Justice For All? The use of Law and the Hypocrisy of Feminist Stances Towards Prostitution Laws

How do government laws affect the lives of prostitutes? Below is an old essay I wrote regarding prostitution laws in today’s Modern nation-state world:

justice

It is hard to imagine reading a paper or watching the news without hearing about some excerpt about prostitution and laws surrounding. After all, prostitution has historically been a popular and controversial issue in many societies. Defining prostitution is difficult because of the various interpretations of its meaning. According to the World Health Organization, prostitution is, “a process that involves a transaction between a seller and a buyer of a sexual service.” On the other hand, the United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS has a more complex interpretation of prostitution: “Sex work may be formal or informal,” and then continue to explain that, “Commercial sex work may be conducted in formally organized settings from sites such as brothels, night clubs, and massage parlors; or more informally by commercial sex workers who are street-based or self-employed.” The complexity of prostitution helps explain why it’s an issue that evokes multiple opinions. In the modern nation-state, prostitution has become a social ‘issue’ that is regulated or prohibited by law. For instance, prostitution may be illegal, legal, or decriminalized. For social and cultural academics, it is important to make the sense of laws and the society. Therefore, one can use different theoretical frameworks, such as feminism or bio-politics, to explain the prostitution phenomena. In this essay, I will look at certain feminist influences on prostitution laws, and it’s implications. I will then analyze those feminist trends in prostitution laws through the lens of biopower. The two popular feminist stances have been either to tolerate prostitution by regulating it or to abolish prostitution by criminalizing it. Overall, prostitution laws result in the further marginalization of prostitutes despite being back by some feminist groups. Prostitution laws, instead, maintains neoliberal state interests while ignoring the true feminist aim of female empowerment.

Theory

Biopower is a term that was coined by Michel Foucault, which inspired a new theoretical frame to academic thought. For Foucault, biopower is the ‘”regulatory power of states over populations,” which thus produces, “docile bodies in everyday life of institutions.” In other words, Foucault tried to emphasize that the body is a way to understand a society and how power is used to control their lifestyles. Lifestyles of individuals and their self-care practices are influenced by an overarching power. Giorgio Agamben further elaborated Foucault’s theory. In Agamben’s view, the sovereign power constructs ideals for citizenship where certain lifestyles amount to a ‘qualified life.’ However, individuals who contrast from the ‘ideal’ are living a ‘bare life,’ and thus are excluded in various ways, such as marginalization or facing violence. Therefore, the marginalized groups in society are only marginalized because state power determines who can be included in the society and who cannot. In “What’s Law Got to Do with it? How and Why Law Matters in the Regulation of Sex Work,” Jane Scoular notes that prostitutes are part of the ‘bare life,’ where they are marginalized due to not being ‘ideal’ citizens.  To understand biopower, it is important to know who is an ‘ideal’ citizen and answer: what is the purpose of including some while excluding others?

In modern nation-states in the West, a ‘qualified’ life relates to neoliberal ideals. Neoliberalism is a shift in political, economic and ideological policy that began in the 1980’s (Yang, 2013), which currently dominates many governments globally. Economically, it is a policy of free-markets with minimal government interventions. Politically, it is the diffusion of government into smaller institutions. The notion of ‘freedom’ and individualism is the ideology behind neoliberalism, where individual freedom is achieved only through free markets. Yet the hidden element is that neoliberal policies seek to maintain the power of economic elites, and, it’s a “political project to re-establish the conditions of capital accumulation.” Neoliberalism, according to Scoular, is the main idea behind a ‘qualified’ life in Agamben terms. She notes, “modern law operates to regulate the complete lives of individuals,” and thus the law influences social norms. For instance, prostitutes are marginalized due to social stigma. The stigma, as Davey and Kissil mention, is the result of laws that criminalize prostitutes. Prostitutes are criminalized because the state feels they pose a threat to their ideals. For instance, the Contagious Diseases Acts in the late 19th century are said to criminalize prostitutes for their alleged danger to public health. Medical discourses and sciences were used to justify penalizing ‘unregulated’ persons, but in reality it was a moral panic over ‘unregulated’ sexuality. Controlled sexuality was crucial to the Modern nation-state agenda. Thus, prostitutes can only be ‘qualified’ if they satisfy the needs of neoliberal ideals, such as self-regulating themselves in a manner which results capital accumulation. The law is a way of expressing state power in an indirect way, as it influences norms, and thus influences people to maintain neoliberal interests. I will discuss how neoliberal interests are maintained through prostitution laws, but first I will discuss feminism as theory, since certain feminist have a strong stance on prostitution laws.

