Thursday, April 05, 2007

At least corporate lawyers are paid well....

I was not surprised to note that national police commissioner, Jackie Selebi’s, suggestion to legalise prostitution and public drinking during the 2010 Soccer World Cup was described as “appalling” by Doctors for Life International (DFL). These are the same people who suggested that the acceptance of same-sex marriage will lead to an increase in child molestation.

I was surprised, though, that Jackie Selebi (“my friend finish en klaar” of alleged gangster and murder accused Glen Agliotti) for once almost made sense. It is so blindingly obvious that sex work should be legalized – and not only during the world cup either.

This for me is such a no-brainer, so pardon me if I am belaboring the obvious.

The problem is, of course, that even people who would usually be quite open-minded and socially progressive, see sex-workers as somehow morally degenerate and tainted. Thus, the Constitutional Court judges who wrote for the majority (Ngcobo) and the minority (O’Regan and Sachs) in the Jordan case suggested that sex workers were somehow beyond the pale and that they had brought the criminal sanction on themselves by choosing this despicable profession.

Nobody has ever explained what exactly about the job of a sex worker is so distasteful that it should be viewed as morally more reprehensible, say, than the work done by estate agents, corporate lawyers, insurance salesmen or priests of the Catholic Church.

It is true that sex workers often have to deal with clients who are cruel, stupid, sexist or all of the above, but which female middle manager at a big corporation does not face the same problem?

The real issue is, of course, that our society has a warped and perverted view of sex. We rather like to have sex. We like to look at sexy things. In commerce we use sex to sell everything from cell phones to toothpaste. But at the same time we have deeply ingrained cultural programming that tell us that most kinds of sex (especially too much sex) are dirty, ugly and depraved. It is only when we have sex with someone we love (or – when we need to take a short-cut – whom we at least like for the night), that it is ok. When women sell sex, it is invariably wrong and we feel they deserve to be punished.

Some sex-negative feminists would say that sex work is deeply degrading to the women who engage in it and for some or maybe even a large majority of such women this will be true. But it is also true, surely, of those women who have to clean urinals for a living or do dirty work on farms. I would argue criminalizing sex work is degrading to women because it is part of the patriarchal efforts to police women’s sexuality.

I am not saying that I would encourage women to embark on a sex work career. However, I am saying that there is a terrible double standard at work in our society that sees nothing wrong with the fact that one kind of work can be criminalized, while other kinds of work that pay lower wages and require much harder work are allowed or even encouraged.

12 comments:

Africannabis said...

DFL - consider being gay a disease - according to their website.

Anonymous said...

I agree, but you haven't said anything about the 'public drinking' bit. If that's also OK by you, then I don't agree.

Anonymous said...

Have you read the majority opinion in the Jordan case?

By the way, Ngcobo J wrote for the majority, not Skweyiya.

Anonymous said...

"Jordan case", what Jordan case? Surely you don't mean the "Baby Jordan" case, because I fail to see how that has anything to do with Jackie Selebi's musings. And just who is Ngcobo J? - Clara

Anonymous said...

Mr de Vos, it became painfully apparant to me as I began to read your opinion (before I looked at your name), that first of all you are male. I see you are a professor of law. What, may I ask, are your credentials/experience concerning prostitution? And what is so "blindingly obvious" about it being legalized?
I think you are most conceited to describe humanism as "no-brainer".
We at DFL do not see prostitutes (forgive me if I do not refer to them as sex-workers - purely because most are in slavery) as morally degenerate. In my own experience prostitutes are kind and generous people, who for the most part have a low self esteem and are being manipulated, coerced and forced to have sex with men they abhor to line the pockets of pimps and to survive another day, simply because our government cannot provide proper employment and support for them. More money is being spent changing street names. And because we are not prepared to help these people, we excuse ourselves by calling them sex-workers in a pityful attempt to dignify their trade. Then we want to herd them into one area like the German getto's of the 2nd world war and brand them.
Perhaps nobody has ever explained to you what is so "distasteful" about "the job of a sex-worker" because you have not taken the time to listen. How can you be so insensitive to suggest that the cruelty of being sodomised, raped, tortured, abused, insulted and degraded in the worst form is equivelent to being a female in middle management at a big corportation. As a professor of law, do you not know that employees of corporations are protected by the sexual harrasment act? And don't give me that bull about concensual adult sex!
Mr de Vos, have you ever been sodomised?
I would rather clean a urinal or do dirty work on farms than be a victim of slave trade and a prostitute. And, yes, I have been both. Personally.
So please get your facts straight before you decide to embark on a subject you obviously know NOTHING about!
Debbie Toughey

Raphael said...

