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September 30, 2004

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» Is Manhood a Vessel? A minor disagreement with Hugo Schwyzer from Alas, a Blog
Hugo Schwyzer is discussing prostitution, and in particular a proposal to "punish U.S. servicemen who visit overseas prostitutes." Rep. Chris Smith - who is the worse enemy of women's rights in Congress on issues like abortion rights, UNFPA, same-sex m... [Read More]

Comments

flaime

I am still mystified by the continued attempts to restrict individuals from using services offered willingly by others. I agree that forced prositution is bad. But that doesn't make all prostitution bad. If a person (man or woman) seeks, willingly, to sell their body for sex, why do so many object and seek to prohibit their actions? Purely for reasons of religious moralism? Why do those of us who find said moralism ridiculous have to live by those standards? I believe that religion is supposed to be seperate from governance, at least in the US, after all.

Hugo

Offered willingly? In a world of grinding poverty, tell me how any woman (or child) offers her body "willingly"? This is not about legalizing prostitution in the wealthy west - it's about protecting women and girls from economic exploitation, trafficking, slavery and degradation.

Thel

In a world of grinding poverty, tell me how any woman (or child) offers her body "willingly"?

Er, well...what about those members of the military posted in Germany, where prostitution is legal and regulated? (Are there other countries with US military presence where the situation is similar?) Seems a little overboard for those instances.

I came over from Alas, A Blog to read the conversation about women who smile/don't smile at bossy strangers, so I'm not a regular reader and you can feel free to discount my disagreement. I think I'll be reading more regularly from now on, though. Thanks!

John

I've taught the children of Prostitutes, so I have five words for you. Throw the book at them. Scumbags! Grrr!

John

Oops, my pronouns are out of whack. I meant the men, not the prostitutes or their children. These men are vultures and predators, and they need a good thrashing.

joe

well, i agree with you. however i have a tiny problem with a pacifist referring to soldiers as ambassadors.

susan

While I totally agree on forced prostitution and in particular, the use of children, this song below shows a different viewpoint, from that of a prostitute during war time. Made sad and poignant, it is still worth consideration:

(sorry for the long comment)

“51917” by David Olney
(Sung by Emmylou Harris and Linda Ronstadt on “Western Wall” CD”

The strange young man who comes to me/A soldier on a three-day spree/Who needs one night’s cheap ecstasy/and a woman’s arms to hide in/He greets me with a courtly bow/And hides his pain by acting proud/He drinks too much and he laughs too loud/How can I deny him?/Let us dance beneath the moon/I’ll sing to you “Claire de Lune”/The morning always comes too soon/But tonight the war is over/He speaks to me in schoolboy French/Of a soldier’s life inside a trench/Of the look of death and the ghastly stench/I do my best to please him/He puts two roses in a vase/Two roses sadly out of place/Like the gallant smile on his haggard face/Playfully I tease him/Hold me ‘neath the Paris sky/Let’s not talk of how or why/Tomorrow’s soon enough to die/But tonight the war is over/We make love too hard, too fast/He falls asleep, his face a mask/He wakes with the shakes and drinks from his flask/I put my arms around him/They die in the trenches and they die in the air/In Belgium and France the dead are everywhere/They die so fast there’s no time to prepare/A decent grave to surround them/Old world glory, old world fame/The old world’s gone, gone up in flames/Nothing will ever be the same/And nothing lasts forever/Oh, I’d pray for him but I’ve forgotten how/and there’s nothing, nothing that can save him now/There’s always another with the same funny bow/And who am I to deny them/Lux aeterna Luce-at e-is/Domine cum sanctis tu-is in aeternum/qui-a pius es/Requiem aeternaum dona e-is Domine/qui-a-pius es/et lux perpetua luce-at-e-is Cum sanctis tu-is in aeternum qui-a pi-us es/Tonight the war is over.

Joe G.

