosecuting men and shaming them for the act, you would decrease the prevalence of sex work and sex trafficking. Through Jina Moore's article, "In Sweden Being A Prostitute Is Legal — But Paying One Isn’t", I came to find out that this is actually referred to as the "Nordic Model" and was adapted from Sweden (whatever I still love Jóhanna and that white-blonde bob and "bitch please" stare).  While I support the general focus on male motivation rather than just female victimization, especially when it comes to more severe sexually based crimes, with sex work this may not necessarily have the desired effect. 

 The article brought up a lot of realizations about the "Nordic Model" and a lot of questions about laws around sex work. Penalizing the buyer doesn't necessarily end sex traffic, it's just another hurdle for distributors to figure out how to overcome. In countries where sex work is legal, sex workers may be better off in terms of their access to health services (Germany's healthy looking sex workers on the streets of Berlin did amaze me) but abuse, drug use, and the question of free will still exist. Also, does the "happy prostitute" exist? A woman who freely elects to sell and profit of her body simply because she wants to. Are laws that ban sex work simply another way of trying to control women's bodies? Is it feminist to be anti-sex work because it's exploitative to women or is it anti-feminist to be in favor of legally restricting sex-work because shouldn't women be able to say what they do with their own bodies?

Check out Jina Moore's article on Buzzfeed: