Nordic Model Now! made a submission about racism within the sex industry to the Shami Chakrabarti Inquiry into antisemitism and other forms of racism including islamophobia, within the Labour Party. This is a slightly edited version of the text of our submission.
Prostitution, and its graphic arm pornography, are perhaps the last bastion of ‘acceptable racism’ in the UK. It is still OK to publish porn about, and offer for sexual exploitation, ‘Asian babes’, ‘submissive orientals’, ‘cool Nordic blondes’ and ‘wild African tigresses’, all relating to women and only to women.
Here are some examples from investigative journalist Hsiao-Hung Pai’s groundbreaking book, Invisible – Britain’s Migrant Sex Workers (2013), which she researched by going undercover in the sex industry:
“‘I like Polish girls’, the man clearly meant it as a compliment but Beata immediately became annoyed. So her handsome punter was just another sad Englishman with a teenage mind, Beata thought to herself while he was on top of her. ‘I like Polish girls’, as though they were a make of car or brand of cigarettes. When would they stop looking at her as a foreign exotic object?” (page 245).
“Grace’s lack of respect for her Romanian workers became obvious when Mia told me I had to inform Andrea of the rules here: Chinese xiaojies are the ‘priority’ and customers are sent to them first. Non-Chinese women are treated as secondary, only ‘helping out’ and acting as zhuangzhong when either the xiaojies are busy or when the customers don’t want a Chinese girl or they ask to ‘double fly’.” (page 310)
According to the author there are 80,000 prostituted women in the UK, often serving 10-14 men per day. This means that around a million men EACH DAY attend a place (the brothel) where not only sexism and sexual objectification are considered normal, but also the worst kind of casual unthinking racism.
Hsiao-Hung Pai makes it clear that prostitution is full of racism which is never challenged.
Here are some examples from British Academic Gail Dines’ book, Pornland – How porn has hijacked our sexuality (2010) which contains a chapter (7) on racism in the porn industry.
“Just the titles of recent porn movies indicate the degree of racism in porn: ‘Hot Black Thug’, ‘Black Poles in White Holes’, ‘Huge Black Cock on White Pussy’, ‘Monster Black Penises’, and ‘Long Dong Black Kong’, portray black men as monstrous in their desire for white women. Challenged about the overt racism, Pete Reynolds, VP of Adam and Eve, the distributor, said ‘we should all not take ourselves too seriously’ i.e. using the classic harasser’s excuse that ‘I only meant it as a joke’.” (Dines page 122)
“Porn viewers can select from racial categories such as Asian, Latin, ethnic.” (ibidem)
“In porn, women of colour are generally relegated to gonzo, a genre that has little glamour, security or chic status. Here women… have to endure body-punishing sex. Gonzo works only to the degree that women in it are debased and dehumanised. As a woman of color, the porn performer embodies two subordinate categories, such as Asian fuckbucket, black ho, or Latina slut.” (page 125).
Dines makes it clear that pornography is full of racism which is never challenged.
Relevance to The Labour Party
In this context Jeremy Corbyn’s remarks about supporting the full decriminalisation of the sex industry and John McDonnell’s well-known links with the sex industry under the guise of the English Collective of Prostitutes indicate an unthinking and ill-informed approach.
The Labour Party needs to see past the myths and apparent glamour and take a properly informed, evidence-based approach to the sex industry, sexual exploitation, and sex trafficking if its inquiry into racism is to be taken seriously. If the Party is serious about eliminating racism then it must take a strong line on the sex industry and support the Nordic Model. This reduces demand by criminalising the purchase of sexual access, while decriminalising the women and others who are prostituted, providing them with realistic support and services to help them exit. A report on the Nordic Model approach to prostitution taken in Ipswich following the murders of five prostituted women by Stephen Wright showed that it is cost-effective, saving £2 for every £1 spent.
Nordic Model Now! would be willing to provide training to MPs or local Labour Party groups, reviewing the evidence in the context of achieving social change. At the very least, the Labour Party should make it clear that it views sexual exploitation via the sex industry as damaging and inappropriate for party representatives.