Mob Morality Again 214

Nobody has more contempt than me for the House of Lords or for cronies of Tony Blair. But I shall not join in the pillorying of John Sewel over his private life. If he wants to take cocaine and spend time with prostitutes that is entirely his own business. Britain’s periodic outcries over private morality are contemptible. There is no legitimate reason why the activities of consenting adults in their own homes should be of concern to the rest of us. Not the least unpleasant aspect is that those journalists and politicians who whip up such witch hunts are for the most part hiding secrets about themselves. That in 2015 we still have not come to terms with the most ordinary sexual desire or formulated a more rational policy response to use of narcotics, is unfortunate.

I expect if I dug around I could find a lot of things to dislike Sewel for, in terms of the policies he has supported. But to attack political opponents over their private lives – assuming the necessary factors of adults and consent – is low.

214 thoughts on “Mob Morality Again

1 4 5 6 7 8
  • K Crosby

    I found it much more scandalous when RT (I think) showed a montage of prostitutes in the HofL, making excuses for private speculators to be given the cash flow of the former NHS but I suppose that’s what being a superannuated 1970s egalitarian gets me.

  • Mary

    He will not quit the Lords apparently.

    Cameron has pronounced. “These are very serious allegations, I think it’s right he has stood down from his committee posts.”

    Not as serious as bombing Libya Dave and trying to bomb Syria, nor dismantling the NHS and flogging off state assets.

  • Ba'al Zevul

    it’s a certain sort of Christian morality that’s being invoked by the gutter press. A discredited morality based on ‘obedience’ to certain religous strictures; a morality that’s outraged at any form of sex that’s not subordinate to the purposes of reproduction.

    I think it’s more about selling advertising. And so must Express proprietor Richard ‘Dirty’ Desmond. Who also owns this:

    Award-winning (un)coverage:

    The channel won UK Adult Film and Television Awards 2008 Best Pay Per Night Adult Channel. The award was picked up by Linsey Dawn McKenzie. Additionally on the night of the awards Television X and Red Hot TV (UK) walked away with more than 12 awards including Jay Snake winning best male and Cathy Barry winning best online female actress.

    In March 2010 Television X launched their own awards called The SHAFTAs (Soft and Hard Adult Film and Television Awards).[3] Winners included Kerry Louise and Tanya Tate. Both Angel Long and Syren Sexton picked up 2 awards each.

    In December 2010 Television X won two awards from UK Adult Producers (UKAP). Tanya Tate collected the award on behalf of Television X for Tanya Tate’s Sex Tour Of Ireland which won Best Reality Series. She also starred in the Television X series Diamond Geezers, which won Best DVD.

  • doug scorgie

    26 Jul, 2015 – 10:26 pm

    “…what’s really the best solution to violent pimps – is it a) to make SW illegal, like the heroin trade, meaning that all dealers are criminals & rogues by definition or b) to introduce licenced, regulated brothels where SWs get to take their employers to employments tribunals if unhappy…”

    Don’t misunderstand me Luke. I am not against prostitution and I would support legalising brothels where the sex worker is protected from abuse.

    My post was a reaction to Craig’s assertion that:

    “It is an extraordinary urban myth that anything but the tiniest minority of prostitutes are forced in to it.”

    I have known numerous prostitutes at a social level and I can’t think of any that were happy with their lives.

    I was also on friendly terms with many in a platonic sense. Of those; three were murdered and two committed suicide.

    That was in the 70s and 80s and I’m sure many more have become victims of murder or succumbed to mental despair and suicide since.

  • technicolour

    If punters here knew how prostitutes commonly talk about them behind their backs they’d be less keen on the whole thing, I’d bet. That is, if they gave a human damn about the real opinions, feelings, thoughts, experiences or situation of the person in question, which they clearly don’t.

    This idea of happy prostitutes, for whom opening themselves up to uncaring strangers is the equivalent of running a loo brush round a toilet, would be funny, if it wasn’t so appalling.

    According to evidence submitted to the UK Government between 50-75% of women entered prostitution before they were 18, with 15 years being the average age of entry. [Home Office (2004). Paying the Price.]

