Sat, Aug 18, 2007 - Page 8 News List

Johnny Neihu's Mailbag

Cold comfort

Dear Johnny,

Prostitution will never go away as long as lustful men hold cash in their hands, which there will be plenty of, forever. As one of those men, I sometimes wish that I could contribute to their earnings in a way that didn't make me wonder if I was supporting human trafficking or organized crime.

One time in Hualien, while buying condoms in an attractive, cute and interesting shop, the petite yet adorable sales clerk asked me: "Waidai, ma?"

Naturally, like at night markets and the like, my first response was: "Keyi neiyong ma?" But luckily I didn't say this. I tried to play it cool, even though my face must have been as red as a beet at her forward suggestion.

Then, as she tried to put my condoms into another useless plastic bag, I noticed the dage who was sitting at the bottom of the stairs.

The prostitutes of Taiwan are shunned and discriminated against for no worthwhile reason. Gangs hustle them, police chase them. Human trafficking is appallingly rampant. Though hookers are one of the most marginalized groups in Taiwan, it seems that prostitution is not going to go away. What average, everyday guy wouldn't like a reliable, friendly and fun "erstwhile companion" as long as his wife says it's OK?

On the one hand, when I consider the plight of many comfort women, I imagine what might happen to this poor white boy's asshole if he ever landed in a US prison. The degradation, humiliation and sense of continual fear are something I can only imagine, but it was part of everyday life for these unfortunate women.

On the other hand, if I knew it was legal and relatively safe, I'd be delighted to walk to a local pub and have my choice of girls who were into it for the fun. Women who don't have a choice when accepting partners are the ones who deserve our strongest concern.

Is it in the realm of the unthinkable to imagine that, one day, Taiwan will have an enlightened policy that honors women who choose to work in the comfort industry, while at the same time also using the tax money generated from such endeavors to fight snakeheads, "local operators," human smugglers and fake brides from China?

Could this tax money also be used to fund police and NGO efforts to find and liberate sex-trade workers who have somehow stumbled into an unhealthy situation?

Again, it's the most desperate and disadvantaged women who most urgently need help now.

Denying women a legitimate way to make money doing something they consider fun is against human rights. The so-called "working girls," currently happy prostitutes who are happily plying their trade all around Taiwan, should be regulated, monitored, regularly tested for STDs and given an honest evaluation regarding their contribution to society.

The goal of decriminalizing prostitution should be to allow women who enjoy providing this kind of "soft care" to men (or women) and expressing their desires to have a legitimate opportunity to do so, free from the glare of all the nay-sayers who think the whole subject should be in the closet. Remember, hiding prostitution is in the best interests of the snakeheads and smugglers. Opening the soft care industry to the public's concerned intervention can only make the situation better for every segment of society.

Torch Pratt

Johnny replies: Challenging stuff there, Torch. The only thing I can say in response is that poverty never gets me hard. Now, with that out of the way, excuse me while I don some body armor as my readers prepare to fill my mailbag with angry responses.

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