Just let the working girls work

Posted: January 23, 2012 in feminism
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Queen of Thorns smacks around Auckland Councillor Cameron Brewer on her blog, excoriating (in her appropriately confrontational style) him for trying to edge out small brothels. This is part of a larger trend in councils around New Zealand.

While I am okay with regulation on brothels that essentially encourages them to be good neighbours, (I’d support that sort of regulation on anyone- noise control, height limits, avoidance of public nudity, etc…) “regulation” here is usually a code word for trying to keep sex work out of sight and out of mind, so that hypocrites who get off on the idea of buying women (and you can usually assume anyone trying to disappear sex workers is doing so because they use a “higher class” of sex worker that’s more discrete) can safely ignore sex work when they’re not paying for it. Brothels run into legal opposition from councils wherever they operate- if they’re in the city, they’re hit by zoning laws. If they’re in residential areas, we’re hit with moral panic about whether they’re close to schools, (who cares? They’re not going to be propositioning children, and it’s not going to attract pedophiles to the school, because pedophiles aren’t attracted to adults) and Councillors try to shut them down with operating hour restrictions that cut their business to shreds, and other onerous regulation.

And the really stupid part? Right from the scoop story:

A past High Court case with the former Auckland City Council ruled that SOOBs are legally permitted to operate in residential areas and that council’s bylaws cannot be overly restrictive.

Auckland’s councils can’t restrict these small brothels to mixed-zoning areas like they want to, because there’s already judicial precedent, and you’d just be wasting your council’s money defending a provision that has already been struck down previously. The courts will ultimately shoot down these attempts to open up a legal loophole, because it’s been clearly established that prostitution is legal.

I’m going to propose a few radical ideas, instead: It’s okay for people (all people) to have sex, and we shouldn’t try to turn sex workers (who are overwhelmingly women) into villains because their clients (who are overwhelmingly men) either can’t get enough sex elsewhere, or they get off on buying sex. We should get out of their way and let these people do their work, which unlike being a politician, is actually honest in the vast majority of cases. That even if we don’t like people being in this industry and want to support them out of it if they want out, perhaps we should also support their right to work, to work when they can find work, to operate in areas that allow their clients to be discrete if they so wish.

That “upstanding community men” not only buy the services of sex workers, they are in fact the people the most likely to do so, because they are in positions of power. (And the people most likely to engage in rape or sexual abuse, whether of adults or minors)  That people will cheat if they’re unhappy in their relationships. That people will buy sex (or at least pornography) if they’re addicted to it and can’t manage to pick up partners in normal social situations.

And perhaps, just perhaps, that if we had a more positive attitude to sex, especially to women having sex, if we were better at diagnosing unhealthy relationships, if we talked more, and if we taught more people to function in relationships more effectively, and if women had equal employment opportunities, sex work would become less necessary, and actually be restricted to people who want to be career sex workers.


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