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What is prostitution?

Vice Versa views prostitution as part of the spectrum of men’s violence against women and is committed to raising awareness of its root causes and harmful impacts, both on those directly involved and on our wider culture.

Women become involved in prostitution for a variety of reasons such as homelessness, child sexual abuse, mental ill health, trauma, previous sexual violence, drug and alcohol misuse, money pressures and poverty. These factors, which serve to lead or force women into prostitution, should not be mistaken for the cause of prostitution itself, which is the demand from men to buy sex. If men were not prepared to buy sex, then prostitution would not work as a survival behaviour.

Once the factors behind women’s involvement in prostitution are understood it makes no sense to label prostitution as work or legitimate employment – to do so would legitimise exploitation. Neither, if we accept prostitution as exploitation, is it fair to criminalise those who are abused and exploited – in what other area of ‘violence against women’ would we criminalise the victims?

We do not view prostitution as a choice for women, irrespective of age, and believe that it is contradictory to condemn child prostitution whilst condoning or ignoring adult prostitution. Neither do we recognise the false distinctions between forced and so-called ‘free’ prostitution. All prostitution is exploitative of the person prostituted, regardless of the context, or whether that person is said to have consented to the prostitution.

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