In the Blog

Shameless on the streets

January 24th, 2007     by Zoe Cormier     Comments

We’ve heard a lot about prostitutes lately. What with the recent hunt for a serial killer in Ipswich, England, and now with Pickton’s trial starting in BC, we’re certainly going to hear a lot more about them.

Theres one thing that I’ve always puzzled over, as a feminist and as a sexual being: is prostitution a form of exploitation? Is a woman who accepts money for sex just another victim of our male-dominated society? Or is the world’s “oldest profession” just another way for a business-savvy woman to make a quick buck?

First, let me say there’s no question that prostitution should be fully legal, and that it needs to be taken out of the shadows and into the sunlight. Sex workers should not have to live in fear of their clients or of their pimps (indeed, there should be no pimps at all). The exchange of money for sex is clearly never going to go away, and we ought learn how to deal with it, before thirty other women disappear from Vancouvers east side.

But still the question begs to be asked: is there something inherently wrong with prostitution?

If youd asked me this question when I was 14, I would have undoubtedly said yes, it is wrong: look at the living conditions of most prostitutes, this is a life none of us would want for our sisters and daughters. The Johns maintain their anonymity, while the whores endure lives of shame, poverty and violence. If men and women were truly equal, nobody would ever pay for sex - it would always be a mutual experience of pleasure and joy, not a commodity to be bought and sold.

Thats what I would have said at 14. Now, Im not so sure. I think that there are always going to be men that none of us feel like sleeping with (especially in the worlds most populous country, China, where they expect to have an excess of 30 million men by 2020).

So what do those men do? Spend their lives without ever getting laid? Take their frustrations out through assault?

Isnt it better for those men to find comfort in the arms of a professional who wont judge them, shame them, or expose them? And isnt it better for the rest of us that we dont have to deal with those men? In fact, shouldnt women everywhere be grateful to prostitutes for taking on the responsibility of sleeping with the most undesirable men?

Paulo Coelho explored some of these issues in Eleven Minutes, a novel about a Brazilian girl who finds that her best option to save for her future is to sell her body. Not only does she find it highly lucrative, she also considers the idea that prostitution can be honourable a profession that provides spiritual healing and physical comfort to those in need. When I read this novel I thought, maybe we should view prostitutes just as we view nurses and doctors: somebody who does a messy job for the public good.

Whatever your opinion, I think we can all agree that the western world has done a pretty shitty job of accepting and incorporating prostitutes into society. Serial killers have always been drawn to prostitutes because they are easy prey: invisible to most people, a sex worker can go missing for months, years even, before the police notice or care.

Which is why I was so thrilled to see this story about prostitutes in Rio de Janeiro hosting their own catwalk show during the citys star-studded fashion week.

This rocks on so many different levels. It rocks because the women were not ashamed to reveal their identities in public. It rocks because the organizers point out how many mainstream artists, from Picasso to Madonna, have been inspired by the whore aesthetic. It rocks because they threw condoms to the audience.

Most of all though, I think this fashion show rocks because it reminds us that selling your body for sex is nothing to be ashamed of. Prostitutes have every reason to hold their heads high and strut their stuff.

Tags: body politics, in my opinion..., news flash

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