One sure way to reduce prostitution: heroin prescription

In late 2006, the whole of Britain watched in horror as five vulnerable female prostitutes were, one by one, over the course of one and half months, picked up off the streets of Ipswich and taken to their deaths. The last victim, Paula Clennell, was even seen on television stating that, despite news of the murders and despite being alerted to the fact a killer was on the loose, she would continue working the streets as she ‘‘needed the money’’ to fund her drug habit. The killer was eventually identified as a Mr Steve Wright, who, in February 2008, was found guilty of all five counts of murder, and sentenced to life imprisonment. But the truth is that all five deaths were preventable. Preventable, that is, for want of some political courage on the part of our leaders.

In response to the murders, there was, of course, a wide and varied national debate about policy on prostitution, and how to make these vulnerable women safer. Criminalization of demand, legalization, brothels, tolerance zones – all were considered and discussed. But one simple way to keep vulnerable women away from ‘‘the oldest oppression’’ as some feminists prefer to call it, was ignored: heroin prescription.

But before explaining the rationale for this, it’s worth describing in more detail the risk that women put themselves in when they enter into prostitution. Here are a few shocking, striking facts: as many as 60 women involved in prostitution have been murdered in the UK in the last 10 years; more than a quarter report attempted rape; and over 50% of women working as prostitutes start in prostitution before the age of 18. And let’s not forget: prostitution, by its very nature, involves having sex with someone you do not want to have sex with – a fact too often overlooked.

And here’s yet another astonishing statistic: according to the Fawcett Society, 63% of women in prostitution report that they are doing so in order to fund a drug habit – the drug, in most cases, being heroin. The immediate response is, of course, to call for rehabilitation services to be enhanced, broadened, and improved. Now, rehabilitation programmes have their place, and it is imperative that the health service try to wean people off drugs entirely, but to think this is the only way of dealing with the problem misses one hard, crucial fact: rehabilitation of hard drug users has a very low success rate. Even the swishest, swankiest form of residential rehab only has a success rate of 50% at best, according to research by Dr David Best, chair of the Scottish Drug Recovery Consortium. For a significant number of addicts rehab, sadly, doesn’t work. It is, as the medical research refers to it, a ‘chronic relapsing condition’.

The solution for this group of remaining addicts is to provide a safe, clean supply of heroin (otherwise known as diamorphine), prescribed by a medical professional, allowing them to hold down a stable, unchaotic life, where they no longer have to burgle or prostitute themselves to fund their ineradicable habit.

Many of you may be reading this and thinking: what ‘safe, clean supply of heroin’? But the truth is that unadulterated heroin is, in reality, a relatively safe drug: the only consequences being addiction itself and a bit of constipation. It may seem shocking at first, riddled as the British press is with misinformation about drugs, but the distinguished investigative journalist Nick Davies has conducted a detailed study into this, highlighting large scientific studies of unadulterated heroin users. He states: ‘The Oxford Handbook of Clinical Medicine records that a large proportion of the illness experienced by blackmarket heroin addicts is caused by wound infection, septicaemia, and infective endocarditis, all due to unhygienic injection technique’. (But, given that street heroin has a purity of between 20-90%, it’s probably wise not to go near it).

Interestingly, he gives a few historical examples of well-functioning heroin addicts, including the children’s novelist Enid Bagnold, who died quietly in her bed at the of 91, having spent twelve years her life after a hip operation consuming up to 350 mg per day. Two others of note include Dr William Stewart Halstead – widely regarded as the most pioneering surgeon in US history – and Dr Clive Froggatt, Margaret Thatcher’s health advisor (now an avowed champion of heroin prescription on the NHS).

