Saturday, December 16, 2006

Until we are truly equal, we are not free to choose. Anon

We say that slavery has vanished from European civilization, but this is not true. Slavery still exists, but now it applies only to women and its name is prostitution.
Victor Hugo (author of Les Miserables)

The exhibition today at the Women's Library blew me away. Shon and I spent about 4 hours there, absorbing each aspect of each display and we still did not get to see it all. I would strongly recommend that anyone, man or woman, takes the time to get to London's Women's Library and see it for themselves. I can guarantee that this exhibition will do what every good piece of culture does: entertain, inform and challenge.

Prostitution: What's Going On? is dedicated to Josephine Butler, who was an early campaigner for sexual equality and who led the campaign against the Contagious Diseases Acts, which gave the police the right to arrest any woman suspected of selling sex. The aim of these acts, believe it or not, was to stop the rise of sexual diseases amongst the military, yes, that's the right - who were men. So who got arrested, detained and subjected to compulsory 'treatment?' The women. Butler said of the Acts:

"They are nothing but an arrangement for catching, examining, cleansing and returning to the street women for the safe enjoyment of men."

And in this piece of history lies a central point in any consideration of prostitution through the ages - more often than not we're looking at women, not men. The buyer of sex stays as a mysterious, undiscussed and predominantly unchallenged figure, whilst the women, as ever, are placed under the microscope, labelled and filed. This remains broadly similar to the legislation on prostitution of many countries now, especially those who have decriminalised or legalised it: the women selling sex are registered and regularly, compulsorily screened, but there is no compulsory screening for the buyers.

Here are some frightening facts included in the exhibition for those of you still labouring under the common misapprehension that the majority of prostitutes or sex workers 'choose' their profession freely:

At the point where they sell sex for the first time:
  • 1 in 2 women are under 18 years
  • 1 in 4 are under 16 years
  • and 1 in 3 have experienced violence or abuse
The issue of prostitution is not an easy one to cover. What I liked most about this exhibition was the variety of ways in which they looked at prostitution and the variety of mediums that were used. The curator has obviously tried to include as wide a diversity of opinions as possible, and also consistently draws the visitor into the debate, asking difficult questions on the displays and encouraging people to contribute to the key discussions.

There are two phone-boxes in the exhibition each of which presents two oral histories taken from two different people: two are prostitutes and two are punters. The dichotomy of experience presented here was at times exceptionally disturbing. In the first phone box, a woman tells of her first experience selling sex at 14 years old. She was given ten pounds by a man who had sex with her in the back of a car. Later, when her mother found out what she was doing, her mother let her use the house to bring clients back to.

Here are some quotes from these women's testimonials:

"The trouble is it's easy money and it's hard to get out fucks your head up. I've never enjoyed sex, never had an orgasm...I hate men."

"I'm never going to get out of this job and lead a normal life."

"Sometimes I'm tired of greasy people, touching and pawing me.....but you've got to be an actress on the mattress."

"It eats away at you like acid."

The reality of listening to these interviews was for me, the moment when I began to discover my core feelings on this issue. Women like me, who have never been in these women's shoes, can stand outside of their experiences and struggle to understand the complexities of her right to sell herself and his right to buy sex as much as we wish; wringing our hands and trying to pass the correct judgement. But for me, the reality of it came down to hearing these women speak: about violence, about lack of choices, about having sex for money when you're 14 - and one other central point.

When you regard prostitution and sexual trafficking as the industry that it is, the ones really bringing in the cash are men. It's an industry owned, controlled and almost exclusively used by men - and if you bring in government, it's an industry that's almost exclusively legislated over by men, too. To give you an example, a trafficker called Luan Plakici, selling women through escort agencies, earned £144,000 from 1 woman in just 2 years. How is that different from a slave owner on the plantations in the 1800's?

The division between the experiences of the sex workers and the men who buy sex was also, at times, bitterly funny. In the Punter's phone box were the accounts of two men who regularly use prostitutes. On one of the displays was a piece of research telling the visitors that sex buyers are almost overwhelmingly male, and in a minority (i.e. comparitively few men regularly use prostitutes). Most interestingly, very few of them have no other sexual outlets, indeed most have long term partners. Here's some excerpts from the men:

"it allows you to be promiscuous without it having to impact at home, like having an affair without the mistress asking you to leave your wife." (That's an interesting comparison, isn't it?)

"there are no thoughts of (the woman) being any less than my equal...and I've met so many nice people."

"It's a good release for them, and it's a good release for me."

Both punters made reference to the women having a 'good time' sexually (yeah sure - how likely do you think that is, really?!?), which considering that both women in the other phone box referenced their relationship and respect for men being permanently damaged, I found fascinating and more than a little contemptuous.

Most frightening of all, for those of us who view prostitution/sex work/sex industry and sexual trafficking as inextricably linked with the sexual objectification of women (there can only be about two readers who have made it to this point, and they're both hardened feminists - anyone else still here, good for you!), is one other fact that I wasn't aware of.

The numbers of women and girls being sexually trafficked globally are growing with every passing decade. Currently, at least 1,000,000 women and girls are trafficked globally every year.

