The Only 'Choice' in Prostitution Is That of the Customers

The prostitution scene illustrates the abusive and destructive balance of power between consumers and those caught up in its vicious cycle.

Vered Lee
Vered Lee
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Prostitutes in Tel Aviv.The photograph shows two figures wearing high boots standing on a street, their backs to the camera.
Prostitutes in Tel Aviv.Credit: Nir Kafri
Vered Lee
Vered Lee

“Hi, everyone. I’m new to the forum and I’m looking for a quality, service-oriented pregnant girl.” (From a website that offers sex for pay, January 19, 2015.)

The face of the homeless, addicted prostitute was sweaty; her hair was tied back, she looked tired. “Can I get condoms?” she asked Rani Halabi, a social worker who manages the mobile branch of the Levinsky Clinic operated by the Health Ministry. It was last week, in the early evening, on the street of the old Central Bus Station. Halabi gave her a generous amount of condoms for free.

The woman looked in distress at the condoms she’d been given, looked around at the other clients and then asked, “Can I get some more condoms?” Halabi gave her more, and added in a pained tone, “Take care of yourself.”

The woman nodded but didn’t answer. She looked disconnected and lost, her gaze wandered. Then she turned around and that’s when I saw that she was in an advanced state of pregnancy.

When I started to cover street prostitution 10 years ago I became clued into a mad, unseen phenomenon. Women addicted to drugs, living on the street and shackled to their dealers, have no choice to accede to clients’ periodic refusal to use contraception and they become pregnant from time to time.

Because of their neglected health, many of them only learn they are pregnant when they are at a relatively advanced stage. Some have abortions because they are addicted to drugs and the pregnancy poses a health risk, but some try with all their might to hold on to the new life growing inside their bodies, bodies that have been exploited and appropriated from them since they were children. They long for motherhood, especially since many of them have had children taken from them because of their addiction. A baby provides hope, a new opportunity.

During their pregnancies they become acquainted with an open secret; that the demand for paid sex with them increases when they’re pregnant, and especially when they are close to giving birth.

In the book “Abandoned – Women in Prostitution” by Anat Gur (Hakibbutz Hameuchad), a survivor of prostitution says, “I stood in the street with a real belly until two or three days before I gave birth. They prefer pregnant women and I don’t know why. In my opinion they’re sick.”

A phenomenon which for years was hushed up and existed only on the fringes of the sex industry has for some time now been openly acknowledged and has spread to the heart of the business, moving from the street scene to the “discreet apartments,” “Guest apartments,” “massage parlors” and “pampering spas,” (all euphemisms for brothels).

In 2012 I met pregnant prostitutes who were working in discreet apartments in the heart of Tel Aviv, who illustrated that the fringe of the sex industry had become mainstream and that the demand for pregnant women was no longer exceptional. On Internet forums one can find discussions of the issue, with some participants looking for recommendations while others criticize the “sexual performance” of a heavily pregnant prostitute whom they exploited for 100 shekels.

Time after time, the truth about the prostitution scene illustrates the abusive and destructive balance of power between the consumers of prostitution and those caught up in its vicious cycle. The only “choice” here is that of the sex customer, who blindly and immorally exploits human beings during their worst possible moments of distress.

The state must intervene in the sex-slave industry, which is expanding before our eyes into central cities all over the country and is becoming more and more brutal. The government must adopt the bill that outlaws prostitution and shifts the criminal burden to the customers being advanced by MKs Zehava Galon (Meretz) and Shuli Moalem-Rafaeli (Habayit Hayehudi).

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