Of course, many people reading this will be familiar with the heroin substitute methadone – a bright green gloop consumed orally – which has been the principal drug used in harm reduction strategies for problematic heroin addicts for well over a decade. The problem is that, while it works to some degree, methadone is in many ways more dangerous than heroin, and unpopular among recovering addicts, meaning they are not successfully driven away from the illicit heroin trade. As the epidemiologist Dr Ben Goldacre demonstrates in his detailed analysis of the scientific literature, it is a profoundly unpleasant drug to take, causing tooth decay, nausea, vomiting and so on. But more alarmingly: it has a higher mortality rate than heroin; this, despite the fact that there are a higher number of heroin users to methadone users in the UK (some scientists have put this down to its longer half-life – a fact used to justify its use in preference to heroin). The real reason for the choice of methadone over heroin is, I suspect, one of price: pure heroin is almost 8 times more expensive than methadone. This can, however, be easily dealt with by dismantling the monopoly the company ‘Evans Medical’ has on the drug.

A comprehensive 2006 study conducted by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation found that Drug Control Rooms – supervised clinics where heroin addicts could turn up at any point, day or night, to shoot up – had been a stunning success: places where drug deaths fell to literally one – one! – and levels of HIV infection collapsed from 50% to 2%. Once addicts have a safer, cleaner supply of their drug – where they can, of course, be slowly weaned off it, inch by cautious inch – the need to deal to fund vanishes: the Global Commission on Drug Policy highlighted that under a heroin-prescription policy the number of new users fell by a spectacular 80%, thereby ending the most vicious of vicious cycles. Don’t be deceived by the seemingly low levels of success by the National Treatment Agency (the body responsible for delivering harm-reduction treatments) in ending dependency entirely; this is, in the words of the NTA’s Director of Communications ‘like measuring a school’s GCSE success by counting the number of A grades as proportion of the total school population’. Remember: heroin addiction is a chronic relapsing condition.

Up until the 1960s, this was common practice in the UK, and so successful it was replicated throughout the world as the famous ‘British method’, only ending in the wake of Richard Nixon’s global ‘war on drugs’. Returning to this model would mean fewer families unnecessarily torn apart, and, crucially, far fewer women having to enter to prostitution, keeping them safe from disease, destitution, and death.

So what is the current government’s policy? Initially, it looked like David Cameron was going to cave-in to the utopian, senseless, cold-turkey approach of his colleagues, but the government has since back-tracked: the money for the National Treatment Agency has been ring-fenced, with Ken Clarke providing a sober voice of reason, pointing out that outright withdrawal of heroin was clinically dangerous. They have not, however, signalled a change from methadone to heroin, so for Cameron to continue with a policy he knows full well increases disease, destitution, prostitution, and death, is nothing short of a disgrace. Only public pressure – by the medical establishment in particular but with the backing of the public – will make him change course.

A virtually identical policy is pursued in Scotland, where methadone is prescribed around the country, although Audit Scotland complain that treatment services for cocaine users are chronically underfunded, and one addict complained of a lack of choice over treatment options: “one size fits all – you have to fit with the service, not it with you.” Both governments, of course, like to brag about big, headline-grabbing drug seizures, but don’t be deceived: Lothian and Borders Police once admitted that they only seize 1% – 1% – of all the heroin available on their patch. At any rate, if the seizures were successful, because demand is inelastic price would increase – meaning more burglary, robbery, and prostitution.

We are at a point in the debate now where it is no longer heretical to critique conventional wisdom on drugs policy; that is, to critique a policy which bears virtually zero relation to medical and sociological evidence. We need to seize this moment. Make a noise. Get it on the agenda. Pile on the pressure on the politicians. Educate and inform: too many people are still misled by newspaper misinformation and irrational tabloid hysteria. After all, it’s an urgent cause, as the experience of Tania, Gemma, Anneli, Annette, and Paula – the five women murdered in Ipswich in 2006 –and countless other faceless, nameless victims show. How many more women have to beaten, raped, or murdered before we finally see sense?