Feminism consists of many differing outlooks, yet there are notions that all feminists agree upon. For instance, feminists agree that female voices need to be addressed and recognized in society. They also stand for female empowerment through gender equality, especially in a Modern context where women are found less in high status positions compared to men. Despite these agreed upon notions, feminists differ in other aspects. Postmodern feminists, for instance, contend that feminism has been dominated by white, middle-class women, and such women cannot represent the interests of women as a whole. The weakness in feminism is that there is a lack of consensus on a variety of topics. With regards to prostitution, there are oppositional feminist stances, which is highlighted by Maureen Davey and Karni Kissil in their analysis titled, “The Prostitution Debate in Feminism: Current Trends, Policy and Clinical Issues Facing an Invisible Population.” Yet these two feminist stances do not speak for all feminists, because many feminists may be open to other theories on prostitution.

Discussion

Abolish Prostitution? Regulate it?

Two popular feminist stances towards laws on prostitution are: abolishing prostitution or regulating it. Yet while both have different stances, they both have very limited outlooks. Feminists who seek to abolish prostitution are often termed as Radical Feminists. In their view, prostitutes are victims of male oppression. Their goal is to abolish prostitution, as they feel prostitution only serves to oppress women. An example of this stance is found in Sweden, where prostitution is illegal. However, punishment is only directed at clients, whereas sex workers, seen as victims, are guided by state into ‘exiting’ programs. On the other side, another group of feminists, which Davey and Kissil termed the ‘pro’ feminists, feel that prostitutes have the agency to make their own choices and thus the laws should give them legal rights. The ‘pro’ feminists are usually in favor of laws which prostitution is tolerated. Therefore, legalization assumes that prostitutes will be empowered because they have legal rights. Overall, both the ‘pro’ and radical feminists are not challenging hegemonic state power, but rather are staying within its power. They fail to address how prostitution laws are part of wider form of maintaining state interests. In this view, the two feminist stances in the prostitution debate are problematic, because they are trying to represent the voices of all women. But as Kissil and Davey note, the two feminist stances have seldom consulted with the voices and desires of the prostitutes themselves. The lack of acknowledging the voices of prostitutes is apparent when given the implications of these feminist solutions to prostitution.

massage parlor

Prostitution laws, whether tolerant or against prostitution, results in more disadvantage than advantage for prostitutes. This is rather ironic, since feminist backed prostitution laws are usually aimed at protecting sex workers. For example, in Sweden, prostitutes are only protected from the law so long they adhere to ‘exiting’ programs, which are programs that aid prostitutes to exit the sex industry and integrate in mainstream society. This idea of exiting assumes that all prostitutes have the same desires, and thus all can be controlled. Therefore, prostitutes who don’t exit are deemed as criminals. As Scoular notes, “Criminalization in Sweden resulted in more risky situations for sex workers, where they have less choice of clients, quicker transactions, drop in prices and greater stress” (20). She further notes, “The Swedish Model just got rid of ‘visible’ street workers, while it created ‘invisible’ sex workers in off-street work” (20). Therefore, individuals who remain prostitutes in Sweden become excluded, because society has made no place for them. What is also interesting is how radical feminists aim at the criminalization of men over women, where men become targeted as clients. This actually doesn’t result in gender equality, but rather it shifts the stigma of prostitutes over to men.

Canadian examples illustrate the implications of prostitution laws where prostitution is tolerated. In Canada, the exchange of sex for money is legal, yet other laws make it difficult for prostitutes to conduct their services legally. Tamara O’Doherty (2011) notes that Canadian prostitution laws “ensure prostitution remains firmly entrenched in illicit markets by requiring sex workers to offend the criminal laws in order to work in safety (indoor venues)” (219). She further notes how Section 213 of the Canadian criminal code states that public communication for the purpose of prostitution is criminally prohibited. To illustrate this: brothels cannot legally label themselves as spaces for prostitution. Instead, they have to label themselves as non-sex related businesses, such as a massage parlor. Prostitutes themselves cannot be open about their services either; they cannot discuss with clients beforehand about their services. At the same time, Section 211 makes it illegal to use a place on a regular basis for prostitution, so therefore the massage parlor must ensure they deny sex is going on. According to O’Doherty, this ‘quasi-legal’ atmosphere places sex workers in more vulnerable positions, where they less prone to working in safe places. Given that the two feminist stances both have mainly negative implications for the lives of prostitutes, it seems that laws are not empowering their intended subjects. But rather, it’s pushing the majority of prostitutes to the ‘bare life.’

