White Slave Traffic: A Friday 13th guest post by Emma Goldman


Intro: A few years ago, the former sex worker and blogger Maggie McNeill had the idea of making Friday 13th an auspicious date for sex workers and their anti-prohibition allies. She wrote:

“Friday the 13th should be good luck for whores even if it really were bad luck for Christian men.  Now, I’m not really superstitious; I don’t believe that a day can bring either good luck or bad.  But considering that the reasons for fear of this day are so closely related to the reasons our profession is maligned and suppressed, perhaps whores and those who support our rights should make every Friday the Thirteenth a day to speak out in favor of full decriminalization and an end to the institutionalized persecution of prostitutes.”

It’s a compelling invitation, and when I was looking for inspiration as to what I might write, I went back to one or two of my favourite sources. As I was browsing Emma Goldman’s Anarchism and Other Essays, I quickly realised that much of what needs saying had been said over a hundred years ago, and is every bit as relevant today as it ever was. I couldn’t hope to do any better.

Goldman lived her life alongside sex workers and devoted much of her time to working for their welfare, rights and sexual health, along with sexual freedom for all women and men, including gay men, lesbians and ‘Uranians’ – those we would now call trans, intersex or gender non-conforming. Goldman was continually persecuted and even imprisoned for these efforts, as she was for her anti-capitalist and anti-war anarchism.

As a quick note on Goldman’s beliefs, it is important to note that when she describes prostitution as an “evil” she meant a political evil – an evil of commercial exploitation, not an evil of personal morality. She used the exact same language about factory work and all other forms of purchased labour under capitalism, which she calls “economic prostitution.” She also saw prostitution as an inevitable product of sexual repression, monogamy, religious restriction and the institution of marriage, which she abhorred.

When this essay was first published in Goldman’s own journal Mother Earth, it was seized as obscene material after a complaint from the notorious Christian moralist Anthony Comstock. You can read the full original here, but for now, here are some selected extracts from one of the most powerful arguments for decriminalization ever written.

—————————-

The White Slave Traffic by Emma Goldman (First published January 1910)

Our reformers have suddenly made a great discovery — the white slave traffic. The papers are full of these “unheard-of conditions,” and lawmakers are already planning a new set of laws to check the horror.

It is significant that whenever the public mind is to be diverted from a great social wrong, a crusade is inaugurated against indecency, gambling, saloons, etc. And what is the result of such crusades? Gambling is increasing, saloons are doing a lively business through back entrances, prostitution is at its height, and the system of pimps and cadets is but aggravated.

How is it that an institution, known almost to every child, should have been discovered so suddenly? How is it that this evil, known to all sociologists, should now be made such an important issue?

To assume that the recent investigation of the white slave traffic (and, by the way, a very superficial investigation) has discovered anything new, is, to say the least, very foolish. Prostitution has been, and is, a widespread evil, yet mankind goes on its business, perfectly indifferent to the sufferings and distress of the victims of prostitution. As indifferent, indeed, as mankind has remained to our industrial system, or to economic prostitution.

*

What is really the cause of the trade in women? Not merely white women, but yellow and black women as well. Exploitation, of course; the merciless Moloch of capitalism that fattens on underpaid labor, thus driving thousands of women and girls into prostitution. With Mrs. Warren these girls feel, “Why waste your life working for a few shillings a week in a scullery, eighteen hours a day?”

Naturally our reformers say nothing about this cause. They know it well enough, but it doesn’t pay to say anything about it. It is much more profitable to play the Pharisee, to pretend an outraged morality, than to go to the bottom of things.

*

Moralists are ever ready to sacrifice one-half of the human race for the sake of some miserable institution which they can not outgrow. As a matter of fact, prostitution is no more a safeguard for the purity of the home than rigid laws are a safeguard against prostitution.

*

The most amusing side of the question now before the public is the indignation of our “good, respectable people,” especially the various Christian gentlemen, who are always to be found in the front ranks of every crusade. Is it that they are absolutely ignorant of the history of religion, and especially of the Christian religion? Or is it that they hope to blind the present generation to the part played in the past by the Church in relation to prostitution? Whatever their reason, they should be the last to cry out against the unfortunate victims of today, since it is known to every intelligent student that prostitution is of religious origin, maintained and fostered for many centuries, not as a shame, but as a virtue, hailed as such by the Gods themselves.

*

Until 1894 very little was known in America of the procurer. Then we were attacked by an epidemic of virtue. Vice was to be abolished, the country purified at all cost. The social cancer was therefore driven out of sight, but deeper into the body. Keepers of brothels, as well as their unfortunate victims, were turned over to the tender mercies of the police. The inevitable consequence of exorbitant bribes, and the penitentiary, followed.