The display on global trends concludes:

"sex industries and trafficking expand considerably in the aftermath of conflict, the arrival of peacekeepers and burgeoning criminal activity."

So, with the UK engaging in military actions in Iraq and Afghanistan at present, we can now quite genuinely lay claim to screwing the world from every conceivable angle. The more the boys bring out their big guns to play with across the globe, the more women paying the horrific, unchosen and - for women in many countries STILL without the vote - undemocratic price.

There are several other aspects of the exhibition we hardly got to spend any time with, for example, a short film about women being trafficked from other countries across the world into the UK. Being in the process of working on slavery and the slave trade, the parallels here were shocking: Guinea, including Sierra Leone, which form the focus of the Chasing Freedom exhibition, is one of the main originating countries in Africa of women for sex trafficking, and the UK is one of the major destinations of trafficked women.

We also didn't get to spend much time with the young women's diaries. This part of the exhibition presented diaries from 6 projects across the UK working with girls and young women who are being abused through prostitution. I think this was one of the main succeses of the entire exhibition - at the end, prostitution no longer seems like a faceless issue, it seems like an infinitely human one.

In my opinion we are a long way from a place where the majority of women can freely make a 'choice' to sell her body for sex, and this is evidenced in the fact that the vast majority of women are not making a 'free' choice. The common denominators for entry into prostitution include: abuse, violence, drug or alcohol abuse, debt, poverty and being in care in childhood. The infinitely intricate and highly organised supporting structure of sexual trafficking, and the fact that the only ones making a profit are, in the main, men, tells me this 'industry' is not about equality, freedom or choice for women at all. Which is not to say that the women who involved in it are merely victims - quite the opposite.

Whether you think you're interested in the issue of prostitution, whether you think it has anything to do with you as a person, or your life or your lifestyle, I would recommend - no, in fact, I would plead with you, to see this exhibition. There is no one who would come away from this exhibition without learning something about the world and something about yourself.

Today's Beautiful Things

1. The Women's Library - just on principle, really

2. Deciding to organise my own exhibition - on 'The Punter'

3. Culture, in all its infinite variety


Dill said...

BRILLIANT! Absolutely fucking marvellous!

Dill. xxx

She's right you know, you do have to go and for everyone of you that doesn't i will charge you a tenner and put it towards the millitant feminist fund!!! (Saa, shall we start one?)

Anonymous said...

Just for the record, the national press almost totally ignored the exhibition when it opened in September. Now that 5 women have been murdered, they're all experts, of course ...

Anonymous said...

Amazing overview of the exhibition and debate Ms Cheverton. Again, for the record, please people take time out to see this powerful and thought provoking exhibition-YOU MUST.

Anonymous said...


I have a inquiry for the webmaster/admin here at

May I use some of the information from your post right above if I give a link back to this site?


Anonymous said...

I've on all occasions liked things like sand clocks, lava lamps, and the like to good of virtuous spend time staring at it as a form of catharsis. In a route, it helps me with meditation, to mitigate emphasis and decent fantasize in the air nothing. That's why since I was a kid, in place of of dolls and cars I've in any case cool more of such pieces like sand clocks, lava lamps, musical boxes etc. So I was most charmed when I establish the[url=] 2-Laser + LED Shine Presentation Laser Outstrip Gyroscope with Music Effects[/url] from under the Toys section. It's like a musical caddy, a spinning top, and a radiance verify all rolled into one. Which is great relaxation! The gyroscope wishes spin after about a minute. The laser enlightenment pretension with accompanying music makes this gyroscope a rather unequalled bauble that my friends be suffering with also been most amused with.

My dogs are also beautiful eccentric nearly the laser gyroscope I got from They always occupy oneself with the gyroscope as it spins, although at first place they kept barking at the laser light accompany, and also because it produces music. But after they got worn it, they've stopped barking but just save up following the gyroscope whenever I start spinning it. Kids are also pretty amused next to it. Off it's moral to take fun toys throughout the house so that you can pull out the small on while the kids are being amused or playing with it while you count prepare scoff or fall heir to changed. The gyroscope is unified such play with with this purpose.

The gyroscope I bought from has a dragon as a design on it, and produces a dainty exposition with red, dispirited, and green colours. Take a look at the pictures I've uploaded of the gyroscope with laser luminosity show. The music produced from the gyroscope is not that expert but good enough to consider any supplementary customer to the house. The gyroscope is red and jet-black, making it look extraordinarily coolth, and measure masculine with that dragon imprint.

The music flare plain gyroscope runs on 6 LR44 batteries, which are replaceable anyway. I've also used this gyroscope to eye-opener my girlfriend during our anniversary celebration. I did the cheesy terror of decorating the pension elbow-room with roses and when I led her in, I started up the gyroscope as correctly so that the laser brighten show produces a dreamed-up effect. I also had some battery operated candles so all the moonlight effects created a slightly mawkish atmosphere. She loved it, by the custom, to my relief. I also bought the candles from These days it seems to be my non-fulfilment shopping site in return all gifts and ideas in support of romanticist occasions.