Key Sources
* Paying the Price, Home Office 2004. http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20100418065544/http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/documents/cons-paying-the-price/paying_the_price2835.pdf?view=Binary

* Briefing on Prostitution, Fawcett Society http://www.fawcettsociety.org.uk/documents/Prostitution%20Factsheet%201.9.07.pdf

* Happy Endings, Addiction Today http://www.addictiontoday.org/addictiontoday/2011/03/happy-endings-research-addiction-stories-of-success.html

* Ben Goldacre, Heroin on Prescription http://www.badscience.net/2006/11/methadone-and-heroin/

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17 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. stephenpaterson
    Dec 12, 2011 @ 22:40:08

    To give heroin out on prescription would be fatal – the heroin needs to be administered to addicts, otherwise it would simply join other black market heroin. But yes, to administer drugs (street ones include crack cocaine) would solve the immediate problems of survival sex workers themselves, though many may also have addicted partners whose needs also need to be addressed. It would also ensure drug purity, solve problems associated with infected needles, deny untold millions to organised crime and release criminal justice resources for other purposes.

    Almost everything you say concerning prostitution is wrong, by the way, much of it relates to survival street sex workers, which make up only about 10-25% of prostitutes in western democracies. Drug addiction among indoor sex workers is much rarer than among their outdoor counterparts, and the average age at which either indoor or street sex workers begin sex work is much later according to most studies.

    Reply

  2. Stuart Rodger
    Dec 13, 2011 @ 18:03:39

    Thanks for your comments, Stephen. I certainly agree with your first point, about the diamorphine being administered to addicts. I had that in mind when I wrote the pieces – but perhaps that isn’t made clear enough.

    As regards your second point, I reference the papers on which the statistics are based. The Fawcett Society claim that 69% of indoor prostitutes are addicted to drugs. The Home Office put the figure for both indoor and outdoor prostitutes at 95%. I deliberately chose the lower statistic to err on the side of caution, as regards accuracy.

    Of course, I don’t mean to be reductive about such a complicated problem. I originally had paragraphs in the article about female poverty – which is up there with drug addiction as motivating factor in entering prostitution – but I took it out because of length.

    If there is anything seriously factually amiss, though, please do send me references. I’d be very happy to correct the article.

    Reply

    • stephenpaterson
      Dec 13, 2011 @ 20:13:03

      Stuart, I do appreciate that you have endeavoured to find sources and link to them.
      However, you have to start with primary sources by academics that don’t have axes to grind, which certainly excludes the then Labour run Home Office and the likes of the Fawcett Society.
      Well, over UK ages we could start with Stephanie Church’s study, for example, which showed an average starting age of 19.6 for outdoor workers and 22.7 for those indoors, for link scan down here:
      http://stephenpaterson.wordpress.com/2009/02/16/streets-behind-what-happens-with-uk-kerb-crawling-laws/
      ….lots more on the way…

      Reply

    • stephenpaterson
      Dec 13, 2011 @ 21:55:32

      “Young age of entry…was identified as an age-old myth by Winick and Kinsie (1971) in their classic book on prostitution. Contemporary studies have reported varying percentages of individuals who started selling sex when they were minors. These studies (e.g., Hester and Westmarland 2004) have documented that only a minority began to prostitute before age 18 and an even smaller percentage before 14.”
      (from The Mythology of Prostitution: Advocacy Research and Public Policy by Ronald Weitzer Sex Res Soc Policy (2010) 7:15–29)
      ….more to come…

      Reply

  3. stephenpaterson
    Dec 13, 2011 @ 22:55:49

    On drugs…
    “Fewer parlour sex workers used heroin (4/71 versus 60/71; P < 0.001), crack cocaine (5/71 versus 62/71; P < 0.001) or injected drugs (2/71 versus 41/71 versus; P < 0.001)"
    http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1471-0528.2007.01379.x/full
    …..you see actual studies reveal the nonsense put out by propagandist bodies.

