Thursday, August 10, 2006

Women one tiny fraction as bad as men SHOCK-HORROR!

Every once in a while someone writes an article designed specially to piss me off. Step up Julie Bindel in the Guardian. She's talking about male prostitution (with female clients) in Jamaica. And her point is that women who participate in this are as bad as men who pay prostitutes. Sure but the number of women hiring male prostitutes is tiny compared to the number of men who do so. Personally I have never met a woman who has hired a man for sex. However I have met dozens of guys who have visited brothels, people I've had to work with and for, people who've bragged about the hilarious scenes they've witnessed in brothels and round the back of supposedly legitimate lap-dancing clubs. So women aren't as bad as men, a tiny tiny proportion of women are as bad as a huge slice of the male population.

Statistic vary by country. In Thailand eighty-five percent of men have visited a prostitute (down from 96% since the news about HIV got around). Sixty to seventy percent have in Holland, fifty percent in the US, I can't find anything resembling believable numbers for the UK but I can find lists upon lists of UK brothels on the internet, not to mention advice for would-be johns travelling overseas for their comoditized sex. Trying to look up numbers for women who have visited male prostitutes doesn't work because the first 200 links that come up are about female prostitution.

There are a bunch of other issues that unbalance the similarity between the two sides:

1) There is no evidence of the female "johns" ("janes"?) raping or beating the male prostitutes. In the US it is estimated that 25% of female prostitutes have been raped more than ten times.

2) The men working in Jamaica are not doing so from brothels, they're doing so on an individual basis, chatting up older women, taking them out, etc, then asking for financial favours. By that standard a large number of guys in the UK who marry or date women half their age whom they shower with gifts and credit cards, are similarly guilty of hiring prostitutes. I think that's harsh.

3) Ms Bindel complains that these women use unpleasant language to describe the men they consort with such as "black men can keep it up longer". Well I hate racial stereotypes and language like that but it sounds positively innocent compared to the sort of thing I heard every day from my desk when I worked in Japan. British men sitting within earshot of my desk would standardly refer to asian women as "rice burners" and "extra baggage" (i.e. that you should avoid having to take home).

I'm not saying women should be encouraged to engage in sexual tourism. But the idea that women are "as bad as men" in this respect is ridiculous. Lets focus on the real problems.

Footnote [added later!] - in retrospect, more familiar as I now am with Ms Bindel's work I should add that while I stick by my point that the media do have disproportionate over-coverage of male prostitution, relative to female, Julie's works is really very balanced and includes ample thorough coverage of the issues surrounding women in the sex industry!


Braganza said...

"Sixty to seventy percent have in Holland"

Statistics are not corroborated just because they are quoted on other web sites - without corroboration.

If you want to have a good old fashioned rant, that won't matter to you. If you want to advance the debate with measured argument, perhaps it should.

Cruella said...

Statistics on sex-related issues are necessarily unreliable. If I had the time to go do the full survey, great, or if someone had published a reliable survey of such things, also great. What my list of links was supposed to show was that whichever way you estimate it, the percentage is significant. It's a different order of magnitude to the size of the women-with-carribean-toy-boys problem.

I'm not so much trying to advance the debate as trying to highlight how ridiculous the article by Ms Bindel is.

Braganza said...

Fair enough - I don't disagree at all with what you're saying aout Ms Bindel.
I just get a little twitchy when people start pulling statistics out of thin air to support an argument. Who knows, next month it could be someone else quoting that 60-70 percent figure and linking to 'the Award Winning Cru-Blog as featured in the Guardian' as copper-bottomed proof of what is really a totally uncorroborated statistic. Hell, you're even on the TV and the Radio so your statistics *must* be true. Do you see what I mean?

Anyway, hope things are going well in Edinburgh.

spicy said...

To be fair, Julie Bindel's radical lesbian feminist credentials are impeccable.

It's not as if this is the only thing she's ever written about prostitution - she's a prolific writer on the subject, along with trafficking, domestic violence and rape as well as being a highly successful campaigner on behalf of abused women.

Cruella said...

In fairness to her - that's true. And I'm sure she also needs to pay her bills writing stuff and no doubt the powers that be are more interested in an article about women as abusers.