While comparatively protected in the brothels, where they represented a certain monetary value, the girls now found themselves on the street, absolutely at the mercy of the graft-greedy police. Desperate, needing protection and longing for affection, these girls naturally proved an easy prey for cadets, themselves the result of the spirit of our commercial age. Thus the cadet system was the direct outgrowth of police persecution, graft, and attempted suppression of prostitution. It were sheer folly to confound this modern phase of the social evil with the causes of the latter.

Mere suppression and barbaric enactments can serve but to embitter, and further degrade, the unfortunate victims of ignorance and stupidity. The latter has reached its highest expression in the proposed law to make humane treatment of prostitutes a crime, punishing any one sheltering a prostitute with five years’ imprisonment and $10,000 fine. Such an attitude merely exposes the terrible lack of understanding of the true causes of prostitution, as a social factor, as well as manifesting the Puritanic spirit of the Scarlet Letter days.

There is not a single modern writer on the subject who does not refer to the utter futility of legislative methods in coping with the issue. Thus Dr. Blaschko finds that governmental suppression and moral crusades accomplish nothing save driving the evil into secret channels, multiplying its dangers to society. Havelock Ellis, the most thorough and humane student of prostitution, proves by a wealth of data that the more stringent the methods of persecution the worse the condition becomes. Among other data we learn that in France, “in 1560, Charles IX. abolished brothels through an edict, but the numbers of prostitutes were only increased, while many new brothels appeared in unsuspected shapes, and were more dangerous. In spite of all such legislation, or because of it, there has been no country in which prostitution has played a more conspicuous part.”

An educated public opinion, freed from the legal and moral hounding of the prostitute, can alone help to ameliorate present conditions. Wilful shutting of eyes and ignoring of the evil as a social factor of modern life, can but aggravate matters. We must rise above our foolish notions of “better than thou,” and learn to recognize in the prostitute a product of social conditions. Such a realization will sweep away the attitude of hypocrisy, and ensure a greater understanding and more humane treatment. As to a thorough eradication of prostitution, nothing can accomplish that save a complete transvaluation of all accepted values especially the moral ones — coupled with the abolition of industrial slavery.

Comments

  1. says

    What an incredible person, I am amazed that we keep having to fight these battles, as each new generation of antis thinks they have invented the wheel.

  2. Thil says

    does this women ever provide any good evidence for her arguments? Does she ever stop arrogantly insulting everyone who doesn’t agree with her? Does she realize a vague correlation found in three hundred year old French records doesn’t prove anything?

    “She also saw prostitution as an inevitable product of sexual repression, monogamy, religious restriction and the institution of marriage, which she abhorred”

    do you agree with that?

    “She used the exact same language about factory work and all other forms of purchased labour under capitalism, which she calls “economic prostitution.””

    do you agree with that?

    “The most amusing side of the question now before the public is the indignation of our “good, respectable people,” especially the various Christian gentlemen, who are always to be found in the front ranks of every crusade. Is it that they are absolutely ignorant of the history of religion, and especially of the Christian religion? Or is it that they hope to blind the present generation to the part played in the past by the Church in relation to prostitution? Whatever their reason, they should be the last to cry out against the unfortunate victims of today, since it is known to every intelligent student that prostitution is of religious origin, maintained and fostered for many centuries, not as a shame, but as a virtue, hailed as such by the Gods themselves”

    this part is about as reasonable as me blaming John major for the acts of Stalin on the grounds they were both politicians

  3. Ally Fogg says

    “She also saw prostitution as an inevitable product of sexual repression, monogamy, religious restriction and the institution of marriage, which she abhorred”

    do you agree with that?

    To an extent. At the time she was writing both the US and UK were at the height of cultural moral puritanism and the extent of prostitution in cities was quite staggering. I’ve seen stats that something like 1 in 6 women in Victorian London was a working prostitute. I don’t doubt for a moment that those are related. Of course it is not the whole story or the complete explanation, but I can see why it would have been very significant at the time.

    “She used the exact same language about factory work and all other forms of purchased labour under capitalism, which she calls “economic prostitution.””

    do you agree with that?

    Broadly. I don’t think there is anything intrinsically or inherently different between sex work and other forms of work, although of course I recognise that in practice sex workers are unusually vulnerable and that the whole industry is particularly prone to exploitation and abuse. Most of that is a product of criminalization and stigma and the social, cultural and economic contexts.

  4. karmacat says

    What she describes reminds me of how others treat people who abuse drugs and alcohol. There is a lot of moralizing about drug abuse and the drug trade but not enough action directed to the underlying causes of drug abuse/trade.

