Julie Bindel is well known for her advocacy of legislation criminalising those who pay for sex. Bindel’s argument goes as follows: prostitution is a form of modern day slavery. We abolished the slave trade and we now need to prohibit the buying of human beings for sex. Most of those engaged in prostitution did not (Bindel contends) enter the industry out of choice, most did so out of poverty and/or due to the sexual abuse which they suffered as children. Men need to be educated out of the belief that they “have a right” to pay for sex. Education combined with laws punishing those who pay for sex are, according to Bindel the answer to the problems associated with the oldest profession. If one goes after the punters then the demand for paid sex will decline to the benefit of prostitutes and society as a whole. (For an example of Bindel’s perspective see http://www.thefifthcolumn.co.uk/the-agitator/julie-bindel-on-why-paying-for-sex-is-wrong/).
There are a number of problems with Bindel’s perspective.
1. Slavery is the ownership of one human being by another person with the master possessing absolute power over the slave. On seeing a sex worker who has not been forced into prostitution (the majority of those engaged in the oldest profession enter into it voluntarily) the client is purchasing a sexual service (he is not, contrary to Bindel’s claim buying the sex worker).  Throughout the transaction the prostitute remains a free person and at the end of the encounter he/she departs as a free individual.   Having seen many escorts I can vouch for the fact that prostitution was not, in most cases  their first choice of career, however they have visited me and provided sexual services of their own free will, Bindel may not accept this statement but it remains true for all that.
2. Granted some of those engaged in prostitution suffered sexual abuse as children which is, of course a matter for utter condemnation. However the fact of childhood abuse does not render the prostitute incapable of making informed choices as an adult. He/she chooses to enter the profession and the customer can not be held responsible for that choice. Our upbringing no doubt predisposes us to certain courses of action but we retain the ability to override our childhood experiences (this is often hard but by no means impossible).
3. As for Bindel’s statement that no one has a right to pay for sex I’d turn this around and ask “by what right do you, Julie Bindel seek to criminalise those who are willing to pay for a service which is offered without coercion by many millions of sex workers?” Men (and women) do indeed have a right to purchase sex provided that those offering said service have not been forced into doing so.

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