Have you ever found yourself getting nowhere in a discussion about prostitution?
Ever felt like you lack arguments? You're not alone.
Discussions about prostitution tend to stir up some strong
feelings. Many find it a heavy topic, since prostitution affects us all
personally – it concerns our own sexuality, our perception of ourselves
and our view of others. That's why it's so important to support each other!
If we help each other, it's easier to find arguments.
In this booklet, we attempt to gather the most common arguments out of those
we tend to see out there, and we hope it can be of use to you when you're
out discussing. But remember that you're always entitled
to your own opinion – even when you're stumped for words!
Also, don't think you have to "win" a discussion.
Most people won't be convinced that way. Usually, several discussions
are needed, as well as time to think over other people's arguments between
rounds, before we change our minds about anything.
That's why it's so important to have all these short
discussions in our everyday lives. So good luck, and don't give up!
is nothing new. It's a part of all
sexual exploitation and abuse, especially that of women and children,
that has occurred all throughout history. But sex trade has also changed,
as all commerce has changed. As everything else has been industrialized,
so has sex trade become an industry
a worldwide billion dollar industry; partially legal, but often run by
Today sex trade is one of the largest and most profitable
industries in the world. It includes street prostitution, brothels, "massage
parlors", strip clubs, human trafficking for sexual purposes, phone
sex, child and adult pornography, mail order brides and sex tourism –
just to mention a few of the most common examples.
Oppression of women
This is good to keep in mind when we see how celebrity prostitution glamorizers
describe prostitution as something sexually "liberated" or even
as "women's right to do what they want with their own bodies"
– in magazines, TV, and on the Internet.
These prostitution glamorizers often talk about prostitution
as if it only concerns one particular woman and one particular man right
at that particular moment, as if they were isolated from everything and
everyone else – as if prostitution happens in a vacuum, unaffected
by society's gender norms and gender power structures. They don't see,
or they don't want to see, that prostitution is about sexualization of
power. Power based on gender, power based on class, power based on ethnicity.
Prostitution exists, as does everything else, in a context.
In turn, prostitution also affects society – especially society's
view of gender.
A puritanical sexual tradition
Prostitution has its origins in a puritanical sexual tradition, where
only men's sexuality counted. The wife, as well as "the whore",
was supposed to be at the disposal of the heterosexual male.
is the expectation that the one getting prostituted does not
want to have sex. Prostitution is based on the sexuality of the buyer. The
buyer orders and pays for what he wants to do, or get done, for him. He
pays her to erase her own sexuality. The very reason that the one getting
gets money, is that the "sex"
in prostitution is exclusively defined by the buyer.
Perpetrators & glamorizers
When we write about the buyers
we'll occasionally refer to them as "johns
Usually, though, we name them as prostitution perpetrators
We do this to point out their similarities with other sex perpetrators.
We don't want to belittle what they do.
We refer to those who trivialize prostitution and its
consequences, and who portray it as "sex work", according to
what they're actually doing: glamorizing prostitution
Men buying women
We also write about "men
" when we're
speaking of buyers
when we're writing about those being prostituted
We do this since the absolutely most common form of prostitution, in Sweden
as well as in the rest of the world, is men buying
It's difficult to know to what extent they're also buying
children, because a lot of prostitution is about men buying teenage girls
– who usually don't count as children, even if they actually are.
Men buying men in prostitution isn't even remotely as
common, but it's still the second most common form of prostitution. It's
common for men to buy children or adolescents in this case as well. Women
buying men is significantly more uncommon, and the most uncommon form
of prostitution is women buying women. But all of these forms do exist.
And we're against prostitution in all of its forms.
Most men aren't not prostitution perpetrators
Referring to prostitution perpetrators as "men" does not
however, mean that we think all men are or would want to be prostitution
perpetrators. Studies estimate that one out of twelve men in Sweden have
used women in prostitution. This means most men aren't prostitution perpetrators.
Despite this, there are way too few men who actively
take a stand against prostitution when they're spending time with male
friends and colleagues.
Keep the discussion going!
You who on the other hand do
want to discuss,
but feel like you need help, will hopefully get some good tips among the
49 arguments we've put together in this text!
It's quite typical
of our time to say that anything
is possible when it's about you as an individual – but once we get
to political change
people suddenly claim
that this and that just can't be done.
As if that's just the way things are. As if the
way things are now
is the only possible scenario – because
it's human nature, because the market demands it, because of globalization,
or whatever fits the occasion. The world is portrayed as predestined and
impossible to change.
But of course that's not true. There are almost always
alternatives. The world is as changeable now as it has always been. History
does not end today
That's why it's good to keep in mind that those who
claim something is impossible often are the ones who don't
The important thing is what you do
want to change
. Of course we're likely to need some others who
want to fight for the same thing in order to succeed
at changing anything. But it's possible!
Since we keep on hearing the opposite, it might be a
good idea to constantly remind ourselves that the world is changeable,
and that everyone can do something
Prostitution has always existed
(Subtext: and so it's always going to.)
has also "always existed",
does that make it okay? Prostate cancer has "always" existed,
does that mean we should stop treating it? Murder has "always"
existed... and so on.
The question is whether we think it's acceptable or
not. If we don't
think prostitution is
okay, it's time to start thinking about what we can do to change it.
In the past
, it was common to beat children
for disciplinary purposes. Thanks to the Swedish law against child abuse,
among other things, a lot fewer people in Sweden beat their children today.
People have changed their views on corporal punishment. Child abuse still
, but the more children not having to
suffer the better, isn't it?
That's how we see prostitution, rape and abuse of women;
laws can't make oppression of women disappear, but sometimes they can
still do some good – the fewer women not having to suffer the better,
Or are you saying
that heterosexual men have
a genetic/biological inclination towards exploiting women sexually instead
of having a mutual sexual meeting
it a one-time thing or long-term)?
Personally, I don't have such a pessimistic view of
Prostitution is the world's oldest profession
Prostitution is not the world's oldest profession, since prostitution
. If prostitution really
is as ancient as you're saying, it would be one of the world's oldest
forms of men's sexualized violence against women
The world's oldest profession might rather be the shaman,
the hunter or the farmer. Some say it's the midwife.
Every day and every minute
and children suffer in prostitution. Dismissing that with comments of
"it's always existed" or "it's the world's oldest profession"
is belittling and trivializing their suffering.
It's also to take the easy way out and saying that I'm
not going to do anything about it.
As I see it
it seems more likely that this
comment about "the world's oldest profession" actually is the
world's oldest excuse
Some talk about human trafficking as if it's something completely different
from all other kinds of prostitution. But all
forms of prostitution is based on the same idea: that a prostitution perpetrator
buys sexual access to another person's body – to use it in the way
he has paid for.
The buyer is the basis of all
Prostitution exists because prostitution perpetrators
have channelized their sexuality into one-sided consumption. They claim
the right to use others – whose sexual needs and desires are "erased"
by the perpetrator's payment.
And all forms of prostitution have the same effects on
society's view of women
Of course I'm against trafficking –
but ordinary prostitution is something else.
In what way? Of course there are endless variations – from "only"
having to receive a few prostitution perpetrators a month (perhaps at
some fancy hotel) to being forced to receive 15 johns every night at a
brothel ruled by a trafficking pimp – with countless other variations
in between. But the fact that the degree of suffering or coercion varies
doesn't change the phenomenon itself – all prostitution is still
based on a prostitution perpetrator buying access to another person for
of prostitution in itself is
based on the expectation that the one satisfying the prostitution perpetrator
does not want
to have sex with him. The
prostitution perpetrator is forcing his own sexuality onto somebody else
(but buys himself "free" of responsibility).
That's what prostitution is.
Girls äre tricked into trafficking, but in ordinary
prostitution they've made their own choices.