Debbie Toughey: You're generally right, but do you think the proper way to react to this degradation, manipulation and enslavement of women is to jail the women who have been degraded, manipulated and enslaved?

Pierre de Vos said...

Yes, anonymous you are correct: the majority opinion was written by Ngcobo not Skweyiya. (Fixed it now). The majority seems to say that there is no discrimination here because it is legitimate to target the sex workers and not their clients in the same way that it would be acceptable to target the drug dealer and not the user. But both majority and minority agreed that it was for Parliament to decide whether sex work in general should be criminalised or not.

Anonymous said...

A "no brainer", Professor? Where the hell did you get your qualification from; Pofadder Secondary? In you abstract postmodern view (which is, in fact, absurdist and ultimately ascribes to no form of reason at all) you cannot make any condemnations or recommendations - consider that most girls go into prostitution not by choice, and are abused every day. You obviously have no experience whatsoever in the world of prostitution. Rave and rant all you want from your pristine subsidised office, but the fact remains that prostitution is the objectification and exploitation of women. To legalise this despicable practice is to open a floodgate to the organised crime that invariably comes attached to it. I find it reprehensible that extreme liberals who care more for ideas than people can spew such idiotic nonsense, then implemented in our laws. Our country's in the toilet, and men like you stand clear and flush. Bravo.

Anonymous said...

"DFL - consider being gay a disease - according to their website." Africannabis

In your dagga-induced state, perhaps you may discover that homosexuality was scratched from the list of mental diseases by the APA in '72 after a hoard of faggots wielding molotov cocktails and flaming dildo's stampeded their annual conference demanding to be cleared from the "insane list". Sadly that year was chaired by a democrat and the board of shrinks shrank away from the confrontation, and the threat of being 'buggered'. Now they have special priveleges - despite being deeply disturbed individuals who will find the most perverted and bizarre means to achieve orgasm. Why are they the new elite? I suppose the first lifestyle oriented around sexuality has to be given a pedestal in today's porn & perversion culture.

Raphael said...

It's interesting that the anonymous comment after that of Pierre the Vos repeats the points about exploitation and abuse but doesn't answer my question.

So the position is "These women have been brutally abused and exploited! Let's put them in jail for it! Everyone who disagrees with doing that is disgusting!"

The only really sad and disgusting thing here is that this is the official policy of almost all countries in the world.

Anonymous said...

Raphael, you are abysmally ignorant. Illegal activity always has consequences - even outside the law - just look at Keith Richard's face after decades of drug abuse. Something is deemed illegal because of its moral and social repurcussions; prostitution not only affects those who make use of its services (broken marriages, STD's and HIV/AIDS, robbed clients, embarrasing situations for our esteemed politicians, etc.) but for the practitioners of the practice. While they are abused every day, they are still on the wrong side of the law (except if they're under-age, or coerced) and should be punished. The johns should also be canned - more harshly, in my opinion (without demand, there'd be no service). I also humbly suggest that prostitutes should be offered alternatives as part of rehabilitation. We should support organisations that actually offer their help to these women (I noticed DFL has a prostitution outreach project).

The only sad and disgusting thing here is, Jackie (and his mafia-kingpin kissing-cousin) want to legalise a trade in human flesh.

Prostitution should be tackled like drug abuse - harsh sentences for pimps and johns, rehabilitation and counselling for pro's.

Anonymous said...

Raphael, Debbie Toughey here. Anonymous has just said it all - and very well too!
We should aim for a programme which not only helps prostitutes to get out of the sordid business, but prevents / discourages the practice of human trafficking and prostitution, by not supporting legalization of prostitution.
The SA Law Reform Commission is currently working out laws to protect trafficked women (trafficking in persons does not necessarily always happen over borders!) from being convicted of prostitution. They are also suggesting harsher sentences for pimps and johns.