Brothel debate continues as French drama stokes controversy
October 6, 2010 § Leave a comment
A new television drama starting this week in France made me reflect on my post earlier in the week about Ontario legalising brothels.
Although in that case I was in favour of such a measure, the new TV series set in the famous French maisons closes is in danger of crossing the line between debating and trivialising the issue.
The drama has fuelled the debate over whether France would do well to legalise brothels once more – President Sarkozy has been condemned for making laws which punish the prostitutes and not those who paid for sex. In his time as interior minister he made it legal for police to charge any woman who looked remotely like she was selling herself for sex. One can only imagine the potential for offence that law could cause, before you even get on to considering the effect it had on the prostitution industry. Sex workers say they have been forced to work in back alleys and more secluded places and, inevitably, this is less safe.
The series Maison Close makes it clear that the life of a prostitute is not one that many choose. The key characters are forced into it pay off debts and the protagonist ends up being raped by her first client. But if seeking to make a relevant political point, the programme’s related website lets it down.
An interactive tour of the brothel includes a “game” in which you can take a client into the bedroom to pay off your dues, sneak a look at the centre’s work through keyholes, and receive a thorough examination from Hortense the brothel owner. You gain extra points for telling others about the website on Facebook.
I’m not surprised that French prostitutes support groups are outraged. A historically-based drama is one thing, and any measure which makes prostitution safer for the women involved is only to be welcomed. A game in which you can play at being or using a prostitute does not ring true of mature and sympathetic debate.