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The forgotten victims of prostitution

By Jehane Sharah - posted Wednesday, 12 November 2008

The International Day of No Prostitution, held last month, came and went with little fanfare. Unsurprisingly, it got almost no media coverage. These days, prostitution is a given. Any debate that does occur usually centres on the glamorisation of the sex industry or its polar opposite, the seamy world of human trafficking.

While these conversations are important, there are victims of the trade of prostitution who rarely get a mention: the partners of the men who use them.

When a woman discovers that her partner has been using prostitutes, she can experience trauma on a number of levels. Not only does she have to deal with the grief and betrayal, but she also has to face the possibility that she may have contracted a sexually transmitted disease. Then there is the indignity of learning that the family finances have been whittled away on her partner’s sexual habit.


The psychological impact of discovering a partner is using a prostitute can also be severe: a woman’s confidence can be shattered by such an experience and it is not uncommon for her to blame herself. And she would not be alone in doing so. When such stories emerge, some sections of society also like to point the finger at the partners of “Johns”.

Take the case of the former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer, who was forced to resign after it was revealed he had a penchant for high-class escorts.

In her column in the Canberra Times, Virginia Haussegger chastised Spitzer’s wife for standing by her man, only to then paint her as complicit in the whole affair.

Haussegger wrote: “It is Silda who is the most humiliated party here. Her husband's repeated expenditure on expensive prostitutes speaks volumes about their marriage and their unfulfilling sex life as a couple.”

The implication was clear: Silda wasn’t satisfying her man, so her man strayed. Perhaps the ABC newsreader had an inside knowledge of what goes on in the Spitzers’ bedroom; although I would hazard a guess that she was simply jumping to the sorts of conclusions that a philandering man would want us to.

For all we know, Silda is a vixen between the sheets. Maybe her husband just liked the power of paying for sex, or perhaps he wanted to fornicate with someone young enough to be his daughter. We could speculate on such unpleasant thoughts all day long, but we will never know why he did what he did.


When so-called feminists such as Haussegger claim that women are somehow to blame for their partners’ infidelity, ultimately it sends the message that the behaviour is acceptable.

Another member of the “sisterhood”, British columnist Minette Marrin, wrote in The Sunday Times that married men are justified in using prostitutes, partly because they are generally more fun in bed:

Right up and down the scale, a man can rent a girl a great deal better and more cooperative than the woman he lives with. She will be probably be much more sexually experienced and more accomplished than most wives too. In plain English, or so I am told by perfectly nice men, prostitutes tend to be better at it.

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About the Author

Jehane Sharah is a freelance journalist and communications student at the University of Canberra.

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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