Bindel's book takes on a difficult subject; but there's little balance here.

How Julie Bindel's new book challenges our assumptions about the "oldest profession"

Sex work is one of the biggest debates in feminism—to which Bindel's The Pimping of Prostitution: Abolishing the Sex Work Myth will be another strident contribution
September 12, 2017

“Prostitution is a human rights violation against women and girls,” writes journalist Julie Bindel on the first page of her new book. To many, this is a hugely provocative statement. The debate over the sex trade has become one of the loudest among feminists, with many arguing that Bindel’s position undermines the agency of women who freely engage in such work.

The book comes at a time of intense debate over legal frameworks around prostitution, with various forms of legalisation and decriminalisation gaining traction. Bindel comes out strongly in favour of the “Nordic model”—recently introduced in Ireland and France, among other places—which criminalises the buyer but not the seller of sex.

Bindel has spoken to dozens of “survivors” of the sex trade for the book, and their experiences make tough reading. She is right to argue that the sex trade is both a cause and consequence of women’s oppression. But there is no attempt at balance. She stresses the importance of listening to women in the sex trade, but dismisses the voices of those who disagree with her. In particular, her claim that there is no distinction between trafficking and voluntary sex work raises problems—although the line may be blurred.

Still, Bindel offers a powerful insight into her side of the argument—forcing readers to challenge the lazy assumption that the so-called “oldest profession” is an inevitability rather than an outcome of inequality.

The Pimping of Prostitution: Abolishing the Sex Work Myth by Julie Bindel  is published by Palgrave Macmillan (£22.50)