Prostitution ceases to be prostitution and becomes “sex work.” Moreover, earning money from one’s sexuality is portrayed as a job like any other. The left and the media that follow it are trivializing the serious social problem of selling one’s body.
“No one believed me that I had such a client who brought me canisters of gasoline. He worked for a state-owned company and had a fuel allowance. When he got more than he needed, he refueled my car in front of my building,” this is how the confession of “sex worker” Ola begins the report published by the gazeta.pl portal. The text has an unusually telling title: “Work like any other.” “Every day Ola starts by feeding her two cats. Both of them come to her. Then she either goes to the gym, where she has a personal trainer, or directly to her rented apartment, where she works. She has been in the business for a few months. She claims that in a ‘good month’ she earns up to 100,000 PLN. She wants to have enough money as soon as possible to buy an apartment in Zakopane and have, as she puts it, ‘passive income’. She previously worked in a bank, and is a lawyer by trade,” we read.
Once a bank employee and now a “sex worker,” thanks to her new profession she sometimes earns as much in a day as she did before for a whole month. Another of the protagonists, Joanna, is fed up with the taboo of prostitution in Poland (the word is used only once in the report, in a rather negative context; the left promotes the phrase “sex work”). “I love people. I believe that you can find something unique in everyone. And I would very much like to de-demonize sex work in Poland,” the woman hopes. Joanna sells videos over the Internet, and also meets clients in person. She assures that she maintains the necessary security measures – she doesn’t make appointments at home, she doesn’t give out her real data. She makes no secret of the fact that “sex work” brings her not only money, but also satisfaction: “The joy on their faces is like a shot of dopamine for me. When a client comes to me who hasn’t had sex in 20 years, and is happy after the meeting… that’s a wonderful feeling.”
The third protagonist of the report, Zoja, raises the formal aspect of her “profession.” “She would prefer sex work to be legal. We’re talking about pension contributions and health insurance, but also about labor rights,” the report reads. She works in the evenings, as she is a diligent chemistry student during the day. The woman recalls that she felt shame for a long time, but thanks to her breakup with her boyfriend, she opened up about “sex work.” “I was interested in it for a long time from the sociological side, and when my relationship fell apart, I prepared myself for it theoretically and substantively, and decided that I would try it,” she says. The other two protagonists of the article explicitly say that they do it for money.
Satisfaction of vanity
The report appeared in January and immediately caused quite a storm. Critics pointed out that it presented a candy-coated vision of prostitution as not only carrying virtually no risks – physical, mental, and emotional – but actually providing a sense of fulfillment as a way of life. As the title suggests – as valuable as any other. Each of the protagonists points to a different value of being a “sex worker” – easy money, gratification, satisfaction of vanity, independence. Interestingly, the author of the text is not a random journalist, but an assistant professor at the Institute of Literature and New Media at the University of Szczecin, Lukasz Muniowski.
A well-known sports journalist and founder of the YouTube channel Kanał Sportowy (“Sports Channel”), Krzysztof Stanowski, addressed the issue. “This is sick s***. You are soliciting prostitution. You’re using and drawing money from prostitution,” he did not mince his words. “Suicidal thoughts, severe mental states – this is real prostitution. And not theme parks and cash for nothing. But maybe this side of reality is not clickbait. Because on the portal of the newspaper it is the “optimal option.” My appeal to the pimps at Agora is this: stop f***ing up society, stop f****ing with the heads of young people! Enough is enough,” urged Stanowski in the YouTube program. It seems that the popular commentator thus expressed what the vast majority of Polish society still thinks about the “gentrification” of prostitution.
However, the arguments did not reach the head of the gazeta.pl portal. Rafal Madajczak decided to defend the positive tone of the text. “We had just such protagonists who feel good in their profession, and those were the ones we showed. We are not in the business of educating, but of showing the world. This piece of it is exactly like that,” the journalist argued. The outlet apparently took the one-sided “mission to show the world” so much to heart that just three weeks after Muniowski’s report, it published another article normalizing prostitution. This time it’s a description of an interview French writer Emma Becker gave. After writing her first book, she needed inspiration and money to publish another. During one of her walks in Berlin, she passed by the brothel “La Maison.” “It was then that she thought of enrolling herself in prostitution. This way she could work only twice a week, have something to live on, and the rest of the time she would describe her experiences,” reports the author of the text, Jakub Pierzak (a journalism student at the University of Wroclaw).