    More than half of women in prostitution have been raped and or seriously assaulted and at least 75% have been physically assaulted at the hands of the pimps and punters. 74% of women in prostitution identify poverty, the need to pay household expenses and support their children, as primary motivators for being drawn into prostitution. [Home office (2004). Solutions and Strategies: Drug Problems and Street Sex Markets. London: UK Government]

    As many as 85% of women in prostitution report physical abuse in the family, with 45% reporting familial sexual abuse. [Home Office Paying the Price, 2004]

    Up to 75% of women involved in prostitution began when they were under 18 years of age and most teenage prostitutes are involved in street prostitution, which is estimated to be ten times more dangerous than working from houses or flats. [Benson, C. and Matthews, R. (1995), Street prostitution: Ten facts in search of a policy. International Journal of Sociology of the Law, 23, 395-415.]

    70% of those involved in street prostitution have a history of Local Authority care. Nearly half report a history of childhood sexual abuse. [Home Office (2004). Paying The Price.]

    92% of prostitutes stated that they wanted to escape prostitution immediately. [Farley, M., Baral, I., Kiremire, M. and Sezgin, U. (1998). Prostitution in Five Countries: Violence and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. Feminism & Psychology, 8(4). 405-426.]

    “According to Foundation Scelles, as reported in Le Figaro:

    World-wide there are estimated 40-42 million prostitutes.
    80 percent of the world population of prostitutes are female and range in age between 13-25.
    90 percent of all prostitutes are dependent upon a Pimp.

    While these statistics about prostitution are just touching the surface, they indicate the extent of the sex-for-sale industry worldwide. The age range 13-25 years of age is important. It asks the question why are there so few prostitutes over the age of 25. Part of that answer is found in the violence that prostitutes face every second of every day. Even where prostitution is legal the risk and violence that prostitutes face is frequent and deadly.

    According to Prostitution Research:

    70-95 percent of prostitutes experience physical assault as they attempt to work as a prostitute.
    60-75 percent of prostitutes are raped while working as a prostitute.

    In 2004, a long-term mortality study published by Potterat, et al. showed that prostitutes and those who had managed to leave the industry faced an increased rate of death that was 200 times the rate of death for women of the same race and age range.

    In a report published by the Juvenile Justice Information Exchange, 50% of the 100,000 children trafficked for sex are boys. Even sadder, when it comes to trafficked children, boys are often off of the radar. The bias of society and law enforcement tends to tilt towards women and girls over men and boys. Part of that has to do with the view of homosexuals world-wide. Those children, boys and girls are not entering the paid-sex-industry voluntarily.”

  • Luke

    Doug: I’m sorry about the fate of the SWs you knew. It makes one wonder whether their fates would have been the same if the social stigma surrounding sex work wasn’t so widespread.

    Technicolour: those are some pretty shocking statistics. Would your answer, then, be to criminalise sex work so that gangsters run the entire sex industry? Or would you legalise it so that regulated brothels can be set up, with employment tribunals the workers could turn to? I know which option SWs advocate, and it’s certainly not the gangsters:

  • S Paterson

    So he snorts coke at home. Can we take it that he may also snort coke in the toilets at Westminster? Whatever the case the term coke head comes to mind. Someone who should not be in a position to make decisions affecting millions of people. This kind of behaviour … drugs .. prostitutes … yapping his head off about his colleagues also leaves him open to being blackmailed by foreign agents.

  • glenn

    Whatever the case the term coke head comes to mind. Someone who should not be in a position to make decisions affecting millions of people.”

    Someone should tell that to the stock traders and banksters working in high (sorry) finance, every last one of which is coked to the gills. Their shenanigans has seriously affected the lives of many millions, if not billions of people for the worst.

  • PJM

    Craig, the rich and powerful will never be brought to account for the death and destruction they cause in wars or the greed they promote for themselves while vulnerable people go to the wall. In the absence of any such justice taking them down for their foibles is maybe the only way to give them a public profile at odds with the one they have carefully conjured up for themselves. He is now a public joke whether he has any shame or not. This is how he will be remembered.

  • Hieroglyph

    I was going to, half in jest, note that at least it’s only coke and hookers. I mean, the ladies are of consenting age … But then I read today that the police are crawling all over his flat, and he may be arrested. If only the police were as quick to investigate those men accused of abusing children …

    I didn’t know he had insulted Cameron though. Dim Dave is so petty you can imagine him ordering the arrest for the insult. Even if not, the police are terribly politicized, I recall all too well the easy ride Blair was given over cash-for-questions. And, what is happening with one J. Straw? Nothing, probably.

