The State Should Be Subsidised By A Tax On Commercial Sex
Posted by: Greg Lance-Watkins – Greg_L-W.
the precedent of taxation on prostitution was clearly set 15-May-1990 when the brothel madam Lindi St. Clare, better known as Ms Whiplash lost her 15 year battle with the Inland Revenue against paying back taxes – her defence had been that the State would, if she was forced to pay, be living off immoral earnings.
That the precedent was set must surely mean that so called immoral earnings are thus legitimised and as prostitution is indubitably, for some, a lifestyle choice such a choice being taxable defines the occupation of a prostitute, maid, pimp, brothel owned as clearly decriminalised and as there is no criminality involved and payment is received in already taxed income how with any morality can any involved in the transaction be they client or supply worker be considered to be acting unlawfully!
We are talking here of an estimated £5.5 Billion industry which against the wishes of those employed therein and the public in the form of clients are freely engaged. Clearly force of ANY description and/or participation by non consenting adults or those under age could then be concentrated on as a criminal matter. At a time when Police are facing cut backs yet are involved in harrassment of these consenting adults – they could consentrate their efforts on more valid crimes whilst HMRC could contribute a substantial additional sum to the Treasury tax income!
This newspaper has never found it plausible that all prostitutes are victims. That fiction is becoming harder to sustain as much of the buying and selling of sex moves online. Personal websites mean prostitutes can market themselves and build their brands. Review sites bring trustworthy customer feedback to the commercial-sex trade for the first time. The shift makes it look more and more like a normal service industry.
It can also be analysed like one. We have dissected data on prices, services and personal characteristics from one big international site that hosts 190,000 profiles of female prostitutes (see pages 17-20). The results show that gentlemen really do prefer blondes, who charge 11% more than brunettes. The scrawny look beloved of fashion magazines is more marketable than flab—but less so than a healthy weight. Prostitutes themselves behave like freelancers in other labour markets. They arrange tours and take bookings online, like gigging musicians. They choose which services to offer, and whether to specialise. They temp, go part-time and fit their work around child care. There is even a graduate premium that is close to that in the wider economy.
The invisible hand-job
Moralisers will lament the shift online because it will cause the sex trade to grow strongly. Buyers and sellers will find it easier to meet and make deals. New suppliers will enter a trade that is becoming safer and less tawdry. New customers will find their way to prostitutes, since they can more easily find exactly the services they desire and confirm their quality. Pimps and madams should shudder, too. The internet will undermine their market-making power.
But everyone else should cheer. Sex arranged online and sold from an apartment or hotel room is less bothersome for third parties than are brothels or red-light districts. Above all, the web will do more to make prostitution safer than any law has ever done. Pimps are less likely to be abusive if prostitutes have an alternative route to market. Specialist sites will enable buyers and sellers to assess risks more accurately. Apps and sites are springing up that will let them confirm each other’s identities and swap verified results from sexual-health tests. Schemes such as Britain’s Ugly Mugs allow prostitutes to circulate online details of clients to avoid.
Governments should seize the moment to rethink their policies. Prohibition, whether partial or total, has been a predictable dud. It has singularly failed to stamp out the sex trade. Although prostitution is illegal everywhere in America except Nevada, old figures put its value at $14 billion annually nationwide; surely an underestimate. More recent calculations in Britain, where prostitution is legal but pimping and brothels are not, suggest that including it would boost GDP figures by at least £5.3 billion ($8.9 billion). And prohibition has ugly results. Violence against prostitutes goes unpunished because victims who live on society’s margins are unlikely to seek justice, or to get it. The problem of sex tourism plagues countries, like the Netherlands and Germany, where the legal part of the industry is both tightly circumscribed and highly visible.
The failure of prohibition is pushing governments across the rich world to try a new tack: criminalising the purchase of sex instead of its sale. Sweden was first, in 1999, followed by Norway, Iceland and France; Canada is rewriting its laws along similar lines. The European Parliament wants the “Swedish model” to be adopted right across the EU. Campaigners in America are calling for the same approach.
Sex sells, and always will
This new consensus is misguided, as a matter of both principle and practice. Banning the purchase of sex is as illiberal as banning its sale. Criminalisation of clients perpetuates the idea of all prostitutes as victims forced into the trade. Some certainly are—by violent partners, people-traffickers or drug addiction. But there are already harsh laws against assault and trafficking. Addicts need treatment, not a jail sentence for their clients.
Sweden’s avowed aim is to wipe out prostitution by eliminating demand. But the sex trade will always exist—and the new approach has done nothing to cut the harms associated with it. Street prostitution declined after the law was introduced but soon increased again. Prostitutes’ understandable desire not to see clients arrested means they strike deals faster and do less risk assessment. Canada’s planned laws would make not only the purchase of sex illegal, but its advertisement, too. That will slow down the development of review sites and identity- and health-verification apps.
