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Why are we so frightened of legalising brothels? A colleague of mine who was working on a documentary about prostitution in the King's Cross area of London found a morass of disease, sleaze, drugs, blackmail, pimp-violence and official corruption. Legalised brothels could prevent most of that. In countries that tolerate brothels, the incidence of sexual abuse and the sexual abuse of children is lower than it is here. Yet what are we up to now? Parliament, at its most futile, has set up an All-Party Prostitution Group, led by Diane Abbot, which is kerb-crawling its way through the Commons and demanding, among other things, that prostitutes be given community service and clients arriving by car have their licences endorsed.
Not a lot of humour in the All-Party Prostitution Group. Meanwhile sexual titillation is becoming torrential. Hen-nights assume the character of the Theatre of Riot - far more so than the tame little stag-nights - and repro-Chippendales sweat down to their last spangled jock-strap and then begin wildly looking for the emergency exits as the lusts of Messalina surge through the thighs of suburbia.
Peter Stringfellow gets a police licence in the West End for "lap-dancing". I saw it on Richard Littlejohn's television programme - pubescents grindingly simulating sex full-on in front of immobile males who feared to move in case they got arrested. In a prime West End theatre, a few yards from the Mother of Parliaments, a new show opens called Voyeurz projects a lascivious performance that would have been banned in a Soho strip club not long ago. The top racks of newsagencies nationwide groan under the combined weight and embarrassment of splayed, engorged private parts.
Hollywood is damn-near explicit and late-night British TV is showing a determination not to be left out. Which is fine by me, but in this environment brothels would seem to have everything to recommend them: health checks for both parties, panic buttons for the women or men selling their services, age control - and these are the least of what an entrepreneur like Richard Branson could turn into an opulent centre for "healthy satisfaction" "Virgin Brothels" - what title could better suit the English?
But brothels remain off the agenda. Of course there will always be a minority on both sides of the transaction that wants the sleaze and the risk, and no doubt they will retain it even in the most brothelised of societies. But they are surely marginal to the main argument. Meanwhile, there are a few small signs.