Although this article is less controversial than Lukasz Muniowski’s report, it takes an equally uncritical approach to the issue of prostitution. “It might seem that working in a brothel might disgust sex. For the writer, the experience of prostitution allowed her to improve her intimate life. She stopped seeking approval from her partners and focused more on her desires,” emphasizes the journalist, stressing the positive sides of “sex work.” Here, too, there was a lack of attention to the risks associated with “the world’s oldest profession.”
After articles published by gazeta.pl were accused of total bias, the medium decided to serve its readers a “factual basis.” This is an interview with sociologist Agata Dziuban, who, although she talks about the risks of the “sex industry” (another smooth euphemism), emphasizes how demanding this occupation is. “We need to realize that sex work is not only physical, carnal work, but very often also emotional and caring work, assuming care for the other person, his body and emotions,” the expert argues. Dziuban, who is a member of the Sex Work Poland group, a “coalition for the rights of female sex workers,” calls for the legalization of prostitution. The sociologist explains that this will make “sex workers” safer. How many such people are there in Poland? “The number that has appeared for many years in police statistics is 200,000 sex workers. I think, however, that it is greatly underestimated. It is safe to say that there are several hundred thousand sex workers in Poland,” Agata Dziuban states.
An interesting comment on the sociologist’s words was made by Warsaw activist Jan Spiewak, who can hardly be accused of excessive sympathy for the conservative right. In a text on the i.pl portal, he listed a number of arguments proving that the legalization of prostitution is not at all a “pro-woman” activity. “Of course, the legalization of prostitution will benefit the organizers. Mainly men. Today the petty and larger mafia, and tomorrow probably well-organized corporations. It is no coincidence that the activities of the Sex Work Poland organization are supported through its foundations by the well-known financial speculator George Soros, who financed the creation of the Balcerowicz plan,” Singer points out.
Deputy Justice Minister Marcin Romanowski intervened. In February, he filed a complaint against both texts published on gazeta.pl to the Media Ethics Council. The politician noted that the journalists’ conduct was “contrary to the law and the rules of professional ethics.” Romanowski pointed out that Lukasz Muniowski and Jakub Pierzak promote prostitution, which “is extremely socially and personally harmful behavior.”
The deputy head of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs also assessed that the authors, by quoting the women’s statements, were intended to “arouse positive associations, suggesting that for women without qualifications and experience, prostitution brings much greater material benefits than the usual form of employment.” Not insignificant,” Marcin Romanowski argued in the complaint, “is the fact that such publications are harmful to children and teenagers who read them. The MEC, however, did not share the deputy minister’s reservations. “Everyone has the right to express critical opinions about what he or she reads about in the media, but opposition or aversion to the controversial subject of the publication, or the facts presented by the journalist and the accounts of his or her interlocutors, does not mean that there must have been a violation of the ethical principles of the journalistic profession,” the response stressed. According to MEC, in the indicated articles “there is no justification for the allegations of violation of any of the principles enshrined in the Media Ethics Charter.”
Evidence of narrow-mindedness
The gazeta.pl portal was joined by Krytyka Polityczna in publishing on its website a polemic against Krzysztof Stanowski, written by sociologist Jan Radomski, a doctoral student at Adam Mickiewicz University. Putting himself in the role of a scientific authority, he tries to convince that speaking out about the promotion of prostitution in simple and blunt language is merely an expression of intellectual weakness. Radomski tries to prove that “sex work” is a topic like any other, present in the academic world for a long time, so the outrage over raising it in a layman’s way is most likely evidence of narrow-mindedness.
“Sex work has been studied for many years by both academia and NGOs. Stanowski’s derided ‘sex work’ (so strange that it can’t cross his throat and elicits a contemptuous smile!) is a concept that has been clearly defined and widely described for several decades. It differs from prostitution primarily in that the latter is a narrower concept and implies the need for direct contact with the client or customer. Over time, ‘prostitution’ has also been captured by political, legal, or moral discourse, so that it has lost its neutrality and become the subject of a power play. That’s why the term is being abandoned as insufficiently precise, and at the same time strongly characterized and emotionally charged,” Jan Radomski explains to readers.
