Canadian Tories Defy Elites by Criminalizing Prostitution

In the polyester-clad fast food industry, there’s an unnamed universal law which holds that eventually, even the most exotic delicacy will become a $5.99 soy-based value meal. We want the exotic, but we want it affordable, fast, convenient and blandly uniform.

In this, the age of pornography, lust has become almost indistinguishable from the gluttony which has turned all food into paste. For both, processed fruits are gorged upon with uninspired, mindless boredom.

Fornication and adultery are no longer the awful defiling of the union of husband and wife, or worse still, a desecrating debasement of the physical metaphor for the relationship between Christ and His Church. We no longer marry and we no longer pray. Sexual desire is no longer enticed by the veiled and suggestive; the crescendo of a cultivated longing. Neither is it a furious engine at the core of our being, comingling the highest and the lowest; feverish sensuality and romantic idealization. It is just an itch to be scratched, dull-eyed and sloppy. Hell really isn’t very high end.

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And so following another unnamed universal law, Entertainment Weekly reports that “A&E has greenlit a provocative new reality series in which a man tries to convince prostitutes to quit their jobs.”

“The network has ordered eight episodes of 8 Minutes (working title), a series featuring cop-turned-pastor Kevin Brown surprising escorts in hotel rooms and offering to rescue them from a life of trading sex for cash.”

Just in case you were wondering if this might be a redeeming morality play, or whether it’s just a fig leaf for hypocrites who want to look at prostitutes, the interview is instructive. Executive Producer Tom Forman is asked: “There seems to be a surge of reality shows with more nudity or sexual themes lately. Is there something to the theory that we’ve been so inundated with reality formats over the years that shows need to really shock to stand out?”

Tom’s answer: “Maybe. I also produce Sex Box over at WeTV. This one is certainly edgy, and it’s a loud idea, and it’s a television thriller. It grabs you and does not let go for an hour….”

Cop-turned-pastor Kevin Brown may be a saint, but it sounds like the producer is intent upon making a silk purse into a sow’s ear.

In Revolt of the Elites, cultural historian Christopher Lasch lamented the demise of nobless oblige—the obligation of the powerful and wealthy to enrich the lives of the poor. He wrote about particular obligations to home communities, and how the wealthy endowed symphonies, libraries and universities in the communities in which they lived. Lasch cast cold light on corporate outsourcing and how the new wealthy are not committed to any particular place or even culture. I guess the closest thing to nobles oblige today would be the via negativa localism of Warren Buffet and The Bill and Belinda Gates Foundation. Their support for their own communities is more by way of demotion of other communities, spending hundreds of millions of dollars on sterilizing poor brown people in the developing world.

One might try our state appointed guardians, but looking at dignified pictures of the American or Canadian Supreme Court Justices one can’t help but wonder if they even know that there are people living beyond their vaulted Romanesque chambers. Do they have any idea of the flesh and blood consequences of the evils their rulings have unleashed?

In December of 2013 the Supreme Court of Canada struck down the country’s laws on prostitution, such as they were. Before the ruling, prostitution itself wasn’t illegal, however the law did prohibit “keeping a brothel, making a living from prostitution and street soliciting.” But in yet another instance of truth being stranger than fiction, the court found that Canada’s prostitution laws violated the guarantee to life, liberty and security of the person—for the good decent types who make their livings facilitating prostitution.

So the little legal censor which existed around prostitution was struck down because it interfered with the rights of “drivers, managers and bodyguards” to make a living driving, managing and protecting (sic) prostitutes.

The Conservative government in Canada is far from perfect, but sometimes it lives up to its ideals, and so to fill the legal void, the Harper Conservatives passed into law Bill C-36, which criminalizes the purchase of sex, but not its sale. According to Justice Minister Peter McKay, the law gives “immunity” to prostitutes so they can ply their trade more safely. But McKay has said that their goal is to end the sex trade, and they are seeking to do so by attacking the demand side, criminalizing johns.

This does not satisfy the Ontario provincial government, which has the responsibility of enforcing—or not enforcing—criminal laws passed by the feds. According to the National Post: “[Premier] Kathleen Wynne… has “grave concern” that the new rules dealing with the world’s oldest profession won’t be any better than the old system when it comes to protecting prostitutes from harm. ‘I am not an expert, and I am not a lawyer, but as premier of this province, I am concerned that this legislation (now the law of the land) will not make sex workers safer.’ ”

Alan Young, an associate professor at Osgoode Hall Law School pointed out: “The provinces can decide to nullify a new enactment simply by refusing to prosecute cases brought under this law.” Wynne claims her objections are rooted in concern for the wellbeing of prostitutes, but her unwillingness to join the federal Conservatives in their efforts to end the sex trade makes her concern for the wellbeing of prostitutes dubious. Has the Supreme Court of Canada or the Premier of Ontario stopped to think about how awful prostitution really is?

Aside from the fornication and adultery, aside from the desecration of the sacred, aside from the banalization of longing and romance, aside from poisoning the wellspring which has been so fruitfully repressed, sublimated and transformed, there is something so bifurcating and self-destructive about prostitution.

In a National Review essay titled “Old Profession, New Toleration,” Roger Scruton writes:

A woman doesn’t own her body, any more than she owns herself. She is inextricably mingled with it, and what is done to her body is done to her. If she sells her body for sex, it is not sex she is selling. For sex can be sincerely offered only if it is sincerely wanted by the one who offers it. Both prostitute and client are therefore engaged in an elaborate deception, each cheating the other, the one pretending to sell sex, the other pretending to buy it. Sex and contempt are adjacent regions in the psyche of the typical client; and a prostitute must willingly accept that she is being spat upon. The transaction that unites her to her partner also divides them, and this cold, hard meeting of strangers in total intimacy constitutes a deep violation of intimacy and all that it means.

Our garden has become a wasteland. Food and sex are tasteless, soulless simulacra. We are all but incapable of circumspection, as infantile selfie shows claim to be reality. We are utterly estranged—from God, from nature, from each other, from our bodies and from our very selves. And so we must go into the desert to find spiritual strength.

¤  ¤  ¤

Jesus said to the crowds: “Amen I say to you, among those born of women there has been none greater than John the Baptist; yet the least in the Kingdom of heaven is greater than he. From the days of John the Baptist until now, the Kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent are taking it by force. All the prophets and the law prophesied up to the time of John. And if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah, the one who is to come. Whoever has ears ought to hear” (Mt 11:11-16).

Editor’s note: The photo above depicts Canadian justice minister Peter MacKay at a press conference in Ottawa, June 4, 2014. (Photo credit: Sean Kilpatrick / The Canadian Press).


  • Joe Bissonnette

    Joe Bissonnette teaches religion and philosophy at Assumption College School in Brantford, Ontario where he lives with his wife and their seven children. He has written for Catholic Insight, The Human Life Review, The Interim, The Catholic Register and The Toronto Star.

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