Sex in the (small) City

Last December, 27 men in Limerick, Ireland, were charged with trying to engage the services of a prostitute. These men were caught as the result of a police initiative – the oddly named, Operation Freewheel – and the ‘prostitutes’ were, of course, all undercover cops (or ‘Guards’ as we call them here in Ireland).

21 of the men pleaded guilty and were fined 470 euro each, to be paid to a local NGO that works with immigrants.  The remaining 6 men contested the charge and their cases are pending.

In the great scheme of things this is a pretty petty crime.  Seedy and unpleasant but petty. Nobody would ordinarily care that much. Except for one thing – the national papers published the names of the men involved.

Bedlam ensued.

Lots of people thought it was outrageous that these names be published.  Local papers didn’t publish the names – they too thought that it was wrong to name the men.

I was amazed at the controversy.  If 27 men were charged with theft or traffic offenses or fraud nobody would object to their names being published.  Nobody would say – ‘What about their families?’  or ‘It’s not fair on their wives and children.’ I imagine that the spouses and children of anybody who commits any crime are embarrassed by the actions of their relative.  So –

Why is this crime different to other crimes?

Who exactly will think badly of their wives and children?

If the answer to that question is – People.  Then that begs another question –

Who are these people?

Surely they are us?

Surely we can choose not to think badly of these families? As they have done absolutely nothing wrong that should be easy.

Surely if we (the people) do this then we can stop that particular consequence for the innocent families?

We speak about the people who make these judgements and do the gossiping as if they are a tribe of strangers who aren’t subject to our influence or control.  As if we’d truly like them to stop this bad, judgmental carry-on but have no power to make them desist. The thing is, this isn’t the case. There aren’t other unnamed, anonymous but extremely powerful people running around out there making these unfair judgements.

We’re the people these families dread.

We’re the people they believe think badly of them – though they have committed no crime.

The buck really does stop with us.

The power is completely ours.

We can clear our heads and discern between right and wrong.  We all know how to do this – it’s a natural capacity.  If we do that, then the innocent may still get hurt but we won’t add to their suffering. If we do that, we will be able to apply our laws in such a way that justice is done all round.

We can do this.  Immediately and without training or qualification.  We can stop this unnecessary suffering and the suffering of all families in similar positions.  It isn’t someone else’s job, it’s a job that belongs to all of us ordinary people.  There is only one thing we need in order to succeed at this –

We have to start thinking for ourselves.

17 Comments

      1. I agree. These families will have so much pain to deal with just having to face the ‘truth’ that the husbands/fathers/sons were soliciting sex. It is awfully sad that we would want to add an extra burden to them that they should just “choose to not care” about how “we” judge and jest about their pain. Of course, none of us can control what others do (or choose not to). There will always be people who jest and judge. If we’re not easily stirred by compassion for the plight of the suffering, we might remember that we (or those we love) could be walking in their shoes tomorrow. None of us are immune to tragedy and scandal. Only “we” have the power to stop attacking the vulnerable by choosing to not do it ourselves. It is an individual choice with a fairly easy (though challenging) answer: the Golden Rule. Nice post, Creating Reciprocity.

  1. Excellent post! I would like to say “Amen”, but although I’m not overly religious, somehow that doesn’t go over well with my catholic school girl days.

    One thing that hit me though, was my immediate reaction of why is prostitution considered a crime in Ireland? Granted it’s only been legal in Germany for roughly 8 years (maybe less), but I think it has great advantages of legalising it (and I’m not talking prostitute income taxes here) – Think about it?!

    Also, it’s a full own fledged felony? Not a misdemenour?

    Hmmm, I really don’t want to come off as being judgemental here (because I try very hard not to be), but somehow that seems a bit harsh.

    1. Thanks, K – glad you enjoyed it. I have no idea which category of crime prostitution fits into in Irish law but I do know the Swedes might disagree with you about the legalisation! But all of that is a moot point really to me as the bigger issue for me is the social stigma. It doesn’t matter really whether it’s this or other stuff – rape, poverty, addiction, disability, mental illness – there are a gazillion reasons that people suffer because they are stigmatised and we know this but we all act as if someone else is doing the stigmatising not us. As if it shouldn’t happen but there’s nothing we can do – which isn’t true. I know I am mildly obsessed with this phenomenon (sorry!) but I can’t help thinking that we all have the power to prevent some suffering in the world if we become conscious of that – if that makes sense!

      1. You’re right – I know it’s besides the point (really have to check out what your were referring to in regards to Sweden though) – I’m sorry sometimes I get a bit sidetricked by stuff – I really feel like I wear blinders 😉

        I think Patrice is spot on – how can we be graceful to others, if we can’t be graceful towards ourselves…

        It’s one the things I absolutely love about Phil b.t.w. He rarely judges anything – he says it’s because he doesn’t care enough, I think it’s because he cares more than most.. 😉

        1. No – it’s natural that you would ask those questions – they are real questions and good questions – but just not my questions (which is typical of me as well!). I also agree with Patrice and I think you may be right about Phil!

  2. We do need to stop judging, gossiping, snickering, belittling, shunning, teasing, bullying……We just need to stop and think, “This is us, as well!” Thank you SO MUCH for this desparately needed post.

  3. I think it would be nice if people could stop and think…but this would require people apply the same mercy to their own lives that you are asking them to extend to others. It’s a tall order, but, I’m game 😉

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  5. Sure, it would be wonderful if the judgements and pettiness stopped. Until then, I also object to the publication of the names of these Johns in a national paper. Their arrest and fines were punishment enough. Hanging dirty linen in public is always unpleasant not only for the owners but also for most of the observers. 🙁

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