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The Carlton Case. “These hearings recount slavery, not Libertinism”.

This case has shown how feeble the argument of the girls’ consent is.

Translated Monday 23 February 2015, by Adrian Jordan

For historian, Natacha Henry, the Carlton trial, burying the notion of happy prostitution, recalls the importance of the abolition of that act of domination, which prospers on the misery’.

Natacha Henry, historian, author of a biography of Marthe Richard.

What, according to you, do the hearings in the Carlton trial reveal?

Natacha Henry: A system in which men with money and power can, with impunity, place poor or very poor women into slavery. In that respect, I am not shocked, like some, by the sexual descriptions given in the hearing. On the contrary, they show the reality of prostitution. The argument, “I did not know they were paid”, says much about the feeling of omnipotence held by these people. Believing these girls would have done all that without being paid, just because they were blinded by their presence, reveals something: these gentlemen believe they are entitled to everything.

The concept of two forms of prostitution – one of subjugation and the other happy – is easy to dismiss...

Natacha Henry: In fact, this trial shows how bad things are and how much that “activity” prospers on misery. The hearings are not really the place to pose the question of the abolition of prostitution; for me they provoke a clear response: it must be abolished and quickly! To allow women to suffer like that because their fridge is empty can no longer be tolerated! The trial should also give rise to analysis of the vocabulary used: one tries to sanitize these violent interactions by speaking of “delightful parties” and “libertinism”, now outdated terms. That servile exploitation holds nothing of “libertinism”. Once, one spoke of “fun girls”. But whose fun? Rather they are “girls of sorrow”.

At the end of 2013, the proposed law against prostitution was shelved by the French Assembly. It will finally be debated at the end of March. Why so many problems?

Natacha Henry: That is a subject which splits France into two halves. Well meaning people think that legalization will ameliorate the daily lives of prostitutes, which is false. Having got its fingers burnt over the anti-”marriage for all” proposals, the government wanted to divert attention to a new social debate, since the abolitionist law would be politically difficult to implement. Its supporters are treated as reactionaries. However, if we follow it through, it will be a historic moment. In 1946, France closed its brothels, more because they had been the dens of collaborators than to protect the women involved. The myth has remained. That is why we must continue to seek the end of prostitution through education. So that people understand that it is a step towards, not away from, liberty.

On this point, have the law and attitudes evolved since 1946…

Natacha Henry: Yes. Actually twice, thanks to DSK, society has made a leap forwards! The Sofitel affair showed that a nine-second blow-job definitely constitutes a rape – albeit punctuated by a simple financial transaction and not a conviction. With Carlton, we can see how feeble the argument of the girls “consent” is. We are at the heart of sexism.

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