I went to Blackpool the other night. This is generally something of a mistake at the best of times. The Illuminations were switched off early, we got lost trying to get there, even the trams weren't running. It was, basically, fail, and by the end of the evening when we returned to the car we were almost laughing at the sheer despair of the place.
At which point we overheard a frankly appalling conversation on the other side of the road, as a burly man attempted to tell a passing gent about why “Come with me, mate! She'll look after you really well, I'll give you a good price for her, you'll have a good night!” The man he was cajoling walked on quickly. The burly man had a drunken man following him. It was with a sinking feeling that we realised that the burly man was probably a pimp, and lady of which he was talking was probably a prostitute.
Cue my liberal heart bleeding all over the pavement. Oh, god, the poor woman.
As I have discussed before, I am a feminist. I am, overall, not in favour of sex work in an area where it is not legalised. I absolutely think it should be legalised, and self-policed, which would make it safer for all concerned. As the law stands in the UK, it is consistently the women who suffer. I fully understand that there are those involved with sex work that do so voluntarily and enjoy the work.
Perhaps the woman (women?) they were discussing were fully and completely engaged with their work and did so out of choice. Not the kind of choice where it's that or starve, or the kind of choice where it pays for the drugs. The kind of choice where it's that, or be killed. That's no choice at all. Blackpool has, shall we say, a reputation for the kind of women who have no choice at all. And frankly, I really don't like the idea of a man selling a woman like you might sell a potato.
So all I could think about was the woman, and that by watching the interaction all I was doing was facilitating her abuse.
There are so many things wrong with the above sentence. Firstly, I have no idea that what I thought I saw and heard was really what was happening. I have no idea of the state of the woman or women even if my assumptions were correct. And even if it was all of my worst fears, what could I do? I could confront the man, who might have been armed. I'm a short woman with the physical strength of a bowl of noodles. Even if I had over-powered him, how would that have helped the woman in the long run? I couldn't describe the man, and I don't know where they eventually ended up, so I couldn't get the police involved – and indeed, I'm not sure how helpful the police would be.
Finally, my feelings of guilt mean that I am taking away the attention from the women involved and making it about me, and even using it for blogging, which is maybe the worst thing of all.