, it's not that simple. It's certainly that
way for some women in trafficking, getting tricked into thinking they'll
get pleasant and well-paid jobs at a cafe or something along those lines,
but others are aware that they're going into prostitution – even
if they often get tricked about to what extent they will be used or about
how much money they're going to get. But many girls are tricked into "ordinary"
prostitution as well.
So the distinction you're making doesn't actually exist.
, the thing about "free choices"
is that it isn't that simple either.
Human trafficking for labor is a much worse problem,
trafficking for sex is more uncommon.
, that's a myth. Naturally it's impossible
to get the exact numbers, but one report from the UN from 2009 indicates
that about 79% of all human trafficking in the world is for sexual purposes.*
The report includes 155 countries.
For the victim
human trafficking for sexual
purposes can include isolation, threats, humiliation, psychological abuse,
manipulation, violence, sexual abuse, torture and daily violations. It
leads to both physical and psychological damage, and in worst case scenarios,
What makes prostitution, and human trafficking in particular,
especially difficult for the victim to deal with is that the traumatic
experiences are constantly repeated, and occur in a continuum –
as opposed to when you suffer a single difficult experience.
Most men don't actually want to buy sex from a woman
who doesn't want to herself.
There's a difference between what they say and what they do. Natasja
, a Russian girl who was used in human trafficking in Sweden,
has said that those who think men don't want to "buy sex" from
someone being forced into prostitution are being naive. "The
men simply ignored that I felt bad, because it was easier that way. Because
if they would have confronted the suffering they were causing through
their actions, they would also have admitted their guilt."
There are trafficking victims
who have witnessed
that they told their buyers outright that they were being used in trafficking,
and the perpetrators still carried on.
In a Swedish governmental study
perpetrators claimed that they wouldn't buy someone who was being used
in trafficking. Many of them had still used women in trafficking, sometimes
because they couldn't tell the difference and sometimes despite knowing
the woman was being used in trafficking.*
When asking why they had done so despite what they had said,
the prostitution perpetrators gave answers like:
"I was just too horny"
"It happened so fast"
But do you really believe
that a man who "only"
would pay for access to a girl who (he thinks) is not being used in trafficking
is so much better? Prostitution in itself is the perpetrator paying to
"have sex" with someone who does not
want to have sex with him.
I'd say it seems like he's trying to avoid responsibility
by comparing himself to the slightly worse prostitution perpetrators.
Prostitution is about sexualized power
and consequently our views of prostitution depends on whom we identify
with – the johns or the one being prostituted.
In order to be able to agree with prostitution perpetrators,
you must first distance yourself – consciously or unconsciously
– from the one being used. One argument which several prostitution
glamorizers in Sweden have been using is that working class women have
a more "instrumental relationship with their bodies" than middle
class women – so prostitution means something different for "them".
And many try to explain the fact that Western men use
women in Asia for prostitution tourism by claiming that Asian women –
"they" – are "different" from Swedish women.
Such comments are of course expressions of both class
contempt and racism.
Our traits do not decide which ones of us who will get
prostituted. It's the circumstances of our lives.
Those prostitutes are probably nymphos...
If nymphomaniacs, i.e. women with an extremely strong sexual drive, really
do exist, wouldn't it be more likely that they would go out and pick up
someone who wants to satisfy them
Isn't it pretty illogical to think that those who have
an extra strong
sexual drive would want to
engage in a trade-off about neglecting
own sexual needs and instead
get paid for
concentrating on those of the buyer?
Women in Asia are poor and through sex tourism they
at least get some money.
Shouldn't Asian women have a right to a reasonable life without sucking
the dicks of rich Western tourists? To me, what you're saying sounds a
lot like old, reactionary colonialism.*
It's the pimps and the tourism industry that are profiting
off poor women in prostitution in, for example, Thailand. But it doesn't
pay off for either the women or the country. Quite the opposite –
it creates a dependence on the West, on the perpetrators, and keeps the
country in poverty instead of giving them a chance to develop.
I'm not only against prostitution because of its oppression
, I'm against its racist
oppression as well!
Those who oppose the Swedish prostitution law usually say that the problem
with prostitution is that it isn't seen as a profession – "sex
work". If it was, prostituted women would pay taxes and get health
insurance and other social rights. The stigma*
on prostitution would also disappear, they claim.
But they rarely speak of how it actually works in the
countries where the law already
that prostitution should be seen as "sex work". For example,
that's how it's been in Germany since 2001.
A temporary solution
In Germany's evaluation of the law after five years, only 1%
(one percent) of the asked prostituted women had an employment contract
as "sex workers".**
(A few additional
percents had health insurance as free-lancing "sex workers").
Most did not want
an employment contract.
When asked why, the majority of them answered that they saw prostitution
as a temporary solution
to an impossible
(financial) situation, and as something they wanted to get away from.
Many were also worried that an employment contract would
mean that they would no longer be able to make decisions of their own
– like refusing some johns, or some of the johns' demands. Or that
they would have to receive more johns than they possibly could.
When prostitution is portrayed as "sex work"
it is the perpetrators – johns, pimps and human traffickers –
who are applauding.
Because when prostitution is portrayed as "goods"
or "services", its power structures
are made invisible.
All wage labor is slavery!
There's not a big difference between selling your body
in a mine and selling it in prostitution.
As a man ('cause usually left-wing men are the ones
using this argument!)
, do you really not see a difference between
working in a mine and giving a handjob to your boss? Or between a woman
coming in to clean your office and coming in to give you a blowjob? I don't
know about you, but I do
Think about what's actually happening
a man imposing his sexuality onto a woman without considering hers –
in other circumstances, that's usually called sexual harassment, sexual
abuse or rape.
The idea is of course that the money
would turn this sexualized oppression of women into "sex work".
But how can the very same sexualized actions
which girls and women are otherwise fighting against, and the same actions
which the law otherwise define as sexual harassment
– suddenly be considered "work"?
How could you motivate the unionized struggle for the
right to not suffer
sexual harassment and sexual violence at work
if such abuse – occasionally – should be seen as a "job"?
Maybe you should try
a new way of thinking: They
got our bodies, but they're damn well not gonna mess with our sexuality!
Selling sex is no more strange than selling services like
massage or podiatry.
Sure it is. At a job, everyone is selling their work capacity, but prostitution
has consequences for our sexuality as well. Without romanticizing sexuality,
it's easy to see that our sexuality is an integral part of our personality.
In our sexuality, our turn-ons and our turn-offs, our earlier sexual experiences
are included as we're making them. For the one getting prostituted, prostitution
also becomes a part of one's sexuality – even if you've been trying
to see it as something outside of yourself during your experiences.
That's why so many women in prostitution later talk about
a division of one's identity, as if a split had happened while in prostitution.
Many get used to shutting down one's own feelings during prostitution, but
notice that it eventually gets difficult to reconnect with them at will.
Prostitution is something completely different from a profession.
And for the buyers
of prostitution it's not just
any purchase either, since his sexuality is also affected. As is his overall
view of women. It's hardly a coincidence that sexual harassment of girls
and women on the streets is more common in for example the Red Light District
of Amsterdam than in other places.
The prostitutes themselves want prostitution to be seen
as "sex work".
Do "they" really? Or is it a few scattered bloggers, or those
few women in prostitution who are uplifted by the media, who claim to be
speaking for everybody else, by always talking about "us
Do you know
that in countries where the law has
been altered so that prostitution is seen as "sex work", the
majority of prostituted women did not
this, which is made clear by, for example, the evaluation of the German
If you look at prostitution globally, how many out of
everyone being bought in prostitution do you think want prostitution to
be seen as a "job"? Would you?
Sex worker's unions want it to be seen as work.
What unions? Those organizations which so far has called themselves "unions"
for prostituted women have not actually been unions, i.e. been organizations
that "are driven and financed by members and
that act towards employers"
Lobby organizations for legalized prostitution, usually
including pimps and others who want prostitution to be seen in a good light,
have on the other hand often called
" for "sex workers"
– to make people think of prostitution as work.
