Myth: Women choose to get involved in prostitution
Fact: Most women become involved in prostitution because of lack of choice and many are groomed, pressured and/or coerced by pimps or traffickers. It is well documented that a majority of women in prostitution are poor, homeless and have already suffered violence and abuse throughout their life. 70% of those involved in street prostitution have a history of local authority care and 45% report experiencing sexual abuse during their childhoods (Home Office 2006). Many enter prostitution before age 18. Once in prostitution, 9 out 10 surveyed women would like to exit but feel unable to do so (Farley et al, 2003). It is the men who buy sex who are exercising free choice, and it is this “choice” to purchase vulnerable women and girls that maintains prostitution and fuels trafficking for sexual exploitation.
Myth: Prostitution is just sex
Fact: Prostitution is not about sex. It is about exploitation, violence and abuse. More than half of UK women in prostitution have been raped and/or seriously assaulted at the hands of pimps and punters (Home Office 2004). Up to 95% of women in street prostitution are intravenous drug users (Home Office 2004); and 68% meet the criteria for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (Ramsay, R et al, 1993). “I would numb my feelings. I wouldn’t even feel like I was in my body…I don’t know how else to explain it……it was rape to me” (In Farley, 2003)
Myth: Only women sell sex
Fact: While the overwhelming majority of those who sell sex are female, it must be acknowledged that there is also a hidden population of men who sell sex and experience many of the same issues of exploitation and abuse. The problems of poverty, addiction, homelessness, grooming by a pimp continue to be the routes into prostitution for men who sell sex and similarly to women sellers of sex there is a clear lack of choice. It is the circumstances combined with the demand for sex which have forced the individual into prostitution. What is clear, however, is that those who buy sex, either from men or women, are predominantly male.
Myth: Criminalising the purchase of sex drives prostitution underground
Fact: The nature of the sex industry is that it is underground and it is very difficult to scope or quantify. However, prostitution can never truly exist “underground” – if punters can those selling sex, so can the Police and those offering services to help exit prostitution. Criminalising the purchase of sex and offering support services to people in prostitution is the only viable way to work towards an end to this exploitative industry. In Sweden, where they have criminalised the buying of sexual acts, there has been a significant reduction in trafficking and prostitution with a halt in recruitment of new women (Baklinski, 2007). Sweden is no longer an attractive market for traffickers and pimps – the law clearly works as a deterrent.
Myth: Legalisation is better for those involved in prostitution
Fact: Prostitution is harmful in and of itself: legalisation doesn’t remove that harm – it simply makes the harm legal. Legalisation or decriminalisation of the industry does not deal with the long term psychological and physical effects of having unwanted and often violent and abusive sex numerous times a day and having to act like you enjoy it. To cope with this those involved in prostitution report having to dissociate and “split off” in their heads – hence why drug and alcohol abuse is so prevalent. Legalisation does not make individuals safer and it expands an industry in which violence against the women and sometimes men involved is at its most extreme.
Myth: Legalising prostitution stops illegal prostitution and trafficking
Fact: Legalisation and complete decriminalisation gives a green light to pimps and traffickers making it easier for them to operate. In New Zealand, complete decriminalisation has led to the illegal sector expanding to make up 80% of the industry (Instone and Margersion, 2007), and according to the Mayor of Amsterdam “it is impossible to create a safe and controllable zone for women that is not open to abuse by organised crime” (Bindel and Kelly, 2004).
Myth: Treating prostitution as ordinary work removes the stigma
Fact: Normalising prostitution makes the abuse, violence and exploitation invisible and turns pimps and punters into business people and legitimate consumers. Recognising prostitution as “just a job” ignores the violence, poverty and marginalisation which drives people into prostitution, and means an end to services to support people out of prostitution – why would you need exit strategies for a “normal” job?
“In Germany the service union ver.di offered union membership to Germany’s estimated 400,000 sex workers. They would be entitled to health care, legal aid, thirty paid holiday days a year, a five day work week, and Christmas and holiday bonuses. Out of 400,000 sex workers, only 100 joined the union. That’s .00025% of German sex workers. Women don’t want to be prostitutes”.
“Frequently Asked Questions About Prostitution.”Answered by S.M.Berg.http://www.oneangrygirl.net/antiporn.html
Myth: Many involved in the sex industry find it sexually liberating and a glamorous career choice.
Fact: Mainstream media outlets glamorise the “porn star” life and focus on the media friendly story of the “Belle du Jour” fantasy of a successful and glamorous call girl. Instead of showing the realities of lap dancing or prostitution, the media focuses on discussions of their choice to participate in the sex industry. More focus must be placed on the actual harm experienced by individual women as well as the broader cultural harm of normalising an industry which thrives on gender inequality and the objectification of women. Empowered sex “workers” represent the minority of women involved in the sex industry. Most of those involved in the industry are struggling with addiction issues, poverty, mental health issues, abuse from a partner or childhood abuse. It is survival behaviour. It is those who form the true invisible majority.
MYTH: Most of the public are in favour of legalisation of the sex industry
FACT: Whilst a minority of prominent voices are calling for legalisation, there is no evidence to support the claim that they speak either on behalf of society as a whole, or for the majority of the UK population. A survey (ICM 2008) commissioned by BBC1’s The Politics Show in January 2008 found that over half of the general public (52%) and three quarters of young people (73%) actually support the criminalisation of the purchase of sexual services. Before sanctions were introduced in Sweden, public support for the bill stood at only 49%, rocketing to 82% following enactment.
MYTH: The Swedish law approach of criminalising demand has not provided support services for those involved in prostitution or for those exiting:
FACT: This is simply untrue. 70 million kroner (£6million) was invested in support services when the Swedish legislation criminalising the purchase of sex was introduced in 1999. Estimated numbers of people in prostitution consequently fell from around 25,000 to a current estimate of 2500. In July 2008, the Swedish government announced new funding of 210 million kroner (£20 million) for prostitute services, including the expansion of direct support and public sector training.
The End Prostitution Now campaign would like to acknowledge: