Quote of the week

Regard must be had to the higher standard of conduct expected from public officials, and the number of falsehoods that have been put forward by the Public Protector in the course of the litigation.  This conduct included the numerous “misstatements”, like misrepresenting, under oath, her reliance on evidence of economic experts in drawing up the report, failing to provide a complete record, ordered and indexed, so that the contents thereof could be determined, failing to disclose material meetings and then obfuscating the reasons for them and the reasons why they had not been previously disclosed, and generally failing to provide the court with a frank and candid account of her conduct in preparing the report. The punitive aspect of the costs order therefore stands.

KHAMPEPE J and THERON J
Public Protector v South African Reserve Bank (CCT107/18) [2019] ZACC 29 (22 July 2019)
25 May 2007

Why is it so bad to have sex with a prostitute?

Maybe I am missing something, but I really cannot understand why everyone is gaaning aan about claims on a Blog by a purported sex worker that he had sex with some vaguely well known South Africans like Simon Grindrod.

Why are they all so upset? Why do they say this is the most dreadful defamation and slander imaginable? Is it perhaps because of ingrained societal homophobia, or is it because they harbour puritanical prejudices against prostitutes?

I eagerly read through these supposed confessions, looking for the “slanderous and defamatory” statements that Patricia de Lille spoke about earlier this week. What I found was relatively funny descriptions – in rather formal Afrikaans – of how the purported sex worker provided sexual gratification to several minor South African male celebrities.

Now, we know that it cannot be defamatory to allege that a man is homosexual or that he has had a sexual experience with another man. Our Constitution now guarantees equality for all and the Constitutional Court has stated that the whole notion of “normal” heterosexuality and “abnormal” homosexuality must be rejected. People are different and nothing should turn on such differences.

While some men might be deeply offended by allegations that they had sex with another man, this would say more about their own sexual insecurities and homophobia (yes, Mr Grindrod, I am referring to you too) than about any alleged defamation. I cannot imagine that Patricia de Lille or Simon Grindrod would have gotten all upset if the Blog had said that Grindrod was black, so why would it be upsetting to be called a homosexual.

Of course, those who think this is a terrible slander will say that the defamation really comes from the allegation that the men had sex with a male prostitute – that they paid for the sex. Now, it might be embarrassing to have to admit that one has paid for sexual gratification because it suggests that one has not been otherwise successful in securing a longed for happy ending or two, but that is surely not defamatory.

The best shot would be to argue that these statements are defamatory because sex work is illegal. But until the new Sexual Offences Act comes into operation, it is really only the actions of the sex worker that is criminalized. Some judges of the CC think the client can also be prosecuted, but this has never ever happened in South Africa, so it is purely academic speculation. The “defamation” is therefore really supposed to be based on allegations that one has provided one’s body for use by another for the commissioning of a crime. In other words, one has done something that is frowned upon because of the sad remnants of Victorian morality still so prevalent in our bigoted society.

What is wrong with having sex with a sex worker? It is time efficient, contributes to the economy and keep men off the streets. It can also be less abusive and exploitative than many a marriage.

It seems to me Patricia and Simon were really so upset because they were horrified that people would think Simon is gay and that he is so ugly or unlikable that he could not even get a date on a Saturday night. Or maybe they have deep-seated prejudices against marginalised and vulnerable sex workers – exactly the kind of people politicians are always said to want to help.

Either way, the so called slander seems to me not in the initial statements by the sex worker, but in the responses to those statements by Patricia and others. They seem not to have realized this, but through their actions, they have really exposed themselves as thin-skinned, how shall I put it, well, bigots.

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