If you're feeling unsure about any such "union",
then try asking what kind of unionized
work they're doing, and directed
Real support organizations for prostituted women on the
other hand usually don't call themselves unions. And most prostituted women
don't want prostitution to be seen as "sex work".
But if you're not a prostitute, why should their jobs
be any of YOUR business?
Of course it's "my business"! Living in
a society where women are for sale affects the values of everyone.
Society's view of prostitution also have clear and direct consequences in
our everyday lives. You can especially see that in countries with laws like
If prostitution is seen as "work" it's there
with the ads in the newspapers, the company you work for gets offers of
"surprises" for the company party, you get coupons in your mail
box, you see posters for brothels at the bus stop and so on.
Understanding this is not about being sex negative or
making up a moral nightmare scenario. It's about analyzing what a view of
prostitution as "sex work" actually leads to in practice.
Consider what it would mean in our everyday lives –
for example, professions like personal assistants and home care staff; should
they be obligated to help with men's purchases of prostitution, like they
are in the Netherlands?
is to be seen as a profession,
should parent let their daughters get a summer job in prostitution? If prostitution
is to be seen as a profession, should employment agencies refuse unemployment
benefits to unemployed women if they do not accept going into prostitution?
If your answers to those questions are no, then you don't really think prostitution
is a profession. Because if it was, it would work like any other job.
But if a girl doesn't want to wear herself down in underpaid
work, when she can get good pay as an escort*
– why shouldn't she be able to choose that?
Well, you're not asking why she shouldn't abandon her job as CEO for an
export company/real estate broker/dentist or similar jobs, to instead give
blowjobs to men when ordered to do so. If prostitution is so nice, why is
it those of us women who have the least to choose from who are expected
to do this "job"?
Both in the industrialized world and in so called developing
countries, mostly poor girls and women – who are simultaneously suffering
class oppression and racism – are being used in prostitution.
It's always difficult to talk about free will, voluntariness
and free choices
. The fact that we've chosen
something doesn't say anything about whether our choice was good or not.
It depends on what we have to choose from
that is: what alternatives we have, or see.
Studies about "regular" prostitution show that pretty
much all women in prostitution see it as something temporary, usually to
solve a difficult financial situation, but it's also often an expression
of self-destructiveness following earlier experiences. A person's choice
is not automatically what she "wants", even if she has "chosen"
Additionally, the vast majority of everyone being used
in prostitution are poor, homeless and have suffered other kinds of sexual
abuse before prostitution.
Human rights - for women too?
But even if there is someone who wants to be in prostitution no matter the
circumstances, prostitution still concerns a lot more than her personal
Prostitution is global oppression. Men being able to buy women is part of
the patriarchy at the basis of our society. And our struggle against prostitution
is about the human rights of women.
What about men?
Also, the talk of "free choice" always tends to be about the
woman, the one getting prostituted.
But why do men choose
to use women in prostitution?
A woman should be able to choose what to do with her body
and her own sexuality.
Of course – that's an old feminist parole! But prostitution is not
about women's rights – quite the opposite! In prostitution
a woman "chooses" to abstain from her own sexuality –
to instead satisfy that of the man.
Most prostitution perpetrators don't care at all about
what the one getting paid wants to. (See No 6.) The one paying for sex is
paying for a yes. He's buying a woman who only enjoys it if
he wants her to, when
he wants her to, and
in the way
he wants and has payed and ordered
And what happens with women's human
in a society where women can be bought?
If you're against prostitution, you're trying to take
adult women's free choices away from them.
What is a free choice? Freedom is no simple thing. It's affected by where
we are born, and by which parents, and most of all, our actual alternatives.
Choosing prostitution is for most people as free a choice as "choosing"
poverty. The Swedish author Louise Eek has written that the
so called voluntariness has a sliding scale
in prostitution. How
do you feel about that?
Several international studies show that the majority of
everyone being bought in prostitution have been victim to sexual abuse as
A Swedish study among teenagers stated
that of those who had experiences having "sex with recompense"
almost 89% had suffered other kinds of sexual abuse before prostitution.**
show that the most common
age of entering prostitution is early adolescence, around 14 years of age.***
This is confirmed by the Prostitution Unit of Stockholm.****
For me all this talk of free choices
and "the happy hooker" is difficult when I see that this
so called freely chosen prostitution so often is about everything but
free choices – for children/teenagers with experience of sexual abuse.
And in a wider perspective
the background to
women's and girl's "choices" of prostitution also contains a
pattern of poverty – both that of individuals and that of nations.
What do they mean "happy hooker" - store clerks
or nurses aren't happy all the time either!
I think you've misunderstood what people mean by "the
". No one's saying that women in prostitution are
walking around being happy all the time, or happier than others.
"The happy hooker" is an old symbol
– and nowadays an expression of how prostitution glamorizers (especially
in the media) put individual women, who are ready to say that prostitution
is something altogether positive for them, forth to speak – while
they're being awfully quiet about every negative aspect of prostitution.
But I've heard of this girl, who likes being a prostitute.
So you honestly mean that the entire societal analysis
of prostitution falls, if there's a single girl or woman who claims to like
No matter how much or little an individual might like it, prostitution
remains the same thing: the prostitution perpetrator
buying sexual access to the body of another human being; paying for the
one getting prostituted to erase her own sexuality; paying to turn a no
into a yes
I also have difficulties
ignoring the fact that
once women no longer are in prostitution many testify to have claimed similar
things while still in the middle of it, since it was a way of dealing with
But even if someone actually would enjoy prostitution,
she could perhaps consider abstaining from it anyway – out of concern
for the majority of women who suffer through prostitution, out of concern
for women's human rights and out of concern for the struggle for equality
between the sexes?
Although I can't help
but wonder why that argument
is so common among guys and men, who often speak of prostitution as "women's
right to choose" but so rarely speak of brothel
Why don't they ever speak of men's
Prostitution is an agreement between two individuals –
and that's none of the government's business.
Alright, so let's ignore the fact that you've "forgotten" all
the brothel owners and pimps when you say that... But those "individuals"
are still not alone, are they? At that very moment, lots of other "individuals"
make numerous similar "individual agreements" – worldwide,
all the time. And the majority of these constant "agreements"
in the entire world is about men
Don't you think that the similarities between these millions
of "individual agreements" of this globally spread phenomenon
is due some questioning?
, prostitution is not
some completely independent agreement between two individuals, so I'd rather
discuss why global prostitution exists, and its consequences...
Usually prostitution glamorizers tend to speak of "women's free choices",
but sometimes we may hear that prostitution has to exist for
the sake of others
; lonely men, disabled men, men whose wives don't
want to, so that other women won't get raped, and so on.
But think of all the poor lonely people!
Are you thinking of lonely old ladies here? Women live longer than men, so
wouldn't it be older women who need younger prostituted men in that case?
Oh, but that wasn't the issue, was it? After all, most
prostitution is about men buying access to younger women.
In real life
the average perpetrators of prostitution
are usually married men or men living in stable relationships, and many
also have kids. According to a British-American study of the sex lives of
prostitution perpetrators, many have also had more "regular"
sexual contacts than average. So the "poor lonely" men are in
a distinct minority.*
Also, sex with others
is no human right. Relationships
with others isn't either. Most of all using other people sexually is no
Why can't lonely men
simply learn to do what
lonely women do – masturbate more?
But think of all the disabled!
Who are we talking about again? Oh, it's still men, isn't it? Usually disabled
women's "right" to use prostituted men is not what this argument
Your comment actually shows contempt for all living with
disabilities. Why would men with disabilities want to exploit women any
more than others? Men with disabilities want to have sex with someone who
is turned on by them as much as anyone else does. Do you think that no one
could find a person with disabilities attractive, or what? If so, I think
you should reconsider your view of people...
of prostitution are non
men. So it's pretty rude to use disabled men as an alibi for actions that
are usually committed by non-disabled men.