    Reply

  4. stephenpaterson
    Dec 14, 2011 @ 00:32:43

    I notice that that study by Nicky Jeal & Salisbury also gives ages of starting drug use and of starting prostitution for both parlour and street sex workers, and reinforces other studies in showing that the drug use (among those who use drugs) precedes the prostitution, thus belying prohibitionist claims that the drugs are a coping strategy to deal with the prostitution.
    DRUGS
    “The mean age of first drug and/or alcohol use was older for parlour sex workers than that for street sex workers (14.9 versus 13.6 years; P= 0.04). Parlour sex workers were less likely to be using drugs and spent less money per week on drugs than street sex workers. They were also less likely to be injecting drugs or sharing injecting equipment “
    AGE OF ENTRY INTO PROSTITUTION
    “Parlour sex workers had been older when they started selling sex (mean 23.1 years [range13–42] versus 20.8 years [range 12–40]; P= 0.067) compared with street sex workers. When asked about entry into sex work, knowing women already involved in sex work was the most common prerequisite to entry given by both groups, although most common in street sex workers (42/71 versus 56/71; P= 0.018). Parlour sex workers were more likely to want money for living expenses (41/71 versus 20/71; P < 0.001) than street sex workers, and unlike street sex workers, they were much less likely to be driven into sex work by the need to fund a drug habit (4/71 versus 34/71; P≤ 0.001). They were also less likely to have experienced violence or been groomed to force them to sell sex (4/71 versus 15/71; P= 0.012). Parlour sex workers were more likely to be in sex work to accommodate the childcare and financial burdens of being a single parent (7/21 versus 0; P= 0.013) or because they were unable to find suitable work (11/71 versus 0; P < 0.001).”

    So, baring in mind the above, I would conclude that administering drugs directly to those among sex workers and their partners requiring drugs, whilst it could indeed result in a significant reduction in street prostitution (which is by far the most troubled part of the sex industry), would have minimal impact on the much larger indoor sex market, where most sex workers do not use drugs.

    I conclude also that these study results are compatible with the results of other studies I have read in putting the average age of entry into sex work for both indoor and street sex workers above 18.

    Reply

  5. mhairi
    Dec 18, 2011 @ 23:39:05

    Really interesting article.

    First of all to address some a point made by Stephen above. Almost all sites in the indoor sex trade have a “no-drug-use” policy. Once you are caught in the sex industry with an addiction losing your place within a brothel shoves you down the food chain and onto domestic or street prostitution which is less desirable and more risky – so there is likely to be under-reporting of drug use within those who are involved in indoor prostitution.

    Heroin on prescription would undoubtably solve the most chronic issues for women trapped in the sex industry. Maintained heroin use is quite safe – the primary problem with heroin addiction is that heroin is massively expensive and cut with adulterants, consequently resources – money, time, relationships, support networks, health, life functioning – all get depleted while maintaining such an addiction on the black market. A clean regulated supply of heroin would facilitate the re-building of those resources to the point where there was the ability to exit.

    Stuart – you describe heroin addiction as a chronic relapsing condition – which is true currently, but it must be seen within the social, political and legal context that a heroin addict functions. Many men returned from the Vietnam War addicted to heroin, yet gave up almost instantaneously on return to the US.

    Drug policy as it stands encourages and facilitates drug use. You cannot come off methadone by going cold turkey because of the long half life it means chronic illness which is measured in months rather than days, instead it must be tapered down, but someone on a methadone programme has very little control over the tapering and functions within a system which operates on the basis of suspicion and mistrust of its clients.

    In Scotland, drug testing is mandatory on the methadone programme, and people are struck off for three positive drug tests – so if the programme fails the client, the client is abandoned with no alternatives offered. The power that drug services have over clients is phenomenal, and used to bully people who are seriously stuck – once addicted to methadone, if they are struck off they *cannot* just stop, they need to find alternative opiates.

    The operative method of the methadone programme is also counter productive – with regular (weekly/biweekly/monthly) drug “councilling” prior to script issue – which involves waiting around other drug users at various stages of stability with a constant knawing anxiety that the script might not get renewed and a back up plan may be needed. In Glasgow, the default methadone script is supervised daily dispense. This involves a daily trip to a chemist and becoming known in the area as a drug user. This has both social consequences in the wider community, but also for people who have kept their use very discrete or have moved areas to break connections, means that they become known to other drug users and drug dealers. The consequences of missing a pick up are massive – there is no emergency methadone prescribing facility in Glasgow – if you dont pick up your dose, you must sweat it out until the next day, or if missing a saturday pick up on a bank holiday weekend – 3 days. Three days missed methadone use is sufficient to trigger a re-assessment and possibly a withdrawal of the script, due to the long half life and drop in tolerence.

