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Since 1946, France has been having the weirdest relationship with prostitution. In a fairly naive move to end it, an array of virtuous politicians had a new law passed… which will make it even worse.
Paris, 1900. The city is famous worldwide for its brothels, that range from run-down hotels garnis to exquisite palaces like the Sphinx or the Chabanais. Victorian society made it acceptable for male Bourgeois to have mistresses or regular prostitutes, and taking your son to your favorite brothel was considered educational. Of course, besides this system, a lot of violences and abuses were happening, and a lot of girls coming to Pigalle to the Artist Model Market reappeared in Buenos Aires in what was a women slavery trade.
In 1946, a French congresswoman and a former prostitute, Marthe Richard, passes a law that ends all forms of organization of prostitution. In a nutshell, brothels are prohibited, but also all forms of incorporations of prostitutes, and just renting a room to a person who would use it for commercial sex would make you a pimp, eligeable for some heavy prison penalties. That’s how in France prostitution remained legal -whores even have to pay their taxes, which technically makes the french state a pimp- but forced to take place in the dark, away from the light of a decent legal system.
It seems that Marthe Richard didn’t really think about the consequences of her action. Because it is worse for everybody. It’s bad for citizens because not only prostitution happens in public places -streets, parks, etc, and there is no control whatsoever on the girls who often are abused by the mafia and can carry all kinds of diseases, but it’s even worse for the girls themselves. Imagine you are a 18 year old blond Roumanian or a 21 yo Nigerian girl, you are forced to sell your body in an extremely violent system, you go every night in some horrible woods where you meet weirdos that beat you up once a week, and you get no protection from nobody. Merci, Marthe Richard. Bitch. And to make it worse, solliciting was made illegal, which gave a good reason for the police to arrest them all the time (since just smiling or waiving a hand is considered solliciting in France).
We are talking about human beings here. Even the ones that are doing it for themselves -and they exist, some of them are in their late 70s today, and they do defend their jobs- every one suffers from this prostitution status. In fact, the only people that benefitted from it is the Mafia. By sending prositution in the dark alleys of the woods, away from the State, the congress sentenced whores to go deeper in the darkness of human slavery.
In that context, a commission of unknown congressmen decided it was time to do something. Merde. They appointed, as usual, people that have a lot of convictions, but obviously no logicial thinking. In some puritan move, they simply aim at putting a definite end to prostitution. But they don’t want to ban it, oh non! they wouldn’t have the guts, just like for cigarette!! No they respect a citizen’s right to chose, as Maud Olivier, one of the socialist congresswoman responsible of the new law said, they are not against liberty. They are “abolitionists”. Now this is just marketing, of course: they compare themselves with the people who wanted to abolish slavery. But there’s nothing in common there. There are a lot of independent prostitutes. And all that they want is decent work conditions.
Maud Olivier provided us with a lot of amazing insights. One of them, that totally shocked me, was that there was no need for prostitution because 50% of prostitution clients were married. (in a November interview in le Monde). I frankly can’t believe one can read something that stupid in France in 2013. First it’s only 50%, second it’s doesn’t mean anything (I mean, it’s not because every house has a kitchen that we should ban restaurants…), and third it shows that this lady has a perfect misandurstanding of life. It is not my purpose to go here to the reason of extraconjugal sex, but all in all the fact that men have been looking for pleasure with different mates throughout human history should be a given, and not a variable that you can discard with a mere conviction.
So at the end of the day, in spite of the whore protests, a puritan congress and even more puritan associations passed the law. Whores can keep on risking their lives in the woods, the State doesn’t give a dime about them. But the clients will get a 1500€ fine.
Who thinks it is going to end prostitution? Not moi. Because it doesn’t work like this. Because prostitution will find a way, because clients will take the risks, because the mafias will not let the girls stop, because a 55yo prostitute has to work to pay her bills. But it’s going to send the girls deeper into darkness.
The philosophical question is: would it be good to end Prostitution? My answer is no. Because some people make a living of it, because I believe that it can be a real job, because there is a need for it (I personnally advocate for the possibility of prostitution for handicapped people. I believe a decent sex life is a right, and that the world would be better off if everybody was sexually satisfied). But what is not acceptable is woman slavery. That’s in fact what this naive congress is fighting against, yet to me they dramatically failed.
That law only gives more powers to the prostitution networks. I beleive, if one wants to really help the girls out, that the best solution would have been to reopen whorehouses, and get them directly under the responsibility of the State. Like that there would be no money blackmail, the rental price is set, citizens can trust the system and the girls can feel safe, and the state can make official money out of prostitution instead of letting that money go to the mafia. And of course, wild prostitution, in the street, should be banned. For both the girls and the clients. Because sex has nothing to do in a street.
But for some strange reason, it’s the organized whorehouse that is considered horrible in France by the politician, and not the fact that young girls are risking their health and their lives in highway resting areas around France. I really hope for the girls that one day a politician will have the guts to face the truth, and instead of prohibiting prostitution, he would make it human for the people that work in it, while forcing the networks to disappear in the light beam of legal ruling.