  • OldMark

    If only the police were as quick to investigate those men accused of abusing children

    good point Hieroglyph; it’s particularly appropriate given that the venue for the Sewel shenanigans was a flat in Dolphin Square


    The pertinent statistics, in a UK context, and out of the many you quote are,firstly, the young age at which prostitutes begin to ply their trade and, secondly, the fact that such a large number have passed through our dysfunctional childcare system. These facts (which apply both to female prostitutes and rent boys( are almost certainly related. The older residents of many childrens homes undoubtedly predate sexually on the younger, prettier ones- a pattern not entirely unknown in grander boarding establishments for teenaged children. However when such experiences are taken in conjunction with the often tragic circumstances which precede the child’s entry into the care system, it isn’t surprising that, for a time, prostitution seems like a viable career option to so many of them, both male and female.

    In the recent cases involving industrial scale sexual predation by ‘grooming gangs’ (nearly all of whom to date have turned out to be south asian and muslim), the teenagers preyed upon are very often in the childcare system, or otherwise ‘known’ to social services.

  • Ba'al Zevul

    Technicolour supplies actual stats. And makes a pretty convincing case against high job satisfaction and a sense of fulfilment in the sex trade. Thanks.

  • technicolour

    Ba’al: you’re welcome, thank you. They were not, actually, ‘hard to find’, and there are more, equally accessible.

    Anyone else: an open letter from a woman who was a prostitute between the ages of 15-22. She says, by the way, “do not try to peddle the myth of the happy hooker to me – because I worked in every area of prostitution and nothing I saw anywhere, at anytime, showed anything to support that.”

    “An Open Letter to the ‘Good’ Punter
    Posted on March 29, 2013

    If you like sex, this is not a letter to you. If you like women, this is not a letter to you. If you’ve somehow put these things together and decided they give you the right to buy what you like, this is a letter to you.

    If you’re a misogynistic bastard who gets off on hurting women, this is not a letter to you. Apart from the fact that nothing here would get through, I wouldn’t waste my fucking writing skills on you.

    If you’re a man who buys sex and thinks you’re engaged in a mutually beneficial transaction that’s causing no harm, I’m talking to you.

    I met many of you. So many. Too many. And I always wondered about you. I wondered, how could you justify this to yourself? How could you tell yourself – and believe it – that I was happy to have strangers’ fingers, penises and tongues shoved into the most private parts of me? How did you convince yourself that I’d be happy about something you’d never, in your wildest nightmares, wish on your own daughter? I wondered, most of all, how could you look at me and not see me?

    Let me tell you who you are: you are the ‘good’ punter. You’re the man who has a laugh with the woman you’re buying. You’re the man who strokes her hair. You ask her how her day’s been. How she’s feeling. Why she’s doing this. Did you ever think to ask that of yourself?

    You are the ‘good’ punter. If you see a bruise on her you’ll ask if she’s okay. Is anybody treating her violently? Yes. Many men are. Go in the bathroom. You’ll find one above the sink.

    The truth, that you’re so desperate to flee from, is that you are just like a gentle rapist. Your attitude and demeanour does not mitigate what you do. The damage you’re causing is incalculable, but you tell yourself you’re doing no harm here, and you use the smiles of the women you buy as some kind of currency; they allow you to buy your own bullshit. I would know; I doled out that currency many times, and we both were that, we both doled out currency in different ways, you and me.

    You came along because you wanted to spend what you had to spend, your load, which also meant your money; and you looked at me and you touched me and you fucked me and then you held me. That was always the worst part. I want you to know that. That was always the worst part.

    I didn’t want to be held by you. I didn’t want to be cuddled. I didn’t want you close to me, never mind inside me. Your arms around me made me want to puke more than your penis ever did. I shut out that part; it was too horrible. Every moment with you was a lie, and I hated every second of it. And you bought that lie; believe me it was a lie you bought. I know, because I sold it.

    In Costa Rica they say: ‘Who is more at fault, the one who sins for the pay or the one who pays for the sin?’ Those words were taken from a book about men like you. Victor Malarek’s ‘The Johns’. Can you see the truth in them?