If you have
a disability yourself which hinders
you in your sexuality, you should of course have a right to sexual devices
that can help you satisfy yourself or have sex with a partner.
But you don't have any more right to buy another person's body to use sexually
for satisfying your own sexuality than anyone else.
YES OF COURSE
I think of "the disabled"
– I'm well aware that it's not unusual that disabled girls and women
are used in prostitution. I think you should think of them too!
Well, it's better that men go to prostitutes than rapeing
Rape and prostitution being on the same scale, so far I'm with you! Both
rape and prostitution are based on sexualizing
= men's power and women's subordination are made into
something "sexy", something to get aroused by.
And that's exactly
why I don't
believe that rapists stop raping by using women in prostitution. I believe
the opposite. It's the exact same view
in rape and prostitution; a man exploiting a woman to satisfy his
sexuality – her sexuality or her will is subordinated. It's about
the attitude of the perpetrator – that men have a right to women's
I'd say the risk is if we accept one, we get more of the
But in any case
, it wouldn't be very nice or
sisterly to send the rapists on to other women – especially not to
girls and women who already are in a particularly exposed situation.
Prostitution glamorizers tend to try to bring discussion down to the individual
level, so that they're only about one particular person or one particular
situation. This way it's harder to see oppression – in order to understand
oppression we need to look at patterns
This goes for all forms of oppression. It's not a coincidence
when people with foreign-sounding names have more difficulties finding a
job, even if it's impossible to prove for the individual case. To see everyday
racism you need to look at both the individual examples and
the whole picture – you need to see if occurrences form patterns.
When we react to an example of oppression of women, it's often dismissed
. To see through this, the Norwegian
feminist Kjersti Ericsson founded the expression "systematical
If we piece them together, all these oppressive "coincidences"
form a pattern of girls & guys and women & men being treated
because of their sex – and getting
different amounts of power
based on their sex.
That's why we can't understand prostitution without connecting
it with all other forms of oppression of women, such as wage discrimination,
unequal health care, rape, women's history made invisible, and all other
examples which together form a societal pattern of systematical
power structures based on gender
But hey – some women go to the Gambia to buy men!
Yes, prostitution is not only about oppression of women, but also class-based
and ethnicity-based oppression. The fact that women – in circumstances
where they on some level can be considered superior – can become perpetrators,
confirms the analysis that prostitution is about sexualized
. Prostitution is oppression and should never be accepted –
in any form!
I hope you
bring up that example to take a stand
against all prostitution. You're not trying to use the comparatively extremely
few female prostitution tourists to make it appear as if men and woman are
"equally bad", right?
'Cause that's not the way it
. Men are not being imprisoned in the brothels of the poorer countries
of the world, drugged-down into being used sexually by one rich, white woman
after another. Out of all prostitution tourism in the world, women stand
for only a relatively minimal part, and for the least brutal forms.
Actually, more men than women have experienced prostitution,
it's just more hidden!
There are a few studies of young people where more guys than girls have
replied that they have "had sex with pay". But that doesn't mean
you can jump to this conclusion. Look around. The global pornography and
prostitution industries mostly consist of women being sold to men. Women
are the ones being used in the world's brothels, and mostly girls and women
are being used in trafficking for sexual purposes.
It may also be added that no matter if women or men are
being used, perpetrators of prostitution
almost always men
And of course more research about all
different forms of prostitution should be made, so that we can increase
our understanding of how prostitution works.
But you're turning it all on its head – it's women
who are using men's sexual needs!
The one who's paying is the victim, he's
the one being used.
Okay, let's forget about human trafficking, that fact that most prostituted
women have suffered other kinds of sexual abuse as children, young girls
being tricked into prostitution, drug addiction forcing women into prostitution
and so on, and let's also forget its consequences for women – sexualized
violence, STDs, cervical cancer, split personality, PTSD etc.... That is,
let's ignore all forms of sexualized oppression which girls and women suffer
before, during and after prostitution, and let's only look at a few particular
men (most johns have other sexual relations as well) – then maybe
it might look like a few individual men are being used. But that's still
not quite right. All perpetrators of prostitution are still using another
person to satisfy his own sexual needs, no matter
if he's going through hard times or not, right?
A prostitution perpetrator feeling lonely and horny still
doesn't change the fact that prostitution, on a basic and global level,
is about men's sexualized oppression of women.
Well, I've heard about women being brothel madams!
Yes, that's correct, but what's the background? The large international human
trafficking organizations often force women in prostitution to choose between
staying in prostitution or becoming "local supervisors" for
a brothel. Human traffickers often do this strategically, one reason being
that the men don't want to risk long imprisonment in case their activity
Sadly, many misinterpret the role of the women. The Swedish
police have written about it:
"The common factor for most of these women is that
they themselves have been exploited for the purposes of prostitution for
quite a long time." ...
The Swedish prostitution law only passed since those extremist
feminists have managed to infiltrate the political system.
Abroad, they laugh at how Sweden has let the radical
feminists have their way.
..."The National Criminal Investigation Department is concerned
at the fact that foreign women who are prostituted in Sweden are sometimes
portrayed by figures in the judicial system as people who are operating
of their own accord. As a consequence of this notion, investigations are
often limited to the criminal activity that is committed in Sweden and
the real criminal bosses in the organised networks are not brought to
trial. There is also a clear risk that the women's actual situation will
go unnoticed. As a result, they are not given the support and protection
they need and to which they are entitled. This limited understanding of
the organisation of human trafficking and the structure of the networks
also often results in failure by the authorities to prioritise efforts
intended to prevent and suppress trafficking in human beings for sexual
My, it would be really cool if feminists had that much power! But prostitution
is global oppression and not something that only feminists are struggling
against. Didn't you know that Sweden has vowed to fight prostitution both
through the UN and the EU?
The UN adopted a treaty of fighting prostitution and human
trafficking as early as 1949. Year 1993 the Council of the EU decided that
fighting prostitution should be included in the EU's police work. 1991 the
Council of Europe adopted a resolution of fighting sexual exploitation,
pornography, prostitution etc.
So I guess that either the "extreme feminists" (whoever they
are?!) has taken over both the EU and the UN since decades back, or you
don't know what you're talking about...
Won't you stop talking about patriarchy! In Sweden we've
already achieved equality.
Well, that's definitely a matter of interpretation! Of course you can interpret
everything as if it wasn't about gender
, but simply as us girls and
woman having ourselves to blame: the fact that you as a woman have a lower
salary is because women are bad at negotiating; if you're raped you should
have thought about how you dressed/behaved/drank and so on; if you're abused
you've probably been provoking him; if you raise your voice you're a nagging
bitch; if you like sex you're a slut; if you want to meet a man you're desperate
– and if you don't you're not normal; if you want to have sex with
women it's because you've never got "real dick"; if you put
on make-up you're a bimbo who's fallen for beauty ideals, and if you don't
you're just plain unfeminine; if you demand equal rights for women you're
aggressive, and if you shut up you're a typical weak chick – who only
has herself to blame...
And the fact that so many
other girls and women
speak of having experienced the same things as you have, that's just pure
coincidence, 'cause oppression of women doesn't exist in our country.
Is that what you mean?
During 70 years, between 1847 and 1918, there was a municipal
regulation system of prostitution
in Sweden (as well as in large
parts of Europe). Despite women going into prostitution out of poverty being
a widely known fact, prostitution was still accepted as a necessary evil,
and in practice more or less seen as a "profession" –
for some women.
The intent of the regulation system was that society would
be able to keep an eye on prostitution and decrease the spread of STDs,
such as syphilis. Women in prostitution were required to go to regular controls
(though of course there were no controls for men!). Anyone who refused,
walked in the wrong areas or at the wrong times would first receive a warning
and was then placed in workhouses for up to a year.
The feminists of those times tried to get the regulation
system removed, as it did nothing but kick those who were already down,
while at the same time giving the signal that government accepted prostitution.
