Thumbing the notorious Ranger’s Impartial List of Ladies of Pleasure in Edinburgh (a definitively illustrative brochure of prostitute reviews from the slant of an 18th century bedstead) inspires an intuitively outmoded vein of chauvinistic championing. It abandons the typical “stout”, “plump”, and “adept” on their street corners and partners insult to appraisal, leaving an inky stamp on depersonalised bodies. So, impartially, the “Ranger” is chastised in punishment: the “Ranger”, the “John”, the “Client” returns, frustrated, and violently depersonalises the body further. While prostitution is legally permissible in Scotland, its stigmatising shadow has shrouded a real perception of how it exists.
Currently, Scottish Minister for Community Safety Ash Denham stands on the proposal of a “Scottish Model” for sex workers. This is based primarily on the Nordic Model: demand is criminalised, supply is decriminalised. Still, a Scottish adaptation would see culpability placed on the individual exchanging money. This is a system that, in the Scottish Government’s interests, would cause detrimental harm to the illegal sex industry. The interpretation of which presents nothing more than potential for the insurance of stigmatisation in the laissez-faire flailings contra the intangibilities and “unknowns” of an illicit taboo culture.
In Edinburgh, our closest demonstration of such salacious taboo endures eminently as the Bread St.–West Port binary of bookshop, strip club, bookshop, strip club – known colloquially as the Bermudian “Pubic Triangle.” Although when there you may only see, without public solicitation in “curb crawling” or manifest “pimping”, freestanding lampposts in absence. This is the presence of the sex industry discredited and forced to disexist. This lack of exposure – as with the child’s “unknowing” of the dark, as with refusing to eat your cauliflower, as with wholly baseless racial and gender discrimination – creates an intrinsic prejudice and hostility founded on inexperience. The pragmatic requirements surrounding unionisation and the establishment of some meaningful connection are also deleteriously halted in the missing aspect of union participants. It’s to pass a working prostitute in the street as a ‘Social Norm’ to achieve the critical step in response via acknowledgement within our social domain.
The prescription of more thoroughly legitimising how sex work is considered exterior to the explicit formalisms of any austere legal context may seem unnecessary. Benumbed, the abstractions of Scottish sex work may be irrelevant, nonsensical attempts to draw some Foucauldian Power to the exploitive incentives of animalistic sexual frustration. Why not allow the method of the Scottish Model to counter the heralded extremes of violence and trafficking? Such positions, though misguided, tend to promote the insensitive bartering of the implications regarding “safety” and “welfare” – while prevailing unaware of how they may be affected by any significant changes in the law.
To estimate the effects on these clauses, a before-after comparison predicts the fitting apprehension. Take the aggregate number of 3,900 recorded instances of sexual assault from April 2020 to March 2021. The fraction of crimes associated with prostitution being exclusive to ‘only’ 54. Juxtapose this marginality against the nations adoptive of the Nordic Model, where cases of domestic violence and rape have been proven to incrementally increase with this demand-orientated criminalisation. Caution is merited, as Sweden’s prescient claims for the betterment of women’s safety, within and outside of the sex industry, eventually suppurated into a potent misapplication of optimism.
Therefore, the proposal of a “Scottish Model” acts not only as a severely irresponsible containment of a pertinent issue, but unwise to all anticipated consequences concerning stimulated hatred and violence against sex workers. Instead, be it the revisitation of our morally condescending arrogance, or creation of tolerance through more insightful education, the demand for alterations to take place in collective social attitudes holds equal importance to the gradual provision of authentic liberties to the sex industry and its workers.
Image via flickr