What is more base, empty of worth, and full of vileness than harlots and other such pests?... Let them be with matrons and you will produce contamination and disgrace.--Augustine
Rid society of prostitutes and licentiousness will run riot throughout. Prostitutes in a city are like a sewer in a palace. If you get rid of the sewer, the whole place becomes filthy and foul.--Thomas Aquinas
While on the subject of Iran and sex-for-hire: Jill has a link to a sobering-sounding documentary:
And Along Came a Spider
A shocking portrait of the world of a recently captured serial killer, who sees his killing of prostitutes as according with Islamic teaching.
Over the space of a year, 16 women were murdered in the Iranian city of Mashad. Because the victims were lured into the killer's traps, the press soon called these the "spider killings." All but one of the victims had previously been arrested for prostitution and drug-related crimes.
When a 39-year-old contractor is arrested and confesses to the crimes, he claims divine support for the atrocities he has committed. His mother, wife, son, and many neighbors agree.
And Along Came a Spider visits with the families of the victims, with the perpetrator and his family, and with prostitutes in this holy city. This is a chilling film about cycles of moral vengeance.
It's a bit illuminating to place this "divinely supported" dude alongside the fact that his government apparently feels similarly about hoors. It is hard to not think that, in the face of this directive:
A senior Iranian cleric in the city of Qom called for death sentences to be handed down to prostitutes, a semi-official daily reported on Monday.
“Those who try to spread prostitution, corruption, and sins in society must be dealt with”, Ayatollah Nasser Makarem-Shirazi, one of the highest-ranking clerics in the holy city, said...
“If everyone feels responsibility for the orders of Islam, no one will dare to spread prostitution”, he said. “Anyone who stays silent in the face of social disorder and centres of corruption and prostitution has actually betrayed Islam”.
...sentiments like this actually, well, make sense:
Bahari finds support for Hanaei's crimes on the streets of the city, where many residents question the man's unlawful methods, but applaud his choice of victim. Hanaei's wife and young son claim to be proud of his deeds.
Oh yeah, they executed the guy. Of course. Killing is the State's prerogative.
Although some of their other proposals for the problem of street prostitution have been...creative. viddy:
Prague, 7 August 2002 (RFE/RL) -- Prostitution is illegal in the Islamic Republic of Iran, and the penalties are severe, ranging from flogging to execution.
But for reasons no one entirely understands, the number of prostitutes on the streets of Iranian cities and towns has grown substantially in recent years, particularly in Tehran and the holy city of Qom, which is a center for pilgrims and domestic tourists.
Prostitutes wear their veils loosely over their heads in a style that passes for risque in this strictly regulated society. With their faces heavily made up, they stand at traffic circles where men driving by can inspect them and make a deal. The women are often young, including many teenagers who have run away from abusive homes.
Based on official figures, there are some 300,000 women who work as prostitutes in Iran. And according to newspapers, the number is steadily rising, despite frequent police crackdowns.
Now, some senior religious figures are suggesting the only way to solve the problem is to bring it under state control. In recent weeks, several prominent conservative clerics have proposed that prostitutes be placed in government-run shelters for destitute women to be called "chastity houses," where male customers could briefly marry them under Islamic law.
Proponents of the idea argue that it would "eradicate social corruption" by legitimizing sexual relations between the men and women. Under the plan, the couples would register for a temporary marriage under Iran's Shiite religious law code. The code allows a man to marry a woman for a mutually agreed time as short as a few hours or as long as a lifetime by reciting a verse from the Koran.
The temporary marriage license would protect the couple from harassment by authorities and, according to some proposals, it would be accompanied by free contraceptives and health advice. Under religious law, a temporary marriage imposes no obligations on a man unless the union produces a child, who must be recognized as legitimate and can claim a share of any inheritance.
One cleric backing the plan, Ayatollah Mohammed Mousavi Bojnurdi, recently told a newspaper: "We face a real challenge with all these women on the street. Our society is in an emergency situation, so the formation of the chastity houses can be an immediate solution to the problem." He added that the plan "is both realistic and conforms to Sharia [Islamic] law."...