    You can, but you don’t want to acknowledge them. You don’t want to face up to that. It doesn’t fit with your view of what you do. It doesn’t fit with your view of who you are. But I know who you are.

    I can see you now. You are the ‘good’ punter. You’ve got your fists shoved in your ears. You are the ‘good’ punter. And you don’t want to hear.”

  • mrjohn


    I think you are being deliberately naive, particularly about the cocaine use. It is a drug which supports violent crime and exploitation from production, trafficking to distribution.

    Cocaine has serious affects on the user’s judgement, giving short term stimulation at the cost of long term mental acuity. It’s use has to be one of the root causes of the financial crisis which bought hardship on so many, the over-confidence of the users, the smarmy coke clubs, read between the lines of the emails associated with the libor scandal and then try and pretend it is a private issue.

    So if you think being a coke head and in government is not a matter of public concern you are showing a huge gap in life experience. It is a drug as insidious as the masonic handshake.

    I strongly believe all drugs should be decriminalized, there use should be open, so we can be aware of who is using them. I also believe that physical and mental health issues resulting from their use should not be treated on the public purse.

    Concerning prostitution, we all prostitute ourselves one way or another, so I do not think there is a moral judgement to be made. However the attitudes the member of the house of lords displays are not those we would wish to be held by someone in a position of influence. Like DSK, his behaviour points to a deeper corruption than just employing the services of a skilled professional.

  • technicolour

    “we all prostitute ourselves one way or another”

    Really? “strangers’ fingers, penises and tongues shoved into the most private parts of me? How did you convince yourself that I’d be happy about something you’d never, in your wildest nightmares, wish on your own daughter?”. We’ve all done it to that extent, have we? We’ve all faced the daily danger of rape, sexual assault and physical abuse in our daily working lives?

  • N_

    Asking “why?” and “why now?” is better, at this stage, than posting arguments about either prostitution or drugs.

    Whenever you hear about some senior British politician getting exposed in such a scandal, you know they’ve got connections with the weapons sector “defence”. Funny, that.

    This fuckwit, cokehead, bra-wearing, braggingly corrupt, hypocritical, photograph-of-wife-turning lord with his pathetic sexual problems was going to represent US and British weapons interests Britain at a NATO meeting.



  • N_


    I strongly believe all drugs should be decriminalized, there use should be open, so we can be aware of who is using them.

    It’d be nice to know who’s got all the illegal handgrenades too, so do you want to decriminalise them?

    Do you want your kids walking home past junkies shooting up on park benches?

    I also believe that physical and mental health issues resulting from their use should not be treated on the public purse.

    So decriminalise heroin and turn teenage overdose victims away from hospitals if they can’t come up with the money for treatment?

    Sorry Mrjohn, but you need to think about drugs some more.

  • Jon

    Technicolour, thanks for your posts on this topic – for the first time we find ourselves on opposite sides of the debate. 🙂

    It is worth noting there is a substantial anti-prostitution status quo, and it is very well funded, either by religion, the socially conservative establishment (the two are somewhat interchangeable), the scare-story media (apposite here) and the interfering state needing to be seen to be “doing something”. There is an interesting parallel with the War On Drugs: we have a morality-fuelled War On Sex and that’s been a failure too.

    There is not much of a sex-positive movement to counter this trend, and is certainly doesn’t attract as much financial support. Some years back the actor Rupert Everett stood alongside working girls in London who were being harassed by the state, and – no surprise – policy formulators hadn’t asked them about their experiences in the trade. It’s interesting that academic forays into prostitution – miles away from the lurid headlines – are willing to talk about prostitution candidly, even if that means reflecting positive things about it. (I ponder idly whether there is a structural link between the missing accounts of male prostitutes and the happy female prostitutes – we know they both exist, but their existence is either not acknowledged or flatly denied).

    As an aside, I’ve been rather intrigued in the idea in the past, that some reflexive opposition to prostitution occurs because it represents an escape from capitalist oppression. Some of that moral outrage is from capital’s actors who sneer at anyone who dares to try fleeing the drudgery of employment. Another portion is from the Left, who subconsciously equate straight masculine sexual desire with thuggery and rapaciousness, and the “female hooker/businesswoman” does not fit the narrative they’ve boxed themselves into.