Since laws do not benefit most prostitutes, then the obvious question is: who benefits from the prostitution law? The State benefits as the laws ensure that their neoliberal interests are not challenged. In Sweden, exiting programs help prostitutes find ‘normal’ jobs, which they will become ‘qualified’ taxpayers, and thus assimilating with the hegemonic ideals and aiding the state power. In some Canadian provinces, for instance, local municipal laws require that massage parlors obtain expensive licenses to operate. As well, Edmonton sex workers are required by local municipal law to obtain licenses for each place they work. The act of licensing is a way of commercializing the sex industry, which means the state profits off licenses. It also is way of controlling and monitoring prostitutes. Therefore, those who participate in licensing are included in society, as they are doing what the state wants. However, not all prostitutes want or are in the position to reveal their identities. For instance, an illegal immigrant is automatically excluded from having ‘qualified life,’ because they are invisible to state recognition. And while legalization is argued to protect some prostitutes, others have argued that increased regulation means increased policing and monitoring over the lives of women. Further, many academics agree that prostitution laws do not reverse the negative impact of social stigma, which stigma causes psychological trauma for many prostitutes.  Therefore, many prostitutes are excluded and marginalized for failing to adhere to state interests. Sadly, marginalized groups are part of sustaining the capitalism. Therefore, the Radical and ‘pro’ feminists are contradicting themselves, because they are supporting a system of inequality, where only a minority of ‘qualified’ prostitutes are included in society. Such groups should not even be called feminist, because feminism is supposed to be about gender equality.

Feminism in current times, influenced by Postmodernism, emphasizes the diversity of female experiences, yet the ‘pro’ and radical feminist views on prostitution ignore an open, multi-theoretical approach. It is no wonder that these feminist stances on prostitution laws have had problematic results for prostitutes themselves. Given that prostitution laws have not benefited the fate of most sex workers it becomes obvious that laws are more concerned with sustaining state power and interests. However, the complexity involved in prostitution makes it difficult to find an alternative law that will satisfy the needs of everyone. Yet the question remains: can law be more inclusive of all members of society when considering how law is a tool of marginalizing certain people? So while the framework of biopower helps us understand prostitution laws it doesn’t really give us a solution to challenge the hegemonic power.  Many aspects of people’s lives are orientated toward neoliberal interests in most advanced capitalist nation-states. Therefore, it is difficult to challenge the power of state when the populations are compliant with the law. However, as an anthropologist it is the task to be critical and to educate others about making the familiar seem strange, whilst making the strange seem more familiar. As a postmodern feminist, it is important to be open to the ideas and theories of others. Rather than continue to marginalize others, one needs to think of ways that society can be more inclusive of so-called deviant groups.

Partial References:

Davey, Maureen & Kissil, Karni. (2010). The Prostitution Debate in Feminism: Current Trends, Policy and Clinical Issues Facing an Invisible Population.Journal of Feminist Family Therapy 22 (1), 1-21.

Farquhar Judith & Zhang Qicheng. (2005). Biopolitical Beijing: Pleasure, Sovereigntly, and Self-Cultivation in China’s Capital. Cultural Anthropology 20(3), 303-327.

Harley, David. (2005). Freedom is just another word. A Brief History of Neo-Liberalism. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

O’Doherty, Tamara. (2011). Criminalization and Off-Street Sex Work in Canada. Canadian Journal of Criminology and Criminal Justice, 217-245.

Schoular, Jane. (2010). What’s Law Got to do with It? How and Why Law Matters in the Regulation of Sex Work. Journal of Law and Society 37 (1), 12-39.

24 Comments

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24 responses to “Justice For All? The use of Law and the Hypocrisy of Feminist Stances Towards Prostitution Laws

  1. Robert

    That is a very well, unbiased, fair, balanced analysis of the laws and prostitution, incorporating examples from various countries and interest-groups. One of the best essays I have read. All law-makers and sociologists should consult this article.

