As the eurozone crisis continues to sink its teeth into the world’s largest trading bloc by volume, a concrete sign of just how desperate things are becoming has arrived in the form of a new educational course making waves in Barcelona: Prostitution 101. Prostitución: nociones básicas para la profesionalización – to give the programme its formal title – is run by the Asociación de Profesionales del Sexo, costs €45, and is aimed at the burgeoning number of women turning to one of the world’s more dangerous professions in order to make ends meet. Covering topics such as sexual technique, marketing and the stigma of the trade, the course appears to be surprisingly comprehensive; organiser Conxa Borrell maintains that such subjects can only be taught by prostitutes.
But what are we to make of this? On the one hand, such a programme is surely a pragmatic response to a sobering reality: the implosion of parts of the eurozone’s periphery, and the tragic economic and social consequences that is forcing women (and, one assumes, at least some men and transgender individuals) to become sex workers. We at Mediolana have long thought that a more transparent approach to the phenomenon of prostitution as a whole could go at least some way towards ending the insane levels of exploitation that exist in the industry: courses of the kind now being pioneered in Barcelona, organised appositely, could indirectly yield vital data about some of the murkier practices – not least human trafficking, drug abuse and extreme levels of violence – that often characterise the sector.
Conversely, we can’t help but think that this kind of response – though practical in the immediate term – needs to be treated with extreme caution. Ultimately, it does not address the root cause of the problem: the impoverishment of the tier two eurozone countries. As a society, we must ask much, much harder questions as to exactly why the economies of countries such as Spain have disintegrated; exactly what can be done to resolve the macroeconomic problems, and over what timescale; and what concrete measures can be taken on a microeconomic and social level to ensure that no one – particularly vulnerable young women – has to resort to selling their body (and, in many cases, their personal safety and sense of well-being) simply to keep the roof over their head and food on the table.