Horny men are no reason to decriminalise prostitution

Male sexual desire “is manifested at least twice as often as female desire”, apparently, and sex workers should be picking up the pieces. I don't buy it

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The Independent Online

Sorry to be the bearer of bad economic news, but it turns out there is another deficit to deal with. While everyone else in the world has been mithering about Grexits and Libors, the really major economic black hole of our time has been ignored. It’s time to tackle the male sexual deficit.

The what? I know; it sounds absurd, like something Katie Hopkins might tweet about at midnight, after one too many glasses of Lambrini. But it is, apparently, a thing.

This week, the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) published an entire paper on the subject. The thesis runs broadly as follows. Male sexual desire “is manifested at least twice as often as female desire”, or men would like to have sex twice as often as women. It follows that the male demand for sex currently “greatly outstrips non-commercial female supply”. Why? What are all these non-commercial female sex vessels doing? They are, it appears, too busy being economically independent to service the ravening desires of their male counterparts. The dark side of progress, indeed.

Fortunately, the paper also offers a solution to the thorny problem of frigid Modern Woman. Prostitution, it suggests, should be completely decriminalised. That way men – who, as everyone knows, will sleep with anyone at any time, whether they have to pay for it or not – will have their supply problem solved. The deficit will disappear. And, as a tasty bonus, the sex industry will be worth a legitimate £4bn to the British economy. Everyone’s a winner.

Well, no. Not quite. Not even close. The women on whom this bailout is built, selling their bodies for cash, aren’t winners. (Though some would argue that they are, of course, that they have chosen to earn money in this way. But they are a separate and, I would argue, minority case).

There are so many problems with this paper, it is hard to know where to begin. Perhaps with the starting position, which puts forward the old-fashioned idea that men are more sexual beings than women. It is a statement as sweeping as it is stupid, and disregards the centuries of cultural history that have shaped the way men and women talk, and think, about sex.

It helps somewhat to know that the author of this paper is Dr Catherine Hakim, a sociologist and one of UK academia’s most prolific controversialists. Supply and Desire: Sexuality and the Sex Industry in the 21st Century follows previous masterworks, including The New Rules: Internet Dating, Playfairs and Erotic Power, about why the British need to stop being so “sour” about affairs and liberate themselves from the “cage” of long-term relationships, and Honey Money, about the “power of erotic capital” – or why women should flirt to get ahead at work. “The world smiles at good-looking people and they smile back,” she writes.

In other words, we should probably take it with a pinch of salt when Hakim suggests that prostitution has “no noxious psychological or social effects, and... may even help to reduce sexual crime rates.”

So the statistic that sex workers in London suffer a mortality rate 12 times higher than average is not a noxious effect, nor is the trafficking from East to West of thousands of young girls a year to work in the sex industry? As for reducing crime rates, the idea that providing more prostitutes to satisfy the out-of-control urges of men will stop them raping “non-commercial” women is bizarre at best.

The decriminalisation question is a live debate. This weekend, Amnesty International meets in Dublin to discuss a new policy on prostitution. There is good evidence, it says, that criminalising the practice leads to greater abuse of sex workers and makes it more difficult for them to stay safe. This is one of several very good arguments for decriminalisation. Reducing it, as Hakim seemingly does, to a question of how best to satisfy herds of randy men is an insult to all.

 

There’s over-sharing, and there’s opening your heart

Mark Zuckerberg and his wife have announced that they are expecting a baby. The founder of Facebook shared the good news with his 33 million followers on – where else? – his own social network.

It is the done thing to grumble about Facebook for indulging humanity’s worst tendencies to over-share. The world has quite enough photos of its children smeared in avocado, thank you. But the Zuckerberg announcement shows that there is a lot to be said for social media’s ability to make us open up.

For Zuckerberg also wrote movingly about the three miscarriages the couple had suffered along the way to a successful pregnancy. “You feel so hopeful when you learn you’re going to have a child. You start imagining who they’ll become and dreaming of hopes for their future. You start making plans, and then they’re gone. It’s a lonely experience,” he wrote. The post has attracted more than 1.7 million likes so far, which shows that neither miscarriage, nor any other common yet unspoken human sadness, need be suffered in isolation any more.

 

Happy? Who’s ever happy after receiving an e-card?

There are some things that have no place on Facebook, mind you. I’m not talking about selfies, smug check-ins or holiday bragshots – without those there would be nothing left in my news feed – but about Happy Birthday messages. And yet, lazy digital posts are edging out the traditional birthday card.

Fewer than half of 35-54 year olds questioned by Ofcom said they had sent a greeting card in the past month – a decrease of 58 per cent on the previous year. Instead they prefer to text, post a message on Facebook (which sends you a reminder to do it on the day, so it’s not even the thought that counts), or – the sheer horror – send an e-card.

There is nothing more dispiriting on earth than an e-card. Another email – just what I always wanted. Now go away.

I can only think that all those who do not believe in birthday cards have never experienced the pleasure of receiving one. Presumably they also think an Instagram picture of a cake is better than a sticky slice of the real thing.

 

 

London theatre has more to offer than long queues

To queue or not to queue, that is the question. For this theatre fan, it’s an easy one to answer. Not, thank you.

Even by the excitable standards of London theatre, the hype for the CumberHamlet has been wildly histrionic. An otherwise sane adult female I know actually slept at the Barbican this week to get her hands on a day ticket. By the time the opening lines were uttered, she was falling asleep in the stalls.

Better to ignore the excitable stories about queues and warring critics, pay no heed to the warnings about etiquette or stage door rules and do what I have done. Resolve that if you don’t have a ticket now, you will never see Benedict’s sweet Prince.

But don’t be disheartened. London theatre is still the best in the world and there are plenty of other brilliant actors treading the boards this August. Book in for Chiwetel Ejiofor in Everyman, Ben Whishaw in Bakkhai, Imelda Staunton in Gypsy, John Simm in Three Days in the Country or Rory Kinnear in The Trial. And then, in another six months, another star will announce their intention to play Hamlet and you can not get tickets all over again.

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