    • escortdiary

      Thank you. Considering the law is an institution of hegemonic (dominant) power, it is unlikely the needs of marginalized people will be recognized. The current global political-economic models can only exist on the basis of inequality.

  2. Excellent piece, very stimulating.
    I am not optimistic on the margin for progress. In my view, the greatest illusion shared by all identity-based movements – which in the general started out meaning well in the wake of the discrediting of the historic Western “white” hegemonic culture, in the late 60s and 70s – is that the state can somehow be “won over” and used to further the interests of the oppressed. But as you point out several times throughout the article, the state only exists to further the interests of the elites and defend the established order. In the Western developed world, it has become quite clever & apt at obscuring its true purpose by co-opting some of the rhetoric of these initially progressive agendas. So it was that the invasion of Afghanistan by the US was in part justified through a “feminist” rhetoric of pointing the finger at the most extreme manifestations of the imbalance between genders in that society. (Not that I am trying to justify that, but it’s amazing how perverse this gets.)
    And so it is with prostitution – it will never be accepted in this society for as long as the nucleus family remains the core moral beacon, even though it (the nucleus family) has been largely rendered superfluous and outdated given the productive and intellectual forces that society possesses to educate and elevate the whole of humanity. And yet the paradox is that it is just as necessary as ever (from the perspective of the general societal good) as a necessary outlet of the unbridled but frustrated male ego in the postmodern world.
    So, as is the case for abortion laws, prostitution laws in the main serve to constrain the freedoms of sex workers (in the majority, women) rather then increase them, although that is not to deny that in some cases there are probably worthy aspects.

    • escortdiary

      What a great insight you added about how people have this illusion about the State being “won over” as you mentioned. I completely agree with you. The current global economic system simply cannot exist by accommodating the needs of all in a just, humane way. Nevertheless, movements are still important, because it shows people are engaging in discussions/critical anaylsis. The problem is that critical and analytical thinking is becoming more and more limited. Since colonial times, creative thought continues to be strategically ‘distracted’ by various tools of media propaganda, technology, etc. We have oppressed people who do not understand (or even care) about their oppression. We have ethnic minorities who’s cultures are being further destroyed, yet these very people are supporting the institutions that marginalized them. It strikes me when I hear ‘elites’ of the developing world talking about how their people are ‘backwards’ or need to ‘progress’ to get better.

      I am glad you mentioned the ‘save the third world woman’ discourse. A great Columbia University anthropologist, Lila Abu Lughod, writes about this extensively, and says these ethnocentric ‘saving the women’ agendas end up oppressing the very women they speak about. What’s behind this Western ‘feminist’ agenda is essentially political: to gain support for intervention in the Middle East, using ‘women need to be saved’ as a discourse. It is sickening about how much popular literature (propaganda) about the alleged ‘lives of Muslim women’ came about after September 11th. What’s more worrisome is how these ideas still prevail in mainstream opinion.

      Thank you so kindly for commenting and best wishes

  3. An excellent article, again…I still have so much to learn…

  4. I placed a link to your blog at my own blog, I suppose you are okay with that?

  5. simi69

    Dear Escort Lady
    A very well researched compiled and written article from you regarding how the laws relating to prostitution have further marginalised them instead of making their lives better
    You have referred the laws in Sweden and Canada
    India too makes prostitution illegal and this marginalises the poor prostitutes and threatens the high class escorts etc
    I read that the japanese have geishas in their culture who are respected by the society including married women for
    their skills. it may be worth studying their laws.
    in addition laws in Amsterdam and other countries may also be read

  6. Aphrodite

    Reblogged this on Writings from a woman of pleasure and commented:
    An intelligent and elaborate article concering the concequences of prostitution laws. Because I can’t think of something useful to add, I decided to simply reblog this article. As I deem its content as rather important, towards the oustide world.

  7. First of all I am not sure you are serious in many of your writings.

    So, you don’t like the feminist stance towards prostitution “abolish prostitution or regulate it”. What do you suggest?

    Why do human societies (with or without neoliberal interests) ban prostitution? It spreads diseases, illegitimate babies, destroy families and can make big money in the wrong hands, criminals and nonproductive members of society . These are all serious negatives. So, what is good about prostitution? The financial interest of prostitutes and the pleasure of desperate men. Not positive enough to most people (with or without neoliberal interests).