  5. Thil says

    @Ally Fogg

    “Broadly. I don’t think there is anything intrinsically or inherently different between sex work and other forms of work, although of course I recognise that in practice sex workers are unusually vulnerable and that the whole industry is particularly prone to exploitation and abuse. Most of that is a product of criminalization and stigma and the social, cultural and economic contexts”

    I meant do you agree that selling your body (for labour or sex), is always a bad thing that no society should make people do?

  6. says

    Thanks so much for posting this Ally, it was a great read! It was also so gratifying to know Emma Goldman understood and supported us Transgender/Intersex/Agender/Neutrois/GenderQueer/Bigender/ThirdSex, etc, QUILTBAG people, in addition to gays and lesbians and bisexuals. To think she got it all the way back then! This speaks volumes of her intelligence, compassion, keen political insight =)

  7. Steersman says

    Excellent post – thanks, and also for the introduction to Emma Goldman. But, in passing, Maggie McNeill – “The Honest Courtesan” – has a new post up on the topic. Although my impression is that “honest” is more the rule than the exception – as a matter fact, most of those who I have met and hired have generally been rather nice people.

    However, I have to question a number of Goldman’s and your comments and their apparent implications. For starters, while I think her “merciless Moloch of capitalism” is certainly a memorable and poignant phrase, I think that is laying too much blame at the doorstep of a particular system rather than at the root of the problem – i.e., the “grim meat-hook” realities of life: if you don’t work then you don’t eat. The trick, I think and for humanism at least, is to ensure that the implicit quid pro quo and its implementation doesn’t deny or repudiate our humanity.

    And while I haven’t yet read anything about Goldman herself, particularly her political affiliations, I can’t see that communism or Marxism – “wonderful theory, wrong species” as E.O. Wilson put it – is all that workable either, although I don’t think they are entirely without their merits. But what puts an end to sweat shops is not making labour itself illegal, but doing so for the coercion, and the inequitable working arrangements and conditions. Which has, I think, some applicability to prostitution.

    But this comment of hers seems particularly questionable:

    We must rise above our foolish notions of “better than thou,” and learn to recognize in the prostitute a product of social conditions.

    With the implication being that changing the “social conditions” will do away with prostitution. Which seems rather to fly in the face of the fact that apparently no few prostitutes are in the business by freely-made and self-aware choice, and one they seem not to feel was a particularly odious or coerced one. To insist, as some apparently do, that it is not a choice or lifestyle or profession that anyone would willingly select absent some serious coercion looks rather arrogant to say the least, not to mention being a denial of the agency of those so selecting.

    However, I think she is on better ground in her apparent criticism of the attitudes towards and perspectives on prostitutes themselves, as in this observation:

    The latter has reached its highest expression in the proposed law to make humane treatment of prostitutes a crime, punishing any one sheltering a prostitute with five years’ imprisonment and $10,000 fine.

    Echoing and underlining McNeill’s “institutionalized persecution of prostitutes”, a simple phrase that covers a whole lot of hurt and grief. For instance, society’s attitudes towards the profession tends to make it about 7 times more dangerous, in terms of homicides per capita, than the next most dangerous one, male taxicab drivers. Consistent with the fact that they seem to be disproportionately targeted by the sociopaths and psychopaths among us – Jack the Ripper, and the Green River killer being cases in point. Seems that one might reasonably argue that society’s attitudes towards the profession, in enabling if not condoning those depredations, makes society – all of us – culpable, jointly if not jointly and severally, for those crimes.

    The social attitudes towards prostitution and those within the profession is, I think, really kind of a travesty of justice, if not of empathy and humanity. Although it is a rather complex issue that encompasses many aspects which adds to its intractability.

  8. F [is for failure to emerge] says

    I always wonder why the “white” bit hasn’t been replaced with something more accurate, meaningful, and inclusive. It is meant to distinguish various meanings of “white slavery” from “brutally kidnapping and enslaving people from Africa, esp. when transported to the US”, but it leaves much to be desired.

    But considering that the reasons for fear of this day are so closely related to the reasons our profession is maligned and suppressed

    Um, maybe, assuming we really know what from the list of possible reasons for Fri 13 being unlucky are actually accurate. And this would be “historically”, as in “not currently”, so it seems like a kind of pointless intro to the piece. It sort of detracts from the excellence of the rest.

  9. AndrewV69, Visiting MRA, Purveyor of Piffle & Woo says

    @Steersman, #7

    Although my impression is that “honest” is more the rule than the exception – as a matter fact, most of those who I have met and hired have generally been rather nice people.

