What Katy Said

This post is my summary of a transcript of an interview (not done by me) with a Birmingham sex worker whom I have called Katy (this is neither her real nor her working name). I am, to be honest, reluctant to blog about sexwork again as there are so many bloggers who know a lot more than me and are much better placed to write about it. One or two of them, I know, read this blog.

I want to post this primarily for those who perhaps don’t know much about sex work and the debates currently going on. If you are one of these  please read on. A lot of reporting talks about sex workers in abstract and often derogatory terms ‘prostitutes’ ‘prostituted women’ , and so, denying them an identity. When you read about sex work in the future and think about the consequences of changes in the law, I would ask you to think not about sex workers in the abstract but about Katy, and what it would mean to her. Katy is a daughter, a sister, a friend. Katy has hopes and dreams. Katy is a sex worker.

Katy is 21 but looks a couple of years younger. She is wary and defensive at first but soon relaxes and reveals herself to be a friendly and open young woman. She never imagined that she would become a sex worker having grown up with the idea of prostitutes as emaciated drug addicts and sex work as something dirty and unpleasant. Having left school with few qualifications and become estranged from her family she needed to earn money. It was at the suggestion of her best friend with whom she has been close since school days that they visited a massage parlour in a Birmingham suburb to ask about working there. That was three years ago and Katy has been working at the parlour ever since.

Does she enjoy her work? Yes, said Katy, if I didn’t I would have left long ago. She likes the girls she works with, who include university students working to finance their studies, and she generally likes the clients. She says that these are very often men with little kinks and fantasies they can’t fulfil with their wives. It is surely better, she says, for them to see her rather than to look for an affair and risk their marriages with emotional entanglements.  Katy talks with particular pride about a disabled client she sees. He comes to the parlour once a month, brought by his carer. The way into the parlour is via a narrow winding corridor which means his wheelchair has to be left by the door. The carer and the girls carry him to he room and undress him, which takes some time. His disability means that he cannot manage penetrative sex so Katy gives him sensual massage and hand relief. He enjoys his visits and looks forward to them. Katy look serious for a moment and says quietly

“We do good.”

What about sexual health? Katy takes health and hygiene very seriously and points out that sex with her is much safer than drunken unprotected sex with a stranger picked up in a bar. The parlour is visited regularly by a sexual health outreach worker who brings free condoms by the boxload. She gives advice on sexual health matters and handles appointments for checkups, something Katy regularly takes advantage of. She also gives out useful information and it was from her that Katy learnt about the National Ugly Mugs scheme to which she quickly signed up. Katy is clearly happy that there are agencies that care about her health and well being.

Katy has never encountered hostility because of her job.  Her friends all know what she does and she is anyway estranged from her family. She was not aware of the proposals in Scotland and Ireland to criminalise clients. She seemed genuinely shocked that such things were being proposed.

If criminalisation came to England the consequences for Katy would be dire. The parlour that gives her a safe and comfortable place to work would close probably forcing her onto the streets. She would be cut off from sexual health services, cut off from protection against violent clients. A severely disabled man would be denied possibly the one thing that makes his life bearable. His carer would become a criminal.

I know that advocates of the proposed changes to the law in Scotland and Ireland on both sides of the border say that it is only the client that is being criminalised and that help and support will be given to sex workers to exit. Leaving aside the fact that many of them don’t actually want to exit, the idea that sex workers would not be criminalised has been unmasked. The proposed changes to the law in the Irish Republic, published this week, include provisions for confiscation of sex workers’ phones and the shutting down of their websites on the same basis as websites with child pornography. They will be forced into the shadows, into danger, just as all serious commentators on the matter have predicted.

You will read a lot about these issues in the coming months and if legislation is passed in Scotland it will surely come to England in due course. All I ask is that when you consider the issues take out of your mind the impersonalising terminology you will read. Substitute it with a bright friendly young woman from Birmingham.

Katy is a sex worker. She is also a daughter, a sister, a friend. She has hopes and dreams. She is just like you, just like me.

A Taste of Honey

I still don’t quite know how it happened. I was the member of my local church who taught new members about God, the Bible and things like that. I wore my hair straight, my blouses had long sleeves and my skirts went below the knee. I was demure and modest. One day I was teaching Matthew, a pleasant young man of my own age when he asked,

‘Tell me about Heaven’

‘Well’, I answered, ‘it’s like a land flowing with milk and honey.’

