The funniest novel ever written, The Good Soldier Švejk by Jaroslav Hašek, features a pimp as a minor character.
That creative fellow comes up with an ingenious way of charging customers: a menu of female attributes, each with a price tag attached.
A customer can order his preferences from the list: big, small; blonde, brunette; tall, short – that sort of thing.
One rubric gives a choice of educated, uneducated, with the latter being considerably more expensive.
The book should be compulsory reading for the female students of Brighton University, especially when they begin to consider their future professions in earnest. If they study some genuine academic subjects (not to be taken for granted with today’s universities), they may find themselves at a disadvantage when pursuing careers in prostitution.
But not to worry: their university offers invaluable guidance, preparing girls as young as 18 to negotiate their way through the undercurrents of that lucrative and rewarding occupation.
At its freshers’ fair, the university hosts a stand run by the Sex Workers’ Outreach Project (Swop), an advice service “representing student sex workers”. Apparently the word ‘prostitutes’ has been deemed to be too judgemental.
The advice on offer covers the use of condoms and lubricants (free samples provided at the stand), and also ways of making ‘punters’ believe the girl has a pimp even if she hasn’t. That subterfuge is supposed to deter post-coital aggression manifesting itself in violence.
I don’t know whether advice on S&M is also provided, complete with the appropriate kits of whips, chains and PVS attire, but that would be a good idea. Without offering a full range of services, a student may find herself losing out to better-trained competition.
“Sex work is work,” explained a spokesman for Swop, meaning work like any other, a workwoman worthy of her hire and all that.
I agree. Prostitution is indeed work – and hard work at that. Then again, so are burglary, theft and contract killing. That is to say, in a distinctly reactionary way, that not all work possesses redemptive value.
Now, mentioning the moral and aesthetic aspects of propositioning passersby (“Oi, handsome, wanna have a party?”) would be too curmudgeonly for words. But the legal side of that profession is a matter of objective fact, not subjective judgement.
While prostitution itself is legal in Great Britain, soliciting isn’t, which is a bit like legalising drugs but criminalising offering them for sale. Defeats the purpose, doesn’t it?
Thus a girl taught at Brighton University that sex work is just work, like accounting or nursing, may, should she try to flog her wares, find herself on the receiving end of a criminal conviction.
This may curtail her opportunities in any career other than prostitution: even if the applicant doesn’t mention her prior trade in the ‘experience’ rubric, potential employers do run background checks.
But who says a woman has to retrain for a different career in later life? Isn’t prostitution work like any other, and more remunerative than some? It also requires less training than most, and whatever little is needed Swop is on hand to provide.
If Hašek is to be believed, the girls must be taught to increase their earning potential by concealing their education, but that would be no hardship, considering what most of our universities have become.
The University of Brighton, for example, is one of those polytechnics rebranded as universities in keeping with our commitment to class struggle and equality across the board. It was elevated to that status only in 1992, one of the hundreds of such sham institutions.
They were created to make it possible for our Conservative (!) government to announce proudly that Tony Blair’s cherished dream is about to come true: half of our young people will get university education.
This worthy goal is only achievable by changing the meaning of the word ‘university’ and attaching it to polytechnics and other professional training schools. Enter Brighton University, its doors hospitably open to Swop.
To this institution’s credit, however, it doesn’t pay for that esteemed organisation to supplement the students’ courses in women’s studies and other equally valuable academic disciplines.
But if the university doesn’t pay Swop, who does? After all, free brochures, condoms, lubricants, fishnets and PVC knickers don’t grow on trees. So where does the money come from?
From you, is the short answer. For Swop is financed by the NHS, the Home Office and other government departments, the National Lottery and the local council. So if you ever wonder where your taxes go, here’s part of the answer.
I don’t think that’s quite what John Henry Newman had in mind when he published his 1856 book The Idea of a University. The university’s soul, he wrote, lies in the mark it leaves on the students.
So if the mark is that of a whore, what sort of soul does the university have? Rhetorical question, this. Don’t bother to answer.