Category Archives: sex work

Is harlotry admirable?

Dalrymple writes that in his medical career he had as patients

quite a few prostitutes, who varied from those who were paid in cigarettes behind the rubbish dump to those who flew round the world first-class flogging men at their destination (judges and politicians, mostly, but probably the ones who deserved it least).

He cannot say that he felt

any great moral outrage against them—and they varied in personality from the pitiable to the charming and amusing, none of them striking me as really wicked. But I could not see them as moral heroines, either, and I cannot bring myself to call prostitution sex work. Surely we can sympathise personally with people without having to pretend that what they do is admirable?

Fornication facilitators

Coition administrators at work

In the British Medical Journal as in most other Western publications, it is today required to use this or similar terms, such as copulation coordinators or sex agents, rather than the loaded and implicitly judgmental expression pimps, just as it is required to use the term sex workers rather than the obsolete prostitutes. Dalrymple writes:

I have twice been asked to appear on a panel at literary festivals on the subject of prostitution. Why I should have been selected for this honour, I do not know; but on both occasions I shared a panel with a chairwoman of a prostitutes’ collective and a female sociologist who claimed that prostitution was work like any other—better, in fact, since it entailed flexible hours, tax-free pay, a better hourly rate than average, and the like advantages. The sociologist was herself very prim and proper. I pointed out that, having taken this normalising view of the activity, the government of a German state had suggested that women who claimed unemployment benefits could rightly be put to sex work, as they were obliged to accept work if it were offered. The experiment did not last long, which suggested (to me, at least) that the work was not the same as, say, that of shelf-stacker or secretary.

‘Not everyone can be a prostitute,’ one of my fellow panellists piped up. ‘It takes skill.’

‘I am sure it can be taught,’ I said. ‘The unemployed could be sent for sex-work training. It surely wouldn’t take long to learn.’

My audience proved its intellectual gravitas by not laughing. Indeed, a member of the audience, a self-proclaimed madam of a Thai brothel, informed us that in Thailand there was indeed a training school for prostitutes. Whether it issued diplomas—elementary, intermediate, and advanced—and who, if any, the examiners were, she did not inform us; but again, nobody laughed. On the contrary, the audience seemed to think this was a jolly good idea. It would raise the general standard of sex work.

Sex-work and elasticity of demand

Screen Shot 2016-06-25 at 12.21.05In a recent debate, Dalrymple makes the obvious point that elasticity of demand for prostitutes’ services in a fornication market is great or small according as the amount of coitus demanded increases much or little for a given fall in sex-price, and diminishes much or little for a given rise in sex-price.

He asks if prostitution,

being merely one kind of work among others, could rightfully be forced upon unemployed women in receipt of social security, who had not the right to turn down available work in supermarkets, for example. Surely, training could easily be given and certificates handed out. At least at elementary levels, no very prolonged apprenticeship could be required.

Enough to make you wish for the rapid spread of AIDS

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Never a rose without a prick

Dalrymple recalls his days living in a large English city. In the quarter where he resided, every night a sex-work human resources manager, or pimp, would bus in a bevy of sex workers, or prostitutes, who would stand on the corner and wait for clients.

The sex workers,

much the worse for drugs, seemed mainly in their 30s and 40s. They were desperate, and it seemed to me that their clients — mainly travelling-salesmen types — must have been pretty desperate too.

Residents of the respectable bourgeois street were, needless to say, not especially happy with the situation.

Screen Shot 2016-04-09 at 07.49.15It was not very pleasant to pick the used condoms from the rosebushes in the morning. In fact, it was enough to make you wish for the rapid spread of AIDS.

Brief-carnal-liaison co-ordinator’s fury over threat to sex industry

One of Dalrymple’s neighbours

formed a group that went out every night photographing and taking down the registration numbers of the kerb-crawling cars. This had so severely an inhibitory effect upon business that the sex-work human resources manager came in his car to threaten the vigilante group (aged, on average, 70). He flashed a gun at them, but my neighbour told him not to be silly.

Screen Shot 2016-04-09 at 08.33.29Pressure was put on the police, and the sex workers were moved

to one of the many parts of the city where skeletal, edentulous women having sex in the street would not be noticed.

Sex-work human resources managers

Sex-work human resources managers

Handmaiden to a teetotaller

Handmaiden to a teetotaller: Temperance Street, Manchester

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Temperance Street. Photo courtesy of Google Street View

Midland Arms, Temperance Street

Midland Arms and Imperial Inn, Temperance Street

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Another view of the Temperance Street public houses