‘What does it look like?’

Without thinking I stood up, pulled down my skirt and knickers and walked over to him.

‘This is Heaven. This is my cunt, the most beautiful thing in God’s creation. It is the reason I thank Him every day that I am a woman. Look at it, touch it, place your finger here, this is my clit. Learn to touch this the right way and you have the key to my Heaven.’

He touched my clit gingerly as if handling a live grenade. Then I said

‘Taste and see that my cunt is good. ‘

I took his head very gently and pulled it towards my crotch. He sniffed me, surely felt my arousal as he buried his face in my thick pubic hair.

‘Milk and honey. I’ll just go to the kitchen.’

I came back with a container of yoghurt and a pot of honey and took a handful of yoghurt and pushed it into my vagina, enjoying the cool softness. I smeared honey on my pubic hair.

‘Lick it off’ I said gently and his tongue darted out, licking the sweet honey first before he pushed his face deeper in and I felt his tongue darting around the cool sour opening of my cunt.

‘Taste the yoghurt then taste me, that other taste is the most delightful of all. It means I am ready for sex. It means you turn me on.’

He pulled away and I looked at him. His face was covered in yoghurt and honey. He looked very happy. Funny too. I smiled, took the yoghurt pot and polished his now hard erect penis. I applied a dab of honey, took his wonderful cock, into my mouth and worked my way backwards and forwards along the shaft picking up speed……

It tasted of milk and of honey, of milk and honey, milk and honey, milk, honey, milk, honey, milk, honey……I felt his body stiffen, saw him shut his eyes as he pumped big glugs of come into my mouth. He cried out with pleasure.

I dragged him down onto his knees, pulled him towards me and pushed my tongue deep into his mouth, letting the come, the yoghurt and the honey flow into him, a creamy mass of delight.

‘See how lovely you taste?’

‘So that’s Heaven?’ asked Matthew.

‘Not quite’ I said pulling up my skirt. ‘I’m saving that for next week’

Bigos and Bigotry

Last week a Polish friend living in the UK confided in me that her eighteen year old daughter had come out as a lesbian. She was quite upset about this and suggested, hoped maybe, that it might be just another teenage fad.

I suggested to her that, actually,  the love of a woman for a woman can be a beautiful thing and that, if she is happy, it doesn’t matter what other people think or say. I also said that, for a girl from a small town in Poland to come out was an act of courage for which I admire her.  The following story illustrates why.

Joanna Duda and Anu Czerwinski want to marry. This is not possible in their native Poland where legislation on civil partnerships is long overdue but even liberal politicians lack the courage to take on the Bishops who, despite having no personal experience of marriage, like to lecture the rest of society on the subject. Fortunately Anu and Joanna live in France and the Registrar in Paris is happy to marry them. The catch is that they have to produce a certificate from Poland stating that they are not married already, a bit like the Certificate of Non-Impediment that UK citizens need to produce if they are marrying abroad. The Registrar in Gdansk is refusing to issue a certificate to Joanna saying that marriage is between a man and a woman and that Polish law forbids same sex marriage. This is clearly irrelevant. Joanna is not marrying in Poland but in France and she is fully entitled to have this certificate. Without the certificate, however, there can no wedding. The French Registrar is sympathetic but her hands are tied.

Joanna is applying for French citizenship which offers her a way round the problem. She can also go to court. These things take time though. The wedding they planned and looked forward to will have to be postponed, by a year or more and all because of a bigot in an Gdansk office who thinks he has the right to dictate to others how to live their lives.

Homophobia is alive and well in Poland. This is the country that was severely criticised by the European Court of Human Rights for banning a Gay Pride March in Warsaw on the spurious grounds that it would cause disruption to traffic. As the Court laconically noted other, larger, marches didn’t seem to be expected to cause traffic chaos. And when they do take place there are invariably noisy and aggressive counter demonstrations brandishing banners about paedophilia.  Poland can be a lonely place to be lesbian or gay.

In the light of things like this I can only say again that I admire Agnieszka for the step she has taken and wish her happiness in her new relationship.

Across The Ages

I am working on a story in which a 32 year old female teacher has an affair with a 15 year old male pupil. The story is not actually about them but their liaison forms part of the the background to the story. The sex I describe does not involve either of them so I hope I’m not breaching any editorial guidelines. This part of the story is based on real events from forty years ago. It is not an easy story to write. If I do manage to finish it it will be tragic erotica if there is such a thing. The affair ended badly for both sides but neither of them truly regretted it.

