Harriet Harman, homophobia, tum-ti-tum

Last week, I was trying to explain Britain’s sexual and cultural politics to a friend newly-arrived from Canada.
That meant trying to explain why nice, left-wing feminists like Harriet Harman are using their political party conference speeches to send men to a website that advertises and rates sex workers.

It’s like this. Ms Harman, who is Deputy Leader of the UK’s ruling Labour Party, wants whats best for working girls. Punternet does too. (For those who use the term “john”, a punter is a man who buys sex). Ms. Harman wants to reduce trafiicking of women into sex work. Punternet does too — that’s why it provides links to allow men using the site to report women that they suspect might be under age or working against their will. Is that why Ms Harman decided to give the site such good publicity, more than doubling its hits to an eye-watering 2.7 million a day according to the Financial Times? From the vote of thanks she’s had from sex workers working on both sides of the Atlantic. you might think so. But no, the good democrat was actually appealing to California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to shut the site down (the server is, apparently situated in the land of free speech).

No surprise to regular readers of this site; it is all part of Nanny Labour’s ongoing campaign to wipe out consensual trade in sex which, the views of sex workers themselves notwithstanding (see comments), always amounts to exploitation. But it did bring the idiocy of this policy to the notice of mainstream commentators such as the FT’s Matthwe Engel, which can only be a good thing.

Other issues of cultural politics I had to try and explain: why I am addicted to a radio soap opera that has been running for nearly 60 years. That’s right, The Archers, originally billed as “the everyday story of country folk”, now rebranded appallingly as “contermporary drama in a rural setting”. I tried to explain that bracketed between the unchanging theme tune “Tum ti tum ti tum ti tum…” came all the burning issues of the day. My mate rolled his eyes and went back to blogging about really burning issues, like rectal gonnorhea. Then, on Friday, he apologised. He “just happened” to turn on the radio when The Archers was on (that’s how I started too — a slippery slope to a lifelong struggle with Archers addiciton). And bingo: Ian gets beaten up because he’s gay. You could argue that Ian gets beaten up because he tries politely to get a bunch of drunken football louts to shut up. But they called him a “bender”, which is surely enough to blow the homophobia flag up the pole. (You can listen to the episode until 16/10/09.) The question that is not exactly burning up the message boards is: why did Ian not want to report the assault to the police? Might he suspect that the cops in a rural setting might have rather uncontemporary views about anal sex between men? You’ll just have to tune in to find out…

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This post was published on 13/10/09 in Ideology and HIV, The sex trade.

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  1. Comment by Kevin Burctoolla, 14/10/09, 10:18:

    Officer, arrest that woman.

  2. Comment by Jacob Wintersmith, 16/10/09, 03:47:

    Huh. I had always thought a “punter” was someone who bet on sporting events, horseraces, and so forth (that is, things besides cards or casino games).

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