Then as now, feminists pointed out that without
buyers there is no prostitution
Learning from history?
The lessons learned from the regulation system
and the two municipal brothels
being run in
Stockholm during a short period of time in the 19th century were that 1.
when prostitution is seen as "work"
it's more difficult for women to get out of it
, 2. that the
buyers/men are the basis for the existence of prostitution
, and 3.
that prostitution increases when it's accepted
Sadly we live in a shallow and fragmentified**
society. But if we learn from history, we might not have to make the same
The Swedish prostitution law
In 1999 Sweden was the fist country in the world to "criminalize
" while not forbidding prostitution. The perpetrators
are the ones criminalized –johns and pimps. By now several others
countries have done the same thing – and also developed the law in
different ways – among them Norway and Iceland (and partially Finland
The Swedish law declares that it's forbidden to buy or
even attempt to buy "sexual services". Additionally, procuring
is also forbidden, meaning profiting from (or in other ways partake in)
someone else's prostitution. Sweden also has a separate law for human
, but in practice many traffickers are sentenced for procuring.***
A societal signal
The intent of the law is also to be as a societal signal: that society recognizes
that prostitution is based in patriarchy and therefore does not accept the
exploi-tation of the ones being prostituted.
The Swedish prostitution law has been compared to the
law against corporal punishment for children, which has changed people's
way of thinking – in past times, it was common to beat children for
A study from 2008 show that roughly 70% of the Swedish
people support the national prostitution law (only 18% opposing it, the
rest being unsure). Among women the support was almost 80%.****
Legislation & oppression
Of course laws aren't enough for prostitution to disappear. Prostitution
is part of oppression of women, and as we see it, no
law can make oppression disappear
. But we support the prostitution
law, since it limits men's sexualized power, shows what prostitution really
is, and functions as support in other kinds of work against prostitution.
Still, a lot more than one law is needed for any kind
of real change to happen, and significant resources need to be put into
what so often is the last thing on the agenda: more support for prostituted
If regular prostitution was legal, it would be easier
to catch traffickers.
No, it's the other way around. In countries where prostitution is legalized
the prostitution industry has grown – and big parts of it are illegal.
One reason for this is the fact that pimps profit more from illegal prostitution.*
And of course it's easier to hide trafficking in a country
where other kinds of prostitution are legal. It's more difficult, more expensive
and riskier for human traffickers to operate in countries where all forms
of "sexual purchases" are illegal.
The Swedish prostitution law doesn't help prostitutes.
Yes and no. A woman who says she wants to stay in prostitution will obviously
not see the law as positive. But the law may indirectly help another woman,
who wishes to get out of it, since society supports the claim that prostitution
buyers are committing a crime against her.
The law may also be of some help to those being used in
human trafficking. Thanks to the law, the police may investigate attempted
of sexual services. Sometimes this has led to early discoveries
of trafficking. If purchases of prostitution wasn't
illegal, the police wouldn't be authorized to do anything until they knew
for sure that trafficking was occurring.
But most of all
, the law may function as
. The law affects people's views of prostitution, and hopefully
it might make some young girls who are considering entering prostitution
decide not to do so. The law has already made fewer men use prostituted
. Hopefully it might also make at least a
few more men think it's not worth being caught as a prostitution perpetrator
– if his punishment is severe enough. And the fewer johns, the fewer
women used in prostitution.
But laws are of course not enough
to truly help
prostituted women get out of prostitution. For that, lots of support is
needed. Particularly in the form of accommodation, since homelessness is
one of the causes for prostitution.
The Swedish prostitution law has caused increased violence
No, it hasn't – not according to studies. Men's violence against women
in prostitution seems to be just as widespread everywhere no
matter what the law says
, and no matter if it's indoor or outdoor
prostitution. The small difference that research has detected implies that
violence rates are slightly higher where prostitution is legal
but not regulated*
– which is the opposite of what you're saying.
Still, prostitution in itself
means violence. All organizations working for the rights of prostituted
women – whatever their opinion on prostitution is and wherever they're
located in the world – agree that prostitution
is dangerous/harmful for women in prostitution
. Those who want prostitution
to keep existing usually speak of "harm reduction
i.e. that it's important to reduce the damage
inflicted in prostitution.
Violence is a part of prostitution.
According to American studies the majority of prostituted women have suffered
physical violence, sexual violence and threats during prostitution.**
Earlier Canadian studies showed that the mortality rate for women in prostitution
were 40 times higher than for other women.***
To me, it's completely incomprehensible that anyone could
feel fine with only speaking of "harm reduction". Violence
being an integral part of prostitution
should be enough in
to make prostitution seen as unacceptable.
When the law was established, prostitution simply went
Street prostitution was on the decline even before
the Swedish law was passed.*
That's mostly about
technological advancements – mobile phones and Internet were simply
becoming more common. That's why prostitution has largely moved to mobile
phones and the Internet in most industrialized countries – no
what the law says.
Prostitution having gone "underground" is
not quite right though. Prostitution exists for the buyers, and they're
expected to find it, so it can't be all that hidden, can it?
There are two people involved in prostitution, so why
is only the man branded as a criminal?
(The law is victimizing the prostitute)
That question is a little weird, since prostitution isn't just about two
people – why isn't the pimp/brothel owner included in what you're
But if we ignore that – the law doesn't just differentiate
between parties in prostitution. There are other circumstances in which
only one party in a transaction is doing something illegal. For example
illegal leases, or contracts where the landlord demands too high a rent.
Even though both have signed the contract, only the landlord is a criminal.
That's because the law sees who is using who. It's about power.
And no one claims that we're thereby "victimizing
the tenant" or "taking away the tenant's agency".
Besides, I don't believe
in the puritanical idea
of prostitution as a "bad sexual activity" and consequently:
the idea that all involved are doing something bad. I'm against prostitution
because it's sexual exploitation
The division of girls and women in the old pair of opposites "virgin/whore
is an effective way of oppression. It strikes against every individual girl
or woman, as well as dividing women as a group
The virgin/whore dichotomy has the function of establishing
boundaries for women's sexual freedom, or what girls and women are allowed
to do sexually. We're all expected to walk on a tightrope between these
boundaries: you're supposed to have an extroverted sex life – otherwise
you're "boring" – but if you do have one, you risk being
branded as a "slut/whore".**
Most girls and women try to work through this as much
as we can. But, in reality, it doesn't really matter what a girl does –
she might still be called a "whore" by any guy or man who feels
like it. Even a girl who's never had sex with anybody might still be called
Insults & power
Insults are a way of pushing responsibility onto the
. Girls and women being called "whores" is typical
for sexual harassment; at home, in school, at work or out on town. Men use
the same word for women in porn or prostitution: whore. To a sex perpetrator
this insult often works as a way of justifying his superiority and his sexualized
violence – just as racist slurs justify racist violence.
Being a victim
But in today's fragmentified***
society which only
concerns itself about individuals
, it's of course
harder to see such patterns.
On top of that, there's also the myth about victims
Being a victim
today is often depicted as
the opposite of being strong and dealing with things. This leads to many
not wanting to see oppression – in order to avoid being seen as a
But the opposite of being a victim
is being a perpetrator
. Talking about victims
means that oppression is involved. It doesn't say anything about what
the victim is like
; victims can be suffering to different degrees,
victims can be strong or weak (often both at the same time!) and driven
people making their own choices. Being a victim
is not a personal characteristic.
Strong and weak at the same time
As the working class was growing during the 19th century, it was natural
for them to identify them-selves as victims of
. The very fact that you were a victim was what gave you
the strength to protest against the oppression!
Back then, there was no contradistinction between being
a victim and being a strong, struggling person. They thought of it the other
way around: the one dancing through life without any trouble doesn't have
to fight and be strong. It's us – the victims – who are simultaneously
strong and weak, vulnerable and driven and always struggling.
The ones benefiting off the victim myth are those who
benefit off continued oppression.
