Why do men think it's ok to get their "Nuts" out in public?

To read a lads' mag in public is to declare that women's bodies are public property.

I don't know much about the man who sat two seats along from me on the flight home from Gatwick last night, but he made me deeply uneasy. I know that he's a Rangers fan, and that he's on Twitter, although I don't know his username, and that he doesn't see women as equals in society. How do I know the third fact? Because he spent a large part of the hour long flight reading, although that's probably the wrong word, the lads' magazine Nuts. This is not the first time that's happened recently. On a train journey to London in June, the guy in front of me was reading an actual proper porn magazine which made me feel really icky indeed.

Since when did it become socially acceptable to publicly ogle photos of half naked seductively posed women? The equivalent would be me sitting there openly looking at pictures of men's naked backsides - or worse. But we never see that. The ogling is all very one-sided. It's only women's bodies which are public property. To all the men reading this, how would you like it if you were in that position? I was travelling with a male friend who was equally disgusted with the display.

If men (I could say people, but who are we trying to kid here?) want to look at this stuff, then there's very little I can do to stop them, but for heavens' sake, can they not do it in the privacy of their own homes? When men ostentatiously read stuff like this in public, it's like they're making a huge statement that they see women as simply being there as window dressing, as decoration, as pleasure enhancers rather than their equals. They clearly feel that they have a right to own all the public space. I felt it was so rude of him and it made me feel uncomfortable. Now, I don't have the right to be protected from being offended, and nor am I asking for it, but I think I have every right to express my displeasure at such insensitive and crude behaviour. I am kicking myself today for not saying something to him at the time. This post will have to do. I'd love it if he read it and responded - I'd really like to know why he thought it was ok. On a plane, when you're all crammed in like sardines, what you look at, you share with the rest of your row whether they like it or not. Surely some sensitivity is required.

I must admit my friend and I had a discreet giggle and raised a few eyebrows between ourselves about the spectacle that was going on beside us.We mostly spent the flight chatting quietly. We were both incredulous, though, when to add insult to injury, this man gave a deep sigh and put on his headphones as though we were disturbing him.

It's good that we have become more relaxed about some of the things we do in public - I mean, when my husband was a little boy in the 50s, it was frowned upon to eat in the street. However, I think that casual browsing of pornography lite is going too far. Do you agree?

Caron Lindsay is a Lib Dem activist and blogger. This post originally appeared on her blog here. You can find her on Twitter as @caronmlindsay

A selection of Nuts magazine covers.
Photo: Getty Images/AFP
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Why is the government charging more women for selling sex but turning a blind eye to buyers?

Since 2013, the number of women charged for selling sex gone up while the number of men charged for buying it has gone down.

It’s no surprise that prostitution policy is an area rarely visited by our legislators. It’s politically charged - a place where the need to prevent exploitation seemingly clashes head on with notions of liberal freedom; where there are few simple answers, a disputed evidence base, and no votes.

There’s also little evidence to suggest that MPs are different from the rest of the population - where one-in-ten men have purchased sex. It is little wonder therefore that our report on how the law should change, published in 2014, was the first major cross-party intervention on the subject in twenty years.

Some take the view that by removing all legal constraints, it will make the inherently exploitative trade of prostitution, safer. It’s not just me that questions this approach, though I accept that - equally - there’s no consensus that my preferred measure of criminalising the purchase of sex, while decriminalising the sale, would fundamentally change the scale of the problem.

Where all sides come together, however, is in the desire to see women diverted from the law courts. It is still possible for women (and it still is women; prostitution remains highly genderised) to go to prison for offences related to prostitution. Today, in 2015.

The total number of prosecutions for all prostitution offences in England and Wales has been decreasing since 2010, but not in a uniform fashion. This does not reflect a reduction in the size of the trade, or the violent nature of it.

There were once consistently more prosecutions for kerb crawling, profiting, and control of prostitution. But since 2013, there have been more prosecutions for soliciting or loitering than for profit from prostitution and kerb crawling each year.

In simple terms, offences committed by men with choice, freedom and money in their pocket are having a blind eye turned to them, while women are being targeted - and this trend is accelerating. In the law courts, and in prosecutions, it is the most vulnerable party in the transaction, who is taking the burden of criminality.

Take on-street sex buying as an example. In 2013-14 just 237 prosecutions were brought for kerb crawling, but there were 553 - more than twice as many - for loitering and soliciting.

There is a similar pattern in the 2014/15 figures: 227 charges for kerb crawling reached court, while 456 prosecutions were initiated against those who were selling sex. Just 83 prosecutions for control of prostitution, or ‘pimping’, were brought in that same year.

These are men and women on the same street. It takes a high level of liberal delusion to be convinced that prostitution is caused by a surge of women wishing to sell sex, rather than men who wish to buy it. And yet women who sell sex are the ones being targeted in our law courts, not the men that create the demand in the first place.

This situation even goes against the Crown Prosecution Service’s (CPS) own guidance. They say:

“Prostitution is addressed as sexual exploitation within the overall CPS Violence Against Women strategy because of its gendered nature… At the same time, those who abuse and exploit those involved in prostitution should be rigorously investigated and prosecuted, and enforcement activity focused on those who create the demand for on-street sex, such as kerb crawlers.”

Why then, is this happening? For the same reason it always does - in our criminal justice system stigmatised, poor women are valued less than moneyed, professional men.

My debate in Parliament today raises these issues directly with the government ministers responsible. But to be honest, the prosecution-bias against women in the courts isn’t the problem; merely a symptom of it. This bias will only be tackled when the law reflects the inherent harm of the trade to women, rather than sending the mixed signals of today.

That’s why I welcome the work of the End Demand Alliance, composed of over 40 organisations working to end the demand that fuels sex trafficking and prostitution, advocating the adoption of the Sex Buyer Law throughout the UK.

This would criminalise paying for sex, while decriminalising its sale and providing support and exiting services for those exploited by prostitution. Regardless of these big changes in the law, I don’t see how anyone can support the current state of affairs where there are more prosecutions brought against women than men involved in prostitution.

The authorities are targeting women because they're easier to arrest and prosecute. It goes against their own guidance, common sense and natural justice.
And it needs to stop.

Gavin Shuker is MP for Luton South and chair of the All Party Group on Prostitution and the Global Sex Trade.