It was nearly forty years ago that a fifteen year old English boy went to France on an exchange. He stayed with a family in their rambling farmhouse in Brittany. During his four week stay friends of their family came to visit. One of these families came for two weeks and he got to know them well, particularly a lady of forty and mother of four who I shall call Fabienne. One hot July day she drove him to the beach in the family Volvo. It was stiflingly hot, they did not speak, he began to perspire with the tension and the expectation. She pulled down a lane just short of the beach. He froze. Fabienne quickly took the initiative, first placing her hand on his knee before opening her blouse and placing his hand on her breast. He suddenly relaxed and allowed himself to be led into manhood by this experienced woman. He has never forgotten the experience. Neither does he regret it.

Now you might say that Fabienne was a predatory woman collecting a trophy, that her behaviour was cynical. Maybe it was. The boy, however, was a willing participant. He wanted this to happen, sensed it might happen, but had neither the experience nor the courage to make the first move. He was, however, smart enough to put himself in a position where Fabienne could. What happened was not illegal – the age of consent in France is 15 as it is in most European countries. In Spain it’s as low as 13!

For Jeremy Forrest to have a sexual relationship with a 15 year old would, in most of Europe, only have been a criminal offence, if at all, by virtue of his being the girl’s teacher. The penalty would,in any event, have been rather less than the sentence he received today.  In many countries it would have been nothing more than a  disciplinary offence at work  probably earning him the sack.

I am not condoning what he did but we need to be clear that he is not a paedophile as the tabloid press are saying. People of different ages do fall in love. As a teacher Forrest should not have put himself into the position he did, should have kept a professional distance. Yet these things are so easy to say just as they were forty years ago. In 1973 the public was less quick to condemn, to judge. The teacher lost her job but didn’t get 5 and a half years and a media trashing. And this in the week when Stuart Hall got away with 15 months for more and graver offences..   ,

A Summer Outing

I didn’t really want to blog again this week but well……..

When I was younger, in more innocent times, I used to enjoy an outing. We used to get on a coach and go to the seaside, a theme park or something and have a great time. Then I became aware of a different kind of outing. This is exposing aspects of the lives of other people that they have chosen to keep private. Outing is a form of public humiliation, a cowardly act of bullying and one that social media have made very easy.

All of us have things that we keep to ourselves, or disclose only to a small number of trusted people. No one should be expected to be transparent. Having your own private space  to which you alone are the gate keeper, is essential to mental well being. It can be a practical necessity too. particularly in matters to do with sex and sexuality.

I first became aware of outing as a serious issue some years ago when Peter Tatchell took it upon himself to out prominent gay men who had not chosen, for whatever reason,to do it themselves. He considered it hypocrisy that undermined the struggle for gay rights. He did not, however, consider the feelings of those he outed, their right to privacy, the personal consequences for them. .

I suppose Tatchell might at least claim to have acted from higher motives. The motives of other people engaged in outing are less noble; greed for example. I was never a big fan of Max Mosley, the Head of the FIA. Nonetheless I had enormous sympathy for him when the News of the World outed him as a BDSM player. So fucking what? I shouted. If that’s an aspect of his sexuality, that is his business and his alone. That a professional dominatrix betrayed him for money and broke the bond of trust that  underlies all interactions between a dominatrix and her subs, indeed between any sex worker and their clients, I found appalling. The woman involved, I am informed, is still practising although why anyone would want to pay her money I cannot understand.

Some years ago I head the story of a highly successful escort in a large English city who was outed to her family by a jealous rival. Having promised her family she would do something else for a living she returned to the sex work she enjoyed so much under a new working name, one she uses to this day. Her family don’t know this and she still lives in fear of being outed again.

I have written before about a friend who works as a dominatrix. Few people in her family know what she does. Her mother does and is supportive and, on one occasion, sewed a prison uniform for one my friend’s clients who fantasises about being sent down. Her teenage daughter has no idea what she does having been told that her mother works as a debt collector. My friend intends to tell her, at some point, when she is old enough to understand. She has no reason to believe that anyone would out her but she does have a degree of anxiety about how outing would affect her daughter. 

