LIKE MANY other socialists and campaigners for women's rights I feel incredibly angry at the portrayal of prostitution in the new TV programme 'Secret Diary of a Call Girl', with Billy Piper playing the lead role.
Prostitution is glorified and shown to be a glamorous career option in which Piper's character has the pleasure of entertaining attractive and wealthy suitors.
The reality of course, for the majority of women forced into prostitution, couldn't be further from this. Madeleine Bunting writing in the Guardian gives statistics which reveal the facts about a profession which brutally exploits women.
In the UK more than half of prostitutes have been raped or sexually assaulted, three quarters have been physically assaulted, 95% are drug users, 90% want to get out and nearly 70% meet the criteria of posttraumatic stress disorder in the same range as victims of torture and combat veterans.
Through its portrayal of a prostitute enjoying the job, with no attempt at all to show the reasons that force women into prostitution, this programme covers up, denies and ultimately supports this terrible treatment of women.
What makes me most angry is the advertising campaign that has accompanied the programme, where there is no choice as to whether you view it or not.
A scantily clad Billy Piper is currently posted all over the nation's bus stops. Don't forget that to most children and teenagers, my own included, Billy Piper played a female hero in Doctor Who, who was feisty and regularly saved the planet from alien attack. It is a rare occurrence for there to be any strong female characters on the TV.-
Try explaining to a seven year old girl why her hero is now dressed in her underwear on the bus shelter outside our local swimming baths. Daubed across Billy Piper, the advertising slogan is 'my body is a big deal'.
There are an estimated 4,000 women trafficked into the UK and forced to work in the sex industry. Madeleine Bunting goes as far as to say these women are coerced into sex and that makes it rape and I agree with her.
This is the ugly reality of life as a prostitute. We should be doing all we can to create a society which lifts women out of poverty and ensures they have real choices that guard against turning to prostitution in the first place.
So Billy, no, this programme can't be passed off as empowering women or putting them in control of their bodies.
If we don't like the programme it is not because we are boring or prudish. This programme is saying it is OK to treat a woman's body as a commodity but it's not.
For the programme makers who aim to make a profit, this is a 'good deal'. But for socialists and women, treating such a serious subject in this trivial way, is a 'big deal'.
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