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Home > Culture and Society

Prostitution: Time for re-branding?

24 April 2004

This week the Observer ran a rather good 'special investigation' into prostitution, which claimed that the number of people in the UK offering 'sexual services' (ie. sex) has increased by 50 per cent in the last five years. The article listed a number of reasons for the increase, including an influx of foreign prostitutes, who can earn more here than in Eastern Europe, and a gradual relaxing of sexual attitudes, reflected by the popularity of lap dancing clubs and, of course, Internet porn.

The article also claimed that the government is 'under pressure' (it omitted to say who from) to consider partial legalisation of prostitution when it publishes a review in June. Frankly, we can't see politicians rushing to endorse this idea. You've spent 20 years climbing the slippery pole of political success - why not chuck it all down the toilet by being dubbed 'Minister for Pimping' by tabloids and feminists alike?

The pros and cons of partial legalisation of prostitution are pretty well-known (Pros: the overriding logic of providing a safer, more hygienic environment for prostitutes (and clients), moving the trade out of residential areas etc. Cons: prostitution is still a pretty horrible way to earn a living, legalisation won't automatically stop streetwalking, etc.). What's more interesting is the idea of attitudes towards prostitution changing.

Even if legalised prostitution is unlikely in the near future, what about five or ten years down the line? Lap dancing is already an acceptable activity. Partial legalisation of prostitution has been seriously considered. Sexual attitudes are getting more and more relaxed... join the dots and it's a future in which legal brothels are a normal part of society.

This will have a number of consequences. Louis Theroux won't have to travel to Nevada to pull silly faces at prostitutes. And in much the same way that Spearmint Rhino has attempted (successfully) to legitimise stripping by creating relatively upmarket clubs, we've got a feeling that plenty of people can't wait to cash in on the 'rebranding' of prostitution.

Just wait until the admen, marketeers and the entrepreneurs get their hands on prostitution. Soon we'll all be able to visit 'upmarket' chain brothels with names like 'Man About Town' and 'Jetsetters', where you can get a burger, tossed salad and curly fries (choice of baked potato), an overpriced pint of Fosters and a blow-job from an impoverished Bosnian, while you chat to other suited and booted middle-management wankers.

Suddenly legalisation doesn't sound so appealing...



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