Outing can hurt many people other than the victim. One of the most irresponsible acts of The Sun, top of a long and inglorious list, was the outing of Mary Bell who, at the age of 11, killed two small children. As she did this in 1968 before Rupert Murdoch acquired the Sun there was no witch hunt, no moral panic and Bell was eventually released from custody, given a new identity and resettled in the community. She married and had a daughter who knew nothing about her mother’s past. This was unacceptable to the self appointed arbiters of justice at The Sun and their reporters confronted a clearly distressed woman at her front door, wrecking several lives in the process. There was no public interest whatever in this, despite the self serving claims of the newspaper. It was an act of sensation seeking malice.

As I said at the beginning of this post, having secrets, having alternative names you adopt in certain circumstances, is not wrong. For some it may be a necessary evil, and a source of anxiety but for others it is life enhancing. I have discussed the use of names in a previous post. My passport is not in the name of Eve Ray. So what? When I blog about sex and write filthy stories I AM Eve. All I have done is given a part of me that has always been there a name. It is a means of keeping a very personal part of me private as I take it into the public domain. I do, after all, write to be read.

But outing is back in fashion, there have been recent cases of trans women, of , inevitably, sex workers being outed, losing their jobs or being exposed to the risk of violence. .

Actually I feel sorry for the outers. In their jealousy, their hatred, their small mindedness, they will probably never know the richness that parallel lives, parallel identities can bring to a human life.

One final thing: to whoever it was who did the despicable thing I heard about this week. The woman you ‘outed’ might just be a whore and a pervert to you. To others she is a wife and mother. To many more people she is a clever, funny and loving human being. Did you think about her family? Her children? Her friends? She is worth more than you will ever know but you probably don’t care about that do you?.


Fake Shops and Hope from Enniskillen

Apparently they have put fake shop fronts up in Enniskillen so that those attending the G8 summit won’t have to see the results of the austerity they’ve been inflicting on us. Potemkin’s villages I thought – Grigoriy Potemkin was a minister and lover of Catherine The Great who, when the Tsarina was travelling down the Volga once, arranged for fake villages to be built on the riverbank, dressed peasants and serfs up in new clothes and made them laugh and dance as the royal boat passed by. Catherine should not see how things really were in Russia.

More recently, in the 1980s, I lived in West Berlin. Being in an enclave, albeit a large one, you could not fail to be aware of the presence of East Berlin and the German Democratic Republic. I could see the TV tower from my flat, a constant reminder of the political system that laid claim to the future and yet now belongs to the past. A story that came to light soon after the Wall came down illustrates why it’s in the past.

The GDR was very proud of its policy of building social housing. When the millionth new flat was competed, in East Berlin in 1985, this was a matter for celebration. It was decided that Erich Honecker, General Secretary of the Party,  would personally hand over the keys to the lucky tenants. Before the day officers from the State Security, the feared Stasi descended on the area to spruce it up. Leaves, browned by pollution, were painted green, the empty shelves of the local supermarket were stocked with huge amounts of fresh produce, none of it for sale, including the near mythical bananas.

After handing over the keys Comrade Honecker stayed for tea, a sumptuous spread of meats and breads and cheeses which the Stasi brought with them and took away after Honecker had gone. The poor tenants were only allowed to keep a half empty bottle of schnaps..The following day the supermarket was emptied of the bananas and oranges, in fact of anything worth buying.

The point of this story is that this was a German version of Potemkin’s villages.The Volga, East Berlin , Enniskillen; each one the mark of arrogant and out of touch elites who are ignorant of, or indifferent to, the problems of ordinary people. Tsarism has gone, the GDR has gone too; maybe there is hope after all?.

Punishing The Weak

This week I was reminded of why I couldn’t vote Labour in 2010. I was fed up with the relentless authoritarianism of Straw, Blunkett, Reid, Smith etc who seemed to regard us not as citizens but as a potential problem to be controlled. We had powers for Councils and others to snoop, we had CCTV on seemingly every street corner, we had ID card legislation, we had ASBOs.

I had forgotten about ASBOs but was reminded when I heard that a London based sex worker was facing gaol at a court hearing yesterday for a trivial breach of an ASBO barring her from certain specified streets. At the time of writing I do not know what the outcome was. I hope that the magistrates showed sufficient common sense and humanity not to send her to prison  but those are rare commodities in these merciless times.

