Friday, March 16, 2007

Prostitutes’ Well-Being and Risk by Ine Vanwesenbeeck

well done. a very solid introduction and a good look into the reality of life as a prostitute (especially in the Netherlands). she points out that most studies try to address the why of becoming a prostitute, which tends to produce judgement or pity, whereas looking at the reality of being a prostitute gets beyond these simplistic responses to be able to see prostitutes as real people (and not just as a cause or problem). Things are complicated when it comes to the reality of prostitution: there is much to be sad over, as the following comments illustrate:

“Despite of differences between western and non-western women, it must be acknowledged that women all over the world still have limited money-making options. There are virtually no other occupations available to unskilled or low-skilled women offering an income which compares to prostitution. It is indeed, as Davis already mentioned ‘not the hard question why so many women become prostitutes, but why so few of them do’.” Vanwesenbeeck, Prostitutes, 29.

“Not only is the work of an extremely intrustive character, calling for the ‘switching off’ of certain kinds of awareness and consciousness, but it is also ‘emotion work’ as referred to by Hochschild (1979, 1988). Prostitution is a kind of labour where one has to act in an a way that is known to be false or that actually transforms one’s feelings. Prostitution work is to a certain extent built up from fake behavior and untrue emotions on the part of prostitutes: they play the whore, they are on the game. In this context it is extremely likely that problem feelings of all kinds are being split off, denied and dissociated. In addition, stigma and secrecy are an excellent soil for internal coping. A lack of alternative coping resources and supportive social structures add to this.” Vanwesenbeeck, Prostitutes’, 151.

She concludes by saying, “Implicitly or explicitly, it has often been assumed that deciding on prostitution work is the ultimate illustration of having travelled a down-slope track and having reached an absolute low in life….Our study has shown that prostitution need not be the absolute low by definition, at all. However, for those who are already troubled, as a consequence of violent life-histories, econonomical sorrow, or both, prostitution work is often an extra burden.” Vanwesenbeeck, Prostitutes, 161-62.

And most of all her book points to something of utmost importance. those who most Christians would like to dismiss as sinful are real regular people like us, who delight in a wave from a one-year-old the same way that anyone else does.

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