The pros and cons of sex workers

Amsterdam’s red light district De Wallen

My eternally-un-named friend told me yesterday that she was concerned my recent blogs may have tended towards sleaze and that some of that sleaze might seem to rub off on my blog.

I am not that concerned.

As I have said before, I do not necessarily agree with what I quote other people as saying in my blogs. If I were to make a desperate attempt to get into Pseud’s Corner, I look on this blog as a series of (with luck) interesting, occasionally funny (both haha and peculiar) insights into sometimes otherwise overlooked corners of social history in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Pepys into ephemera if I were really desperate to get into Pseuds’ Corner.

In September last year, I ran a blog headlined The great showmen and conmen of London: why I am proud to be British.

In it, I mentioned in passing a dwarf called Roy ‘Little Legs’ Smith who, in the 1960s, had allegedly worked for gangsters the Kray Twins as an ‘enforcer’ and had later appeared in The Beatles’ Magical Mystery Tour film.

This week, that blog got a comment:

I knew Little Legs briefly, towards the end of his life. He would visit his literary agent who had offices above ours in St. Martin’s Lane. Roy would pop in to visit us and have a sup of his ‘cold tea’ before tackling the second flight of stairs. He was quite a character and some of the stories you mention he told to us. Other stuff we later found out when his Obit was published.

I replied to the person who posted that comment, asking if they knew anything more about ’Little Legs’. I said:

He’s one of those interestingly vivid characters who simply disappears from human ken unless they are written about in print – even if it’s cyber print… Oh how I wish I’d talked to that bloke who used to walk along Oxford Street for years with a placard saying sitting was bad for you…!

I got this reply about ‘Little Legs’:

I wish I could remember all of his tales – but sadly some 20 years or so have elapsed since those days. I have a clear memory of Roy sitting in our office and telling Debbie and myself that he would marry us excepting that he already had a wife. I know he talked about his days with the circus and of his family but much more I can’t now remember.

 AM Heath, his literary agents, shared our building. Roy’s stature meant he couldn’t reach the latch on the door exiting onto St. Martin’s Lane – our acquaintance began when I heard him jumping and whacking at the latch with his stick and went down the stairs to open the door for him. And after that, he would often stop in on his way in and out of the building and pass the time with us.

Stanley Green, gone and doomed to be forgotten?

As for the man in Oxford Street with the placard:

Stanley Green – as a teenager in my first job near Oxford Street, I regularly saw Stanley Green with his placard. He was an object of fascination but not enough of a one for me to risk starting a conversation with him or taking one of his pamphlets.

I too am glad these people are not forgotten.

All that was a gentle lead-in to this…

I posted a blog yesterday headlined Comedian Chris Dangerfield spent over £200,000 in 18 months on having sex with Chinese prostitutes in London.

When I linked to it on my Facebook page, my account was immediately locked and a message came up saying there was a “site issue”. A few minutes later, the account was unlocked, but the posting had been removed.

I can only assume that the Facebook computer took offence at the title of my blog and presumed that anything with the £ symbol and the words “sex” and “prostitutes” might be some lady (or gent) of the night touting for business.

Strangely, the words I used in a previous blog title – Top comedy critic Kate Copstick spends $2,500 on prostitutes in Nairobi, Kenya – did not trigger any computer reaction.

But there have been several human responses to yesterday’s blog.

One (from a man) said:

Nothing quite like sloppy one-hundred and seconds on a woman who has probably been gang raped, people smuggled, beaten, pimped and possibly had her passport stolen, to be extorted back from her. Pretty funny really. Especially paid for by crack. ha ha! More people like Chris would improve the universe.

Another other reaction (from a women) was:

The percentage of sex workers on this planet who are raped or “extorted” is being sensationalised.  Certainly rapes and extortions are terrible events but the numbers are actually minimal compared to the vast majority who choose this line of business because it offers better hours, more fun and ten times the money than other work. This is especially so in impoverished countries where the other choices are demeaning dangerous domestic labour  or equally dangerous mindless repetitive jobs in  garment factories….If we really care, we need to focus on eradicating poverty, not prostitution.

I have to say that my tendency is more towards the first of those two reactions. But the strange thing I have found over many years is that (and I don’t think I am imagining this) the people who mostly believe prostitution should be legalised seem to be women and the people who tend to think ‘sex workers’ are trapped in a profession they would not willingly choose tend to be men.

I have never quite come to terms with why this should be.

But I am open to explanations.


There is more reaction to my blog about Chris Dangerfield HERE.


Filed under Nostalgia, Sex

3 responses to “The pros and cons of sex workers

  1. Mike Taylor

    I’ve lived with a WG and have quite a few more as friends, none of them have been smuggled, (they’re all British citizens), all do the job because it’s mostly enjoyable and pays well, some even pay tax on their earnings. None of the ones I’ve known have had pimps, when the lady I lived with went anywhere we went Dutch, we both had our own incomes and were quite happy that way.

  2. Jan

    Maybe female sex workers are less likely to tell men that they were ok with their work for fear of being thought of badly, maybe some don’t think men will understand unless they dress the experience up as a kind of romantic victimhood… I don’t know. It seems to me that there are plenty of sex workers who are exploited and plenty who aren’t, and the subject is still too much of a hot button for most research into it to be reliable. I try to concentrate on not denying anyone’s experiences; just because there are sex workers who are ok with or enjoy what they do, doesn’t mean there aren’t others for whom it’s a living hell, and vice versa.

    As to Chris Dangerfield, well, my gut reaction was “at least he’s honest”. He didn’t show any signs of giving a toss about whether the women he’d been with were truly there of their own free will, or any of the other things people tend to consider if they’re interested in behaving ethically, but it was only one interview, and I didn’t see his show, and even if it was representative of his attitude and he doesn’t care at all, I didn’t feel the blog entry was asking me to be ok with what he was saying. I felt that it was just an account, and it made interesting reading. From that point of view I’m glad you posted it; thanks John.

  3. Jan

    It just occurred to me, actually: it’s possible that the more vocal women on the subject of the sex trade are more likely to be those with a positive view of it, because those with a negative view would be so used to instantly being accused of being “anti-sex” or “prudish” that they could well be put off bothering to engage any more, given that those are often the first responses to anyone, male or female, who puts ethics before individual gratification. Except that there’s always the assumption that men like sex, so if a man objects to one kind of sex, it must just be that kind he doesn’t like, whereas if a woman objects to it, she’s assumed to be revealing her feminine distaste of anything sexual. And/or maybe people internalise the stance they think society expects them to have, given their gender, and only tend to speak up if their true feelings contradict it. I know very little about gender politics, but I’m sure the truth of the matter is very complicated.

    I didn’t even start to do that subject justice in my previous comment, so I hope that balances things out a bit more.

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