ASBOs, you may recall, were billed as the solution to yobbery that caused alarm and distress but fell short of actual criminal behaviour. That was the problem. They can be issued on the basis of hearsay evidence and can effectively turn perfectly legal activities into tailor made criminal offences. As such they undermine the rule of law.

In practice it is not the yobs who have suffered but the weak and the vulnerable. A severely autistic man  was given an ASBO forbidding him to stare at his neighbour’s garden. A young woman who had attempted suicide by throwing herself into a river was given an ASBO stopping her going near bridges. That these people needed help and not punishment was evidently not considered. Sex workers have been targeted too, as an alternative to prosecution for soliciting. So we come to yesterday’s hearing at Stratford Magistrates Court where a vulnerable woman with a young child was facing prison.

This country is coming to resemble the United States in all its worst aspects. A small elite enriches itself as ordinary people struggle to make ends meet and face decades of stagnation in their real wages, if they stay in jobs at all. If they lose their jobs they face a wholly inadequate safety net now renamed welfare rather than social security, renamed to imply it is a handout to the undeserving rather than an expression of mutual obligations in a civilised society. Finally, for the weak, the vulnerable, those who can’t cope in this cold uncaring society there is prison, probably a private prison so that, even if you’re a failure, big business can still make money of you.  This is a situation that shames us all.

What’s In A Name?

I’ll start with a disclaimer. This is not a finished piece of analysis but rather a few things that have come into my head, a sort of thinking aloud if you like. I am very interested to hear other people’s thoughts.

It happened a while ago that a blogger and sex worker who had separate blogging and working names that she was clearly determined to keep separate. decided to advertise her new working website and working name via Twitter. I had briefly wondered what her working name might be although not curious enough to actually do anything about finding out. Seeing it on the new site started me thinking about the whole issue of pseudonyms.

Why have a pseudonym? If you’re involved in sex you need to because our so-called liberated society still has a problem with people with those who have alternative sexual preferences or who engage in commercial sex whether as providers or as clients. This even applies to people who write about sex. I write erotica and make a small amount of money doing so. However I make my living writing about serious, dull if you like, matters like accountancy and have to accept that, if it was known that I write, and enjoy writing, about sex, I would not be taken seriously as a writer on financial matters. So I adopted the name Eve Ray, simply because it is short and snappy, (my real name isn’t!) and because the name Eve has a certain resonance (the fallenness of man and so on). Using a pseudonym enables me to write freely about my own life and to write about the sex work debate, including recounting my own experiences of paying for sex. I could never tell those whom I deal with professionally about any of this.

I suppose for sex workers there are two further aspects. They are actors and the name is part of the fantasy and illusion they are trying to create. The client sees, and I’m picking names at random here, Daniela and not Tracey. Daniela is a femme fatale in a tight leopard print dress and blood red lingerie, skilled in the erotic arts, the predator no man can resist. Tracey normally wears jeans and a tee-shirt, she has two small children she leaves with her mum when she goes to work and has a huge pile of washing to do when she gets home. Sex work is theatre. And many actors have stage names don’t they? I suppose the other reason is psychological. It enables the sex worker to take off their sex work identity when they get home, like taking off a coat, to draw clear boundaries around their private life. If sex work was socially acceptable and men could go to a massage parlour as openly as they might go to the gym would sex workers use their own names?

I suppose for a dominatrix the choice of name is even more crucial. I’ve never come across a Mistress Daisy but a Mistress DeVille might have a potential sub shaking even as he plucks up the courage to dial her number.

I wonder too whether pseudonyms help to create an aura of mystery and allure. The client surely wonders sometimes about the real identity of the person he or she is seeing, knows there is another life from which he or she is excluded, a world about which the client might be afforded a tantalising glimpse in the context of post-coital putting the world to rights. Maybe this is a turn on for some people.

As for me I just wish I could be Eve more often. She is funny, I am told, she loves sex and, most important she is much the nicest part of me.

Turning The Tables

Karen is my best friend. She is not at all kinky but always laughs at the stories I tell her of the adventures I have as a professional dominatrix. This Saturday evening we had had quite a bit to drink but, as the clock began to tick round to eleven o’clock we were in no mood to finish. I went to the bar to get some more drinks.

