“Natalie Rowe”, the escort agency madam and former dominatrix who was exposed along with George Osborne in a 1994 photo, was just arrested. She was arrested for “abusive behaviour” after tweeting a photo of George Osborne in her flat. The photo doesn’t appear to have been taken covertly, and “Rowe” purposely obscured the face of a client who was also present. Political blogger Tom Pride was first with the story after she tweeted her arrest.
Now, perhaps we shouldn’t jump to conclusions. Perhaps Natalie Rowe really was behaving abusively to Osborne (or others) and her arrest is nothing to do with the photo. But that seems unlikely given what happened last October. 12 Drugs Squad police used an undercover police officer, dressed as a postman, to dawn raid her flat in an alleged drugs search. They came armed with a battering ram and lockpick, forced her to let them in while only wearing underwear and, after gaining access, continued to deny her requests to be allowed to dress. Rowe was then locked in the living room and threatened with handcuffing while the search continued for 2 hours, and was questioned about her upcoming memoir. No drugs were found. This all happened just days before she was due to make new claims about George Osborne.
This is like living in a dictatorship. You get arrested for telling the truth or criticising those in power. Though perhaps this isn’t that surprising in this case, as Rowe is a member of a few marginalised groups. She’s an ex sex worker, a madam, a woman, and black. And despite her having other interesting qualities the media could focus on she is always described as an ex call girl, erasing her talents, education and history. Even her super-rich partner and father of her child is not mentioned nearly as much as the fact that she was a sex worker. Yes, now she might be bringing it on herself by doing tell-alls, but that wasn’t always the case and it feels like lazy journalism to present someone as only, always and forever a whore, as the media so often does in sex scandals (whether they’re about free or paid sex).
This story also highlights the problems to our society caused by whorephobia and our hypocritical attitudes toward sex and sex work. If stigma against selling and buying sex didn’t exist, George Osborne wouldn’t need to use the police to protect his reputation. He could freely admit to being friends with a sex worker and to purchasing services from her.
The fact that George Osborne (and other politicians) buy sex will hopefully remind us of the hypocrisy of shaming and stigmatising sex workers. It’s clients of all genders who fund the sex industry and sex workers of all genders. If you’re against sex work, clients should be held equally responsible. That’s why we have laws against funding terrorists. Yet with sex work, though the client is stigmatised-which is why Rowe is being intimidated by abuse of police powers- the person selling sex is stigmatised more. Except in (some) cases where the client or unfaithful spouse is famous.
Arresting someone for tweeting a photo is not only undemocratic, it’s also absurd when you consider that posting revenge porn is still completely legal. If Rowe had posted a nude photo of Osborne, that’d have been fine. It also shows how differently the law treats journalists compared to other citizens who happen not to have an NTCJ Diploma or an attachment to a paper. Covertly taking nude photos of Kate Middleton in private with her man from a mile away and publishing leaked nudes of Prince Harry in private with friends to the media is just fine. Tweeting a consensually-taken clothed photo when you’re actually known and allowed to be present isn’t.
You couldn’t make it up.