    Has anyone here read Belle de Jour? Her diary accounts of a sex worker were an offshoot of her anonymous blog after she was “outed” by the moralist press (a recurring theme here). I’ve read two of her books, and she’s one hell of a smart cookie. She’s what I call sex-positive, and is most certainly a feminist. If she – and people like her – are not convinced by the hell-in-a-handcart theories of sex work, then perhaps the picture is more complex than the one-sided account we’re being bombarded with.

    I don’t begrudge the author of the ‘good punter’ article an opportunity for catharsis and recovery, nor the right to air her opinion. But her position is anti-women and anti-feminist, and she needs to be firmly called out on it. She compounds this mistake by calling her opponents “gentle rapists” but still (presumably) expects to engage in rational debate. (I am minded to be sympathetic given her PTSD, but not at the cost of the damage her advocacy causes).

    I am very willing to believe that some people do not belong in sex work because of the psychological damage it can cause (I believe aside from PTSD, there is a risk of ‘compartmentalisation’, where the worker finds his/her work so appalling they create a separate ego for it, and that can lead to fragmented personality problems, i.e. some form of schizophrenia).

    What can we assume from the article, then? Well, the first takeaway is that women say “yes” when they mean “no”. It is a stark warning that women (or at least this one) don’t know their own minds, and that a man should have done their moral thinking for them. It says quite clearly that “the men” are entirely responsible for the mire of religious-sexual shame that society encourages women to take upon themselves (whilst permitting a separate set of rules for men).

    All of this is nonsense, of course: it strips women of their moral and intellectual agency and is, at its core, deeply sexist. The writer is immersed in the sex-negative view that she has been abused regardless of the conduct of her clients, and since she believes it deeply enough, it may serve to amplify her psychological damage. Rather than coming to terms with her life decisions, she is being encouraged to make her demons bigger and more powerful. Worse still, violent rape — she uses those words — is trivialised into “it’s what I say it is”. It is a good thing that the law is, for now, a lot more sober on these matters.

    (The underage component of her prostitution is a separate issue, and deserves great sympathy. However it muddies the water of whether legal, adult prostitution is morally acceptable, which is the question here).

    It is intriguing that several contributors above have opined that “you wouldn’t want your daughter doing it”. Well, that’s a very interesting question, but we should remember that it is tainted by our shared societal awkwardness around sexuality. Additionally, our views are polluted by our religious history, even for the atheists! I’ve heard a few men, perhaps with a dose of subconscious misogyny, casually dismiss “the tart” or “the stripper” as untermench (our dustmen do a valuable service for society and sadly they’re treated much the same). Some years back, a friend made a remark to me about the hygiene of the sex worker that seemed to be laced with more mainstream shame than scientific thinking.

    My core proposition is that “the happy hooker” does exist, and he/she/other is not always a miserable, oppressed, woman. This individual makes their own moral decisions, just like the ones people make when they take (illegal) drugs, or (excess amounts of) legal alcohol. They acknowledge their mistakes they’ve made in their life, including the ones they’ve made in relation to their work, and all their sexual decisions, both inside and outside of their work. In short, he/she is happy, and battling the human condition just like the rest of us. And he/she could indeed be your (my) son or daughter, and you (or I) ought to respect them just the same. It’s a challenge, even for those who regard themselves as sex-positive: the power of society’s shame should not be underestimated.

    Of course, there is a reason why we don’t ask “he could be your son”. It’s based on the outdated idea that only men have sexual agency, and that only men can be responsible for their own decisions; we don’t mention them because we think they can take care of themselves. Like much of this topic, some of these questions say more about society’s uncomfortable relationship with sex and sexuality, which I’d argue is somewhat overdue for re-evaluation.

    To be clear, I am against anyone – of any gender – taking up sex work if it is not suitable for them. I acknowledge that people are physically or financially pushed into sex-work, and that the consequences for mental health can be severe. I have in my lifetime met genuinely oppressed individuals undertaking sex work, whilst in a precarious state of housing and finances – and their plight is heartbreaking. Trafficking, violent rape and the sexual coercion of capitalism are all appalling. But I rather see the forbidding of sexual trade the way the American Christian Right are now treating marriage equality: “it’s not for me, it’s not normal, it’s disgusting”. We need to learn some tolerance.