The only problem with prostitution is that it's seen as
If only it was that easy! I heard this comparison to begging: Begging and
prostitution are old phenomena, stemming from an unequal
. They're based on the difference between women and men, and
between poor and rich. Power and subordination
You still might find a "happy beggar" who doesn't beg out of
necessity but to "get out a bit" and "earn some on the
side", but that doesn't change begging in itself. Begging makes
and that's why
humiliating for the beggar. Just like with prostitution. Shame is put on
the victim, no matter what she or he is called.
If the stigma of the whore was removed, prostitution wouldn't
be a problem.
No, that's not how it works. The stigma
whore"is typical of most kinds of oppression – putting
responsibility on the oppressed
. "Shame is glued onto the victims"
–that's the beginning of a poem by Kjersti Ericsson about rising against
oppression. Blame the victim.
Otherwise we might
see the perpetrator, and what's actually happening.
Prostitution also originates in a puritanical*
view of sexuality, connecting sex with dirtiness, shame and guilt. Porn
and prostitution need
puritanism, in order to
construct ideas of crossing boundaries. Many prostitution perpetrator also
seek out prostitution because they view it as shameful/dirty
That's why prostitution glamorizer's talk of the only
problem with prostitution being the stigma isn't right. As long as the oppression
continues, the stigma will stay.
And we don't "just" mean oppression in the
form of prostitution, because as long oppression in the form of dividing
women into "virgins and whores" still exists, so will the stigma.
If prostitution was seen as work, the stigma would go
Or not...! In the Netherlands, Germany, parts of Australia, and Nevada in
the States, where prostitution is already viewed as "sex work",
women in prostitution are still just as stigmatized as they are here.
The ones not
there are instead the perpetrators – pimps/brothel owners and buyers
– who now have been turned into respectable "business men"
and their "clients".
Feminists are victimizing prostitutes.
No, we're not. There's a difference between sexual oppression and making
that oppression visible
. What feminists do is making it clear what
prostitution is, who benefits from it, that prostitution is a part of a
societal pattern and not just "an agreement between two individuals"
If you think
feminists are "victimizing"
women, you don't know a whole lot about feminism. Think about it for a while.
Feminists work against
oppres-sion. We work
in shelters for girls and women, support groups, feminist self-defense,
and we work for political change – what feminists do is supporting
each other so that we can change
so that girls and women won't
have to be
victims of patriarchal oppression any longer!
Also, that sounds like
you think prostituted
women are "others" – what makes you think prostituted
women can't be feminists? There are many with own experiences of prostitution
among feminists working against prostitution.
She isn't/I'm not the victim type!
No, of course you're not "the victim type", 'cause that's just
a myth – being a victim is no personal characteristic. But if you
put it like that, you risk denying oppression instead.
That's why it's so important to disclose the victim myth.
There are few completely helpless victims, despite what rape culture in
the media keeps telling us. In real life, us girls and women do what we
can to survive in a society created by men, for men. Even if we suffer repeated
abuse during a longer period of time, like incest or battery, we do what
we can to avoid abuse as much as possible – we're victims and survivors
at the same time.*
So there's no "victim type" – it's a
myth created by oppressors to avoid responsibility.
Refuse to be called a whore!
Or the opposite: I enjoy being a slut and I do what I
You know, I get why someone being called "whore" in school,
or something similar, might want to raise a parole like "refuse to
be called a whore". But that's letting yourself get tricked. First
of all, it sounds like you distance yourself from prostituted women, and
second, men can still judge women's sexuality – as long as
in itself still exists.
And sure, enjoying being a slut
might feel like
a way to take the edge off the insults and allowing yourself to do what
you want. But the virgin and the whore is a pair of
– one can't exist without the other. So in practice,
calling yourself a "slut" doesn't mean you're enjoying your
sexuality, but the exact opposite – it's agreeing to define yourself
based on the puritanical, patriarchal views of sexuality that are dividing
I'd prefer refusing
all patriarchal divisions
of women: there are
no whores and no virgins
– we're all girls/women and we define
our sex lives just the way we want!
When trying to question pornography or prostitution, you quickly learn to
be met with responses like "Are you a moralist?!
Such replies are simply given to make you seem old-fashioned
and reactionary, wanting to silence you without having to discuss what you're
Personal and societal
In fact, our "morals" are nothing but the values we base our
thoughts and actions on. Each of us have our own, personal
morals and our own values. Besides that, there are also societal
morals, or general
morals, consisting of the
values which most people in a society share (or which it seems most can
agree on). That's why societal morals have varied so much in different societies,
cultures and ages.
This is all pretty obvious. But for some reason, it seems like many forget
this when it comes to morals about sexuality
But why would sexuality be the only area without values?
Sexual morals are actually a collective term for values
related to sexuality – personal or societal – which can be "liberated"
or "sex negative" or anything at all.
So really, anyone who puts forward an opinion about how
people should relate to something is a "moralist". And a lot
of people do that – even those who dismiss others as moralists...
The Swedish historian Hjördis Levin wrote the following
in her book about the history of sexual morality in society: "No
one thought of the fact that dismissing all moralizing was another a form
What's good about understanding what morals are is realizing
that neither our own nor our societal morals have to be fixed and permanent.
Each of us can change our values. And societal values can be changed in
the same way – that's why we keep the discussion going!
Being against prostitution is just moralization –
you're a moralist!
Yes, of course I have opinions and values – about a lot of things
actually. Especially about oppression
with morals all of a sudden? I'm
against lots of things out of moral reasons: animal cruelty, child abuse,
stands for old-fashioned
morals, wouldn't that be prostitution? That view of sex reflects old societal
structures, where the woman was "owned" by her man. Both purchased
sex and marital sex was about the woman having to adjust herself and letting
the lord and master command what to do. No way I'm okay with such an old-fashioned
and misogynist view of sexuality!
What two adults do in bed is none of the government's
Of course it is! That's why we have laws against battery of wives, and that's
why rape – including marital rape – is forbidden in Sweden.
Men's sexualized violence against women is all around
us, in many different forms, but it's usually at home – and often
right in the bedroom – that girls and women suffer sexualized violence
Those who oppose pornography and prostitution play right
in the hands of the Christian right.
No, it's the other way around! Many studies (Swedish as well as international)
show that prostitution perpetrators consume more porno-graphy than others.
And one American study shows that the more religious
and conservative a man is, the more likely he is to buy Internet porn
Men in the Mormon state of Utah bought the most Internet porn.*
So it's actually the porn & prostitution industry
that has a lot in common with the Christian right: they're grounded in puritanism
and double standards, and on the idea that sex is supposed to be on men's
We feminists are opposed to this view of sexuality –
no matter if it's the version of the Christian right or prostitution glamorizers.
Now you're just pushing your morals onto me!
Of course I'd want you and everyone else to think that no one should buy
other people! That's about basic human values.
But I don't want to push anything onto you. What's important
to me is not what your – or any other individual's – opinions
are. But I definitely claim the right to fight for a society that takes
a stand against slavery in all its forms, and where women count as people
– with human rights.
Anyone opposing prostitution wants to limit sexuality.
Not at all! If we ignore everything that prostitution actually is (though
that's of course not possible) and only look at the "sex" itself
– is there any
more limited sex than prostitution?
For me, bought sex is both inhibited and dull. What could be more boring
and limited than sex with zero freedom and spontaneity; being nothing but
what the man has ordered and paid for, money in advance, and that's it?
I'm against prostitution
for many reason, one
being that I don't like the idea of commercialism taking over even human
sexuality. I like spontaneous sex!
A lot of people might instinctively think that sexuality is something purely
biological. But actually, only our sex drive
is biological – our sexual actions, our lusts, desires and turn-ons,
are shaped as we go, both by our memories of earlier sexual experiences,
and by the time and world we live in.
That's why many say that sexuality is a "social construction".