Well, dear Hugo, I'm not sure you found THE topic that would unite your diverse readership (it must be more than 23 regular readers what with all the comments you get these days!) given what is already posted thus far. :)

But, I agree with your thoughts. My understanding is that the vast majority of people involved with prostitution in the 3/4th world would be considered children in the 1/4th world, are forced, conjoled, and/or pressured into it, are at far higher risk for STD's particularly HIV, and often find themselves stigmatized by society for the majority of their typically shorter lives. Seems like just the right kind of work to defend to me!

Nice post, H.

DJW

Hugo, I'm in nominal agreement with you. I'm pretty firmly in support of the legalization of prostitution in countries like the US and Germany for a slew of reasons that have nothing to do with a libertarian style freedom of contract (Hint: prostitutes lives are much safer when they can safely call on police for protection).

On the German case, I'm not sure. I can certainly see some good arguments for making prostitution against military policy even if it's not against local law. In both Germany and the horrible world of prostitution in much of SE Asia, any provision to really punish violators will require an instrusive, morale-lowering, expensive and very difficult investigatory effort. In places like SE Asia, I say it's pretty clearly worth it. In Germany, I my suspicion is that such an effort can't really be justified, but feel free to convince me otherwise.

Plug: My co-blogger's left/feminist case for legalizing prostitution, with which I am in 97% agreement:
http://lefarkins.blogspot.com/2004/09/score-one-for-nozick.html

Amanda

I think if nothing else, this is a good measure because by punishing johns as well as prostitutes we are acknowledging that there would be no whores if there weren't customers.

Kelly

Sorry Susan, it pains me to say it, as I am a fan of Emmylou's and Linda's, but that is the most absurd and overly-romanticized justification for prostitution i've ever heard. The way I understood the song it was this womans duty to sleep with the soldiers because their life was so hard and depressing? She was doing her wartime effort? That she there is some kind of honor in servicing these men? Whatever! These women, of whom Hugo is speaking of, aren't Edith Piaf type prostitutues, pining away for the boys who have been lost at war. For one alot of them aren't even women, but little girls, those that survive prostituting themselves are likely to die of AIDS or other sexually transmitted diseases. Their lives are horrible, horrible, horrible, I doubt that for them there is little honor in what they do, they don't do it for fun, they don't do it for duty and often they don't even do it for money as they don't see a dime from unscrupulous madams/pimps. Take of the rose colored glasses people, this is hardly "Ma Vie En Rose"...

Hugo

Gosh, I'm with Kelly on this one, Susan, and I love Emmylou too.

Let's remember we are talking not about German women in a socially democratic, liberal society, but women in Korea, in the Phillipines, Thailand and so forth. They are far more likely to be the targets of sexual exploitation than western women. The vast majority of them enter prostitution before the age of consent, and receive little renumeration for their efforts.

I've always supported going after johns only. Put their photos in the paper. Don't put the sex workers in jail, only their clients.

DJW

Glad to hear it, Hugo--if prostitution is to be criminal, that's the most defensible way to go about it.

And, of course, their "business managers" as well, but that goes without saying.

La Lubu

Let's not forget that most western women in the sex trade have been sexually and/or physically abused as children. Most are also addicted to drugs, and prostitution is the only way left to feed their addiction. The sex trade isn't a picnic anywhere. And as for the "six months is a long time"....well damn! is six months long enough to make one forget how to masturbate?!

DJW

I certainly agree that the song presents an overly romanticized version of prostitition, and fails rather completely in "justifying" the institution (was that the aim?), but let me defend it for a minute. I turn to art for beauty, and one place beauty can be found is in human connection in the most unlikely places and circumstances. A tender moment between prostitute and john is certainly not the historical norm, nor should it ever be presented as evidence of a case for prostitution, but it is certainly a potentially appropriate as the subject of a work of art.

As another example: I strongly disapprove of sexual relationships between octogenarians and teenagers, but I still think Harold and Maude is a touching a beautiful movie.

Brandon

The drunken deeds of America's unwitting freckle-faces in the brothels of Bangkok are bad enough. The willful refusal among the powerful to acknowledge that each year American troops pump millions of dollars into Asia's vicious skin trade is criminal.

This line's poetic. I likes.

