So I had just come in from a 10 mile run (yes I am fit like that, any questions?) and was trying to catch up on my social media reading before heading out for work, when I happened upon the current update on MyMindSnaps for the day, the one titled IN HER OPINION: Brave Women Choose Prostitution, penned by Ms. Eketi Ette. To be honest, I haven’t been very regular on MMS; each day in my life is an exercise in chaos, in which I have to find time to exercise, eat (gbo gbo foodie here), go to work, catch up with friends, and play dad to my two-year-old German shepherd. That means that most of the time, I am late to the party and I have to catch up days or sometimes weeks later.
The title of that article intrigued me and I clicked to read it. You see, prostitution is something that has fascinated me for a few years and something that I have had loads of questions about. It is also something I have done quite a lot of reading up on, and I have had the privilege of speaking to a few women who identify as prostitutes openly, and their experiences have changed my mind-set on prostitution. I remember once I was at a pub with my friends in Ikeja, drinking beers and arguing about politics, when police vans started pulling up and policemen tumbled out and began forcing the prostitutes who worked that area into the van. One of my friends said that it served the women right and that prostitutes were a social menace. I clapped back at him instantly. Prostitution serves an important purpose in our society and if the government (which had made the trade illegal anyway) wanted to get rid of prostitutes from our streets, they should begin by arresting the men who patronize them. I am sure some of you remember your high school economics; to get rid of supply, take away the demand and watch supply vanish. So I told my friend that the government should arrest the men who pull over to pick up these women and watch how fast the women would disappear from the streets.
But I digress.
So back to Ms. Eketi’s article, which to be honest, I found quite condescending and downright patronizing. In my opinion, she did exactly what she was writing in condemnation of. She judged the women who are prostitutes. When I first started reading her article, I was excited. I was thinking to myself that Nigerians are finally realizing that prostitutes have a role to play in every society and we should respect their desire to sell sex. Allow me to digress a little again: I recently listened to a podcast by Ozoz Sokoh who to me is one of the greatest chefs the world has ever produced (yes, argue that in your toilet). At some point, the interviewer asked Ms. Sokoh that being a chef on the side and spending all that time in the kitchen, was she not pandering to the stereotype that African woman belong in the kitchen. Ozoz laughed and said that to her, the main message that feminism tries to preach is that everybody – not just women – should be allowed to do exactly what they want to do (I am paraphrasing now), and that nobody should appropriate unto themselves the power to decide for others what to do with their lives.
So I was reading Eketi’s article and nodding in appreciation of her logic, until I got to where she clarified what prostitution meant to her. She said:
“I am not referring to runs girls who do it out of greed and solely for money…”
And that is where she started judging without realizing it. That was the point she lost me. Her whole article was hinged on the fact that because some of these women go into it prostitution out of hardship, we might as well cut them some slack, a veiled hint that prostitution is not a good thing. And while cutting these ones some slack, we can go ahead to slam and shame those ones who go into it out of sheer greed. This to me reeks of double standards, and these double standards were honestly created by her.
We fail to acknowledge that there are women who go into prostitution simply because they want to, simply because they feel it is something they would enjoy doing. Not every woman goes into selling sex because she is from an impoverished background or because life dealt her a lot of bad cards. There are women who go into this trade because they want to, because they enjoy it, and because they feel this is the best choice for them at the time. And not one of us has the right to tell that them their choice is not valid. I remember arguing about this with my friend who was shaming prostitutes and I asked him the difference between a prostitute and an athlete; after all, both of them sell their bodies for money. I will tell you that essentially, there is no difference. Women like Serena Williams spend weeks training to sharpen their skills, and play these games with their bodies and strength (hello here), and some of them even sustain injuries at the end. Please tell me how that is different from prostitution, except that in your head somewhere, you have balanced on a moral high ground and you believe that sex is something for a woman to be ashamed of and something that in some way debases her. I could write a thesis on this point but let me move on.
As I read on, determined to let that bit of condescension slide, I happened upon another line Eketi delivered with chilling accuracy:
“Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying prostitution is necessarily a good thing…”
That was the point she balanced herself on that moral high ground that Nigerians are famous for mounting. Prostitution is not a good thing? Oh really? Who made it so? You? Who made the rules and made you – anyone – judge and jury to decide for others what is right or wrong? My intention is not to be rude to Ms. Eketi, but I would like her to see the huge irony in the piece that she penned, one that ended up being a contradiction of herself. Morality is very relative and nobody gets to be a moral compass for the other person. Most people who oppose prostitution will tell me that “our culture” is against it, or that “our holy books” are against it. And each of these arguments makes me laugh a throaty laugh. Culture, you say? The same culture that permits you to offer your wife to your guest for the night? Or the culture that allows you to inherit your brother’s wife when he dies? Please let’s not reach here. As for religion? That one is another LONG matter, and time and space will not permit me to delve into that here today.
So what is my point really? It’s simple. We must respect the rights of women to sell sex if they want to. Not all prostitutes are “pushed” into it by circumstances. Some of these women simply chose that path, and we must respect individual choices, no matter how dissenting they are to us. This is the same narrative I see when LGBT rights are mentioned, and just yesterday somebody asked me if we should also respect the rights of rapists and murderers, since it is their decision to rape and kill. I laughed and told him that any choice which somebody makes that doesn’t have any externalities is none of your business, and you should butt out of it. Consequent upon this, if two (consenting) adults of same gender decide to have sex, it is not your business. And if an adult woman out of her own volition decides to sell sex, we should respect that because prostitution doesn’t have to be caused. Sometimes it just is.
My friend, the one who I discussed this issue with, asked me a question: “Will you let your daughter be a prostitute?” I took a long sip of my coffee before responding that if I’ve learned anything from my parents’ parenting experience, it would be that your children will always do whatever it is they want to do, and that there is very little you can do about it. So if my daughter decides that prostitution is the path she wants to toe in life, I will get out of the way and let her do her thing.
Written by Franklyne Ikediasor
Franklyne Ikediasor is a brand executive by day and a writer by night. He thinks coffee makes every book interesting and he enjoys running, cycling and getting together with friends to share bouts of wine-fulled laughter. He tweets @FabulousGuy_