08 December 2011

The Oldest Profession

Seriously NSFW anti-prostitution ad, and one that comes closer to any I have ever seen to convey to men a visceral sense of how awful it must be to be a woman in the sex trade:

Campaign against the prostitution english version from Black Moon prod on Vimeo.

I should say, as a point of order, that I'm not anti-sex. I'm sure there are out there many Julia-Roberts-eque hookers "with a heart of gold" -- call girls who are beautiful, sex-positive and in control of their bodies and their lives, able to choose their clients and making money and happy and good for them. They're not who this is about.

I see hookers all the time in my ER, and have for a long time. I see them up close and personal. They're not sexy. They're sad and miserable. They have abscesses from IV drug injections. They have missing teeth from meth use. They have sagging breasts and stretch marks on their bellies from the babies they had in their teens. They have psychological scars from the abuse they suffered at the hands of family members.

They don't usually think of themselves as hookers, and few of them fit the "streetwalker" image. They would be offended if they heard themselves described as prostitutes. But they are desperate and addicted and sometimes homeless and they have sex with men for money and drugs and shelter and protection. They don't think of it as turning tricks, typically, they just think of it as surviving.

I don't have any data, but I suspect that women (and some men) like this probably account for a huge majority of people in the sex trade. Add to that the illegal immigrants who are actually coerced into the profession and the more traditional streetwalking ladies of the evening and I am sure this is a large majority of the trade.

I don't know whether ads like the above do anything to help. I guess they increase awareness, so that's good. I actually don't think prostitution should be a crime. But I wish that the circumstances that led to prostitution could be eradicated.


  1. Having. like you, taken care of prostitutes of every kind over the last couple decades, and also having know someone who fell into that life for exactly the reason you describe, I couldn't agree more.

    From my experience in both the Rampart and Hollywood areas of LA, and in the same area you work, I'd say that the situation you describe accounts for probably 90% of the women that would be called prostitutes.

    I have no idea what the solution is, or even if there is a solution, but I too think it shouldn;t be a crime. Putting someone in jail for this only makes their life worse and makes it harder for them to get out of it.

    The pimps however, both the people that pimp as a business and the people that abuse and force women into this situation, should be shot.

    I'd much rather take care of a dirtbag with a GSW than some sad, addicted, diseased and abused woman (or man in some places I've worked).

  2. I agree, I think the myth most prostitutes are 'happy hookers' is widespread but criminalising already desperate and often underage girls/boys isn't the answer.

    In Sweden they've tried a very sucessful approach, the perpetrators, (johns/customers) are prosecuted and not the victims (the prostitutes).

    Its done something remarkable in that its reduced customers, which led to reduced profits. A few men are willing to take the risk of course (always will be) but not enough to make enough money for pimps to consider it worth while. (We sometimes forget that prostitution is a business)

    The number of new prostitutes fell dramatically and since they are not at all criminalized they have alot of help available to them.

  3. as much as I agree that the circumstances that lead to people relying on prostitution as survival tool are very sad - be they drugs or abuse or having dependant families - not all prostitution is like that. Perhaps the prostitutes/sex workers/whatever that do come into the ER are more likely to be along that end of the spectrum, but I know hundreds of sex workers [& am one myself] that are just... students or young adults - needing to pay rent with a job that fits in with their schedule and responsibilities. I'm talking about well-run legal brothels, and of course there are poorly run brothels then illegal ones & street workers, but I think it's a big leap to assume all prostitutes are trapped in a life of necessity. I really enjoy my job - as do all the girls who I work with, and overall we're a healthy & happy bunch [at least in the houses I worked in - and all the girls I've met]. Not sure what my rambling point was - maybe that it's sad you see the horrible side of prostitution [& there is a downside] because the girls come into the ER all the time, but there's a whole world of happy & healthy working girls out there just in it for the money =)

  4. Bullshit.

    I agree that not all sex workers live in a magical world of safety and glamour and success. I don't like that women are drived to it by their circumstances, or get into it because of drugs, or are enslaved.

    I think that narrowing all prostitution down to "people who didn't have a choice and are miserable about it" is as bad as assuming that everyone in sex work is perfectly safe and happy. It's as hurtful and just helps perpetuate certain stereotypes and taboos.

    The line of thinking that throws the sex workers you have personally encountered with "uglyness" also makes me deeply uncomfortable. From there it's only a couple of steps to slut shaming and assuming that women who have lots of sex will be ugly or ill or undignified.

    Finally, I'd really expect more from an ER physician (or, I guess not, judging from my previous experiences with doctors, however unlike you I tend to prefer to not make generalisations about an entire profession based on the small sample I've come into contact with). "Stretch marks", really? Are you fucking serious? In case you haven't noticed, a lot of people - prostites or not - have stretch marks. A lot of people have issues with their bodies. Most people would expect doctors to do their job and not really pay attention to whether their patients look like a photoshopped model.

  5. I can frequently agree with your arguments or at least respect them, but this is sadly an untypical display of ignorance and lack of perspective. I know numerous people involved in sex work either directly or indirectly, and none of them are addicts or are abused. However, they have to hide their true occupation in order to get health care coverage, so you would not know if they came to your hospital. You may well have treated some of the "happy hookers" and had no idea what they did for a living, as most of them would not readily volunteer this information.

  6. Many have said what I want to say.
    Subsistence prostitution to feed an addiction is not the same thing as sex work as a choice.

    What you are talking about is subsistence prostution. The fix for subsistence prostitution is to fix whatever it is that pushed that person into sex work when no other income stream was possible. This is not the same as sex work as a choice. This is sex work as a non-choice.

    Prostitution as it stands, or rather, sex work as it stands, will never be eradicated. Sex work is legitimate work when performed safely in sanitary work conditions in a position where one is free to chose one's partners and is free and able to refuse unsafe encounters. Personally, I fight against subsistence prostitution rather than sex work as a whole, as I believe, as you do, that the circumstances which lead to subsistence prostitution could be eradicated.

  7. To the sex workers at al who commented -- I generally agree with you, and I though the distinction between subsistence prostitution and sex work as a choice is very important.

    I'm fine with well-regulated brothels, etc. No problem with it at all. My heart just goes out to the too often forgotten/ignored women (and men) who are tricked or trapped in a terrible cycle of subsistence prostitution.


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