Katie Price: Maybe I’ll Hire a Prostitute for My Autistic 15-Year-Old!
In a talk show appearance, television personality and former model Katie Price suggested that she'd consider hiring a sex worker for her autistic son, who is currently only fifteen.
There is so much to unpackage here. Because there's so much wrong, here.
We have the video for you, below, with full context — but no amount of context could make this anything but controversial.
But first, here's what's going on.
Katie Price is a television personality these days, but she used to be one of those "top-heavy" models, and she'd model topless.
Essentially, she made millions off of her megaboobs.
She has three children.
Her son, Harvey, is fifteen.
Harvey is on the autistic spectrum.
While there are plenty of autistic folks with basically zero issues in a neurotypical-dominated society, there are some people with autism who need daily assistance to go about their lives.
Harvey, at least for now, needs a fair amount of accommodation, though part of that is because he was born blind.
And Harvey also has Prader-Willi syndrome, which can have a few symptoms such as impaired brain-function — but the primary symptom is an insatiable appetite that can easily lead to massive weight gain.
Katie Price appeared on a talk show, Loose Women, along with a woman who has an adult autistic son and has written a book about her experience as his mother.
The woman's son also appeared on the show and, honestly, we thought that he did an ample job of speaking for himself and we'd rather have just heard from him.
That woman shared a story about how she'd considered hiring a sex worker for her son when was in his early 20s.
As she tells it, she even drove into what she calls a "red light district," only to get cold feet.
Her son ended up meeting a young woman on his own and dating her — he was just awkward at the time.
(We get the feeling that his mother was panicking that her son would be alone forever, and honestly that whole anecdote is just a huge red flag about the mom)
Katie Price jumps in with her own story, based on Harvey having entered puberty and something that Katie Price's husband (for now) had suggested:
"Kieran said, ‘Shall we get him a prostitute when he turns 18?’ But I said, ‘But that’s my little Harvey and I don’t want him to do that!’ What do I do? Do I leave it? Or do I let him experience it?"
You'll see that and the chatter in response in the video below.
This is hardly the first time that Katie Price has made controversial statements on parenting, but still.
But we need to unpack these issues.
Okay, first of all, because this is the most important thing to address:
It's pretty screwed up that these women seem very content to just talk about autistic folks like they're wild animals that sometimes end up in people's houses.
People who have autism are people.
They exist on a very wide and varied spectrum of abilities and experiences.
Television and film tend to portray autistic people as either nonverbal robots "who might be dangerous" or as slightly shy white men who are really, really good at solving crimes.
If you want a better glimpse at some positive and frankly realistic portrayals of an autistic adult, maybe look at Abed Nadir on Community.
Eddie Redmayne's portrayal of Newt Scamander in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them was essentially just a male, magical version of Temple Grandin, a famous autistic woman who advocates for livestock welfare and has changed industry standards in the process.
These examples might serve people better than listening to the horror stories of Mommy Bloggers.
Most of the parents in that category are more interested in exploiting their family stories for profit than giving an honest representation of people on the autistic spectrum.
It's no wonder that this episode proved to be so controversial, right?
A lot of the controversy, however, wasn't centered upon the weird fetishization of "autism moms."
No, a lot of the Twitter backlash was about the idea of hiring a sex worker.
Not because Harvey is disabled or still a minor or a real person who may or may not want to have sex in a few years, regardless of what his parents assume.
But because there are still people, many of them well-meaning, who believe that sex work is inherently bad.
That's really no surprise — just think of the ridiculous freakout over Teen Vogue's anal sex guide.
In this case, though, only some of the people who rail against sex work are just people who are generally tightly wound about sex.
Some people who probably think of themselves as sex-positive act as though all sex work is the same thing as sex trafficking.
Not even a little.
It is absolutely true that sometimes women are kidnapped and forced into sexual slavery in an operation that resembles voluntary sex work.
Except for the voluntary part.
That does not make all sex work involuntary or abusive or anything else.
Like, we know that Qatar has used slave labor in construction.
That does not mean that all construction workers are slaves.
Not all sex workers are desperate to get into a different line of work, either.
Not all porn stars want to be actors and not all escorts dream of a white picket fence.
People who rail against sex work are so often shouting over the voices of actual sex workers.
So a lot of ire was misplaced, basically.
Katie Price, to be fair, is far from the worst offender here.
She only brought this up because the other mom had already shared her story.
But unless it's something that Harvey actually says that he wants when he's an adult, she shouldn't even consider it.
Hopefully the backlash, misguided as much of it might be, will make that clear.