Prostitution has caused controversy in a variety of ways from legalization, to morality, to its mere classification as the oldest profession in the world. It becomes easy for those who are not directly involved with this topic to quickly form opinions and pass judgment without delving deeper into the issues of those who find themselves in the frontline of prostitution; prostitutes/sex-workers.
Considering July is Social Wellness month, it would be a great opportunity to tackle a hot topic, one that seems to exist only in the realms of black or white. Even if “Social Wellness Month was created…to assist people in their efforts to live a healthier life” and “offer an excellent opportunity to help others feel good about themselves and build stronger social ties to the ones [they] love”, we should take it further by taking the time to listen, learn, and – perhaps for once – look beyond our fixed ideas of social morality.
The Invisible Worker
When is abuse condoned? As a society we pick and choose who is worthy of our compassion, of our time and effort. The wife and mother of three who is the victim of domestic abuse takes precedence because at least she has a chance. If we are to save anyone by creating programs and enforcing legislature with our taxes it should be for the respectable one, right? What if the victim is a forty-year-old high school drop out who is a drug addict? What if the victim of prostitution is a child who has been sold or trafficked into prostitution? The labels of prostitute, whore, or harlot are not only for an adult male or female who consciously entered into the profession out of their own free will.
Yet, even the men, the John’s, seem to be protected, more so than prostitutes. When Denver aired Johns TV exposing the men soliciting prostitution, ABC News reported that the American Civil Liberties Union had protested, claiming the “‘Innocent victims in this [were] going to be the families and relatives of these people whose pictures [were] posted'”. The question was not, what about the families of the prostitutes whose pictures would be posted, how would they big affected? We rarely ask ourselves how we contribute to prostitution.
Sex-workers are a social responsibility, one that we are accountable for due to the social hierarchy in which we function. In the words of Melissa Farley, “Prostitution is a gendered survival strategy which involves the assumption of unreasonable risks by the person in it”. Unfortunately, we do function in a patriarchal society in which women – even children (because little girls will become women) – are seen as second-class citizens; therefore female prostitutes fall even lower in this chain of command and become disposable.
Prostitutes are commonly labeled as corrupt immoral women/men who have no sense of self-worth, if they did, they would not be in that profession. How often do we really stop and think of sex workers as people, as human beings? Why? The main reason is that sex workers are stripped of their identity and dehumanizes by society because it is much easier to antagonize a thing than it is a human being. In the film Not for Sale by Marie Vermeiren, Fiona Broadfoot, a survivor of prostitution and abuse claimed her pimp “put [her] on the street corner and gave [her] some condoms and [she] was immediately at risk of the most horrendous violence and abuse. [She] was raped, [she] was buggered, [she] was beaten, [she] was spat at, [she] had urine thrown at [her] by residents in communities that [she] worked in”. Broadfoot’s experience of abuse at the hands of her community and respected citizens reveal the dire state of our social ethics.
Social Wellness and Activism at its Best
While it might be inconceivable to find a link between ourselves and prostitution, the realization is that we are linked. We are linked as human beings and as a community. Fiona Broadfoot pleads for the “millions and millions of women and children all around this world [who] suffer on a regular bases” which is why “we have to act, we have to stop this appalling abuse of women and children” who do not have a say, who do not have a voice. Yet, it is through our sense of community and kinship that we can generate change.
Denver is already on its way to transform social apathy through Project SUCCESS. This empowering program is “a collaborative effort among members of the Denver community aimed at reducing prostitution and prostitution related crimes in Denver”. As described by Definitions of Wellness, “as [we] proceed on [our] social wellness journey, [we’ll] discover many things-[we’ll] discover that [we] have the power to make willful choices to enhance personal relationships, important friendships, [our] community, the environment and, ultimately, the world. As [we] travel the wellness path, [we’ll] begin to believe that – socially”. Once social change has begun, we as a community can ensure it will run its course, but first we must look at a social issue from a different lens.
Regardless of our point-of-views, we should keep ourselves educated and that means knowing opposing views as well. Visit Prostitution ProCon.org to stay informed.