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By Abbas Panjwani
The Oxford Union voted against the motion “This house would recognise prostitution as a legitimate business” after intense exchanges between a pimp, a prostitute and a team of feminists.
Dennis Hof, the American pimp and owner of brothel The Moonlite Bunny Ranch in Nevada, supported the motion and his presence attracted media attention even before the debate began.
During his speech he cheekily mentioned to Union Treasurer Maria Rioumine that one college student working for him has earned almost three million pounds.
Dismissing the idea that his business exploited women, he said: “Exploitation is on us men who don’t get enough variety.”
Hof was joined by Johnny Anglais, an adult entertainer, Sarah Walker, the spokesperson for the English Collective of Prostitutes, and first-year St Hilda’s English student Elizabeth Culliford.
Feminist activist Finn Mackay was joined in opposition by Julie Bindel, co- founder of Justice for Women; Carrie Pemberton-Ford, director for a Cam- bridge research centre into human traf- ficking; and Ellie Levenson, author of The Noughtie Girl’s Guide to Feminism.
The proposition argued that mak- ing prostitution illegitimate drove it underground. Hof pointed to recent news that underage girls were trafficked in Oxford. He said: “If there is a legal brothel… a man will not go to underage girls.”
Anglais said that sexual gratification was a need, just like loving parents or a social life. He said that many are “prostitute by proxy”, which we call “going on the pull”, since sex was often achieved “with an alcohol beverage, or… how many are needed to get them to have sex with you”.
But the opposition adopted a tough stance. Mackay opened by claiming that “nobody who cares about human rights and equality could support this motion”.
In one of many attacks on Hof, she said legitimisation would “turn pimps and traffickers into businessmen over- night”, describing Hof himself as “one kind of special relationship we can do without”.
Bindel said she had seen damaged women at his brothels. She attacked some Nevada brothels as a “pussy penitentiary” with electric fences and compulsory escorts, adding: “Dennis may run his brothels more free-range than battery farm, but the women are still served up and eaten.”
Bindel added that legitimisation went “back to the notion that men have to have sexual relief or something will happen to their willy, perhaps it will fall off”, and said that the motion was really about legalising pimping.