  • Mary

    Little mention throughout of the physical damage that can be caused internally. Sexually transmitted diseases like chlamydia can infect the Fallopian tubes causing life long infertility for a woman.

  • N_


    He was bloody careless to get caught


    That’s like saying if someone loses a chess game they must have played very weakly. But maybe the opponent played strongly?


    One interesting question is whether there is a single firm supplying prostitutes and drugs to the building.

    That the cocaine was wrapped up inside the top of a drinks bottle makes me wonder whether there is a supplier who provides lots of “drinks bottles” to people living in Dolphin House.

    I mean MI5 and the Whips aren’t going to want someone moving in on their territory.

  • Jon

    Mary, I see your point about medical risks, but how do you balance that against the liberal idea of the right to choose an occupation for oneself? Do you think that prostitution should be outlawed based on the risks? (I outlined some of the mental health risks in my post above). Do you take a similar view for tobacco and alcohol?

  • technicolour

    Jon: I am not on any side.

    It was claimed that statistics about the effects of prostitution are hard to find. They are not.

    It was claimed that prostitution is similar to making pizzas for a living. It is not.

    It is incomprehensible to ‘debate’ prostitution without being aware of my first post, the statistics in which are born out in other surveys. In your references to ‘the happy hooker’, and your brief acknowledgement of ‘genuinely oppressed individuals’ you seem to be glossing over the fact that the *average* age for prostitutes starting in the UK was 15. You overlook the increased mortality rates, the prevalence of rape and physical abuse, from both pimps and punters and the background of abuse from which most of these women come. Your examples, judging by all the facts available, are the exceptions. This is nothing to do with being ‘sex-negative’ or ‘sex-positive’.

    Other points in your post:
    “This individual makes their own moral decisions” – a thirteen year old or a fifteen year old is ‘making a moral decision’ when they are pimped on the streets? I think not. Nor are they making an ‘immoral’ decision. What do morals have to do with it? The picture built up from decades of research (not the occasional hit blog/column/tv series) is of desperate decisions, not ‘moral’ ones. As evinced by the vast majority who would like to leave the trade, but are trapped in it.

    “And he/she could indeed be your (my) son or daughter, and you (or I) ought to respect them just the same.” Of course. Who is suggesting otherwise? I presume that people are using ‘son/daughter’ as shorthand for ‘someone you love and wish to protect’.

    As for the piece, which deserved to be heard:

    “Well, the first takeaway is that women say “yes” when they mean “no”.”
    I’m surprised you are surprised by this, in this area. Women (and men and girls and boys) are saying “yes” because they need the money: in many cases to also pay the fines for being caught soliciting, which is why prostitution should be decriminalised: otherwise the trap gets deeper. I wonder how many punters have tried the experiment of offering the money while declining the service: the prostitutes I know have never been anything but delighted to find that their punter can’t, or has decided not to perform, (but would rather “chat”). Anything else is self-deception.

    “The writer is immersed in the sex-negative view that she has been abused regardless of the conduct of her clients”. The writer sees prostitution as abuse. No amount of double speak will alter the fact. She is not alone.

    As for men:
    “Every male prostitute Tuoi Tre contacted for this story admitted that they had been physically abused at least once by a client”

    “The researchers interviewed 12 male prostitutes who worked in Phoenix Park, particularly around the Wellington Monument.

    The study said factors that led to the individuals becoming engaged in the activity included “childhood sexual or physical abuse, leaving school early, running away from home and a dependence on heroin”.

    The authors said there was a “high level of family dysfunction” among the participants.”

  • Jon

    Thanks for the thoughts Tech, great stuff. No time to respond at the moment, but will try to do so tomorrow. Some of your responses are based on misunderstandings of my position, which I take responsibility for, and will try to correct at another time.

    I mean this kindly: I’d rather my “brief acknowledgement” of suffering was not minimised though – I am not in favour of suffering, in case that needs saying. My broad approach is that the sex-negative lens through which these topics are viewed are making matters worse, not better, both in terms of the academic debate and how help is actively denied to people who really need it.

  • N_

    Don’t forget that David Cameron and George Osborne are known to have done the same as this guy: snorted cocaine and used prostitutes. I’m not sure about wearing a bra though. Maybe in the Bullingdon Club it was only frilly knickers?

1 4 5 6 7 8

Comments are closed.