A number of bloggers have taken up the issue of working girl murders, suicides, and abuse and how often the victims are characterized as less-human, less-valuable, less worthy of attention than the “innocent.”
Amanda Brooks writes:
A young woman was arrested on prostitution charges in February. She was mentioned by name in the article (both printed and online) and apparently was lucky enough to get featured on the local evening news. Two weeks ago, she killed herself.
Is it murder if the police hound a prostitute to her death?
Tom Paine addresses the issue from the perspective of Don Imus’ recent characterization of the Rutgers women’s basketball team as (in other words) prostitutes with bad hair:
As the father of two girls, I’m deeply offended at Imus reducing these women to a crude joke. But I’m more troubled that we feel the need to defend them as “not-whores.” As C. pointed out, even the “lowest” streetwalker was once somebody’s daughter, someone’s little girl. A trove of corpses turned up recently outside Atlantic City, and the women were all streetwalkers murdered by some sociopath who believed they were trash that could be used and thrown away. The police are working on solving the murders, but the tongue-clucking I heard was mostly about the degraded state these dead girls had gotten themselves into.
And earlier this year, Belle de Jour addressed a series of prostitute murders in the UK:
The sad irony is that the police advice to women in Ipswich – travel in groups, don’t go out solo, stay in safe, well-lit areas – directly contradicts the way streetwalkers are forced by law to work. Women in groups soliciting money for sex are more in danger of prosecution than those who work alone. They operate in dangerous areas because no one wants to see them at their work. Rather than letting women (and men) work in the relative safety of a brothel, we throw them out to whatever horrors await them on the street and turn a blind eye. We run them out of city centres, into the commercial districts and underpasses where there are none of the bright lights and CCTV that could save lives. We trot out statistics about the percentage of sex workers who are foreign, or drug-addicted, as if this is a reason to treat them as less than human.
In Canada, prostitution is legal. Working in one’s home, with a girlfriend, in a brothel with protection, with a driver, virtually anything that would increase the safety of the prostitute, is not. Streetwalkers in Vancouver disappeared for years – over 60 of them – before the police began seriously looking for the killer. They’re still digging up bodies at the pig farm.
Is it so important to believe that only people who deserve it are prostitutes that we must refuse them any safety, any shelter, any succor?
We’d like to think no-one uses drugs, so we outlaw drugs and deny their medicinal use to cancer patients and their pleasurable use to thinking adults.
We’d like to pretend our children don’t have sex, so we refuse to teach them about safe sex, even to the point of lying about the efficacy of condoms.
And we’d like to believe that we’ll never be homeless, friendless, penniless, and forced to sell our bodies for money. It’s a shame that it’s a remote enough possibility for us to assume that those who are, aren’t like us.