17 January 2010
Men don't like us to know the reasons why they use prostitutes
Julie Bindel wrote a fascinating piece on why men use prostitutes, based on a research study that involved 700 men. They were interviewed for an international research project which aimed to uncover reasons why men buy sex.
I have been shocked by the online comments to her article, and also blog posts that have sprung up, which attack her journalism, women in general and her sexuality (as if the fact she is a lesbian has got anything to so with it!). See this one for example.
What seems to annoy the men who have commented (let’s call them Bindel’s critics) is the claim that women may be exploited. Now, there are a few women who choose to be prostitutes and are proud of it, and indeed this is unfortunately glamorised by the likes of Belle de Jour.
But, in the majority of cases, women are vulnerable and easily exploited and controlled. I have found some UK figures that that come from Home Office research or academic papers:
• Up to 70% of women in prostitution spent time in care, 45% report sexual abuse and 85% physical abuse within their families
• More than half of UK women in prostitution have been raped and/or seriously sexually assaulted. At least three-quarters have been physically assaulted
• Up to 95% of prostituted women are problematic drug users, including around 78% heroin users and rising numbers of crack cocaine addicts
• 68% of women in prostitution meet the criteria for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in the same range as victims of torture and combat veterans undergoing treatment
• 75% of women involved in prostitution began when they were under 18
• 74% of women cite poverty/the need to pay household expenses and support their children as a primary motivator for entering prostitution
Can Bindel’s critics still claim that most prostitutes want to do it?
It seems to me that all the critics want to cling on to the fact that women want it and are therefore asking for it.
One person who commented even accused Julie Bindel of ‘oppressing’ him. This is of course laughable, given that women have been oppressed since time began, but it does make me think that we might be on our way to stamping out sexism. We might just have got to the nub of it.
Julie Bindel has made some men feel uncomfortable and angry (enough to lash out, exposing their homophobia), and I don’t think it’s because of what she says.
It’s because of what she found.
The men who were interviewed in the study were found to be one of two things. Either blatant misogynists, with no regard whatsoever for the welfare of the prostitute they were using, or men who did have some feeling. Feelings of loneliness, neediness and desperation, which we can only feel sorry for.
And Bindel’s critics do not like that they are people to be pitied.