    That matches my experience also for the most part. Mind, I suspect like myself you hired escorts using a reputable agency.

    Since you mentioned Maggie McNeill I thought you might also be interested if you are unaware of her, in what Dr Laura Agustín (who has a blog on Migration, Trafficking and the Rescue Industry) has to say on the subject.

    Judge dismisses academic claim to sex-trafficking expertise:
    http://www.lauraagustin.com/judge-dismisses-academic-claim-to-sex-trafficking-expertise

    I am interested in the proliferation of people, with academic qualifications or not, who claim expertise gives them the right to speak in grand universal terms on subjects they observe and abhor but have not lived themselves. Even worse, they claim to be able to speak for those others, implying that the people in question are not able to. When sexworkers speak for themselves, moral entrepreneurs often dismiss them, engaging in the disqualification I addressed recently. This mechanism of disqualifying people’s own words offends me as much as anything else in anti-prostitution/anti-trafficking campaigns.

  10. says

    Also, @Ally

    Broadly. I don’t think there is anything intrinsically or inherently different between sex work and other forms of work, although of course I recognise that in practice sex workers are unusually vulnerable and that the whole industry is particularly prone to exploitation and abuse. Most of that is a product of criminalization and stigma and the social, cultural and economic contexts.

    Very well said, keep up the good work! =~)

  11. Lucy says

    So prostitutes, who break up relationships, marriages and families and spread STDs including HIV to millions of other women and children, who help to ruin people’s neighbourhoods having sex in the open, relieving themselves in people’s gardens, leaving condoms in playgrounds, attracting buyers from around the country and abroad who harass local women and draw others in, who aid and abet the objectification and trade in women and girls, bear no responsibility for their choices?

    I’ve got every sympathy with the argument that this is a systemic problem, and no reason to question the Victorian victim prostitute narrative, but if these women want to be taken seriously as a moral voice in society, it would be great if they could start taking moral responsibility.

    There are many people in this world who find themselves in difficult economic and social circumstances who don’t go this route. And many others who apparently have plenty of other choices (graduates no less), who do. I’m sick of the efforts to make their lifestyle mainstream and sanitised, underneath it lies the misogynist idea that all women’s relationships are prostitution of differing degrees, and all would solicit if they had to. There is also a powerful vested interest from those who run and work in this destructive trade. They are winning the PR battle because those who should know better are failing to challenge them.

  12. Lucy says

    “Broadly. I don’t think there is anything intrinsically or inherently different between sex work and other forms of work”

    Moral relativism at its most banal evil.

    Sex is different to practically everything else human beings do. “Sex work” likewise.

    See the places you end up when you start trying to dilute the definition of rape?

  13. Lucy says

    Paid surrogacy is illegal too. So is paid organ donation. So is paid egg donation. So is renting somebody’s orifices on the thin grounds that they are willing to let you.

  14. Lucy says

    @Andrew

    “That matches my experience also for the most part. Mind, I suspect like myself you hired escorts using a reputable agency.”

    Reputable? You mean they have a shiny website that lulls you into a false sense of moral ambivalence?

    What exactly is reputable about either the agency or what you’re doing? Is it the dispensable nature of your relationships with women? Your over-sexualisation and objectification of them? The power differential inherent in them? The bribery? Your encouragement of gender inequality? Your short changing your real girlfriend, if you ever have one? Your parochialism and self-entitlement?

  15. says

    Lucy, your idea of what is or isn’t illegal is as wrong headed as your bigoted assumptions about sex workers. Your hysterical (and I do know the context of the word, since you have absorbed patriarchies division of women into whores and Madonnas I think a gendered term is the most appropriate) scream of hate towards sex workers shows exactly where those who are opposed to women (and men) having bodily autonomy are coming from.

    Prejudice is never pretty but at least you didn’t hide yours behind faux concern as so many do.

    Oh and yeah I am a sock for the pimp lobby, paid millions to reply to internet comments, I am also a man, suffer from false consciousness, not representative and deluded…just getting your reply written for you :-)

  16. leni says

    So prostitutes, who break up relationships, marriages and families and spread STDs including HIV to millions of other women and children, who help to ruin people’s neighbourhoods having sex in the open, relieving themselves in people’s gardens, leaving condoms in playgrounds, attracting buyers from around the country and abroad who harass local women and draw others in, who aid and abet the objectification and trade in women and girls, bear no responsibility for their choices?

    Driving it underground is a large reason those problems you mention exist, so why not “sanitize” it? And I think some of those things you mention are legitimate complaints. Some of them I suspect are more symptomatic of homelessness than prostitution, but either way I fail to see how keeping prostitution (much like poverty and homelessness) illegal has helped alleviate any of these problems.