    For a decision maker, the negatives greatly outweigh the positives. Therefore, if legalized, it should only be to combat its negative consequences, not to empower the sex workers or the clients (and why would they do that?).

    But I suppose you already know this.

    With Love,
    YFC

    • escortdiary

      Hi YFC,

      I’m rather alarmed to see you internalized the ideas you have mentioned. Firstly, prostitution that exists today (in a mostly degraded state, consumed by exploitation, disease, intoxicants, etc) is only a recent phenomenon, and the negative discourses surrounding it are political constructions. Having said that, one must be mindful that NOT all prostitutes are exploited or doing this against their will. I, myself, enjoy many aspects of this work, and not all of my clients are ‘desperate’ nor just seeking only sex. So it’s very problematic to generalize the profession as a whole.

      If you believe prostitution ‘destroys’ families, then what family structure are you talking about? The modern nuclear, monogamous family? Are you aware of how this monogamous family came into being? Are you aware that other societies were more open with sexuality in ways that didn’t disease or ‘destroy’ families? Sexuality, the family, marriage, etc has existed in vastly different ways in different contexts. I think you need to question why prostitution has been seen as so negative, or question what really is destroying the ‘family.’ Marriage as strictly monogamous, where extramarital relations is condemned, is only a recent historical concept, via the spread of Victorian European notions of morality, gender and sexuality. You lack a historical understanding of what you mentioned — sorry to say, but you have generalized prostitution as if it’s existed the same ahistorically and cross-culturally. What you said also ignores the economic factors that are FORCING many women to do this work, often against their will — I highly doubt they have any intention of ‘burdening’ society. Prescribed modern gender roles also influence why men are seeking sex more than women (it is NOT biological). Victorian notions of gender still exist, on a global scale. They influenced women to be timid and submissive in their sexual exploration, where many women do not discover the beauty of orgasm. Thus, if many married women are not genuinely interested in sex, can you expect a man to just be deprived of sex? He will seek sex elsewhere. Sadly, modern society is not accepting of this, whereas other societies didn’t see marriage as the only outlet for pleasure.

      Ideally, yes, it would seem legalizing will ‘protect’ the sex workers. I once believed this too. But sadly, where sex work is legal there is still mass exploitation occurring. Policy makers give the impression of ‘protecting’ but what they are truly concerned about it is profiting from the industry. Women are more policed, monitored, controlled, commercialized, objectified and instructed to ‘regulate’ themselves in accordance with state interests. To legalize or ban sex work is staying within the same paradigm of state power. As I said in other posts, the current structure of all global nation-states is the outcome of European imperialism and colonialism, so thus the current system of law happens within this paradigm. In my paper, I am arguing what other academics are asserting: thinking outside this paradigm for radical change — critiquing it.

      Indeed, radical change might be out of the question. So for the time being, sex work continues to be ‘regulated’ as an ‘issue’ under state law which is either banned, semi-legal, or legalized. In all cases, there are still issues of stigma, exploitation, etc (despite giving them impression that legalizing sex work ‘protects’ women). Bare in mind that it’s only in the nation-state setting where sex-work was transformed into a ‘crime,’ starting in the late 19th century thanks to European

      Thanks for commenting. Given your great input in other comments, I am a bit shocked to see your opinion regarding this issue. Do some reading up on Michel Foucault’s ‘biopolitics’ if you have time

      x

      • Thank you for your comments, EE, great as always. I will check that book if I had time.

        “Firstly, prostitution that exists today (in a mostly degraded state, consumed by exploitation, disease, intoxicants, etc) is only a recent phenomenon, and the negative discourses surrounding it are political constructions.”

        I don’t agree that it is recent phenomenon. In all cultures I am familiar with, it has always been against the norm to be a prostitute and exploitation is present. Yes, not all women are forced against their will but most of them are, especially initially. I know a lot of them enjoy aspects of their work, but that’s what you should learn to do to be successful at anything. Love your work.

        “If you believe prostitution ‘destroys’ families, then what family structure are you talking about? The modern nuclear, monogamous family?”

        According to some 6000 year old writings, Adam and Eve were a nuclear, monogamous family. I assume it is the traditional way of life, we all come from a father and a mother, and would be nice if they lived together (which may have not always been an option, hence the alternative forms). I am aware that sexuality, family marriage etc have existed in many different ways, and that new forms are developing.