Iran's strict Islamic rules allow little socializing between the sexes, and young Iranians have been jailed and flogged for dancing together at birthday parties. "Parents who are suspicious of their children, don't give their children any choice or freedom, and always impose their thinking on them, force such children to flee homes," said Hamzeh Ganji. Ganji said young girls who leave home often must become prostitutes to survive.
More than half of Iran's 70 million people are below age 25. The unemployment rate is officially 15 percent, but private experts say it really is about 30 percent....
If anyone happens to speak Farsi, there's another video on poverty and prostitution in Iran available here.
There's also a journalistic piece from the Iranian. The tone is...well, see for yourself. I found it interesting, and not all that unfamiliar tbh.
Truth is, we're all fairly used to, metaphorically at least, the stone-the-sluts/oh, let's-rescue-the-poor-pitiful-broken-things attitude; not to mention the (often sensationalistic) stories of serial killers who target prostitutes.
Capital punishment just takes the message to its logical conclusion: prostitutes= corrupt, dispensable, ruined, something to be cleaned up if it can't be salvaged.
Why, yes, yes it IS ultimately rooted, in good part and in complex ways, in institutionalized misogyny. Duh.
Nonetheless, it's worth noting, once again, that the Madonna/whore split is not, in fact, formulated in such a way that "virgin/mother" and "whore" are of equal (lack of, even) worth.
From the CBC article also linked above:
One study has suggested prostitutes are 40 times more likely than other women to be murdered.
quoth the experts being interviewed,
Why are prostitutes such a target?
S.E. For a variety of reasons. The main one is that they are vulnerable and they are vulnerable because they are available. This provides relative anonymity for the killer because when you pick up a prostitute in an area where they ply their trade, everyone expects to see cars picking them up. No one pays much attention to the so-called Johns.
...The other aspect is: Who is going to report a missing prostitute? If it's another prostitute, she may not have credibility with the police.
...N.B. One of the first points that has to be made is that it is only certain kinds of prostitutes who have become a target. We have massage parlours and escort agencies in virtually every city and the women who work there engage in prostitution but they are protected by credit cards and the like.
Their customers know that if they commit violence, they could easily be tracked down. So the violence that does occur is against the most vulnerable women who are working as street-level prostitutes.
...Psychopaths are people who have no empathy for their victims. They treat their victims as objects, not as human beings.
And that plays directly into the choice of prostitutes as victims: They don't see the prostitute as being a person, as being somebody's daughter, somebody's wife, just as an object for the killer to use and throw away.
From the CBS story on Gary Leon Ridgway (aka the Green River Killer):
"In most cases, when I killed these women, I did not know their names," Ridgway said in a statement read in court. "Most of the time I killed them the first time I met them, and I do not have a good memory of their faces."
Ridgway's statement opened an extraordinary window on the twisted mind of a serial killer.
"I wanted to kill as many women as I thought were prostitutes as I possibly could," he wrote.
More on the general subject from All Women Count: An Open Letter to the Women
As the US and UK governments defy the majority of people in the world and get ready to kill and displace millions in Iraq, mainly women and children, where are feminists on 8 March, International Women’s Day? According to every poll, we women are even more opposed to war than men. We are the backbone of every anti-war movement. Yet we have heard little against the war from those who identify as feminists.
Instead, on IWD Justice for Women, Women's Aid, Eaves Housing for Women, POLLY and Lilith will be picketing Spearmint Rhino, a lap-dancing club. How obscene. When most women, children and men are desperately trying to prevent this war and save the lives of millions, some of those who claim to speak against violence against women prefer to attack a sex industry establishment. Machismo begins with the military, not with lap dancing.
.... Women in the anti-rape movement have long established that we are vulnerable to violence because we have less social power than men and the police and courts refuse to value our lives and protect us. True of every woman, including sex workers.
Sex workers in Soho and elsewhere are facing massive raids, arrests, detention, eviction, deportation, and are being forced out of flats onto the street where it is 10 times more dangerous to work. Three women who were driven from Soho premises by eviction have been tragically murdered in recent years, one of them in late 2002.
