Feeds

PunterNet thanks Harriet for massive upswing

No Harman done there

Intelligent flash storage arrays

Prostitutes worldwide were this weekend congratulating Women’s Minister Harriet Harman on a job well done – as remarks she made to last week’s Labour Conference have dramatically increased business for sex workers using online site PunterNet.

A press release put out by the owners of the site pointed to a doubling in site traffic on the day of the speech, while some sex workers point to a near trebling of business since then.

Critics claim this is not the first time that gung-ho initiatives by the Women’s Minister have had the opposite effect to that intended.

In the course of her speech on 30 September, Ms Harman informed delegates of "a very sinister development which we are determined to stop".

She then explained: "There is now a website... where pimps put women on sale for sex and then men who’ve had sex with them put their comments online. It is 'PunterNet' and fuels the demand for prostitutes. It is truly degrading and puts women at risk."

She went on to observe that the site included the details of many UK-based women and that she had asked the Governor of California, where punternet is based, to "terminate" all this depravity or else, she added – in predictable sound-bite mode – "I’ll be back".

Like many similar pronouncements on sex work, Ms Harman’s views seem to be based more on thinly veiled distaste and a desire to do all she can to stick an oar in – irrespective of the consequences for the women (and men) involved in it – than any informed response to the issues.

The implication that this site is new is factually incorrect, not least because PunterNet itself claims to be now in its tenth year of operation.

Far more serious is the suggestion that it facilitates pimping when, in fact, it tends to do the exact opposite. As a detailed deconstruction of the site by leading political blogger Alix Mortimer argues: "In short, though it’s not immediately obvious how this site makes the lives of prostitutes as a whole any better, it’s certainly not obvious how it makes them worse, and it may even make the odd life here or there quite dramatically better if and when the police do have occasion to intervene on the basis of information they read there.

"This being the case, since no harm is being done and possibly a small amount of good may be being done, Harman’s posturing completely and comprehensively fails the liberal test."

This closely matches the views of organisations that represent sex workers: that any technology that allows prostitutes to control their own direct access to clients tends to reduce abuses, while abolishing such channels of communication has the opposite effect.

Thus, Catherine Stephens, an activist with the International Union of Sex Workers (IUSW), was scathing of Ms Harman’s campaign against home-based sex workers using small ads in local newspapers to find clients, since one effect of this measure was to push those women with little technological nous – and therefore unable to move their businesses online - into the arms of agencies and managers. Less self-determination; more potential for abuse.

Similar criticisms have been levelled at other government initiatives in respect to sex work, including measures in the current Policing Bill to attack demand for prostitution by introducing draconian new laws targeting clients, leading Ms Stephens to conclude: "Talk to us, not at us."

As one individual posted to a discussion of Ms Harman's remarks on PunterNet itself: "The bit HH seems to be missing, is that sites like PunterNet ENABLE women who want to advertise the selling of sexual services independently, WITHOUT the need for a pimp". ®

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

More from The Register

next story
Doctor Who's Flatline: Cool monsters, yes, but utterly limp subplots
We know what the Doctor does, stop going on about it already
Facebook, Apple: LADIES! Why not FREEZE your EGGS? It's on the company!
No biological clockwatching when you work in Silicon Valley
'Cowardly, venomous trolls' threatened with TWO-YEAR sentences for menacing posts
UK government: 'Taking a stand against a baying cyber-mob'
Happiness economics is bollocks. Oh, UK.gov just adopted it? Er ...
Opportunity doesn't knock; it costs us instead
Arab States make play for greater government control of the internet
Nerds told to get lost in last-minute power grab bid at UN meeting
Zippy one-liners, broken promises: Doctor Who on the Orient Express
Series finally hits stride, but Clara's U-turn is baffling
Don't bother telling people if you lose their data, say Euro bods
You read that right – with the proviso that it's encrypted
Apple SILENCES Bose, YANKS headphones from stores
The, er, Beats go on after noise-cancelling spat
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
Win a year’s supply of chocolate
There is no techie angle to this competition so we're not going to pretend there is, but everyone loves chocolate so who cares.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.