        “I think you need to question why prostition has been seen as so negative, or question what really is destroying the ‘family.’ “

        Being familiar with your wonderful writings, I guess the reason is the economic interests of capitalistic nation-states and western imperialism. I agree, but you can’t say on an individual level that prostitution doesn’t destroy it, too. You gold digger you..

        They are both sex for money, but prostitution is the opposite of marriage. I don’t know what are you suggesting talking about the past, gender roles and victorian notions. Prostitution as a solution? Put yourself in charge in the nation-state you are in, you think it would work? Not all people need extramarital relationships or be sexually obsessed.

        FYI, the old outlets of pleasure (courtesans, geishas, harim) were viewed (more or less) the same way high-end classy escorts are viewed today. There were always many levels of prostitutes. Capitalism is not new.

        I think it should be legalized, but very discouraged and stigmatized. And I am not judging or hating, as I was a client.

        Your Future Client, inshallah.

      • escortdiary

        @Anoxxx

        I am rather disappointed at your views. It seems you haven’t really understood how gender and sexuality are constructed in relation to differing power paradigms. Instead, you’ve generalized history within the same paradigm of thought, which is rather understandable given most narratives/discourses are heavily Orientalist and within only one conceptual framework.

        Many social and cultural academics dismiss what you mistakenly claimed; ‘Old outlets of pleasure’ were not viewed similar to the way escorts are viewed today, because the social, political and economic dynamics are completely different. As well, courtesans, geishas, dancing girls, and ‘harem girls’ cannot be generalized as the same thing, but rather they should be understood uniquely within their own context. Since you are an Arab (I’m assuming), it would be very worthy for you to study the works of other Arab academics who are highly critical of European interpretations of their own indigenous histories (which Edward Said did when he wrote Orientalism in the late 1970’s). Be mindful that early European ‘armchair’ anthropologists essentially generalized the histories of the entire world, interpreting it through their own cultural lens (ignoring the rich diversity and meanings/purposes of non-Western regions). Imposing European laws onto their colonies also degraded and generalized ‘pleasure’ women into the common prostitute, whereas previously ‘pleasure’ women (and men) may have been well-versed in the highly noble art of love, poetry, seduction, etiquette, etc.

        It seems you have missed the essence of my writing if you can simply refer to me as a ‘gold digger.’ It makes me feel saddened to read that.

        As the other commenter mentioned, you appear to be non-judgemental, and yet what you wrote above sounds very judgemental.

        No hard feelings, as I know you meant well.

  8. Aphrodite

    To Anoxxx. I don’t think prostitution must be ecouraged, but discouraged.
    At that point I agree with you.
    But stigmatizing doesn’t make the situation any better, at least not for the ones in it, like Sahar.
    Stigmatization plays a part in why most sex-workers can’t find another job, and proper help.
    As soon your past is known, you’re probably going to be ‘kicked out’.
    Look what has happened to Susy Favor Hamilton.
    Despite of being a great athlete, she lost about all her awards, just because she was once a prostitute. Didn’t you wish she could be seen as an athlete, instead of only a hooker, whose name ‘contaminates’ the field of athletics?
    Plus, don’t these people at least deserve the help they need, like frequent health care and emotional care?
    Even the people I went to had to be careful, and didn’t have the free space to give help, all because ‘they were helping prostitutes’.
    And how does legalizing prostitution make any sense, if it is still stigmatized?
    In holland prostitution is legalized, but most sex workers aren’t very happy with it. Like that, they are forced to put to profession ‘sex worker’ on their CV. And what chance do they have to get out of it? None.
    On top of that, they are forced to pay taxes. In my country (not Holland) we have to pay one of the highest taxes in the world. How many prostitutes are going to want to pay them? Sex is another kind of service, than say, selling cars. Most of them aren’t going to be willing to pay them.
    As a result, most of them go hiding. because of the forced legalization, and as a consequence, are more vulnerable to fall in the hands of criminal organizations, and have zero chance to find help.
    You say you don’t judge anoxxx, but it seems you’re don’t have the most empathic view either. That’s my observation.

  9. “In all cultures I am familiar with, it has always been against the norm to be a prostitute and exploitation is present.”

