Ireland's modest proposal for EU
sex-trade ban hardly a satire: Dour feminism teams up with Marxist
logic to demonize males everywhere
Wednesday 21 January 2004
"Ireland to propose EU-wide ban on paying for
sex," read the Reuters headline Monday.
Good, I thought, it's about time someone took up the banner for
And while they're at it, they should propose banning
expensive-dinners-followed-by-chick-flicks for sex and
filling-out-couple's-questionnaires-in-magazines for sex, too. Those
are what truly irritate guys.
Of course, encouraging free sex is not at all what the Irish are
Yet neither is their modest proposal a throwback to the old
moralism: Sex is a sin, selling sex is doubly immoral, therefore
prostitution should be illegal.
Ireland may have lagged behind Europe's sexual liberation for
decades, maintaining abortion and divorce as illegal, for instance,
long after the smugly sophisticated countries on the continent had
eliminated most laws and nearly all stigma against both. But now
Ireland appears set to leapfrog most of its EU partners and become the
champion of the new Puritanical feminism: All sex is exploitive of
women, especially sex for pay. It benefits only men and large
corporations and perpetuates the power imbalance in society. Since
masculinity and profits are both immoral, it should be illegal to try
to acquire a women's sexual services for money, whether as a
prostitute or pornographic model.
Ireland has the presidency of the European Union for the first six
months of 2004. During its tenure, associate Justice Minister Willie
O'Dea pledged Monday, "a meaningful ... European-level debate" on a
sex-buying ban. Currently buying sex is a crime only in Sweden,
although selling it there is not, which should be proof enough for
anyone that dour, fundamentalist feminism -- i.e. the new Puritanism
-- is behind this cause. Men are the only ones who need to punished.
This marks another convergence of feminist and Marxist logic.
Marxist criminology contends that individuals have committed no
crime if they are "compelled" by their poverty or social "voicelessness."
To a Marxist, it is perfectly benign for a poor mother to steal bread,
but criminal for the corporate bakery to earn a profit supplying
Feminist theory on this, as on most subjects is entirely one-sided
and completely anti-male. It holds that women cannot possibly be even
partly to blame for selling their sex. If they are selling their sex
it is because they are desperate. If they are desperate, it must be
because some man has forced them into prostitution, drugs or abuse --
or all three at once.
The Irish are basing their push for a ban on a report by Swedish
socialist Member of the European Parliament Marianne Eriksson.
Eriksson, vice-chairperson of the European Parliament's women's rights
committee, argues that it must be "the customer, the buyer of sexual
services, who is criminalized, not the person who is prostituting."
The focus of efforts to combat the sex trade must be put "on
customers, who most commonly are men." Prostitutes, who mostly
commonly are women, are all victims and, therefore, to be absolved of
Eriksson, in typical socialist style, also blames "a very wealthy
and powerful industry, one of the richest in the world" --the
pornography industry -- for financing the forcible relocation of four
million sex slaves a year (her term and her estimate).
O'Dea admitted the Irish proposal has almost no chance of finding
unanimous consent among the EU's 15 member states. It is difficult to
imagine the Dutch agreeing to outlaw sex-buying. The legal sex trade
in the Netherlands is a measurable percentage of GDP, approximately
two per cent. Nor are the Germans (leaders in pornography) or French
likely to convert to the new Puritanism.
But if the former free-loving Swedes can be turned into frowning
feminist shrews and scolds, then over time, perhaps anything is
Yet even if a sex-buying ban were to pass, the chance it could
eradicate the sex trade is nil. Selling sex is not called the world's
oldest profession for nothing. People like O'Dea and Eriksson, albeit
in different guises, have been trying for millennia to outlaw
prostitution and for centuries to eliminate pornography, always
I am not going to argue that prostitution and pornographic
production are entirely benign. Nor are they always, or even mostly,
free transactions between consenting adults, although where they are
free transactions -- willing seller, willing buyer -- they should be
Child prostitution is a growing problem, especially in the Third
World where sex tourists from the developed world generate hundreds of
millions in income for local sexploiters. But practicality should tell
us it is a problem for local police forces, or at most for
international ones. If we cannot stamp out prostitution at home, how
can we expect to stamp it out half a world away?
I also accept that around the world, many hundreds of thousands of
prostitutes and models are coerced or manipulated into selling
themselves. But the abuse, coerced drug dependency, kidnapping and
forced sex are already crimes in most places. Criminalizing these
actions twice is unlikely to have any more effect than doing it just
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