Next to the Copenhagen city centre, Vesterbro is a trendy neighbourhood in the city. Due to the proximity to CPH Central Station, streets are full of Hotels, cafes, restaurants, tourists.. and prostitution.
Within those streets, two posters are recurrents: “Real men don’t buy women” and “Happy hookers only live in your imagination”. I will deal with each issue in turn. Relations between prostitution and feminism is longstanding. On one hand, many feminists have seen prostitutes as victims, working within a wild and worthless context, being enslaved. On the other hand, prostitutes felt marginalized and judged, being members of the most marginalized groups in society.
What is it we don’t like about them? It would seem that is more than the act of sex, we also don’t accept them receiving money for it money for it. It is not tolerated that the reward is openly economic, even more when the reward is not a favour by men, but something fixed in advance by the prostitute: “If you want a sexual relation, pay”.
In my opinion, that “Real men don’t buy women” couldn’t be more wrong. First of all, women are not being purchased: they are being paid for a service, most of the time have mafias behind the curtains and here there is real human trafficking: no one should never trade with lives and hopes of others. Also many times the situation is elected by the woman because of their personal circumstances, like all the things that we choose in life. I don’t have enough knowledge on the matter to judge the benefits or disadvantages of prostitution, but at this point I know that, when we criminalize this job, we are criminalizing the people who execute it, and they don’t deserve to be one step behind society. Moreover, the adjective of “real men” impinges on the male chauvinist conception of society: real men access to prostitution; real men punch; real men kill. But yes, all of them men, not monsters. Monsters don’t exist.
“When we criminalize this job, we are criminalizing the people who offer it, and they don’t deserve to be one step behind society”
So it seems difficult for many people to imagine that a woman working for herself autonomously, making her own decisions and the most important, being happy: “Happy hookers only live in your imagination”. It looks like we prefer them to live hidden, marginalized, with nobody to defend their rights than to live together, in equal conditions as citizens who are trying to progress in life. Letting them to be as free as they can, because like us, they are not 100% free. How free are all those married men and women who have been together for decades and who unites them not with love but debts, children and mortgages?
We don’t have to make policies to open prostitution into commodification of sexuality, but to give them rights as humans, because that is what we are talking about: Human beings, being this only a tiny step to reach equality within the patriarchal society that we live in. Because a poster is not the solution.
Alberto Coves, Crossing Borders volunteer and Freelance journalist from Spain.