Monday, November 30, 2009

The Sex Industry Industry Just Got Bigger



The Major was so enraged he nearly did himself a serious mischief. "WTF should I pay for some bearded sociologist to spend a year visiting lap dancing clubs?!" he foamed. "When I go along with my chum Gomulka, we damned well have to pay for ourselves!"

As you will have seen by now, Leeds University is advertising for a sociologist to spend a year researching "the rise and regulation of lap dancing and the place of sexual labour and consumption in the night time economy." For which he will be paid £31 grand.

He?

Well, actually, it won't be a He, will it? Definitely not. This job is part of a major new tax-funded industry which seeks to prove men are sex beasts who like nothing more than to commodify women and grind them into the dirt:

"The purpose of this research is to explore the rise, tolerance and integration of sexual consumption and sexual labour displayed through the erotic dance industry which symbolises the commodification of the female body in late capitalism. Examining how female sexuality has been commercialised and now merges easily with traditional forms of leisure in the city, provides a window into further understanding larger social issues such as the feminisation of poverty; the consequences of student debt and the impact of changes in Higher Education; the diversification of feminised employment patterns that rely on ‘body work’..."
Just get that language - "commodification of the female body", "late capitalism" (it's only a matter of time, sisters), "feminisation of poverty" (men don't get poor any more?), and student loans as a instrument of sexual oppression.

What's the point of it?

And more specifically, why should we have to pay for it?

Ah, well, think Commissar Harperson, think Fiona McTaggart, and think that huge police crackdown on sex-traffickers - Operation Pentameter 2.

Yes, you remember that one. Hundreds - maybe thousands - of police took part in coordinated raids on massage parlours and brothels throughout Britain. And the strange thing was, loitering on the pavements outside many of those establishments they found TV crews, handily placed to record the police leading the trafficked women to safety and the ugly male traffickers off to jail.

It was judged a great media success, thoroughly exploited by then Home Secretary Jacqui on that evening's TV bulletins (obviously this was before her own unfortunate entanglement with a commodifier came to light).

But needless to say, the reality has turned out to be somewhat different. In fact, of the 528 supposed sex traffickers picked up that day, not one - NOT A SINGLE ONE - was subsequently convicted of trafficking (OK, five were later convicted, but that was nothing to do with Pentameter).

So why did the raids take place?

It seems Jacqs and the others had convinced themselves there were 25,000 trafficked prostitutes working here (the figure quoted by notorious humbug Mr Bugs Bunny in 2007) - a massive problem that needed urgent action.

It subsequently turned out that figure had been made up by the Daily Mirror, but it might equally have come from a tax-funded organisation by the name of the Poppy Project. They have had around £6m of public money, and in 2008, they produced an alarming report on brothels in London saying they were employing thousands of women, many very young, from all round the world. The report was seized on by Harperson to justify further crackdowns - until it was pointed out that the report was so shot through with flaws and inaccuracies as to be useless.

Look, we all agree people traffickers have to be caught and locked away. Of course. And we probably all agree that prostitution would have no place in a perfect world. Sure.

But given where we are - ie stuck here in the real world - we shouldn't conflate prostitution and people trafficking. We could and should stop the traffickers. But there's no way we'll stop the sex industry, which we've previously estimated at $500bn pa worldwide (see here). And we don't want our militant feminist politicos getting us to make an attempt on the back of horror stories about traffickers.

There's one other thing we really really don't want. And that's yet another tax-funded industry devoted to convincing us we should spend yet another pile of money on something which is almost certainly impossible (cf the climate change industry).

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