The prospect of being pressed to mend their ways makes prostitutes less willing to seek care from health or social services. Men who risk arrest will not tell the police about women they fear were coerced into prostitution. When Rhode Island unintentionally decriminalised indoor prostitution between 2003 and 2009 the state saw a steep decline in reported rapes and cases of gonorrhoea.
Prostitution is moving online whether governments like it or not. If they try to get in the way of the shift they will do harm. Indeed, the unrealistic goal of ending the sex trade distracts the authorities from the genuine horrors of modern-day slavery (which many activists conflate with illegal immigration for the aim of selling sex) and child prostitution (better described as money changing hands to facilitate the rape of a child). Governments should focus on deterring and punishing such crimes—and leave consenting adults who wish to buy and sell sex to do so safely and privately online.
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Prostitution should be a career choice like any other, former call girl Belle de Jour tells committee of MPs
- Brooke Magnanti: Doing away with penalties would make sex work safer
- Author gained fame chronicling her activities while working as call girl
- She appeared with activist Paris Lees, who also worked as a prostitute
- Home Affairs Committee inquiry looking at UK legislation on prostitution
‘Decriminalise prostitution’: Dr Brooke Magnanti told the Home Affairs Committee that doing away with penalties against sex workers would make it safer
Prostitution should be fully decriminalised in Britain and on a par with other career choices, former call girl Belle de Jour told MPs yesterday.
Dr Brooke Magnanti told the Home Affairs Committee that doing away with penalties against sex workers would make it safer.
The author, who gained fame chronicling her activities while working as a call girl, appeared in London with writer and activist Paris Lees, who also previously worked as a prostitute.
The committee began an inquiry earlier this year into UK legislation on prostitution, looking at whether those who sell sex should still be more heavily penalised than those who pay for it.
Dr Magnanti, 40, joked at Portcullis House that she would ‘wave my magic wand’ to make prostitution a legitimate career choice.
She was asked by Scottish National Party MP Stuart McDonald: ‘What would you describe as being the end goal? Is it to see prostitution as on a par with other career choices, as legitimate as other career choices, or would you not go as far as that? And if you would go as far as that how would you make that happen?’
Dr Magnanti said: ‘I think that’s a fair interpretation of what I said. First off decriminalisation, so getting rid of penalties against sex workers, the brothel-keeping penalties that penalise them for working together, even sharing a premises.’
The forensic scientist and columnist, who was born in Florida but currently lives in the UK, said she saw her time as a call girl as a way to make money while at university.
‘Belle de Jour’ Brook Magnanti: ‘Decriminalise prostitution’
Hopes and dreams: Dr Magnanti gives evidence to the Home Affairs Committee at Portcullis House in London yesterday, where she joked she would ‘wave my magic wand’ to make prostitution a legitimate career choice
Push for decriminalisation: Also appearing in front of MPs was writer and activist Paris Lees, who previously worked as a prostitute and argued yesterday that criminalising prostitution makes it more dangerous
She said: ‘I saw it as a stopgap really. In the way that students would choose to work behind a bar.’
She said safety must be ‘the bottom line’, and argued sex workers are more likely to contact police if they are in danger if there is no threat of them facing prosecution themselves.
Ms Lees, who is transgender and said she had experienced ‘family rejection’ when she came out aged 18, said she did not see why trying to put a stop to sex work should even be considered.
She credited it as having helped her get to the ‘privileged’ position she now holds. She said: ‘The reason I am privileged now and not marginalised is because of sex work.’
Ms Lees also argued that criminalising prostitution makes it more dangerous. She said: ‘It is because it’s been pushed underground, it’s made seedy.’
She also called on Labour to push for decriminalisation.
Ms Lees said: ‘Labour, the party that’s supposed to stand up for marginalised people and workers should actually be advocating for this and allowing sex workers to come together to work in collectives where they feel empowered and safe and not that they’re going to be criminalised.’I saw it as a stopgap really. In the way that students would choose to work behind a barDr Brooke Magnanti
The party’s leader Jeremy Corbyn has previously said he is in favour of ‘decriminalising the sex industry’ and called for a more ‘civilised’ approach to the debate. But former Labour deputy leader Harriet Harman said prostitution was ‘exploitation and abuse’.
Committee member Tim Loughton said hearing the evidence of both women had caused him to think decriminalisation and ‘having everything above board’ by protecting sex workers and going after ‘the real criminals’ who exploit prostitutes ‘is an increasingly attractive way that we might want to go’.
The adventures of Belle de Jour spawned two bestselling books and a long-running TV series starring Billie Piper.
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