There is a mythical character often raised in the debate surrounding sex work and he is the “ethical John”.
This portrayal of the punter is of someone just looking for comfort and sex from a woman “empowered” enough to view selling her body as simply transactional.
After all, she probably really enjoys it and, if she didn’t, if she was coerced or, horror of horrors, trafficked, he would sweep in and rescue her like the knight in shining armour he really is.
Yes, and Pretty Woman was a docudrama.
In an interview published in this paper earlier this week, Trafficking Awareness Raising Alliance (TARA) spoke of its fears for enslaved women and their vulnerability to sickness, abandonment and further exploitation in the pandemic.
And in that interview, Bronagh Andrews from TARA told me many rescued trafficked women it had supported had disclosed to a punter they were being coerced and forced to sell their body.
Some of those punters expressed sympathy, some threw the women an extra few quid, but every one of them went on to demand the sex they had paid for.
Let’s call that what it is – rape.
And who are the men who would be appalled if they were dubbed rapists?
Punters are not dirty old men in macs, they are the businessman, the loving father and husband, the young, the successful. They are what we would perceive as just your average Joe.
And there are enough of them globally to keep the £100billion sex trafficking business thriving.
There are many reasons women become prey for the trafficker – lack of opportunity and education, poverty, or they may have been sexually abused from a young age. Some will be the victims of opportunist traffickers because they are fleeing domestic abuse.
There are also examples of women who have fled because they wanted to protect their daughters from female genital mutilation.
Some African women have been bound by the spells of witch doctors in on the trade and there are Scottish women who are victims of the same structural inequalities, present across the globe.
There are a myriad of reasons why women are vulnerable but there is only one reason traffickers ply their inhumane trade and that is the demand from punters buying sex.
These men have the luxury of anonymity and so we focus on the trafficking gangs and the women, but the punters are most culpable because without them, this problem would not exist.
The punter may tell himself that he would know if a woman was trafficked but he is unlikely to find her chained to a bed like in the movies.
These enslaved women are monitored by their traffickers, told to smile and be compliant.
They may be drugged and what imprisons them may be psychological as well as physical control – the threat of authority, harm to family or debt.
Not that it would matter to most punters anyway. Scroll through Punternet, the sickening site where men leave reviews of prostituted women, as they would a good pub, and they moan about lack of enthusiasm, sullenness, detachment and an urgency to get it all over and done with.
Trafficked or not, these women are clearly bound to fulfil the grim transaction by anything other than empowerment.
After this pandemic, there will be a global recession and as women find themselves thrust into further poverty, the traffickers will find rich pickings.
Coronavirus in Scotland
Whether they are trafficked or not, women are not commodities and to prostitute them is sexual violence.
There is much said about the new world that will emerge from this pandemic, how we will have a renewed appreciation for each other and the planet.
Surely in this period of enlightenment, our priority should be changing a culture which accepts it is OK for men to buy women, trafficked or not.
Jog on Jack, Sturgeon puts our safety first
Scotland secretary Alister Jack, left, has criticised First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and demanded we stay in “lockstep” with the rest of the UK on easing the lockdown.
Bear in mind that marching to the Tory Government’s tune has made the UK’s coronavirus death toll the world’s second-highest and top in the grim league table of Europe .
And let’s not forget that as the UK began self-isolating in the face of the pandemic, Jack’s focus was on the folly of building a bridge between Scotland and Ireland.
While the death toll was rising in Europe, BoJo was still defiantly shaking hands and planning a feasibility study about a bridge or a tunnel between Portpatrick and Larne.
No wonder we don’t have confidence in Jack and BoJo to show us the light at the end of the tunnel we are in. Sturgeon is right to suggest now is not the time for partisan politics and she will navigate the safest path for Scotland, approved by Westminster or not.
Jacob Rees-Mogg concurred with his old chum Jack, which only emphasises the need for these Tory buffoons to be sent on a bridge to nowhere, asap.
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