The Idea of Prostitution


Danielle Strickland looks at the tragic personal and societal effects of legalized prostitution.

I’ve been reading a great book by Sheila Jeffreys, ‘The Idea of Prostitution’, which outlines the history of feminist opinions on prostitution and the connection between human trafficking. Very enlightening. The state of Victoria (where I live in Australia) decided to legalize prostitution fourteen years ago – I think in the hope that it would ‘liberate women’. The reality, of course, is a harsh one…

Fourteen years later:

  • more men go to more and bigger brothels
  • each week 60,000 men spend $7 million on prostitution
  • the number of illegal brothels is 4 times larger than legal ones (400 vs 100)
  • legalization makes men more demanding of practices which women do not like – and makes women more powerless to resist them because of greater competition. it also gives more power to the brothel owners
  • 80% of street prostituted women are drug users, and 85-90% are homeless
  • legalisation and decriminalisation lead to the growth of the industry of prostitution. The traffic in women to supply the legal and illegal brothels is an inevitable result
  • trafficked women are placed in both illegal and legal brothels.. women are sold to both for $15,000 each. Police suspect they are forced to have sex with 800 men to pay off debts to the traffickers before they receive ay money (Murphy 2002)
  • legalisation creates a culture in which men’s prostitution behaviour is normalised, and takes an ordinary, everyday place in the culture
  • brothel owners are welcome in the Rotary Club, and are profiled as role models in respectable newspapers – brothels are even listed on the stock exchange

I’m wondering how many more years will pass before we decide to treat Australian women with some dignity and stand up for their real rights by offering them meaningful work!

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