And there is a very sinister development which we are determined to stop. You know trip advisor – a website where guests put their comments on line for others to see. There is now a website, like that, where pimps put women on sale for sex and then men who’ve had sex with them put their comments on line. It is ‘Punternet’ and fuels the demand for prostitutes. It is truly degrading and puts women at risk.
Punternet has pages and pages of women for sale in London. But Punternet is based in California so I’ve raised it with the US Ambassador to London and I’ve called on California’s governor Arnie Schwarzenegger to close it down. Surely it can’t be too difficult for the Terminator to terminate Punternet and that’s what I am demanding that he does.
And I’ve got news for him: if he doesn’t, I’ll be back.
Actually, according to its front-page PunterNet has been going for more than ten years. There are no pimps in sight - though women working in the sex trade are active in the site's forum pages. Several have left messages today mocking Harriet's hopelessly naive comments. There's a lively thread here. One of the contributors points out that PunterNet is actually registered in Ohio! From what I've seen, PunterNet is, as its name implies, entirely client-driven. It's basically a modern version of Harris's List of Covent Garden Ladies, though rather less well-written.
Alix Mortimer, now gloriously restored to blogging life, pulls Hattie to pieces here.
Also up on the site today was an open letter from the site's proprietor, who goes by the name of Galahad:
Dear Mrs. Harman,
I have a few points to make regarding your recent remarks regarding my website and your fantastic demand that the Governor of California close it down.
Firstly, PunterNet is not violating any laws. If it were, then surely the many websites catering to the US prostitution scene (where sex for pay is almost completely illegal) would already have been closed down.
In the USA, there is a concept called "freedom of speech" which is considered the most important personal right guaranteed by the Constitution. It exists specifically to prevent the sort of abuse of power that you are attempting. The Governor (indeed, even the President) has no authority with which to shut down a perfectly lawful enterprise such as PunterNet.
PunterNet was not the first, and is certainly not the only, website in the UK with the same subject matter. Rather than creating the demand for commercial sex, sites like PunterNet are a response to that demand, which has existed since the dawn of mankind and certainly long before the advent of the Internet!
One of the missions of PunterNet is education - to provide information and guidance in hopes that the commercial sex scene is limited to consenting adults and those who choose of their own free will to engage in it.
If sites like this one did not exist, and if prostitution were outlawed, then it would effectively be handed to organised crime on a platter - just as happened with liquor during Prohibition. If, on the other hand, sex-work is recognised as a legitimate, honourable profession, then there will be no market for the criminal elements, and the truly despicable aspects of the scene such as sex slavery and trafficking will die out. Surely that is a far more desirable goal than driving it back underground where it will then consist only of criminals and victims?
In closing, I would like to thank you for the huge influx of traffic to my website which your actions have caused. I am sure that the ladies who are a part of the PunterNet community thank you as well, as they will no doubt benefit financially from the many new clients who might otherwise never have found them.
The last point is, of course, the most pertinent. In delivering her scoop about the existence of a ten-year old website, Harman has triggered a predictable Streisand effect. But she got her Terminator gag in, so she's probably happy.