Since Christmas is coming, this laser radiance upstage gyroscope can perhaps be a momentous Christmas gift for the toddler or even the mollycoddle! Alternatively, the gyroscope can altogether be a nice reckoning to the ordinary Christmas decorations. I can imagine placing it near the Christmas tree and maybe spinning it when guests succeed in the house. Looks like [url=][/url] is getting my subject anyway again!

Anonymous said...


Thanks for sharing this link - but unfortunately it seems to be down? Does anybody here at have a mirror or another source?


Anonymous said...

A shared snare hosting military talents or understood hosting utilization or educe host refers to a cobweb hosting service where many websites reside on harmonious net server connected to the Internet. Each situate "sits" on its own partition, or section/place on the server, to keep it detach from other sites. This is mainly the most stingy option notwithstanding hosting, as uncountable people apportionment the overall bring in of server maintenance.

Anonymous said...

ï»?Consumers are interested in only saving money[url=]Alshon Jeffery Jersey[/url]
and if they have to trade graphic quality for the opportunity to save hundreds of vacation dollars[url=][/url]
then they do not mind that a bit Wells Fargo is the fourth largest bank in the US by assets and the largest bank by market capitalizationWatch live Sports: Foot-ball - Basketball - Base- ball - Tennis - Soccer - Hockey - Cricket - Formula One -Moto Gp-Nascar-Golf-Badminton-GAA-AFL-NFL-Judo-NCCA-NBA-Rugby-MMA-UFC--Boxing-Vollyball-Handball-& others sportsC perhaps one of the oldest tricks in the book Chris Farley ? What can I say about Madison's prodigal son[url=]A.J. Green Authentic Jersey[/url]
other than he was probably the funniest SOB I've ever seen? That[url=]Justin Tucker Jersey[/url]
and he died way too soon The average seek time is milliseconds
twitter-inner-ditto237927099611115521 spanNext June[url=]Antonio Gates Jersey[/url]
voters will have a chance to elect a new slate of City Council members - Council members who can bring a disciplined approach to the challenges facing our citydittoTweetbackground: #fff;padding: 10px 12px 10px 50px;margin: 0;min-height: 48px;color: #000;font-size: 18px !important;line-height: 22px;-moz-border-radius: 5px;-webkit-border-radius: 5px; pPERFORMANCE NOTE: When using COMPRESSYES and REUSEYES system options settings[url=]Michael Turner Jersey[/url]
observations cannot be addressed by observation number

Anonymous said...

The Pirate Bay has been planning on moving from torrent files to magnet files for a while now Steeper Vs have higher deadrise anglesC repair the database Though he is completing just 54% of his passes[url=]Justin Tucker Jersey[/url]
the offense has moved the ball into the end zone mobile At the University of South Florida Bulls[url=]Steve Johnson Jersey[/url]
games take place all year round and with a variety of almost twenty different sports[url=][/url]
individuals and families of different sports preferences and ages can find what they are looking for Kohl (up for re-election this year) and Feingold (Presidential candidate[url=]Troy Polamalu Jersey[/url]
2008?) along with Gannet News Corp
" On top of that[url=]Robert Griffin III Authentic Jersey[/url]
she looks pretty damn good for being in her 50sIf you have some experience cutting plywood[url=]Adrian Peterson Jersey[/url]
you can purchase good quality AB exterior grade plywood or use marine grade plywood• The Baltimore Ravens re-signed kicker Matt Stover to a five-year contractSdittoTweetbackground: #fff;padding: 10px 12px 10px 50px;margin: 0;min-height: 48px;color: #000;font-size: 18px !important;line-height: 22px;-moz-border-radius: 5px;-webkit-border-radius: 5px; p

Anonymous said...

Hello. Facebook takes a [url=]online baccarat[/url] risk on 888 casino traffic: Facebook is expanding its efforts to oneself understood further real-money gaming to millions of British users after announcing a decree with the online gambling hard 888 Holdings.And Bye.

Anonymous said...

[url=]buy amoxicillin no prescription usa
[/url] amoxicillin to get high
buy amoxicillin online uk
amoxicillin 500 mg la thuoc gi

Anonymous said...

top [url=]free casino[/url] coincide the latest [url=]casino online[/url] manumitted no deposit bonus at the leading [url=]casino perk

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

In my opinion you commit an error. I suggest it to discuss. Write to me in PM, we will talk.
I think, that you are not right. I can defend the position. Write to me in PM.
It really pleases me.
I am am excited too with this question. Prompt, where I can find more information on this question?
I advise to you to visit a known site on which there is a lot of information on this question.

[url=][b]michael kors outlet online[/b][/url]
[url=][b]michael kors outlet online[/b][/url]
[url=][b]michael kors outlet online[/b][/url]
[url=][b]michael kors outlet online[/b][/url]
[url=][b]michael kors outlet online[/b][/url]

Anonymous said...

This paste will be applied directly to the skin tag 3 times a day until the skin tag falls off.
Once your mole is dry, cut a piece of duct tape three times the size of the mole.

There are a wide range of self tanners to choose from at department stores, but why not treat yourself to a
spray tan at your nearest tanning salon.

My blog post; How To Get Rid Of Warts