Pokemon Go
April 3, 2017

Why is Pokemon Go like prostitution?

Pokemon Go is a game in which you capture little monsters inside balls and trade them for candy or use them to fight other Pokemon to gain points. Certain locations, such as monuments, stations, and pubs are designated Pokestops where you collect balls to throw at the little creatures while they dodge and dive to avoid you. You can temporarily drug tricky ones with a Razberry. There’s a lot more to it (Pokedex, Combat Points, Gyms, Powers, Eggs, Incense, Lures) but that is basically it.

I enjoy it and am proud to be at Level 28. It brightens my day to hunt Pokemon as I go about my business. I have introduced friends to it (we are the ‘Pokemon Goers’) and we sociably compete and co-operate to max our Experience Points. It’s great fun, it gets you out, and from the Pokestops you learn about the area you are walking in. I love Pokemon Go.

Many men feel like this about prostitution – it’s a bit of fun, it’s not really real, I enjoy it and no-one gets hurt.

But, as with prostitution, when you look more closely at Pokemon Go, you see a nastier side. In the game, I lure and drug beautiful little wild animals in their natural environment to calm them for capture, then bombard them with ever stronger Pokeballs in which I eventually confine them. The encounter ends with a successful capture, giving me a feeling of ownership, satisfaction and achievement. I put Pokemon in my collection, inspect their vital statistics and, if it suits me, sell them to an authority figure (the Professor, a wise old white man) in return for candy. Or I may keep them, send them to battle others and get them hurt in the process. Like a pimp lures and (sometimes literally) captures a woman in prostitution and then rents her out to men to control and enjoy. Both games also inspire a pleasurable feeling that I should really be working, but, naughtily, I am bunking off!

In real life I am an animal lover. I know that dog-fighting, bear-baiting, fox-hunting, and bull-running are cruel. I live with two well fed cats who go in and out at will. Yet while playing Pokemon Go I ignore this and enjoy the pleasurable, addictive process of hurting, collecting, controlling and selling wild animals, forcing them to fight each other and disposing of them as I choose. I am 100% in control and for some months was completely oblivious to the nastiness of what I was doing. This is because no Pokemon is ever seen to suffer (though they do fight back) and their opinion of what is going on is never discussed. Like a prostitute never shows pain and never tells you what she really thinks of you.

Pokemon Go is a game and its sole aim is my entertainment (apart from the profit motive of course). In fact it is a total power trip. And lately when I see a real pigeon or cute little squirrel, I feel myself reach for my phone to capture it in a ball and acquire it. It’s just a habit I have got into. Like a man who uses prostitutes will see a cute woman and think that he fancies luring, acquiring, controlling, forcing and f***ing her. Not wondering who is she and what are her likes and dislikes, but what he fancies doing to her (not with her).

Are you starting to get it?

Many guys who say they respect women fall for the same illusion: ‘Women in prostitution are a bit of fun, it’s nice that they look good (for you), they never argue with you and always act as if they are pleased with the treatment you give them. With a prostitute you as a man are always in controlyou are never challenged and are always satisfied at the end of the encounter. You judge them, they never get to judge you and they act as if they loved you just as you are. They have to, because that’s what prostitution is, but you fall for the illusion every time. If you admitted that you are just another d**k in their vagina it wouldn’t feel so great. You tell yourself, ‘Prostitutes are everywhere, always available, and make my life a bit more fun, add a bit of spice to my day. No need to work on my relationship with my wife or girlfriend, just go out for a bit on the side. Prostitution has always existed, it’s the ‘oldest profession’ and only extremists ever question it.’ 

In fact the quote about it being the oldest profession only dates back to Rudyard Kipling in 1888. He was also the one who said, ‘A woman is only a woman, but a good cigar is a smoke’. Hmm, maybe his views on women should not be relied on. After all, you earn the money, no-one knows where you are, they say they like it so what is the problem?’

After a few months of Pokemon Go, reality dawned and I recoiled in shock, not at the harm I was doing to animals (because no real-life animals were harmed) but at how my attitudes had changed. If I had grown up playing Pokemon Go (as men grow up with their sexual responses conditioned by watching porn), I would probably accept big game hunting, dog fighting and caged birds, because imprisoned animals would be my normality and a source of regular pleasure.

Whatever we habitually do for kicks builds habits. If I grow up eating chocolate daily, I see it as normal and feel deprived if I do not get it, although it is not an essential food. Men who grow up getting sexual kicks from controlling women and watching them act nice for money will see it as a normal part of life, and may be in denial when someone challenges it and points out that most women enter prostitution out of disadvantageand leave it (if they ever manage to) at an even greater disadvantage. Once a man’s habits and addictions are fixed, he won’t see that this is a power and control kick and that his taste for certain types of sexual act (e.g. anal sex, painful sex) is one-sided – he never even wonders if she likes it. He may even feel entitled to inflict some pain or refuse to wear a condom, or perhaps hold her down to make it that little bit more exciting – for him. At the end he feels like a man, the one in charge, the one with the money, the one who calls the shots, like a Pokemon Goer with a new Pokemon.

Habits, though part of our lives, soon fade away once we make the break. Remember the fuss around not smoking in public places? That habit vanished overnight when the law changed. We all used to drive through central London until the congestion charges started. Then we stopped. And recall the endless debate about paying 5p for a plastic carrier bag? Now their use has been massively reduced by passing a law. Habit-breaking is not such a big deal after all. We soon change when we have a reason to.

So when women come along and say that prostitution is bad, that it can never be safe, that it is harmful to women to have to pretend to enjoy a man using them for sexual kicks, that women mostly start doing it underage, having been groomed by sexual abuse, and out of poverty or desperation of some kind, and that violence is endemic, a man doesn’t want to know. Although he sees himself as a lover of women, his habit and over-riding concern for easy access to sexual satisfaction and control stops him from looking objectively at the evidence. Instead, he may instinctively attack anti-prostitution campaigners as man-haters, do-gooders or pearl-wearing moralists. He prefers to listen to the nice girls at the local brothel who say they love their work, rather than believe what those who have left prostitution say. He won’t notice that his attitudes were conditioned by porn and prostitution, because he has never known any different.

So yes, both prostitution and Pokemon Go are ‘the game’ because both involve a pretence that it is harmless to be in control of silent victims who are voiceless about a process that hurts them. The Pokemon Go game is make believe but the prostitution ‘game’ is real and only fun for one of the parties involved.

Both ‘games’ may seem harmless in the short term, but both can brutalise victim AND perpetrator in the long term. Pokemon Go operates in a fake virtual world and no animals are harmed. But in prostitution the harm is real, massive, long-lasting and, usually, permanent. Sometimes it is even fatal. Most prostituted women will need drugs to get through the day, antibiotics for every STI and treatment for every violent act inflicted on her. The man will not notice his brutalisation but his empathy levels will drop, he will regard women less as people and more as sex objects, and he becomes more likely to commit or condone sexual violence.

We may love chocolate, but we don’t need it. It isn’t really food. Prostitution is not essential and is not really sex because it does not involve mutually-agreed pleasure.

Maybe, as we no longer tolerate smoking in public places because it harms our lungs, or giving out free plastic carrier bags because they clog up the oceans, it is time for us to stop condoning prostitution and take proper account of the harms it does to everyone involved.

Janice Williams