    Methadone is a really dangerous drug which requires no preparation, nor skill to self-administer – it is right that its supply is carefully monitored, heroin on the other hand requires substantial preparation and a level of skill at self-administration.

    Providing heroin rather than methadone means that
    1. The desired drug is provided rather than an undesired substitute therefore there is no need to recourse to the black market, except for additional supply

    2. It is possible to quit use at the point at which someone want to and can make space in their lives to detox.

    3. The illegal backup plan in an emergency situation does not fuck up the clinical administration of the drug on which they are dependent, as essentially the same drug with the same half-life is being taken.

    4. The stigma of heroin within the opiate family is reduced, so that taking illegal heroin is not seen as a “breach” of the treatment contract, but as an indicator that the treatment is not sufficient for the clients needs.

    Survival sex work fuelled by drug addiction is horrific, it puts people in really really dangerous situations because – like Paula Clennell – they judge that the known negative consequences and risks of severe negative consequences outweight the certainty of negative consequences of not being able to raise the money to fund their drug use. A young woman who lives not far from me lost her arm after she was attacked by a “client”, a few months later she was back in the industry – that isn’t choice, that is imprisonment.

    Reply

  6. stephenpaterson
    Dec 19, 2011 @ 13:23:18

    mhairi – well, it seems we’re all united over the basic proposal – state admininistration of heroin being much superior to the status quo. However, all the studies continue to show that drug use is a far greater problem among street sex workers, and that these form a quarter or less of sex workers. Whilst I take your point over possible under-reporting among indoor sex workers, this seems unlikely as a significant proportion revealed the use of less dangerous drugs, such as amphetamines. So I don’t see this as being in any way a comprehensive ‘solution’ to ‘prostitution’, presuming that you see prostitution as a problem, as distinct from a route for people to achieve autonomy, which would be my goal.
    If, however, state administration of heroin could be accomplished for street sex workers and, where relevant, their partners, I would point out that this still leaves a chronic crack cocaine problem – an addiction that seems, if anything, more extensive than heroin among street sex workers. Could a similar solution be found to this, is there any similar history, what complications might arise etc?

    Reply

  7. stupot2t Rodger
    Dec 19, 2011 @ 19:33:21

    My claim that the drug prostitutes are most commonly addicted was heroin was based on what I’d read on this website: http://www.object.org.uk/the-prostitution-facts

    I oriignaly had a paragraph in there about crack, but I took it out because of length. Anyway, here it is:

    ”Of course, heroin is not the only hard drug addiction to which will drive women into prostitution – there’s also crack, the stronger, microwaved form of cocaine. I hold back from advocating crack prescription, given the lack of epidemiological literature on the subject, but I think it would be wise to think a similar dynamic works again: either prescribe, or they find new users as a reliable income stream. Crack is, however, one of the key products of what the campaigner Richard Cowan calls the ‘iron law of prohibition’: criminalize a substance, and its use intensifies. As he explained in his famous 1986 essay, ‘How The Narcs Created Crack’: ‘it is good business to minimize the bulk of contraband. Smuggling beer and wine was less profitable than rum running. Tiny pieces of crack are easier to carry than cocaine powder, which in turn is far less bulky than the coca leaves that are used legally by the Andean Indians. Heroin replaced opium for similar reasons. Obviously, the bulkiest illegal drug, marijuana, will lose out in the supply channels to cocaine and heroin.’ This theory fits the facts: in Glenn Greenwald’s key CATO Institute study into the experience of Portugal’s experiment with decriminalizing personal possession of drugs in 2001, he found that while use of cannabis among older teenagers increased somewhat, use of heroin declined considerably.”

    Reply

  8. mhairi
    Dec 20, 2011 @ 13:21:30

    “I don’t see this as being in any way a comprehensive ‘solution’ to ‘prostitution’, presuming that you see prostitution as a problem, as distinct from a route for people to achieve autonomy, which would be my goal.”

    I think the problem with proposing heroin on prescription as a solution to prostitution is conflating two related but distinct things.