    Anoxxx said that, and I just wanted to point out that within the earlier history of the Middle East there was a different history. There were women who were temple priestesses/cult prostitutes; once such was my biblical namesake, Tamar. (“A woman who’s body’s ecstasy was a special kind of worship”). Perhaps not very much is known about this particular history, and yet it reverberates out from ancient times into the landscape and the music and poetry of this region. I believe this was Babylonian, Sumerian, Hittite, pagan time period, perhaps it went on long before and even after as well (hey maybe Mary Magdalene was one such woman, now that I think about it…). There were temples dedicated to the goddesses and the power of the feminine aspect, fertility cult temples where apparently women were priestesses of spiritual sects who facilitated devotion through sexual union. A donation to the priestess and her temple was required by visitors.
    “Skinny Legs and All” by Tom Robbins is a modern novel I once read that explores the mysteries of this history well.
    Goddess worshipping priestesses and tantrikas may have been akin to a courtesan or prostitute in ancient societies, but I wonder if the differences from then to now are more revealing of the shift in dominant cultural attitudes than anything else. In most ancient societies, spirituality was infused into all aspects of culture, with rite and ritual playing a very important role in all sectors of daily life. Modern life (at least in the west) is structured around a mostly secular model. People have many different belief systems about why they do what they do. I personally believe that there is always deep spiritual yearning behind all of our actions, no matter how materialistic or mundane they may seem. Anoxxx, maybe some day you will indeed be blessed to visit Sahar and worship the feminine divine through contact with her beautiful earthly form 😉

    • escortdiary

      Very interesting to know! I have never heard of Tamar before, but I am very curious now. Thank you for sharing dear.

  10. Dear Sahar,

    Writing to you in English doesn’t mean I have a western view of the world, and I don’t know what orientalists got to do with it.

    If you want to look at prostitution from an eastern perspective things are no better. In a society like mine, we were (and still) never tolerant to any form of relationships outside of marriage. For example, you are familiar with the practice of honor killings ( which btw is very unislamic and predates islam). Not everyone killed a fornicating female relative, but living in eternal shame (for the whole family) was a similar fate. You also know how much we still value virginity, right? And losing that prior to marriage is the worse shit a girl can ever find herself in. With the exception of Lebanon, prostitution is banned throughout the Arab world. You see where I am going with this. We are far less tolerant with prostitutes and historically have been more repressive of sexuality in general, and it had nothing to do with westernization or nation-states. It has to do with family preservation.

    As I told @Aphrodite once, in order to understand prostitution you have to understand what marriage is. Marriage… is soceity control of individuals through sex. In order to get married, you gotta work on yourself, to attract better partners etc. And in a conservative place like mine, keep the rep of the family. Prostitution goes against all that.

    The Harim weren’t prostitutes, strictly speaking, they were slaves. However, it was their only opportunity in life to be something more than a slave and gain some kind of status is to have the attention of their masters. They were sex objects and an outlet of pleasure, and it wasn’t nice at all. Geishas, were somewhat similar. Escorts, a modern concept but essentially still the the same. Sex for money, AKA prostitution.

    @Tamar, I asked a friend of mine about Tamar. Here I was told:


    Tamar husband died, and her husband’s brother is suppose to marry her. and she marrys one and he pulls out so she doesn’t get pregnant. And then that guy died. So another brother is suppose to marry Tamar but after two deaths they are scared of her and there’s only one brother left. So the father, judah becomes a widower, and Tamar pretends to be a prostitute to lure Judah (not any random man) because he owes her a family. And she lures Judah and says she payment would be a child. Then everyone found out that Tamar was prostituted herself so they tried to give her the death penalty. And then Tamar got Judah to vouch that he was the father. The story goes something like that..

    So she wasn’t really a prostitute but she was going to get killed when they found out she was one.


    Because in Ancient Babylonia society, there’s a different between a regular one and a sacred one. Even the tanakh uses two term and condemns both. Ancient Babylonia, condones one and not the other.

    @Aphrodite, why do I say legalizing and stigmatizing? Is to recognize the need of those who really need the money and make them operate under the eyes of the law yet not make it too profitable or enjoyable (growing business and recruitment). I am not saying make their lives even harder because they had no choice except being prostitutes! I am saying the state should support their exit.

    I am deeply sorry for any offenses throughout (esp Sahar for the golddigger part).