I was aware of a man next to me looking at me intently. Just as I was beginning g to feel uncomfortable he said

‘Why don’t you come back to my place afterwards love? I’ve got nine inches and I bet you’ve got a big deep fanny.’

‘Nine inches!’ I laughed. ‘That’s they what they all say. I really don’t think you could satisfy me. Few men are up to my standards.’

I laughed and he said

‘Like I say you won’t get a better offer. You look like you could do with a prick up you. And your little friend’

‘How dare you!’ I shouted and picked up the glass of red wine that the barman had just placed in front of me. I threw the wine in his face and walked out of the pub followed by Karen wrestling with our coats and bags.

I had a new client the following Monday. When I opened the door I was astonished to see that it was the creep from the pub. He didn’t recognise me. I showed into the lounge which I used as a dressing area before taking my subs to the dungeon to play.

‘Take your clothes and come and stand before me.’

When he presented himself I took his cock in my hand and said in a mocking voice

‘I thought you said you had nine inches? That’s not even nine centimetres.’

He looked puzzled.

‘We’ve met before. In the pub on Saturday night. Remember?’

‘Yes Mistress.’

He suddenly looked downcast and unsure of himself.

‘The tables are turned, aren’t they you worm?’

He shuffled his feet.

‘Aren’t they?’

‘Yes Mistress.’

‘If you won’t learn respect for women the easy way you’re going to have to learn the hard way. That is the most pathetic cock I’ve ever seen, and in fifteen years of domming I’ve seen a lot of cocks. It’s not even a cock. It’s a cocklet. What is it?’

‘A cocklet Mistress.’

I patted his head.

‘Good boy, You’re learning. It’s a cocklet, it’s laughably small. I bet you’ve never made a woman come. In fact I can’t imagine any woman wanting that thing inside her. Can you?’

‘No Mistress.’

‘No Mistress, no Mistress’ I mocked him again. ‘But you want Mistress to show you what a good fucking is don’t you?’

‘Yes Mistress.’

‘Bend over the arm of the sofa and spread your legs.’

He complied. I put on a latex glove and fingered his arse.

‘What am I doing?’

‘Don’t know Mistress.’

‘I’m getting your fuck hole ready for my longest fattest dildo. You promised me nine inches but that was all empty talk, the boasting of a pathetic inadequate man. Wasn’t it?’

‘Yes Mistress.’

‘I’m promising you twelve inches. And you’re going to get twelve inches. Because when a woman promises she delivers. You know why? Because women are superior to men in every way, aren’t they?’

‘Yes Mistress.’

‘And you dared to presume that I would go to bed with you on a whim? You thought it was alright to treat a woman with such contempt. Because that’s what it was wasn’t it?’

‘Yes Mistress I’m very sorry Mistress.’

‘Sorry is not good enough.’

By now I had strapped the dildo on. I lubricated his fuck hole and slid in. He gasped. I felt him tighten his muscles to resist the penetration.

‘Relax little boy, this is a lesson that you will come to value’

I was soon fully in and began to move slowly in and out, slowly at first then building up the tempo,

He began to moan as he felt the pleasure on the one hand and the discomfort and the sense of helplessness on the other. I fucked him good and hard, I had had enough of men like him and their misogynistic talk of women needing a good fucking. This piece of filth needed some respect fucking in to him and he was getting it.

When I had finished I turned him round slapped him on each cheek and spat in his face.

‘You are filth, you are nothing. You are dismissed from my presence fort ever,’

‘But but I booked…’

‘I don’t care what you booked. It’s all very well coming here acting all submissive but I’ve seen what you’re really like. You despise women. You have no respect for us so you can’t be my sub. I’m not charging you for that fucking. It’s on the house. Now just dress and go.’

No words were exchanged. He left and I watched as he walked down the pathway. He pulled out a handkerchief and as he stood outside I saw that he was crying.

I hope he learnt from that. Maybe he is now a good sub to another Mistress. Maybe he has learnt that that respect and submission are not acts. They have to be in your soul. Submission can take time. But respect is the beginning.

Asserted Not Demonstrated

Once upon a time there was a university lecturer who scribbled AND in the margins of his students’ essays. This stood for ‘Asserted not Demonstrated’ and was a sign of the importance he attached to structure argument supported by facts, in other words to intellectual rigour.

