Opinion: A matter of libido

POSTED: 12/3/13 12:09 PM

Fabian Schurgers is a writer and a game designer. He also has a remarkable opinion about prostitution and the men that frequent these working girls. In the Volkskrant, Schurgers found a podium to express that opinion. Well start with his conclusion and then we’ll analyze the rest and offset it against the opinion of our own Ombudsman Dr. Nilda Arduin.

“Maybe it is something we do not want to see or know, but in my opinion prostitution is part of every civilization, of every culture and society, in all parts of the world. It is about time that we acknowledge and accept that.”

Good point Fabian: for more than 2,000 years, the churches have attempted to eradicate prostitution and they got nowhere. Prostitution is here to stay so one way or the other we have to deal with it.

Schurgers is concerned about the trend towards the Swedish model whereby visiting prostitutes is illegal and clients face high penalties if they are caught. Articles about ways to curb or even totally ban prostitution are mostly based on the argument that it does not belong in a modern and civilized society, that it is all about human trafficking and that it is under any conditions humiliating.

Schurgers approaches the issue from his position as a man. That goes like this: “The man is a biological being. No force of nature is stronger, no urging more intense, than his male libido.”

Roger that,

“This is not a hollow argument, this is a force I experience myself, a force like a tsunami or a firestorm that goes to war with all the limitations society and civilization have imposed.”

Schurgers continues his argument saying that this force of nature needs to be channeled, within a relationship or within a marriage. In a society where more and more people are living alone, he adds, and where more and more people divorce, that is a point of concern.

That’s where prostitutes get into the picture – at least, according to Schurgers. We could offer some tips for alternative solutions to his dilemma, but we figure that he has thought of everything by now. Suppressing the libido or keep quiet about it, neglecting the male urge to reproduce, is dangerous and undesirable, he says.

And here is another one to think about: civilization, culture and good manners are in the end no match for the raw primal power for the urge to reproduce. We’re sorely tempted to think that Schurgers does not consider sex a recreational and fun activity between two people who care for each other.

But anyway, our man considers prostitutes a good outlet for his primal urges. Their services meet a need, “not only to procreate, but also the feel of a female body, the touch of a woman.” Schurgers adds that, speaking from personal experience, this has a calming influence on men that tames the firestorms of their libido.

Wow, we get that this is the male point of view. It is, in a way, a sad story, but Schurgers is not done yet. He foresees big trouble if ever there comes a ban on prostitution – something as unlikely as St. Maarten getting a positive advice from the Council of State about the integrity Royal Decree. For good measure, Schurgers uses terms as criminals, rapists and abusers to depict the qualifications for the clientele of prostitutes under the Swedish model.

Here is the kicker: Schurgers calls for a stop to the trend towards criminalizing prostitution “because the male customer is in many cases already much more vulnerable.”

We certainly do not roger that.

“Often he does not have a relationship, no girlfriend, nobody to put an arm around him, nobody that really gives him the feeling to be a man. He is looking for it outside of his home, something that he is in many cases not proud off either,” Schurgers notes.

The author warns that criminalizing prostitution will make these men angry, aggressive and mad at the society.

Before we start to cry and feel sorry for all those men without a proper outlet for their libido, we’d like to look at this issue from the other side: the women, the working girls as they are euphemistically called. Yes, they offer a service, but how many women end up in prostitution out of their own free will? How many women are forced into this business, either by brute force and threats to their families, by lies about jobs as exotic dancers, and by sheer poverty?

Compared to the misery that is to be found in the background of a large majority of prostitutes, Schurgers’ libido-problems are literally small potatoes – and we’re not trying to be funny here.

Ombudsman Dr. Nilda Arduin made a stand for all these women when she took the prostitution article from the draft criminal code for review to the Constitutional Court. That this court did not fully follow the Ombudsman’s arguments does not matter. The main  issue is that Arduin made a point that cannot be misunderstood.

Her objection is against article 2:212, that reads: “He who, without permission from the Minister of Justice, makes a habit or a profession of the intentional causing or promoting of sexual intercourse against payment by others with third parties, will be punished with a prison sentence of no more than 4 years of a fine of the fifth category.”

While the article seems to make prostitution illegal, it makes it in fact legal as long as the brothel owners has a permit from the justice ministry. The Ombudsman considers the article a genuflection to the rampant brothel industry on the island.

The Ombudsman stated in her petition to the Constitutional Court that every form of legalizing the industry “necessarily will result in a violation of the fundamental rights of the women involved, as they are established in the State Regulation.”

Organized prostitution violated human dignity, it has links to criminal activities against personal freedom and the ban on human trafficking. They are of such a nature, the ombudsman argued, that a permit could serve as blind and offer protection to brothel owners who commit serious forms of exploitation and other crimes.

Here is the kicker: the Ombudsman doubted, she stated in her petition to the court, that the conditions for the permit would effectively offer protection to especially foreign prostitutes who remain in a vulnerable position. The Ombudsman asked the Constitutional Court to eliminate the phrase “without permission from the Minister of Justice” from article 2:212; this way, prostitution would remain a criminal offense.

The government countered that regulating the industry would offer better protection to prostitutes.

The Constitutional Court ruled that, “the government is obliged to refrain from unlawful violations of fundamental rights. The government also is obliged to actively protect the individual citizen and his personal freedom.

However, the European Human Rights Court does not require an unconditional obligation to make the exploitation of prostitution punishable by law. There is no consensus about this obligation in Europe and the Netherlands is of course one of the countries where prostitution has been legalized.

Curacao has abolished the criminalization of prostitution in its State Regulation. The country only offers protection by prosecuting human trafficking and exploitation.

The Constitutional Court agreed with the Ombudsman that in a decriminalized prostitution sector the danger of excesses like exploitation and violation of fundamental rights are lying in wait.

But the court contested the position that a permit system bound by conditions can never be effective. It furthermore noted that a permit is not a license for brothel-owners to commit criminal acts against their employees.

So now we are waiting for the conditions the justice ministry will set for brothel-owners who want to obtain a permit for their whorehouse. The government has indicated that it will anchor the rules in legislation. But like with many things in St. Maarten, this is a work in progress – status unknown.

For the time being whore-hoppers like Fabian Schurgers have nothing to worry about. Their libido will be taken care off. Whether the same is true for the girls that provide the service is a completely different question.


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