Roz Kaveney (rozk) wrote,
Roz Kaveney

In another part of the forest...

I am very worried about the possible unforeseen consequences of the Home Office proposals for criminalizing punters, not because I have any especial sympathy for men who buy sex, but because I think the proposals are relying far too heavily on the principal of deterrence and not nearly enough on thinking about what such a law is trying to achieve.

The clear and present social evil which the Home Office is trying to address is the growing amount of slavery, including but not limited to, sexual slavery, made possible by looser borders generally, under-enforcement of existing laws, and the existence of large rich criminal organizations. What is going on with sexual slavery is not the continued existence of a sex industry that was always evil from top to bottom as the replacement of one sort of sex industry by another - one of the problems with the radfem analysis in which the whole thing was always wholly and soley about the industrialization of sexuality is that it put ideas into people's heads. (Making up stories about snuff films that did not exist was a good way to put the idea into people's minds - they did not exist, but they almost certainly do now.)

We are entitled to disapprove of sex work and a sex industry, or not to disapprove of it. The issue of slavery, enforced by rape and murder, is another matter on which, in theory, we can all agree. And an urgent one.

But not, perhaps, if we turn it into a pretext for dealing with the unfinished business of the sex industry generally, or take the slavery issue as an argument for total prohibition, the way Fiona McTaggart, say, is doing.

It is worth commenting, BTW, that Fiona was at the Home Office during the extended period during which the British Government refused to ratify the European Convention that gave asylum to trafficked women - a practical measure against enslavement which fell foul of the government's desire to placate the anti-asylum sections of the Tory press. They brought it in eventually, but reluctantly.

The trouble with the current proposals is, as I say, that they rely on the deterrent effect of criminalizing punters. What the new law would do, I fear, is offer the gangsters responsible for trafficking a wonderful opportunity to blackmail punters not only into giving them lots of money but also operating as their minions. If you were running a sex slavery operation, how useful would you find it periodically to recruit as your catspaw businessmen, policemen, government ministers? Moreover, once you have recruited them, you want the carrot as well as the stick - so you offer them sexual services that are their darkest fantasies, involve them in an escalation of criminal acts, and make a creep into a monster.

I have no answer to the problem except strict enforcement on criminal conspiracy. What do you think?
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