Last week Rhoda Grant MSP published the results of the consultation on her proposal to criminalise the purchase of sex in Scotland. Her headline was that 80% of respondents were in favour of the proposal. The individual responses can be seen by visiting http://www.rhodagrant.org.uk . That is to say most of them can as a number of omissions have been identified. It has been claimed that these omissions are mainly submission opposing criminalisation.   Notwithstanding this I had a look through and ;picked out what seemed a representative sample. My thoughts are that quantity and quality are not the same thing and that a certain long retired academic would be writing AND until his arm ached.

Leaving out the responses that just said ‘I agree’ and nothing more, most of the responses in favour did not engage seriously with the issues but simply asserted the assumptions on which Rhoda Grant’s case is based. There are three main assumptions:

Where prostitution exists there can be no gender equality.

The majority of prostitutes are coerced into undertaking sex work.

Sexual intercourse with a prostitute constitutes sexual assault. .

The first point does not make clear whether prostitution is a cause or a result of gender inequality. This is important since, if it is the latter, criminalising the purchase of sex can do nothing to promote equality. If the former it is surely only one cause of many and by no means the most significant,  particularly given the relatively small percentage of the population that either provides or uses paid sexual services. Are there no more important battles to fight?

The second point is not supported by available evidence. Rhoda is not, however, interested in this as she has, as she said in her TV debate with Laura Lee, extended the definition of coercion to include all women who engage in sex work through economic necessity. The problem with this, of course, is that, on this logic, most workers in most jobs are coerced, including those, probably women, who clean her office at Holyrood. .She has rendered the word ‘coercion’ meaningless and, in doing so, done a great disservice to those who are genuinely coerced into sex work by blurring the definition of consent. There is no logic in arguing that a woman’s consent to sex is automatically invalidated because she receives an envelope full of cash before getting into bed.  Sadly, logic is not Rhoda’s strong suit.

The third point follows from the second. We do not, therefore, need to say too much about it except to ;point to more muddled thinking. If you accept the second point you must logically accept that paid for sexual intercourse is not just analogous to rape, you have to accept that it is rape. Rhoda is not prepared to follow her own logic, since she seeks views on appropriate penalties. If you think it’s rape then why seek views? The punishment for rape is set down in statute already.  Perhaps she is looking to follow the model of Sweden with its on the spot fines. But, as we have seen recently, Sweden is not a country where rape is  taken seriously.

Pretty much all of the submissions in favour simply parroted the flawed assumptions and muddled thinking I have talked about here. I formed the impression that many respondents dislike sex work for moral reasons and, knowing nothing about it, have grabbed the ready made arguments provided for them. I am not clear why particular weight should be attached to what they say..

The submissions opposing  criminalisation were generally longer and contained detailed argument. Many were clearly written by people with detailed first hand knowledge of the sex industry. The main arguments I saw were:

Academic research dies not support the claims made for the so-called Swedish model.

The United Nations is opposed to criminalisation mainly for reasons of public health.

It was argued brilliantly from a feminist perspective that, after decades of struggle to get the state out of our bedrooms, no feminist should support proposals that will result in the state again policing the sexual behaviour of women.

Last but not least there was the personal testimony of sex workers saying that it was their choice to work, that they enjoyed their jobs, that clients treated them with courtesy and respect, even that it was not unknown for regular clients to become friends.

These submissions are, it seems to me, worth far more than the unproven assertions of supporters of Rhoda Grant. They may only account for 20% of responses but surely contain 80% or more of the truth. Yet they are being ignored. Why?

None of the submissions I read addressed a point that I think is fundamental. My partners’s (missing) submission did pick this up. It is that both sex and payment elude easy definition and will result in bad law, law which may lead to function creep and rank injustice. What is the position, for example, of the professional dominatrix? Or the professional submissive?

Those opposed to sex work should also realise that they too can, indeed should,  oppose Rhoda Grant’s ill thought out proposals, because they will not achieve their stated aims. If you want to see and end to sex work you have to address the question of how sex workers can earn their living. Many sex workers are mothers, often single mothers, and the  victims of Rhoda Grant will ultimately be their children, unable to go on holiday, unable to go on the school trip, waiting in vain for a Christmas present. This question was put to her last week. She had no answer.

As so often when policy is based on unproven assertions, on abstract ideas untested in the real world, real people suffer. All too often these people are women. That a woman is behind this, appealing to feminist ideas as she does, is depressing. And I don’t need to demonstrate that do I?