Once more into the breach on prostitution


We have yet another of these regular attempts to change the law on prostitution in the UK. To argue for change is fine of course: we don't think the current law is correct either. Yet the actual argument being put forward here is that we should switch to the Nordic (sometimes "Swedish") model. To understand this, at present in the UK, the selling of sex is not illegal: it's entirely legal in fact, as is the buying of it. Certain surrounding practices, soliciting (almost exclusively to do with street prostitution), living off immoral earnings (aka "pimping"), brothel keeping and so on are illegal. We don't think this is the correct structure of the law either. That Nordic system is that the selling of sex is not illegal, the purchasing of it is.

Caroline Bennett seems to be remarkably confused about the benefits of this:

Incidentally, with decreased supply, prices for sex have risen: witness a neat ledger shown to the commission by a Swedish state prosecutor, Lars Ågren, documenting the massive profits enjoyed, prior to discovery, by a Polish outfit running 23 prostitutes. “They could charge double in Sweden than in Poland.” He adds: “The girls aren’t making money.”

This is used as an argument in favour of the Swedish system as opposed to that Polish one. The Polish one being remarkably similar in law to the UK one. Pimping and brothels are illegal, the actual work itself is not. So, as Bennett herself says, the Swedish illegality of purchase seems to produce those profits for the managers of the trade, the pimps, but not benefit the actual people doing the work. Quite why this is an advantage of that system we're really struggling very hard to understand.

Our own attitude is more fundamental. Freedom, liberty, require that consenting adults get to do what consenting adults consent to. With the proviso that regulation of harm to others, those not directly involved or consenting (and obviously, those who are not adults) being entirely allowable, often sensible and sometimes necessary. To mangle Mill: their freedom to deploy their genitals as they wish stops where your genitals become involved, not before.

The correct form of the law is therefore very simple indeed. We do indeed say that any consenting adult may have sex with any other consenting adult as they wish. We do not regard the addition of cash payment to the process as changing this. Similarly, anyone may offer a massage to another for payment or not for payment. We do not regard the addition of erotic to this process as changing the basic liberty either. Thus the law should be that both the selling and purchase of sex should be, must be, legal, with whatever limitations necessary to protect those who are not adult and or who do not consent.