No reference is made to the women workers in these clubs -- once again some feminists think they know better what’s good for other women. How sexist and arrogant! Most women in the sex industry are supporting families. Many are single mothers, many are immigrants or asylum seekers denied benefits and other resources after fleeing Western-backed wars or dictatorships. To picket lap dancing clubs is to invite more raids and deportations everywhere, and therefore more rape and murders of women who end up on the streets.
A press release from "Safety First!" (UK) sheds some light on the nuts and bolts of "clean up the streets" initiatives:
The Safety First coalition is appalled at proposals of zero tolerance against clients and removal of street prostitution announced yesterday by Ipswich Local Authorities, police, health and probation services. The proposals replicate almost exactly the policies in place before the murders. Once again no lessons have been learned.
The report proposes:
· Removing street prostitution from all areas in Ipswich. Women may be forced out of Ipswich – what has that got to do with safety? Targeting clients with zero tolerance and police crackdowns, including ASBOs, forces prostitution further underground. Women will have even less time to check out men fearful of arrest. Instead, they will be pushed into more isolated, less well lit areas where they are more vulnerable to attack. Whatever anyone thinks about men paying for sex, safety should be the priority. It is not even mentioned in these proposals.
· Measures to ensure “that women do not become involved in street prostitution in the first place”. They offer no budget or resources to address the poverty, debt, rape and domestic violence, lack of housing, cuts in benefits, and low wages in other occupations which force women into prostitution. 70% of prostitute women are mothers, mostly single mothers, who are working to support themselves and their families.
· The only concrete proposals are for more police patrols, CCTV and the use of anti-social behaviour legislation. Where are the proposals to deal with the appalling 1.6% conviction rate for reported rape in Suffolk?...
Meanwhile, in Brazil:
Gathering in a dilapidated cabaret in the Lapa zone of Rio de Janeiro, a group of transsexual prostitutes came together in October, 1999 to formally sue the Brazilian government for the right to repudiate their own citizenship.1 Since 1987, this group had been demanding that the state protect their rights as laborers in the legal field of sex work. They had pleaded for shielding from discrimination, harassment, police brutality, and hate crime. But in their opinion, the Brazilian state had spurned them2 and in stead rounded them up, identified, and registered them in police files3, and labeled these border-crossing sex workers as perversions of globalization, as sex traffickers, as threats to the nation, as a blight on Rio's touristic image.
But transsexual sex workers who walk the streets, a practice they refer to as ir na batalha [going to battle],4 had been facing even more violent threats than those posed by police and state. Since the 1980s, they had been terrorized by white neo-Nazi gangs who had begun to mobilize in Brazil's cities around masculinist hyper-nationalist ideologies, and performing acts of homophobic and racist ritual violence. Like hundreds of Jack the Rippers, these gang members had taken it upon themselves to promote social purity through the most gruesome murder and mutilation of prostitutes, especially transvestites and transsexuals, called travestis in Brazil.5 Rather than protect the sex workers from this terrorism, Rio's Polícia Militar battalions tended to blame the horror on the victims, increasing harassment and extortion of sex workers, and developing new anti-gang and public-space protection policies that detoured around the fact that prostitution is quite legal in Brazil. As Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro remarked:
What do travestis have in common with gypsies? They embody difference. The dream of various authoritarian groups in society is the construction of homogeneity. The city that was a place where everyone got along is now a mere passageway: all alien obstacles must be removed. The more moderate among them believe segregation will be the solution. Others believe only in physical extermination. The streets of the city should be clean like the corridors of prisons. The attacks that have continued for a few years seek to realize a final solution. How is it that these embodiments of difference can be targets for a hunt (as prostitutes) without any risk of punishment for the aggressors? Criminals that murder transvestites consider that they have the right to clean the streets with their own hands. In a way this is an apprenticeship that follows the same repressive practices of this country's police forces: illegal, shameful brutalization, extortion (regular monetary contribution so that this group can remain on the streets without menace), beatings, dog attacks. What pretends to offer itself as an honest imposition of public order, to restrain those that scandalize the image of good citizens, is nothing but pure terrorism and financial profiteering by the agents of discipline.
That last paragraph in particular...I'm going to be thinking about that for a while.
The dream of various authoritarian groups in society is the construction of homogeneity.