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Time to clean up streets for the girls' own sakes.

Byline: Maureen Messent

IF YOU want to hear real venom, each word spat out, each syllable bile-soaked, ask a prostitute her opinion of men.

Wherever she has found her niche in the vice trade, whether she's a so-called "high class" escort girl, massage parlour worker or scruffy street walker, her thoughts are unequivocal: men, she will say, are cheating, near perverts and bullies.

That is why prostitutes never kiss clients, thinking such a transaction is too close a parody of love. In the topsy-turvy confines of the sex business, a kiss is too intimate, intercourse is not.

But if this engrained opinion of men is common to all "sex industry workers" as the politically correct label them now, then imagine the depths of self-hatred these women feel for themselves, the conduits of intercourse with men known only for as long as it takes to haggle over the price and drive up an alley.

As Suffolk's grisly events unfolded this week, Britain has been caught in its periodic belt of breast beating over prostitutes: should the trade be legalised or should there be a clamp-down that would see its exponents, both buyers and sellers, always prosecuted - today's police would rather turn a blind eye than intrude, arrest, and end up with a mountain of pointless paperwork.

The British public are all for organised brothels, total decriminalisation and areas of tolerance - adding the belief that it's the oldest profession and will never cease.

But those who try to help street women take the alternate view: that legalising bought sex would injure women even further, endowing their trade with a respectability it doesn't merit.

After all, that a process has been with us apparently since time began doesn't make it morally acceptable. Those Good Samaritans, by the way, are the likeliest to witness the blight of prostitution, the drugs, the alcoholism, the children in care, that death of the heart suffered by all prostitutes - in later life they become fragile human wrecks.

There are no shades of that Pretty Woman film in real life.

What is puzzling on the Suffolk scene is that the dead women were all drug addicts at the lower end of the sold sex business, plying their trade in the Ipswich red light area.

But why had none of them sought rehabilitation? Why were they apparently prepared to go along with their life-style? Why have we heard so little of the Suffolk police arresting the dealers who held these women captive with their wares?

The picture that emerges from reading the reports and watching the news bulletins, is of women emotionally paralysed by their drug dependency, women no longer recognising the depth to which they have sunk.

The Suffolk Police would have known their helpless confusion. Why didn't they take these women off the street corners and force them - yes, force them - to detox?

If law-enforcers saw children playing on a motorway, they would remove them from harm. What is the difference between children and those women so drug-ridden that they were incapable of making informed choices?

Yet still the woolly liberals bleat that drugs and prostitution should be legalised.

Even if this easing of the law had taken place, the dead women would have remained on their street corners because they were too far gone in their twin addictions of sex and drugs to have been accepted as brothel or massage parlour staff. With an estimated 30,000 street-walkers in Britain, 95 per cent of whom are drug addicts, we should be seeing the police operating a draconian crack-down in red light districts. Kerb crawlers should be prosecuted and women detained for their own safety.

Instead, we are drip fed a diet in which trashy celebrities like Kate Moss, Pete Doherty and George Michael are repeatedly given slaps on the wrist for drug use and told to go on their stumbling ways.

A sauna madam pointed out to me earlier this year - in an attempt to justify her establishment, by the way - that whores played a vital role in society. They catered for men, she said, whose sexual practices were unfulfilled in their marriages, men whose desires would be a turn-off for their wives.

So that's all right, then, is it? Take this view and we are accepting that men have absolutely no control over their physical urges.

Another point she made is that women should be reassured by their husbands' use of prostitutes.

"There's no real intimacy in bought sex," she said. "There is no time or inclination for affection. The man agrees on a price, performs, then walks away.

"He is more in danger of falling in love with the secretary he takes out to dinner than with the woman whose body he has hired."

When, as now, we are all paying lip-service to the five dead women, it's almost dangerous to hint they courted death. But they did.

To stand on a street corner to hawk your body to a passing stranger is to gamble that he's not a killer. They gambled and lost. Whatever the outcome of police enquiries, it is true to say that possible death was always close in the seedy twilight world.

The over-riding problem, apart from a lethargic response from the police to the vice trade, is that we have become too afraid of passing judgement on prostitution.

We know the evils that surround it but feel we must keep quiet for fear of condemning its participants.

It's time, I feel, for honesty. We must chuck out that hackneyed "it's the oldest profession" and replace it with "it's the oldest oppression."

Then we must insist, through our MPs, that street walkers are taken off their beats, cleaned up, and weaned off their drugs.

Massage parlours and escort girls won't be stamped out. Their practitioners have made informed judgements to work in these areas and, although some of us gasp at the notion of sex without love, we must stomach their right to live thus - without condoning them.

It's the sad little scrag-ends on the streets that our Lord must protect. If they no longer care what risks they run to fund their habit, then we must force them to salvage what they can of their lives.

And let's not fear that word "force."

"We must insist that street walkers are taken off their beats and weaned off their drugs


COURTING DEATH... a prostitute in the red light district of Ipswich.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Birmingham Mail (England)
Date:Dec 22, 2006
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