Monday, 22 April 2013
Prostitution - the last taboo?
This month’s issue is the Vice Issue and, if I appear to have been quiet for a while, it’s because I’ve been away indulging my passion for sunbathing in Cape Town (probably a vice) and my addiction to chocolate over Easter (definitely a vice). I was also taking a holiday from my main job, which some would no doubt claim is the biggest vice of all. I work as a tantric masseur, which could well be considered the more legitimate end of prostitution (certainly there are many sites which will not accept a massage ad, which gives any indication that the massage might be sexually pleasurable), and before that I worked as an escort.
It seems to me that, even in our more sexually charged world, a world that increasingly accepts sex as a part of life, prostitution is one of the last, great taboos. There are people out there selling all sorts of services, from cleaning to baby-sitting to dog walking, so, if you happen to be good at sex, then why not offer that as a service? Presumably the reason prostitution is such a taboo goes back to most religions viewing sex as a sin, but though more and more people would no longer subscribe to that opinion, prostitution, or selling sexual services, is still frowned upon. Are there double standards going on here? For instance, society still seems to have problems with women who view themselves as sexual beings. Why is it, for instance, that a man who has multiple sexual partners is considered a stud, but a woman a slut? Feminists, too, often have problems with other women who admit to a high sex drive, and often refuse to believe that there are women who choose to work in the sex industry, even when confronted by someone like Dr Brooke Magnanti, the woman who created the blog Belle De Jour, which was, in turn, based on her experiences as a high class call girl. Believe me, there are plenty of others out there, but they go unnoticed, whilst the media concentrates on the problems of trafficking, coercion and drugs.
This dichotomy exists in the gay world too. There are plenty of gay men out there, who spend their lives frequenting sex clubs and bars, having anonymous sex with multiple partners, often more than one in a single night, and that is accepted as just part of the gay scene. Many of these men are completely indiscriminate as to whom they end up having sex with, and yet they will look down their noses at anyone who chooses to accept payment for sex. “How can you have sex with someone you don’t fancy?” they will say, though they’d be perfectly happy to join in with a group session in a sex club, with scant regard as to who else was in the group. You can’t tell me they went through a strict vetting process beforehand.
When I first started escorting, it kept me very busy, and I might easily have had sex with 15 to 20 men in a single week. Yet a friend who once told me that I was the least promiscuous gay man he knew. He had a point. If I wasn’t working, I was, and still am, extremely choosy. Maybe it’s because it can too easily just seem like work, but I digress.
Now I know of many other gay men, who have, at one time or another, worked as an escort. These men have perfectly normal day jobs, whether it be in IT, law or whatever, but of course they keep it completely secret. When asked, you would never be likely to hear them say, “Oh I work in IT, but I also do a bit of prostitution on the side.” Aside from the fact they’d likely get sacked, working as a prostitute or an escort still isn’t acceptable. Mind you, in the straight world, nor is sex outside of a stable relationship, which, come to think of it, could be one of the problems some heterosexual men still have with gay men.
Actually, rather than society becoming more comfortable with prostitution, the reverse is happening. At present there is a Bill before the Scottish Parliament, (brought by MSP Rhoda Grant) that would seek to follow the Swedish model by making it illegal to purchase sex. I believe they are also considering this model for the rest of the UK. This law seeks to make the client into a criminal. Rhoda Grant recently stated in the Glasgow Evening Times, “People that use prostitutes are people who would rape and abuse," a statement that is utterly false and completely inflammatory. An article by sex worker, Laura Lee, in Independent Voices on Friday April 5th, seeks to refute these myths, but is anyone listening? http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/men-buy-sex-for-many-reasons--as-a-sex-worker-i-can-tell-you-they-dont-deserve-to-be-criminalised-8562185.html
1. He’s in a long term relationship. He still loves his partner, but his partner doesn’t enjoy the same sort of sex he does. Seeing an escort is far safer than picking someone up on the internet or in a bar. His partner is far less likely to find out about it, and the escort is far less likely to turn into a bunny boiler.
2. Maybe he’s disabled in some way. We do tend to forget the physical needs of the disabled, as if a disability should condemn someone to a life time of celibacy. One of my clients, a sweet and gentle man, had lost both his legs in an accident. Sex wasn’t easy for him, but it was possible and he still had needs. Much better to use the service of a professional.
3. . This is one of the most surprising, but it happens. A young guy, who wants someone with a bit of experience to each them a few things. I wrote an article about one such experience for my blog. Take a look http://www.thegregmitchell.blogspot.co.uk/2011/09/even-i-can-be-surprised-old-journal.html
4. . The businessman in town for a couple of nights. He has a limited amount of time and doesn’t want to waste it hanging around in bars or trying to find someone on Grindr or Scruff (you know how time consuming that can be). Answer, call an escort. Even better, make the booking before you arrive in town. You may be surprised to hear that many book in advance.
5. . Those who want to have sex with that particular escort; probably because they’ve seen him in a movie (escorting and porn often go together).
6. . Someone who wants to explore and indulge a particular fetish. Believe it or not, it can be safer to explore this with an escort, someone who has a website and umpteen ads on various sites, than someone who is a complete unknown.
Do we really wish to criminalise these men? Absolutely not, nor should the State be interfering in what is, after all, a transaction between two consenting adults. It’s my contention that the problems of trafficking, drugs and coercion could more easily be dealt with by decriminalising and regulating the industry, rather than creating more bands of legislation and driving the industry further underground. It’s called the oldest profession in the world for a reason, and it’s time that our attitudes to both sex and the sex industry became more grown up.