    YFC, all of you. 🙂

    • escortdiary

      Dear, The very fact you don’t know about Orientalism tells me everything about your perspectives. You’re understandings of the “East” are heavily influenced by contemporary Orientalist discourses, which are, as I said previously, widely dismissed by most social academics now. The oppressive sexual ‘policing’ and regulating that exists in the Arab world today is the result of modernism (European systems of organization) and Islamic fundamentalist discourses on sexuality that followed after. You are wrong that Arabs have been oppressed historically in the past. In the late 19th century, European Orientalists wrote extensively about their shock of how ‘open’ the Arab world was with it’s sexuality. In fact, the ‘Orient’ used to be known as a place where one could fulfill all of their sexual desires, compared to the rigid strict Victorian norms in Western Europe. European Orientalists were shocked to discover that sexuality was rather fluid, which homoeroticism and extramarital sex were common. This is very apparent in many medieval Arab literature, such as the poetry of Abu Nuwas, whom expressed his desires for both men and women. It was the influence of European imperialism, bringing their formalized ‘scientific’ norms on sex, which influenced Arab intellectuals and allies, who eventually adopted these European paradigms (social Darwinism, Victorian sexual norms, etc) when creating new Arab nation-states. This is widely known among academics, and Joseph Massad outlines this in his book, “Desiring Arabs.” Also, your understanding of ‘slaves’ in the harem is also very Orientalist, thereby misunderstood. Since you express an interest in these topics, I implore you to understand what I am trying to say. Please watch this video, as it explains “Orientalism” (start at 5:05): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xwCOSkXR_Cw Love, Sahar

    • Aphrodite

      Thank Anoxxx, for responding. I agree with you that the state should support their exit. Although I think it’s going to be a long way, because society (my society that is) has very double standards about the question.
      On one hand, they want to see women leave prostitution, but on the other hand, there is almost no employer that wants to hire an ex- prostitute. .
      If it weren’t that profitable, then less women would ‘attracted’ to go in it, you’re right about that. Although, I think we’ve already entered the stage of prostitution becoming less and less profitable, because there are simply too many.
      You know, it’s just a question of demand and supply.
      However, if, hypothetically speaking, the lare number or prostitutes would fall, the rates will increase again. And prostitution will become a very lucrative business, again…
      But the people who want to get out, well, they must be given the chance to actually leave and to find another job that provides a decent income. That’s why I think stigmatizing it further isn’t a good idea. And I think prostitution is stigmatized enough already.
      Pffft, these are difficult questions, with no direct answers.
      I don’t have any hard feelings to you, for I don’t even know you, except for your writings.
      Our upbringing and vicinities are way too different, although my family isn’t at all one of loose morals, they are rather rigid
      I’m glad you’re at least willing to kindly interact with people with totally different points of view.

  11. @anoxxx your facts about the biblical story are incorrect but I don’t particularly care. The point has to do more with illuminating other aspects of the archetypal role of a prostitute/courtesan figure within the historical imagination.

  12. Andrew

    RE: “In Sweden, prostitutes are only protected from the law so long they adhere to ‘exiting’ programs, which are programs that aid prostitutes to exit the sex industry and integrate in mainstream society. This idea of exiting assumes that all prostitutes have the same desires, and thus all can be controlled”.

    That’s incredible! I never knew that! Where was the European Court of Human RIghts when someone proposed that blackmail. In effect, ‘You agree to leave your profession, join ‘society’ and we won’t send you to jail’.

    To my shame (and I’ve said this) I should have paid more attention but prostitution exists in a secret underworld of isolation and discretion. What could clients do? Become activists? Go on ‘TV News’ for an interview whilst their mother wife and kids were watching?

    The ironic thing about this, or paradox is that the buyers of sex are EXACTLY the men who could have done something about it. How many times have we seen Lawyers Policemen High Court Judges Politicians Royal ‘Kings and Princes’ captured in brothels. The Minister of Parliament John Profumo famously brought down a 1960’s UK Government because the prostitute he was paying was also ‘dating’ a Russian Spy………. a Motion Picture followed.

    Btw I’m not a ‘rich or powerful man’, just middle aged, single lol a bit lonely who payed for a young woman to give me a handjob, allowed me to rub her back and then give me a cuddle. HOWEVER I imagine, and quite rightly so, new Laws are aimed to stop East European Sex Slavery and who can argue with that? No one.

    Every so often I come back to your Diary:) and enjoy rereading, bye Andrew

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