Sadly many stop there – a lot fewer start talking about who
is "constructing" sex, and how
We lack words
Sexual liberals often talk about sex as something altogether positive. But
that makes it hard to understand acts of sexualized power, such as gradual
overstepping of boundaries
, where something that at first feels positive
might turn into violation by guys/men who are close to you. Neither are
there any words for negative sexual
, which can make an assault hit even harder, if the perpetrator
made you react sexually to the assault.
That's why it's important to struggle against puritanism
which has increased in Sweden as porn has gotten more widespread. We need
to find words
for all our sexual feeling –
positive and negative – since putting words
to our experiences also helps us understand them.
The journey in our own sexuality
Sexuality can be such a strong and powerful force in our lives. It can give
you energy and strength, pleasure and lust, make your body and soul enjoy
themselves, make you sleep well and enable you to do what you want to do.
But it can also be destructive and hurt you. Or just be a yawn-worthy in-between.
And it can also be used by others.
This makes it even more important to reflect on our own
sexuality. Why it is like it is, and whether or not that's the way I want
Power and subordination as turn-ons
The sexual norm of our society is heterosexual. But no matter if we see
ourselves as hetero-, homo- or bisexual we all learn to get turned on by
an idea of opposites
. All gender norms,
everything portrayed as feminine or masculine, is sexualized
– including the different degrees of power in society. In patriarchy,
heterosexual men's position of power is woven into the basic view of what
Guys are born into a society where they learn that sex
is based on their drives and their needs, while girls learn to see our bodies
as something to be formed to awaken a guy's sexuality – i.e for someone
else. He is trained to be a subject
, she to
be an object
Right now we also live in a world getting increasingly
commercialized, this including relationships between people. Even health
care and treatment are now being discussed in terms of "goods and
Of course this also affects sexuality, so that as well
is seen as something that can be "consumed
rather than as a sexual meeting
between people – of short or long duration.
In a society with such a patriarchal trend of consumption, prostitution
has a given place. The more the female body is objectified, the more it
turns into "goods". And a body that can be sold belongs to the
This is why feminists throughout history have opposed
prostitution, objectification, the sexual norms of patriarchy, and struggled
for women's rights to our own sexuality.
Men go to prostitutes because they want a woman who enjoys
Nope. It's a total oxymoron to claim that men buy prostituted women to find
someone who really wants to have sex with them. If a man would want to be
to find a woman to "enjoys having
sex", he would never pay for it. He would look for a woman who does
it because she wants to, not because she's paid for it.
Those who oppose prostitution always make it sounds like
sex always have to be something nice, as if it was "magical".
(…. Even though it's just an act like any other)
No, I don't think sex in itself is something magical
(except for when it is!
But neither is it just an act like any other. Our sexuality is an interwoven
part of our personality. Seeing yourself as homo- hetero- or bisexual or
something else often plays some part in your identity
Our sexuality, turn-ons or turn-offs, includes our memories of earlier sexual
experiences as we have them. We weave our sexual experiences into our personality
– no matter how memorable or forgettable those experiences might be.
But you can't get around sexuality being a part of our
If she likes sex, and wants to earn money from it, what's
Women's sexuality is not just about satisfying men – even if you as
a prostituted woman might pretend that when faced with the john. Good sex
on equal terms is about mutual lust
, no matter
if it's with a stranger or with someone you've lived with for over 30 years.
Prostitution, on the other hand, is only about the "sex" which
the man orders and pays for – no matter who she is or what she does
or does not want.
That's the problem. Prostitution is sexual abuse, mostly
by men using women. As a feminist, I oppose that!
What's the difference between prostitution and a couple
taking it to the bedroom after the guy treating her to drinks all night?
With that question, you deny women having a sexuality of
. It seems like you think women don't have a lust
of our own
, instead becoming accessible to the desires of guys and
men, given that he pays for it – in cash or drinks.
The Swedish journalist Annika N. Lindqvist put it like
Prostitution (which in most cases consists of men buying
women's bodies) builds upon stale old mora-lism and a denial of women's
If you oppose prostitution, you oppose sex.
A society with widespread prostitution isn't for us who do it gladly and
for free with someone of our own choosing.*
No, quite the opposite! If you like sex you should oppose prostitution.
So we say as the Swedish author Louise Eek says:
It's not considered edgy or hip to oppose prostitution
as a phenomenon. It's a bit cooler to promote people selling access to
their bodies. Me, I'm against exploitation, conscious or not. I also don't
like cashing in on humanity. I prefer making love, fucking our brains
out, having sex often or rarely, but doing it because we really want to
– not because you're paid to satisfy the needs of someone else.*
In this booklet we've tried to give replies to the most common arguments
we've heard about prostitution. But to wrap it up we'd like to take this
the other way around: our own
reasons to oppose prostitution, and support the Swedish law of prohibiting
1. Prostitution is sexualized power.
on gender, power based on class, power based on ethnicity, etc.
2. The basis for prostitution is sexual abuse of children.
The majority of all who are bought in prostitution have suffered other
forms of sexual abuse before entering prostitution, and the debut age
of prostitution is often around 14 years.
3. Prostitution hurts women.
Women in prostitution
suffer sexualized violence, and risk disease and psychological traumas.
Additionally, all women are hurt by the idea of women being sexually subordinated
and available for purchase.
4. Prostitution is a method of oppression.
buy access to women and shame those being used. At the same time, the
freedom of all girls and women is limited by the "virgin/whore"
5. Prostitution is imperialism.
rape women and children of the third world – some men travelling
there, others buying victims of human trafficking at home. Neither is
it a coincidence that so many women being used in prostitution in, for
example, Canada, South America, New Zealand and Africa belong to the native
populations of those countries.
6. Prostitution steals women's right to our bodies.
Boys learn that they are entitled to sex and to women's bodies, while
girls learn to shape their bodies to something guys are turned on by.
Men are expected to be subjects, women are expected to be objects.
7. Equality can't be achieved as long a men can buy
A sexualization of patriarchal power structures is the opposite
8. Prostitution sabotages a sexuality based on lust.
Prostitution is a part of the objectification of women and the commercialization/reification
9. Criminalizing prostituted women would be the same
as making it illegal to be a victim of sexualized violence.
10. Not criminalizing prostitution perpetrators is accepting the oppression
• Global Report on Trafficking
, UNODC, 2009.
• Legalizing Prostitution is
not the Answer
, The example of Victoria, Australia, by Mary Sullivan
and Sheila Jeffreys, Coalition Against Trafficking in Women, CATW, 2001.
• Men who buy sex – Who
they buy and what they know
, by Melissa Farley, Julie Bindel and
Jacqueline M. Golding. Research report from Eaves in London and Prostitution
Research & Education in San Francisco, 2009.
• Not for sale.
Resisting Prostitution and Pornography. Red. Rebecca Whisnant & Christine
Stark. Spinifex, 2004.
• Policing public women.
The regulation of
prostitution in Stockholm 1812-1880 by Yvonne Svanström. Atlas, 2000.
• Report by the Federal Government on the Impact
of the Act Regulating the Legal Situation of Prostitutes
Act), by Bundesministerium für Familie, Senioren, Frauen und Jugend,
• Report of the Prostitution Law Review Committee
on the Operation of the Prostitution Reform Act
(PRA) 2003. Report
from the Ministry of Justice in New Zealand, 2008.
• Study on National Legislation on Prostitution
and the Trafficking in Women and Children
, by Andrea de Nicola, Isabella
Orfano, Andrea Cauduro and Nicoletta Conci. Transcrime, for the European
• The Legalization of Prostitution: Myth and Reality
A Comparative Study of Four Countries, by Nomi Levenkron, Hotline for Migrant
Workers, Israel 2007.
• Sex Slavery in our Time.
About an industry
that wants to be clean by Marianne Eriksson & Eva-Britt Svensson. The
Red EU special features series, issue 3. GUE/NGL, European Parliament, 2006.
