A Liberal Democrat councilor said schools should suggest prostitution as a career to students at a special session in Brighton, England.
In a bid to destigmatize sex workers, the chairman of Cheltenham Liberal Democrats, Dennis Parsons, said in a party conference that school career officers are currently not allowed to promote prostitution as a potential line of work, but then added, “Why shouldn’t they?”
The father of five also compared prostitution to accounting, of all things.
“The fact that we are asking ‘should we seek to prevent people entering sex work?’ is part of the problem. You wouldn’t ask the question ‘should we prevent people becoming accountants?’ You’d just take it for granted,” said Parson. “We have had a chap suggest that one of the areas we need to be concerned about was families coercing people to go into the sex trade. Well, again, you wouldn’t protest at families urging and coercing people into becoming accountants.”
After his controversial comments, Lib Dem leader Tim Farron tried to distance himself from Parson by saying, “They are certainly not my views. Drawing the equivalence between sex work and accountancy is not one that I share.”
However, in the same breath, he defended Parson stating, “It is a wonderful thing that we are in a party where those sort of views can be expressed and you can have that sort of exchange.”
He also said he won’t be “slapping people down” and that elected officials should be allowed to say “shocking things” to heat up the debate.
Parson later apologized for his comments, claiming he did not mean to recommend prostitution as a career to high schoolers.
“In my view, we are conditioned as a society to see sex work as unsavory,” he said. “I tried to demonstrate this by comparing attitudes to sex work with attitudes to accountancy.”
Interesting wider pt here: "stigma" isn't some uncaused overlay that always necessarily only needs eliminating https://t.co/irNhaqsg2i— Oliver Burkeman (@oliverburkeman) September 18, 2016
LibDem Dennis Parsons tells conference careers teachers should suggest prostitution to girls as job. Unbelievable. https://t.co/81fg9Gmhho— Janice Turner (@VictoriaPeckham) September 18, 2016
Hey Lib Dems, prostitution is abuse not a career & it's punters who cause the harm, not disembodied "stigma" https://t.co/uUj9N6dMfU— Sarah Ditum (@sarahditum) September 18, 2016
Massive mistake that @timfarron did not condemn the outrageous remarks made by Dennis Parsons!— Alan Caton OBE (@accaton) September 18, 2016
However his “apology” fell on deaf ears and his words generated widespread condemnation, forcing him to resign with immediate effect after a request made by Martin Horwood, the party's parliamentary candidate for the town.