Comment: The problems of Parisian prostitution

Written by Anonymous

Saturday 10 AM, the morning after the night before having spent a (relatively) innocent evening at a friend’s house party, I suck up what little dignity I have left and do the long walk of shame home.

Despite looking admittedly worse for wear, a spare pair of black tights and jacket worn to the party came in very handy covering a somewhat large proportion of my shame. Dishevelled and exhausted, I finally reached the street entrance to my apartment building when I heard a voice from behind…

Sex shops - ricardo.martins
Glowing shop fronts of the Parisian red light district, this is where trafficked people can end up.

I turned round to greet an innocuous looking man asking for directions, he was clean, middle aged, middle class, average looking: your typical mondeo man. He asked for directions to a nearby embassy which quite blatantly didn’t exist, confused but comforted by his calm, polite manner, I assumed he was just a clueless tourist.

After explaining that I knew the area well and had never heard of such embassy, he told me he had a piece of paper with directions on that he had written earlier…

Mondeo man opened his wallet as though to search forthe directions, but instead started flicking through his wads and wads of 50 and 100 euro notes. Embarrassed and becoming increasingly uncomfortable, I looked away as though to give him and his money some privacy, turning back a few seconds later to find a condom sticking out of his wallet followed by “Does this interest you?”

Horrified, I shouted at him in disgust and slammed the door to my apartment building. Mondeo man was so calculated and smooth in his actions, this was obviously not the first time he had approached a woman in this way.

In a big city like Paris, prostitutes can be found everywhere, day and night, although certainly not in the area I live in. They can be spotted by a mile off, wearing intentionally cheap sexually inviting clothing sporting a cheek-achingly fake smile. Obviously after my walk of shame, I was a little overdressed for a Saturday morning and my face could’ve done with a bit of a scrub, but wearing my black tights and my blazer I can wholeheartedly say I have no idea how anyone could’ve mistaken me for a prostitute!

I guess I’m just bitter, or maybe I really should rethink my wardrobe. Although I am a self-professed sexually-liberated woman, I think being paid for sex just about crosses the boundary…

The problem is, seeing as I’m a foreigner living in Paris with a blatant accent, I’m often mistaken for an Eastern European as I don’t have the typical English rose look. Many women and sometimes even children are trafficked from these areas for the purpose of sexual exploitation. A lucrative industry, it has been identified as the fastest growing criminal industry in the world, second to drug trafficking. What’s even sadder is that the majority of these victims are usually found in dire circumstances, targeted by their traffickers as they are vulnerable and easily manipulated. Exploiting these vulnerabilities and the lack of opportunities available to victims, traffickers offer promises of employment and education overseas but instead force victims into different sex trades where they are often enduring physical and physiological abuse at the hands of their pimps and madams.

Human trafficking is a serious violation of human rights and a global problem, even in western countries such as Amsterdam, where the prostitution is regulated and monitored. Traffickers take the passports of their victims, often threatening their families if they ever attempt to escape. Victims are still terrified even when approached for help by police as their traffickers have such a tight emotional grip they feel no one is able to help them break out of the vicious circle.

So, if you ever find yourself tempted in a mondeo man moment, save yourself the embarrassment and the possibility of mistaking a prostitute, and if not? Think about the vicious circle you could be feeding.

Originally published 23.09.2012

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