• Situation report 9: Trafficking in human beings
for sexual and other purposes
1 January - 31 December 2006. RKP report
2007:6b. National Police Board.
• Situation Report 10: Trafficking in human beings
for sexual and other purposes.
RPS 2009/2. National Police Board.
• 24 frågor och svar om prostitution.
Prostitutions- och Spiral-enheten at Stockholm, 2009.
• Från manlig rättighet till lagbrott:
Prostitutionsfrågan i Sverige under 30 år
, by Hanna Olsson.
Kvinnovetenskaplig tidskrift issue 4/06.
• Från våldtäkt och misshandel
till prostitution: Att synliggöra sambanden
by R. Amy Elman.
• I sexualitetens gränstrakter – en studie
av ungdomar i Göteborg med omnejd som säljer och byter sexuella
, by Jonna Abelsson & Anna Hulusjö. Prostitutionsgruppen
• Kännedom om prostitution 2007.
(The National Board of Health and Welfare), 2007.
• Kön till salu – Om Europas vägval
Pockettidningen R issue 2-3/2006.
• Människohandel – en kränkning
av mänskliga rättigheter.
Fackförbund mot Människohandel,
FMM. FMM is a cooperation between Unifem Sverige (today named: UN Women
Sweden) and several unions. Unifem 2009.
• Offentliga kvinnor. Prostitution i Sverige 1812-1918
by Yvonne Svanström. Ordfront förlag, 2006.
• Pornografi och prostitution – sexuella övergrepp
by Gerda Christenson, in Ed. Lundström/Nordenfors:
Tystnaden är bruten
. ROKS, 2001.
• Prostitution. Beskrivning • Analys •
Förslag till åtgärder
, by Hanna Olsson and other
experts in the Swedish government commission on prostitution of that time.
• Sedligt, renligt, lagligt: prostitution i Norden
, by Anna Jansdotter and others. Makadam förlag 2007.
• Rapport 2008:24 Sexuell människohandel. En
fråga om tillgång och efterfrågan.
rådet (The Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention), 2008.
• Se mig – Unga om sex och internet.
Ungdomsstyrelsen (the Swedish National Board for Youth Affairs), 2009.
• SOU 1995:15 Könshandeln.
av 1993 års Prostitutionsutredning.
• SOU 2010:49 Förbud mot köp av sexuell
En utvärdering 1999-2009.
• Testiklarnas herravälde. Sexualmoralens historia
by Hjördis Levin. Natur och Kultur, 1989.
• Varat och varan.
och den delade människan, by Kajsa Ekis Ekman. Leopard förlag,
Kvinnofronten/The Women’s front, 2013.
Text & layout: Gerda Christenson.
English translation: Annina Claesson.
Project Team: Bettan Andersson, Gerda Christenson,
Åsa Christenson, Annina Claesson, Kim Eldinadotter, Fotini Gerani, Sara
Ström, Amin Wikman & Lisa Åkesson.
Report on Trafficking in Persons, UNODC, 2009.
**(SWE) Människohandel – en kränkning
av mänskliga rättigheter. Fackförbund mot Människohandel,
FMM. Unifem, 2009.
Rapport 2008:24 Sexuell människohandel. En fråga om tillgång
och efterfrågan. Brå, 2008.
= wanting to return to an older political state, unwanting to change.
Colonialism = one nation exploiting another on
another continent as its "colony".
** Imperialism = Imperialism
means, according to a dictionary, "the pursuit of world domination", e.g
rich countries expanding their "markets" by tying other (poorer) nations
to itself and exploiting them economically.
= branding mark, ˜ being socially shunned and excluded.
** Report by the Federal Government on the Impact of the Act Regulating the
Legal Situation of Prostitutes (Prostitution Act), by Bundesministerium
für Familie, Senioren, Frauen und Jugend, 2007.
Varat och varan
– Prostitution, surrogat-
mödraskap och den delade
by Kajsa Ekis Ekman. Leopard förlag, 2010.
"Escort" is an euphemistic term for
prostitution, making it sound like it's hardly about prostituion at
all, but as fancy dinner company (as well as sex), or someone who could
pass as the john's girlfriend. Since the word is considered to have
such a positive connotation, it's often used in advertising for women
who are in fact being trafficked.
SOU 1995:15 Könshandeln.
Se mig – Unga om sex och internet. Ungdomsstyrelsen, 2009.
Fact sheet from Prostitution Research & Education, USA.
24 frågor och svar om prostitution. Prostitutions- och Spiralenheten
vid Stockholms stad, 2009.
Men who buy sex – Who they buy and what they know, by Melissa Farley, Julie Bindel and Jacqueline M. Golding, from Eaves, London/England, and Prostitution Research & Education, San Francisco/USA, 2009.
RKP report 2007:6b. Situation report 9: Trafficking in human beings for sexual and other purposes 1 January - 31 December 2006.
Dagny, issue 9-10/1902. Fröléns konversationslexikon 1914. Nordisk Familje-
bok 1915. Morgonbris, issue 2, 1924.
Fragmentification = to portray something without
context or background, to instead present it in "fragments" detached
from everything else, which makes it difficult to get an overview, analyze,
and see patterns and structures.
National Police Board. Situation Report 10: Trafficking in human beings for sexual and other purposes. RPS 2009/2.
Tio år med lagen. Om förhållnings-
sätt till och erfarenheter av prostitution i Sverige, by Jari Kuosmanen,
Legalizing Prostitution is not the Answer, The example of Victoria,
Australia, by Mary Sullivan and Sheila Jeffreys, Coalition Against Trafficking
in Women, CATW, 2001. and
The Legalization of Prostitution: Myth and Reality, A Comparative Study
of Four Countries, by Nomi Levenkron, Hotline for Migrant Workers, Israel
Tio år med lagen. Om förhållnings-
sätt till och erfarenheter av prostitution i Sverige, by Jari Kuosmanen,
In a study conducted before the law, about one in eight men claimed to have "paid for sex". In another study almost ten years after the law was passed about one in twelve men claimed the same. Or 13,6% of Swedish men 1996 compared to 9% year 2008. The samples were too small for a completely valid comparison, but it does indicate that buyers of prostitution have decreased in numbers. The study from 2008 also asked for opinions on the law. Roughly 7 out of 10 approved of the law, but support was clearly stronger among young people (about 8 out of 10).
Study on National Legislation on Prostitu-
tion and the Trafficking in Women and Children. The EU parliament/ Transcrime 2005.
Prostitution, Violence Against Women, and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, by Melissa Farley and Howard Barkan, 1998.
Pornography and Prostitution in Canada: Report of the Special Committee on
Pornography and Prostitution, 1985.
SOU 1995:15 Könshandeln.
= branding mark – being socially shunned and excluded.
** This is a master suppression technique (articulated by the Nor-wegian feminist Berit Ås) called a double bind – damned if you do, damned if you don't.
– see note to chapter "Legislation".
Puritanical = advocating sexual "purity". Opposing
openness about sexuality. Sometimes used as a synonym for "sex-negative".
(SWE) Bortom offer eller överlevare. Sexuellt
våld, identitet och feministisk teori och praktik. Liz Kelly, Sheila
Burton and Linda Reagan in Sexuella övergrepp mot kvinnor och flickor,
(SWE) Testiklarnas herravälde. Sexual- moralens historia, by Hjördis Levin. Natur och Kultur, 1989.
Markets Red Light States: Who Buys Online Adult Entertainment? by Benjamin Edelman, in Journal of Economic Perspectives, issue 1/2009.
(SWE) Kön till salu – Om Europas vägval i prostitutionsfrågan.
Pocket-tidningen R issue 2-3/2006.
(SWE) För prostitue- rade, mot prostitution. Op-ed article from the magazine Arbetaren, issue 33/2002.
We choose to say that someone is "being prostituted" instead
of is "a prostitute", because prostitution is sexual abuse
being inflicted on somebody, not a personal identity for the victim.
Johns is an American slang term for prostitution buyers.