By Carl Augustsson
NCFM Liaison, Democratic Republic of Georgia
I wish to strongly emphasize from the outset that this article is purely about adult prostitution. Nothing written here is to imply any support whatsoever for child prostitution.
In 1998, Sweden passed a law called “sexköpslagen”, which roughly translates to “law on the buying of sex.” Under this law, the buying of sex is a criminal offense, but the selling of sex is not. What is worse is that this nonsense law has been copied in both Norway and Iceland. In fact, the Norwegian law is actually far worse. Under the Norwegian law, a Norwegian who travels to say, the Netherlands or Germany where prostitution is legal, and has sex with a prostitute could be arrested upon returning to Norway. The supporters of this provision said that they wanted to stop “sex tourism”. My response would be: none of your business! Why people choose to travel is not for the government or activists to worry about.
The thinking behind sexköpslagen was that the prostitutes were being exploited. They therefore should not be arrested. Furthermore, the thinking was also that the prostitutes were being exploited by the men who visited them.
Both this law and the thinking behind it are so wrong that it is hard to even know where to begin. First of all, consenting adults should be allowed to buy and sell sex from each other. Also, does it not seem wrong that the party that is making money in the transaction is not committing a crime, whereas the party that is paying is?
In addition, supporters of this law seem to have totally ignored the fact that in many instances, prostitutes have been known to aggressively pursue single men that they encounter on the street. Indeed, those of us who have travelled and lived in Eastern Europe could certainly attest to that. With this fact in mind, it is totally wrong for someone to legally pursue a potential customer who would in the end be committing a crime, while the pursuer would not only not be committing a crime, but would also be making money in the process. Moreover, how can men who give into the aggressive pursuits of prostitutes be seen as exploiting them? Indeed, could pushy prostitutes actually be seen as exploiting men? While such aggressive prostitutes are rare in Sweden, the supporters of this law—if asked—would almost certainly want to see it replicated around the world, including in countries where pushy prostitutes are common. It is worth repeating a quote from a Swedish prostitute in a BBC article about this law: “I mostly work in high luxury hotels and apartments. I don’t feel used. Sometimes I feel I’m using them” www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-11437499, September 30, 2010.
It must also be remembered that while the prostitutes may not be committing a crime, they still have to hide their activity in order to protect their clients. While the supporters of this law could easily point out that the law does not forbid women from selling sex, it still requires them to sell it to people who are breaking the law. Furthermore, if a woman—or man!—wishes to sell sex for money, then what right does the government have to say no? Therefore, if the thinking is that it should be their right to sell sex, they should not be forced to sell it to people who are breaking the law.
However, it is very important to note that even though selling sex is not a crime in Sweden, the intention behind this law was for prostitution to come to an end. In the same BBC article, the Detective Superintendent of Stockholm’s Police Surveillance Unit stated “[i]t should be difficult to be a prostitute in our society—so even though we don’t put them in jail, we make life difficult for them” www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-11437499, September 30, 2010.
As has been previously stated, the prostitutes themselves do not like this law. Many feel that far from protecting them, it harms them both by stigmatizing their work and by making them hide it. As a result, the Rose Alliance, an organization representing Swedish prostitutes, lists the abolition of sexköpslagen as point 3 on its platform: ”Ett avskaffande av sexköpslagen…Detta som ett första steg mot en total avkriminalisering av sexindustrin.” www.rosealliance.se/?s=sexk%C3%B6pslagen. Translation: “an abolition of sexköpslagen…That is a first step towards a total decriminalization of the sex industry”. Moreover, the prostitutes themselves claim that the law has made working more dangerous for them. In short, if the law was intended to help prostitutes, it has failed miserably. Likewise, as if often the case with such activism, the people that the activists are allegedly helping don’t even want this help. Indeed, to what extent are feminists actually exploiting prostitutes for the want of a political agenda? Now who’s exploiting prostitutes?
It must also be remembered that if prostitution is to be considered a crime, it is strange that buying is seen as so much worse than selling. After all, in the case of drugs, it is the other way around. While both the buying and the selling of drugs are illegal, it is the selling of drugs that is the far more serious crime.
As for the argument that it is the men who go to prostitutes who are creating a demand for prostitution, the same thing is also true with regards to drug dealing: if nobody bought drugs, there would be no drug dealers. Besides, the demand for prostitution is simply a part of the desire for sexual fulfillment, which is a normal and even healthy part of human existence. This demand is therefore not in and of itself a bad thing, provided that it is done respectfully. Indeed, the fact that feminists are against adult prostitution is based on the fact that they are uncomfortable with male sexuality in general. In fairness, it must be pointed out that this law is not sex specific. Therefore, a woman going to a male prostitute (as an increasing number of women are) or a homosexual going to a prostitute of the same sex would be just as guilty under the law. However, it is obvious that that was not what the authors of this law had in mind.
One other important point on the causes of the demand for prostitution: we must not forget that a lot of the demand for prostitution may very well be caused by the fact that dating has become more difficult thanks to the very feminists who so hate prostitution. Therefore, to what extend do the actions of feminists create more of a demand for prostitution?
In short, either prostitution is a crime or it isn’t. Ideally, it would not be seen as being a crime. However, if it is a crime then everyone involved should be considered to be breaking the law. Punishing one side only is fundamentally wrong.
It is especially sad to see a country such as Sweden, which used to be so open with sexuality, become so uptight. What is worse is that there is a real risk of this nonsense, double-standard law spreading to other countries, as it has already spread to Norway and Iceland. Indeed, there is already concern that if the opposition Socialists come to power in the next election in Denmark, they might try pass a similar law in Denmark. That would be strange when one considers the fact that it was the Socialists who legalized prostitution in Denmark back in the 1990s when they were last in power.
A large part of the reason that this is law—flawed as it is—could spread is that such politically correct causes often turn into bandwagons. Once such politically correct bandwagons begin, people sadly become too afraid to speak out against them. Worse yet, people often feel the need to express their support for such concepts, even if they secretly do not like them. Many supporters of this law in Sweden claim that prostitution is inconsistent with the concept of gender equality. Openness with sexuality is not inconsistent with gender equality. If anything, the exact opposite is true.
There is a good chance that the Nordic region will rediscover its historical tolerance of sexuality and that this ridiculous law and the mentality behind will have merely been an anomaly of one point in time. Indeed, as a Swedish citizen myself, I used to be so proud of Sweden’s openness with sexuality. Like me, the Nordic region in general often has—and rightfully so—been proud of its openness with sexuality. Nonetheless, there is no guarantee of this. Those of us who value both gender equality and sexual freedom must confront this political correctness.