Here’s a powerful article about the very harsh reality of prostitution, written by a former john who ultimately became an abolitionist — speaking out on behalf of the Nordic Model.
The Nordic Model, also known as the Swedish Model, penalizes sex buyers to reduce DEMAND, and helps women in prostitution who want to leave to do so.
Note: This article was originally written and published in French, and was kindly translated by our very helpful volunteer Maya S.
[LE PLUS] — A law that seeks to combat prostitution in France has passed in the National Assembly with 268 votes in favor versus 138 votes opposing. If it also passes through the Senate by next June, the customers will be penalized. Jean-Marie Blanchard, who used to visit prostitutes, considers this necessary.
“BUT WHAT THE HELL AM I DOING HERE?”
- An ex-customer of prostitutes becomes an abolitionist
Article by Jean-Marie Blanchard
I began visiting prostitutes around the age of 22. A rather unusual start, since most clients are married men with children. I didn’t try to seduce any of the women I saw as I was focused on my own suffering, for which I wanted to make up. And so I had my first sexual experience by visiting a prostitute.
I went once or twice a week in Paris, on Saint-Denis street. It lasted a month. During our first encounters, we would settle for around 50 euros (about $75), and then some of them would lower it to 30 euros (about $45) without my asking anything.
When I saw these degraded prices, I realized that they were being pimped and exploited and I stopped right away. Most of them were from Nigeria and could only speak English. At any rate, there was no way to talk to them – the need to go through as many clients as possible made it impossible to have any interaction that wasn’t strictly sexual.
PIMPED ESCORTS ARE NOT UNCOMMON
So I looked for prostitutes on the Internet, thinking that what I was doing was harmless and that these women were liberated and liked having sex with strangers. The kind of nonsense that clients tell themselves to feel better about what they’re doing. But I quickly started noticing that the reality is a lot less rosy.
While we were handling the money, some of the women would tell me about their lives. Their childhoods and other factors had funneled them into prostitution.
Pimped escorts are not rare. South American women, for example, would often use a so-called “mutual-aid” program to rent rooms from other South American immigrants and pocket a commission. The news articles that I was reading at the time made that absolutely clear.
Not getting past my own ego, I couldn’t help but come back time and time again. I was never satisfied, but having no romantic relationship in my life, I told myself that it was still better than being alone – a solitude that was the result of my own lack of openness to other people. My failed attempts to seduce other women made me hate all women, and I ignored any and all advice about how to make myself more attractive.
I FELT LIKE I WAS TAKING ADVANTAGE OF THE SITUATION
Escorts often made it clear to me that they weren’t doing this because they wanted to. I felt like I was taking advantage of the situation, a composer in an orchestrated disaster. Even in GFEs, the so-called “girlfriend experience”, where they would feign interest and affection, I was no longer convinced that prostitution was harmless.
I told myself that it was time to put an end to it, and that I deserved something other than this fake sex life. So I first stopped in 2003, six months after starting. I nevertheless gave in twice during the year of 2004, and two times in 2005.
I found myself in bed with a woman who was telling me about her traumatic childhood. Then, she told me something that made it clear that I was the exact opposite of the kind of guy she would like to be with in real life. I thought to myself, “what the hell am I doing here?” And I stopped for good on that day.
From then on, I’ve kept myself away from that world. Echos of it have caught up with me at times, in between whispers here and there from friends.  The works of doctor Judith Trinquart and psychiatrist Muriel Salmona have also confirmed what I had been suspecting about prostitution. A lack of genuine love and sexual abuse in childhood weigh heavily into an individual woman’s “choice” to be a prostitute. Except for a minority, prostitution is a harmful practice for most of the women in it.
PENALIZING CLIENTS IS THE MOST EFFECTIVE APPROACH
I became a radical abolitionist about a year and a half ago, upon meeting a woman who became my best friend – an ex-prostitute who used to charge 300 euros (about $450) per hour. Despite her seemingly better working conditions, the experience had heavily traumatized her. After studying the approach taken to prostitution in neighboring countries, we noticed that the best – or at least, least bad – approach is penalizing clients. The attempts to regulate prostitution in Germany and in Catalonia (Spain) have lead to appalling outcomes.
In 2002, I wouldn’t have understand the idea of being punished. I probably would have gone to brothels in neighboring countries, where (prostituted) women work in atrocious conditions. But now, after having befriended prostitutes, and having observed the traumatic consequences of their “work”, I can only support penalizing clients. Our country is still male-dominated. It’s delusional to wait for men to take responsibility and discover empathy towards women.
This law will have an educational value, and it can help rehabilitate women who want to leave the sex industry. As long as they have opportunities to find better-playing work elsewhere.
It is important to make a point about women’s bodies not being commodities. Even if a minority of prostitutes are happy, the majority leave the industry damaged, if not destroyed outright. Needless to say, prostitution is a major public health issue.
My ideal is a gradual end to sex-for-money, where men buy – with money or symbolically – women-as-objects. I am in favor of a sexuality that is based on genuine desire and pleasure, not anachronisms that limit us.
Many thanks to Jean-Marie Blanchard for his brutal honesty and leadership. He is setting a vital example of true compassion and caring towards women and all humanity, for everyone to follow.
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