Prostitution and victimisation: A Realist Analysis. Roger Matthews
Roger MatthewsUniversity of Kent
•Wikipedialists prostitution as ‘A low‐level victimless crime’• Draws on liberal and libertarian approaches that want to normalise prostitution• Carole Pateman has provided an incisive critique of liberal contract theorists• Women involved in prostitution are amongst the most victimised group of people in society• Degree and type of victimisation experienced will depend on whether they work on street or off street or whether they are trafficked
1. Violence from pimps partners and punters. 2. Estimated 20‐40 more likely to be murdered than women in the same age group.3. An estimated 70 women in UK murdered over the last twenty years.4. Violence not limited to women working off street
1. An estimated 60 per cent of women involved in prostitution have experienced child abuse2. Child abuse linked to prostitution in two ways‐ devaluing of body and self‐ runaways in order to avoid abuse and make themselves vulnerable3. Approximately one quarter of women involved in street prostitution in the UK have been through local authority care –already marginalised and stigmatised
Sexual Health – Recurring problems‐ Neurological‐ Gastrointestinal‐ CardiovascularMental Health – Recurring reports ‐ Emotional distress‐ Depression‐ PTSD ‐ Intensification of drug use
Victimisation is socially and geographically concentratedOne of the best predictors of future victimisation is past victimisationWomen involved in prostitution tend to experience a wide range of victimisation and re‐victimisation over timeThe disadvantage is that victimisationtends to be compoundedThe advantage is that there is a certain predictablility that allows us to tackle victimisation effectively
• The application of the label ‘victim’ is seen to essentialise the person and removes agency• In response some have suggested that the term ‘survivors’ is more appropriate• The term survivors is no less essentialising and importantly loses sight of the process of victimisation.• Taking on victim status is important for a number of reasons: ‐ to develop a response and take action‐ without victim status no culpabilityVictimisation is not an act but a process of action and reaction in which the person becomes the primary definer
Nils Christie’s notion of the ‘ideal victim’‐ weak in relation to the offender‐ engaged in a legitimate activity‐ unknown to the perpetrator‐ essentially blamelessRichard Sparks’ notion of ‘victim proneness’‐Regularly exposed to risky situations‐ high visibility‐ accessibility‐ vulnerability‐ impunityThe paradox is that women involved in prostitution tend to score very highly on Sparks criteria but are less likely to be seen as legitimate victims for the reasons outlined by Christie.
• It has been argued that prostitution is more to with power than sex. •As in cases of rape the key ingredients that determine whether sexual intercourse was legitimate or an example of rape is determined by considerations of coercion and consent.•It has been assumed historically that women involved in prostitution give their consent de facto• Recently the issues of coercion and consent have been to be critical in definitions of trafficking, and trafficked women have been identified as victims in need of support• Also, having sex with a trafficked woman has become a criminal offence in some countries• However there are many examples of the use of different forms of coercion and situations in which the consent is not given freely• It remains the case that many women involved in prostitution are subject to forms of coercion and a lack of consent but are not recognised as victims and purchasers are not seen as offenders.• Women who are mentally ill and drug addicts or who are under 18 (children) are hardly in a position to give their consent• As Sparks has pointed out the sense of impunity is a key factor in this equation
1. Decriminalise soliciting2. Seeing women involved in prostitution as victims rather than offenders in need of support3. Increase sanctions against those who procure, deceive or force women into prostitution4. Make it illegal for any woman under 21 to be involved in prostitution5. Increasing sanctions against those who exploit, coerce, intimidate or threaten women6. Responsibilise and reduce male demand7. Promote exiting programmes8. Enforce existing legislation properly that is designed to limit the abuses associated with prostitution.