    – heroin prescribing is a solution to an addiction problem which leads people to pursue behaviours that they would not choose to do were it not for the need to fund their habit. Prostitution is one of those things (also applies to shop lifting, begging, drug dealing etc.) and possibly one of the most visible as it involves a (usually) non-drug addicted person contracting with a drug addict on a notionally equal basis.

    – targeting the demand is the solution to the prostitution problem. The prostitution problem is that some people (usually men) think that it is quite acceptable to buy sexual services from another. That sex is a commodity and that it can be bought at the right price.

    Providing heroin on prescription lessens the need for people to commodify themselves, allowing for greater control over sexual interactions. Ultimately as long as there are people who consider it acceptable to pay people for sex, prostitution will continue, until we eradicate that acceptance the best that we can hope for is that those selling achieve as much control as they can over the encounter.

    Reply

    • stephenpaterson
      Dec 20, 2011 @ 16:18:49

      mhairi – I couldn’t disagree with you more. Adult men and women have a right to do what they wish with their bodies as long as they do not interfere with anyone else. And in any case, there is no evidence that sex work is demand-led as distinct from supply-driven. Furthermore, attempts to suppress either buyers or sellers drives the issue underground and into an environment more conducive to violence, coercion and disease transmission, as the following publication from the Global Alliance Against Trafficking in Women makes plain:
      Beyond ‘Supply and Demand’ Catchphrases:
      Assessing the Uses and Limitations of Demand-Based Approaches in Anti-Trafficking
      http://www.gaatw.org/publications/MovingBeyond_SupplyandDemand_GAATW2011.pdf
      “The need to reduce ‘demand’ for trafficked persons is widely mentioned in the anti-trafficking sector but few have looked at ‘demand’ critically or substantively. Some ‘demand’-based approaches have been heavily critiqued, such as the idea that eliminating sex workers’ clients (or the ‘demand’ for commercial sex) through incarceration or stigmatization will reduce trafficking. In this publication, we take a look at the links between trafficking and: (1) the demand for commercial sex, and (2) the demand for exploitative labour practices. We assess current approaches used to reduce each of these types of ‘demand’ and consider other long-term approaches that can reduce the demand for exploitative practices while respecting workers’ and migrants’ rights (e.g. enforcing labour standards, reducing discrimination against migrants, supporting sex workers’ rights).”

      Reply

  9. mhairi
    Dec 20, 2011 @ 21:25:22

    “Adult men and women have a right to do what they wish with their bodies as long as they do not interfere with anyone else.”

    I agree. But buying sex *is* interfering with someone else – it is using your economic power to coerce someone into having sex with you. At the top end, people make rational decision – consenting to abuse within defined parameters; by the time you get to the bottom end, people are making survival decisions – tolerating abuse because the alternatives are worse.

    I have no issues with anyone who sells sex, either for survival or material advantage. I have fucking massive issues with those who buy it.

    Reply

    • stephenpaterson
      Dec 20, 2011 @ 23:24:21

      “…buying sex *is* interfering with someone else – it is using your economic power to coerce someone into having sex with you. At the top end, people make rational decision – consenting to abuse within defined parameters; by the time you get to the bottom end, people are making survival decisions – tolerating abuse because the alternatives are worse. I have no issues with anyone who sells sex, either for survival or material advantage. I have fucking massive issues with those who buy it.”

      One should take into account here that the ‘offer’ almost invariably comes in some form from the sex worker or someone acting on their behalf. And the word ‘coerce’ is inappropriate, as, indeed, is the word ‘abuse’ given the ordinary sense of those terms. If I buy a loaf of bread from a baker, do I use my economic power to ‘coerce’ the baker into providing the bread? Is my barber similarly coerced into cutting my hair? Are either ‘abused’? If you have no problems with ‘anyone who sells sex…for survival’ why do you condemn buyers, without whom, presumably, the seller would die?

      We can agree, I think, that people should not have to sell sex for survival, and that an effective way to deal with the needs of those forced into selling sex to fund drug habits is urgently needed. What we can’t agree on is the attempted subjecting of sex workers to a trade boycot in order to fulfil the misandristic ideological fantasies of radical feminists, when that will inevitably lead to further violence, coercion and disease amongst an already marginalised minority.

