It’s not just our thickest millionaires who buy girls and women

by Rachel Bell on September 7, 2010

Footballers are like many other young men in Britain, who see using prostitutes as socially acceptable. So less of this focus on the women in the sex industry and let’s start taking about the demand, the one in ten British men who fund it, says Rachel Bell

Reports that Wayne Rooney paid for sex with a prostitute again, (OK there were two women, Wayne was entitled to his threesome right?) including during Coleen’s pregnancy, was delivered by the redtops and The Mail with pictures aplenty of a pouting and underdressed Juci Jeni. Sandra Parsons wrote in the Mail of ‘poor humiliated’ Coleen and dedicated her piece to bemoaning WAG culture and how girls these days just want to get their kit off and shag footballers to get rich and famous. ‘I fear Jennifer may be an extreme example of the terrifyingly sexualised culture that surrounds today’s teenage girls,’ wrote Parsons, telling us how Juci Jeni ‘snared’ Wayne, as if he were some poor unsuspecting virgin. Not a word about Wayne’s belief that women are consumables to be bought, not a question about footballers use of the sex industry, not a word about the ever-increasing demand among British men to buy women through lap-dancing clubs and prostitution.

Typically, the Mail’s focus is on women when it’s a man whose actions are the issue, framing them as either whores as victims. Coleen isn’t poor or humiliated to me. As a mother, there’s a high chance that Coleen puts her son before herself now, and is fuming at Wayne’s lame interpretation of manhood and fatherhood. Wayne is the only person who should be associated with shame. It’s time we addressed footballers’ rubbish, empty values and their damaging impact on kids, women – and men.

We all know what heroes footballers are to the smallest of children, as well as young men. These heroes are sending the message that women are there to be bought and thrown away to try the next one, and why not? There’s an endless stream of girls queuing up for it, right? Just because it’s offered on a plate, just because you can buy it, doesn’t make it alright, does that compute? Yes some women may choose to sell their bodies but for most women – and children – in prostitution, it’s an existence so miserable, they must disassociate to get through it. It’s time the ridiculous myths about the sex trade were shattered. That it is recognised that posh escorts are a minority who simply make a more glamorous newspaper story. That it is widely understood that most women in prostitution enter it as children, do it through poverty and drug addiction, are attacked, abused and raped, routinely expected to do anal and work without a condom. It’s time the arguments about it being women’s ‘choice’ and the oldest profession were exposed as plain ignorant of an industry that has a detrimental impact an ALL women. On our place as human beings of equal value to men.

The FA stepped up to kick racism out of football, why not sexism and the profession’s funding of the sex industry? It’s time they instilled in their players a sense of responsibility to not embrace sexism quite so enthusiastically. When managers – and sports writers – make their post-match comments, everything is ignored but the player’s performance on the pitch. The message is that football is above any issue, certainly above the human rights issue of sexism, and the players are presented as if they played on through adversity. Twenty years ago, Alex Ferguson may have gone to Ryan Giggs’ house to send him to bed early but today, players’ power is such that managers seem incapable of guiding their young players off pitch. Like most of society, the FA doesn’t care about sexism. It’s so normalised as to be unremarkable and not worth commenting on. Women just don’t matter. So while the misery of the children and women involved in the sex industry is unlikely to move the FA, their players getting into trouble is. At Manchester United’s 2007 Christmas do, it was reported that players watched burlesque (read strippers) before heading to their party where wives were banned to make way for 100 models, picked out like any other luxury shopping. Party games allegedly included ‘roasting’ and the night ended with Jonny Evans being questioned for rape.

Lazily buying into all the myths about the sex industry suits men very well of course but even if they do hear some unsavoury truths, they don’t care. A 2009 Eaves report on Men Who Buy Sex found almost half of them believed the prostitutes they used were victims of pimps but it didn’t stop them using them. Today, one in ten British men use prostitutes. Footballers like Wayne Rooney and Peter Crouch are no different to many other young men, except they’ve got more money, bigger egos and get investigated by the press. The rise of lap-dancing clubs has helped to make paying for a prostitute more socially acceptable. It’s time it was understood how they are inextricably linked. Is the popular press likely to move away from the titillating coverage that sells to instead focus on the demand – to focus on the men? Not likely. But think how public attitudes would follow to end the oldest oppression, as they yawnsomely call it?  (Agriculture is the oldest profession in case some nitwit rolls out that excuse for a defense. And why is something inevitable and acceptable because it’s been around a long time?) An FA and a government awareness campaign would help influence public attitudes, if only to create stigma around the men who buy sex. As the Eaves report found, being aware of the harm to women won’t deter most men from paying for sex, but fines, public ­exposure, employers being informed, being issued with an Asbo or the risk of a criminal record would.

Eaves have partnered with human rights group Object for the first UK campaign to challenge demand for prostitution. It seeks to criminalise those who buy sexual services but decriminalise those selling them and help women and girls to exit prostitution. Last year they succeeded in changing the law and it’s now illegal to buy sex from someone who is coerced or forced. Unfortunately no government money was pumped into bothering to tell the public and help change male attitudes that fund this abusive trade. Object collected testimonies from women in prostitution to help their campaign. If you still think Secret Diary of a Call Girl is life for most children and women in prostitution, go to Demandchange.org.uk and watch just one of the horrific testimonies. The new act is a half measure however, and failure to follow the proven Scandinavian model suggests those in power put votes before women.

So in the failure of our state to address prostitution wholeheartedly, and continue to give the UK it’s WELCOME sign to traffickers, I say lets stop banging on about the young women ‘choosing’ to be part of the sex industry and let’s start talking about the johns. And not just the British men demanding different exotic girls in their local brothel, creating internal trafficking across Britain. I’m talking about the city boy who pays for a prostitute on his stag weekend, the professional men I know who go to Spearmint Rhino, wherever to buy sexual services in places that make them feel perfectly ‘respectable’, the ‘nice guys’ I know who say they ‘aren’t like that’ who tell themselves that going to lap-dancing clubs is different to using a prostitute. Like Wayne, you’re all johns.

Read Beatrix Campbell on why sexism needs to be taken seriously in football, just as racism was.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/sep/05/football-sexism-wayne-rooney-scandal

And Linda Green’s excellent personal take.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2010/jun/10/world-cup-not-supporting-england

Julie Bindel on the Men Who Buy Sex Report
http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2010/jan/15/why-men-use-prostitutes

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