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R ight now, a global push is under way for governments to not only tolerate but actively enable the sex trade. This is no mundane policy prescription.
The stakes are immense. How we respond will be a measure of how seriously we take violence against women and the inequality underpinning it. Because what we are being asked to do is accept and normalise industrialised sexual exploitation. For all the ways it is marketed, the sex trade boils down to a very simple product concept: a person usually a man can pay to sexually access the body of someone usually a woman , who does not freely want to have sex with him.
And we have a term for that: sexual abuse. It took me to a multi-storey brothel in Stuttgart, where I accompanied Sabine Constabel, a local support worker, as she went room to room to let women know there was a doctor available for them to see that night. Thirteen years earlier, the German government had bowed to calls for pimping and brothel keeping to be decriminalised, so this one operated openly and legally, with fewer regulations placed on it than the restaurants we passed to get there.
None spoke German as a first language, and all were young — most around 20 years old. I believe them. Researching Pimp State also led me to spend hours speaking to johns — sex buyers — after placing an ad in my local paper for men willing to talk about why they pay for sex.
Based on the response my advert got, there is no shortage of sex buyers ready to ruminate about what they do. Indeed, the number of men who pay for sex in the UK almost doubled during the s to one in 10, with a survey of 6, men finding that those most likely to pay for sex were young professionals with high numbers of unpaid sexual partners. Some explicitly drew on the notion that they were merely consumers availing workers of their services. Very frigid. It was very disappointing in the sense I was paying … no touching in places like I would like.