      An extensive study was carried out a year or two ago on exploitation and the sex industry by Dr Suzanne Jenkins of Keele University.

      The Jenkins study was of international sex workers, though over half were from the UK, and nearly all the remainder from English speaking countries and Western Europe. It was of the large group of escorts and indoor sex workers as distinct from the small but more troubled street sector.

      Among its conclusions are that 93.4 percent of female escorts liked escorting for the money; but also more than three-quarters for the flexible working hours; nearly three-quarters for the independence; and more than two-thirds for the opportunity of meeting people. Out of 298 female sex workers interviewed, only nine planned to give up within three months, while over a hundred (35 percent) had no plans to stop.

      Less than 16 percent of the females needed sex work to avoid poverty. About half female sex workers liked the sex, along with about three-quarters of the male sex workers.

      In terms of exploitation, over half the female sex workers (54.6%) reported they always took control in an escort encounter, and nearly a quarter (24.1%), said they “usually” took control. While 22.3% said it varied greatly, less than one percent said their clients took control.

      More than 86% of female escorts never or only rarely felt exploited by clients, but more than a quarter of them felt that they were exploiting their clients: “…the most frequently reported explanation, by far, was that participants were aware, and concerned, that some clients could not afford their services or that they were taking advantage of people’s loneliness.”

      More than three-quarters of female sex workers (77%) felt that their clients generally treated them respectfully, and the same percentage felt respect for their clients.

      More than 72% felt escorting had boosted their self-confidence, with less than 10% feeling it had had a negative effect.

      As for ‘pimps’, over 62% of escorts said they had never felt exploited by third parties and over 30% only rarely.

      Dr Jenkins concluded:
      “Further criminalisation, either of clients or of sex industry organisers, would not only make sex-workers more directly vulnerable to exploitation, but would also add to the ambiguity as to what exactly constitutes legal behaviour within sex-work.
      In other words, even if further punitive measures were not directed at sex-workers themselves, the effect would be to add to an already complex set of laws that surround their work. If sex-workers are to be protected then the law should be clarified and simplified, and any legislation that is retained or introduced should focus only on identifiable exploitative behaviours rather than assumptions about the relationships between sex-workers and other people.”
      http://www.sexworker.at/phpBB2/download.php?id=479

      Reply

  10. stephenpaterson
    Dec 22, 2011 @ 22:24:13

    A blog on ages of starting prostitution/sex work here from Magge McNeill outlining how US figures are skewed:
    http://maggiemcneill.wordpress.com/2011/11/27/the-law-of-averages/

    Reply

  11. Vicky Hyde
    Feb 05, 2012 @ 23:16:59

    @Stephen, regarding the indoor v.outside sex workers statistics, from a “Scottish drug problems” starting point I feel the debate would be better informed by watching “The Scheme”(&its associated court cases!), rather than by the writings of “Belle de Jour”. Excellent (&informative) points Mhairi, all I might add is that it isn’t just that prostitution pays for a heroin habit, the habit/the hit/the high can be what makes the job of prostitution bearable?

    Reply

    • stephenpaterson
      Feb 06, 2012 @ 12:00:10

      Vicky Hyde – In fact, in the cases of street sex workers who are drug addicted, study after study shows that almost invariably, it is the need to fund the drug habit that precedes the sex work rather than the use of drugs as some sort of ‘coping mechanism’, probably due to the difficulty addicts have in finding other forms of work.

      Reply

  12. Morag Eyrie
    Feb 06, 2012 @ 09:51:24

    Not directly related to the issue of heroin use and sex work, but this is an excellent article by a feminist sex worker about the split within feminism around sex work. She’s rightfully angry and she wants the real, actual support of feminists. Sometimes those of us who aren’t sex workers should be quiet and listen (note: I know any and all of the commenters above could be or could have been sex workers so that wasn’t a dig at you, just a plea for anyone interested in this issue from a feminist or socialist perspective to read this article):

    http://rabble.ca/news/2012/02/would-be-sex-work-abolitionist-or-aint-i-woman

    Reply

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