He goes on to cite a scientific study conducted in the early 2000s by Basil Donovan and Christine Harcour. They purport to show that, “sex is, at the very least, a form of interaction such as erotic dancing or the maintenance of social relationships in which sex – broadly defined – is only an optional element.” The sociologist lists a number of authorities (sometimes “authorities”) – starting with the World Health Organization and ending with Australian “sex worker” Elena Jeffreys – to convince the reader that the word “prostitution” modern man simply does not use. Then, with an almost naive openness to foreign cultures while contempt for the culture of his own people, characteristic of the left-liberal style of thinking, Jan Radomski preaches about morality.
“Morality is relative and diverse. Sex work has many very different forms. There are places in the world where pornography is illegal, yet polygamy is a marker of prestige. There are those where the use of a sex worker is an important part of puberty for teenage boys,” he states. Following this line of reasoning, in “our” place in the world, grown out of Christianity, so-called sexual freedom and its ever-newer varieties, is still a socially unacceptable element (heavily generalizing). However, disrespect for one’s own traditions and ethical-cultural code, is a trait belonging to native progressives.
A symbol of society
Although the texts described above have been generating lively discussion in recent months, their goal – that is, on the one hand, to package the sad phenomenon of prostitution into an attractive form; on the other, to bring about the legalization of prostitution – is definitely not new. The Left as a political party has been raising this issue for years. “The symbol of sex workers is an umbrella, but this umbrella should also be a symbol of society as a whole, under which everyone will find shelter,” Joanna Scheuring-Wielgus appealed in 2021.
However, the aforementioned Sex Work Poland organization, part of the European network International Committee On The Rights Of Sex Workers In Europe, was established as early as 2014 “in response to the lack of representation of female sex workers in Poland and the lack of initiatives directing non-stigmatizing support for sex workers,” its website reads. “The sex industry is criminalized in Poland. Although the provision of sex work itself (‘prostitution’) is not illegal, however, the activities of so-called third parties related to the organization of sex work are criminalized, which consequently relegates sex workers to a gray, semi-criminal zone (all labor relations and workplaces are criminalized). Penalties may be imposed on the (arbitrarily understood) ‘pushy’ offering of sex work. Income from sex work is not illegal, but sex workers are not allowed to register their activities, pay taxes on their income, and make pension and health care contributions,” the activists explain. These demands are perfectly summarized by the title of the first one described in this text, “Work like any other.”
Why does the Left trivialize the subject of prostitution, taking it out of the realm of taboo? This is one way to deconstruct the traditional form of social life (in which one man lives in a permanent relationship with one woman, having each other “exclusively”), to loosen them up and destroy them. The next stage is to take over the “government of souls” and model the next generations, according to a set of modern (anti-)values. The enemy, as in feminist ideology, is patriarchy, understood also in the context of the influence of the Catholic Church.
The traditional perception
At the same time, the struggle for the “rights of the sex industry” is worth looking at in a broader context – that of the postmodern revolution (one of its other manifestations, extremely advanced primarily in the US, is the practical implementation of the assumptions of critical race theory and queer theory; others, so far less common, are disability studies and fat studies), in which an attempt is made to overthrow the “system of oppression.” The traditional perception of the issue of corporeality is just such a “system” from which women need to be liberated.
As Helen Pluckrose and James Lindsay (by no means conservatives) write, in their extremely valuable book Cynical Theories, “postmodern thought is based on theoretical principles and ways of seeing the world, not on claims of truth. Because of its rejection of objective truth and reason, postmodernism refuses to justify itself and therefore cannot be argued with.” There is no truth, no right and wrong, no reprehensible and praiseworthy deeds.
Also useful in understanding the origins of the thinking of the leftist milieu is the standpoint theory – it states that there is no objective truth, so only what I feel is true. Thus, for example, a white, heterosexual man, even with maximum goodwill and empathy, is not able to point out the problems (fields of discrimination) that a black lesbian faces on a daily basis. Their interests must sooner or later come into conflict, So, if, returning to the main topic, the “sex worker” argues that her profession should be viewed positively and legalized, then she must be right (because only she knows what it is like to be a “sex worker”), and society must meet these demands. Sounds unbelievable? It is worth noting that the processes that are taking place in Western Europe, and in some cases have already taken place, are not bypassing Poland.
No one claims that “sex work” does not exist. On the contrary. It has existed and will continue to exist, in our cultural circle always in the shadows, as something shameful – both for those who provide such services and those who use them. However, the fact that prostitution is the “world’s oldest profession” does not mean that the state should sanction it and the general public should consider it the norm.