As a consultation for a bill to criminalise the purchase of sex in Scotland comes to an end this week, Dr Brooke Magnanti, a former escort, examines the proposal.
The consultation for a bill that would criminalise the purchase of sex in Scotland comes to and end this week. Among many considerations are the outcome for the sex workers affected, and whether the "end demand" model actually works.
Increasingly, places that considered such laws are rejecting them. Denmark recently moved to drop an similar bill, which would have criminalised the purchase of sex.
Explaining its rejection of the so-called "Swedish Model," Minister of Justice, Mr Morten Bødskov said: "[Recent] study shows that a ban on commercial sex by cannot be expected to lead to decrease in prostitution or the exploitation of prostitutes, but on the contrary, is likely to have negative consequences for the prostitutes."
Israel has also recently abandoned similar plans; there have been protests in Paris to reject suggested laws.
My own experience as an escort, and being public about it years later, taught me that while not all people in sex work are as privileged as I was, that is no reason they should be regarded as downtrodden figures to be pitied. Safety, compassion, and dignity should be the watchwords of any policy to do with sex work.
Scotland has tried something like this before, only for it to go wrong. The 2007 bill which made kerb crawling illegal, for example, led to documented instances of more violence against women as well as higher crime rates and less uptake of outreach services.
Personally, I think the evidence shows client criminalisation creates more danger for sex workers, not less, and I have argued that point against the bill's sponsor.
But the bill goes even further than just money for sex, and suggests a radical rethink on human relationships full stop. Consider these points:
80. I want to ensure that the proposed legislation avoids any potential loopholes where a purchaser could avoid prosecution by means of non-cash payment.
82. I intend to pursue this approach as it would mean that the offence would not be limited to sexual intercourse or oral sex but could potentially include a wider variety of sexual activity.
Let me see if I've got this straight. So that we all understand the complex and insidious systems of barter that are in place for sex, let's not confine our thinking to the mere exchange of cash. And while we're on the topic, since when does "sex" have to be sex? Why, people have been using the 'but it wasn't sex' ruse to get out of trouble since the year dot (cf.: serpent in the Garden of Eden, the Holy Spirit as re: Mary, many famous political scandals).
After boggling at the unintended consequences this law might turn up, I started to make a list of things that could conceivably be illegal in Scotland in the future. This is utterly serious. Anyone having not-sex for not-money is potentially wide open to prosecution, y'all.
To date I have identified these potentially illegal activities:
• Valentine's Day
• Make-up sex
• Marriages of convenience
• Marriages of inconvenience
• Marriages, in general
• Sugar daddies
• Sugar babies
• Jelly babies (if exchanged for sex)
• Joining a dating site (granted, unlikely to lead to anything resembling a sexual relationship can sometimes result in an awkward hug)
• Getting "rinsed"
• Looking at Page 3
• Wife swap, both the activity and the TV show
• Bringing a bottle of wine to the swinger's party
• Dates that end in anything more intimate than a firm handshake
• Smiling at a copper to get out of a speeding ticket
• Nodding at the Pizza Express waiter in the hope of extra parmesan
In short, with such ill-defined notions of 'sex' and 'payment', human interactions full stop are at risk of becoming crimes in Scotland. And while that might not make you wonder what the writers of the bill were thinking, then maybe it should at least make you reconsider where you plan to take your next holiday. Denmark's looking pretty good this time of year.
By Dr Brooke Magnanti, formerly known as Belle de Jour