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since June 19, 2001


Dour feminism teams up with Marxist logic to demonize males everywhere


Ireland's modest proposal for EU sex-trade ban hardly a satire: Dour feminism teams up with Marxist logic to demonize males everywhere

Wednesday 21 January 2004

p. A13

"Ireland to propose EU-wide ban on paying for sex," read the Reuters headline Monday.

Good, I thought, it's about time someone took up the banner for free sex!

And while they're at it, they should propose banning expensive-dinners-followed-by-chick-flicks for sex and pretending-to-care-about-her-best-friend's-boyfriend-troubles, candlelit-bubble-baths-together or filling-out-couple's-questionnaires-in-magazines for sex, too. Those are what truly irritate guys.

Of course, encouraging free sex is not at all what the Irish are proposing.

Yet neither is their modest proposal a throwback to the old moralism: Sex is a sin, selling sex is doubly immoral, therefore prostitution should be illegal.

Ireland may have lagged behind Europe's sexual liberation for decades, maintaining abortion and divorce as illegal, for instance, long after the smugly sophisticated countries on the continent had eliminated most laws and nearly all stigma against both. But now Ireland appears set to leapfrog most of its EU partners and become the champion of the new Puritanical feminism: All sex is exploitive of women, especially sex for pay. It benefits only men and large corporations and perpetuates the power imbalance in society. Since masculinity and profits are both immoral, it should be illegal to try to acquire a women's sexual services for money, whether as a prostitute or pornographic model.

Ireland has the presidency of the European Union for the first six months of 2004. During its tenure, associate Justice Minister Willie O'Dea pledged Monday, "a meaningful ... European-level debate" on a sex-buying ban. Currently buying sex is a crime only in Sweden, although selling it there is not, which should be proof enough for anyone that dour, fundamentalist feminism -- i.e. the new Puritanism -- is behind this cause. Men are the only ones who need to punished.

This marks another convergence of feminist and Marxist logic.

Marxist criminology contends that individuals have committed no crime if they are "compelled" by their poverty or social "voicelessness." To a Marxist, it is perfectly benign for a poor mother to steal bread, but criminal for the corporate bakery to earn a profit supplying bread.

Feminist theory on this, as on most subjects is entirely one-sided and completely anti-male. It holds that women cannot possibly be even partly to blame for selling their sex. If they are selling their sex it is because they are desperate. If they are desperate, it must be because some man has forced them into prostitution, drugs or abuse -- or all three at once.

The Irish are basing their push for a ban on a report by Swedish socialist Member of the European Parliament Marianne Eriksson. Eriksson, vice-chairperson of the European Parliament's women's rights committee, argues that it must be "the customer, the buyer of sexual services, who is criminalized, not the person who is prostituting." The focus of efforts to combat the sex trade must be put "on customers, who most commonly are men." Prostitutes, who mostly commonly are women, are all victims and, therefore, to be absolved of all guilt.

Eriksson, in typical socialist style, also blames "a very wealthy and powerful industry, one of the richest in the world" --the pornography industry -- for financing the forcible relocation of four million sex slaves a year (her term and her estimate).

O'Dea admitted the Irish proposal has almost no chance of finding unanimous consent among the EU's 15 member states. It is difficult to imagine the Dutch agreeing to outlaw sex-buying. The legal sex trade in the Netherlands is a measurable percentage of GDP, approximately two per cent. Nor are the Germans (leaders in pornography) or French likely to convert to the new Puritanism.

But if the former free-loving Swedes can be turned into frowning feminist shrews and scolds, then over time, perhaps anything is possible.

Yet even if a sex-buying ban were to pass, the chance it could eradicate the sex trade is nil. Selling sex is not called the world's oldest profession for nothing. People like O'Dea and Eriksson, albeit in different guises, have been trying for millennia to outlaw prostitution and for centuries to eliminate pornography, always without success.

I am not going to argue that prostitution and pornographic production are entirely benign. Nor are they always, or even mostly, free transactions between consenting adults, although where they are free transactions -- willing seller, willing buyer -- they should be legal.

Child prostitution is a growing problem, especially in the Third World where sex tourists from the developed world generate hundreds of millions in income for local sexploiters. But practicality should tell us it is a problem for local police forces, or at most for international ones. If we cannot stamp out prostitution at home, how can we expect to stamp it out half a world away?

I also accept that around the world, many hundreds of thousands of prostitutes and models are coerced or manipulated into selling themselves. But the abuse, coerced drug dependency, kidnapping and forced sex are already crimes in most places. Criminalizing these actions twice is unlikely to have any more effect than doing it just once.

Lorne Gunter
Columnist, Edmonton Journal
Editorial Board Member, National Post

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Posted 2002 10 28

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