Jeff JP

Prostitution is really bad stuff all the way around.

Sam

I'm an activist who has been working on issues of prostitution and sexual exploitation for some time now. In fact, I just returned from a conference in Toledo, OH focused on prostitution and the sex industry and will be attending another one focused on human trafficking in Portland, OR on Monday October 4th.

I used to think that it was possible to legalize and regulate prostitution so that less harm is inflicted. I no longer hold that position. I have come to believe the Swedish model of decriminalized women but very criminalized johns is the most effective one for addressing the severe physical and mental trauma of prostitution and ending the exploitation of women by sexual predators.

There's no longer any need to wonder if legalized prostitution would benefit women because evidence collected from places around the world where it has been legalized demonstrate the complete lack of meeting harm reduction goals. In Australia, Germany, the Netherlands and a few other places the legalization of prostitution has:

- increased illegal prostitution
- increased human trafficking
- increased gang activity
- increased child prostitution
- increased the transmission of sexual diseases (most notably gonorrhea and genital warts, a leading cause of cervical cancer)

In all my time studying this issue I have not come across one legalization model that actually reduces the harms of prostitution besides the 1999 Swedish model. Sweden had legalized prostitution for almost 30 years and through that came to the conclusion that prostitution is organized violence against women and children and should not be tolerated in a democracy.

Please investigate more at www.prostitutionresearch.com or email me if you would like further references on this subject. A few years ago I never would have thought my life would focus on this issue in the way it has, but there's a passion for justice that burns in me and I can't turn my back on my fellow citizens when too many people ignore the devastation that prostitution brings to people, communities, relationships and health.

Sam


Hugo

Sam, as one who has long suspected what you are saying is true, I am eager for the evidence. Thanks for the info and the links.

Jonathan Dresner

I'm sorry, but I can't get on the bandwagon with this. I am entirely sympathetic to the idea of reducing the incidence and harm of prostitution, but this does not represent, to me, a principled way of doing so. Mostly as a jurisdictional issue: I think military regulations regarding private sexual behavior (including adultery and homosexuality) should be scrapped not expanded; I think the idea of extending US law to cover punitively the actions of US citizens outside of US jurisdiction is a dangerous model.

The Swedish model cited here, decriminalizing prostitutes while increasingly criminalizing their customers is highly problematic for me as well on similar grounds: it may be practical, but it is not just.

Hugo

Jonathan, you and I have been on the same page many times. But on this one, buddy, I'm flabbergasted. How can you compare adultery and consensual homosexuality to purchasing sex from impoverished Third World women, many of whom are underage? I'm mystified. Please clarify.

Michelle

Wow. I'm floored! It sounds like many of the people responding are perhaps not aware of the conditions of prostitution in say, Thailand, where...

Young girls are offered jobs as maids, and leave home to help their families, and then find themselves locked in a room for days, drugged and molested until their spirit is broken. They then go on to "service" 50+ customers a day! If they try to leave, they are severely punished. This happens to young boys too. Sometimes the children are kidnapped; sometimes they are sold by their desparate parents, who really want to believe that their child is actually going someplace where there is legit economic opportunity. AIDS is epidemic among these very young people.

What is particularly sickening is that there are American travel agencies who will set up Asian "sex tours" for creeps who want to have sex with young girls or boys. Many, many people in the US support this industry, not only the military.

*Where* is there room for debate here???

Michelle

And...if my husband ever did such a thing, he would not only betray my trust in our relationship, but also betray every value that I hold dear. The poison that this action spreads is a most lethal type...

Xrlq

As I understand the rule, it would prohibit servicemen from using any prostitutes, not just underaged, impoverished ones.

That said, I'd be pretty hard pressed to come up with any credible justification for a policy that prohibits adultery and homosexuality while allowing prostitution. So while I generally lean in favor of abolishing victimless crime laws, I agree that as a military policy, the ban would be appropriate. In fact, I'm a little surprised it's not in place already, and hasn't been for decades.

Hugo

Do you really think, XRLQ, that prostitution involving Third World women of any age is a victimless crime?

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