    Also like homelessness, “alleviating” these problems usually means something more like shifting the population to someone else’s neighborhood. Arresting prostitutes only further limits their employment options, so those who don’t wish to be in the trade have even less of a chance of getting out. How has this helped?

    And on another note, prostitutes don’t break up marriages. The people who visit them and their spouses are responsible for that.

  17. AndrewV69, Visiting MRA, Purveyor of Piffle & Woo says

    @Lucy, #15

    Reputable? You mean they have a shiny website that lulls you into a false sense of moral ambivalence?

    Reputable in the sense that they had a good reputation on a site that reviewed various agencys and escorts by their alleged customers. That is how I wound up selecting that particular agency, and why I selected a particular escort. If she was not available, then I booked someone else via the same agency.

    FYI. Prostitution is legal in Canada, but what is illegal are “living off the avails” and suchlike. As for “moral ambivalence”, based on your own comments it is your morals that are questionable. You most certainly are not in any position to judge anyone.

    What exactly is reputable about either the agency or what you’re doing?

    I already addressed the former, as for the latter it should be quite clear that it is a simple transaction. Sex in exchange for money.

    Is it the dispensable nature of your relationships with women?

    I have been married before and asking me to make that sort of financial and emotional commitment, expense, and obligation without guarantee again is not going to happen. Marriage is a very bad deal for a not insignificant number of men. If a wife decides to use denial of sex as a weapon on her husband, then in my case she should not expect him to stay around.

    With that said, to my surprise I have not had to avail myself to the services of an escort since I moved to my current location. So many of the girls give sex out so freely and apparently without any expectation of anything else, there is almost no prostition that I am aware of.

    This is a small town however, in Vancouver it is a different story.

    Your over-sexualisation and objectification of them? The power differential inherent in them? The bribery? Your encouragement of gender inequality? Your short changing your real girlfriend, if you ever have one? Your parochialism and self-entitlement?

    You presuppositions no doubt are based on your own experiences? I am sorry for you if that is the case, but it is not my fault if you are having trouble getting laid. I will point out that you are the common factor if you are having relationship difficulties with one person after another. The solution should be obivous if that is the case.

    Or you can continue to tilt at windmills I suppose.

  18. johngreg says

    Lucy said (http://freethoughtblogs.com/hetpat/2013/09/13/white-slave-traffic-a-friday-13th-guest-post-by-emma-goldman/#comment-9210):

    So prostitutes, who break up relationships, marriages and families and spread STDs including HIV to millions of other women and children, who help to ruin people’s neighbourhoods having sex in the open, relieving themselves in people’s gardens, leaving condoms in playgrounds, attracting buyers from around the country and abroad who harass local women and draw others in, who aid and abet the objectification and trade in women and girls, bear no responsibility for their choices?

    Woah! That’s just too many, far, far too many groundless, evidence-free, moral panic-based bullshit stereotypes to work with. What kind of paranoid fantastical nieghbourhood do you live in?

  19. says

    So prostitutes, who break up relationships, marriages and families and spread STDs including HIV to millions of other women and children, who help to ruin people’s neighbourhoods having sex in the open, relieving themselves in people’s gardens, leaving condoms in playgrounds, attracting buyers from around the country and abroad who harass local women and draw others in, who aid and abet the objectification and trade in women and girls, bear no responsibility for their choices?

    I’ve got every sympathy with the argument that this is a systemic problem, and no reason to question the Victorian victim prostitute narrative, but if these women want to be taken seriously as a moral voice in society, it would be great if they could start taking moral responsibility.

    There are many people in this world who find themselves in difficult economic and social circumstances who don’t go this route. And many others who apparently have plenty of other choices (graduates no less), who do. I’m sick of the efforts to make their lifestyle mainstream and sanitised, underneath it lies the misogynist idea that all women’s relationships are prostitution of differing degrees, and all would solicit if they had to. There is also a powerful vested interest from those who run and work in this destructive trade. They are winning the PR battle because those who should know better are failing to challenge them.

    I’ve never been a prostitute/sex worker, and never will be.? Why? Because I have Autism (developmental delay at eight years old due to Autism means I’m eight emotionally; and because I am disabled (Chronic PTSD and DESNOS) and have absence/petit mal seizures on a regular basis. I live in pretty extreme isolation, have been through an obscene amount of trauma in life, but here’s the thing: I know fellow transwomen who are sex workers, and they’re not the kind of women who are anything like you’re categorizing. Your hate for sex workers, many of whom get railroaded into it; like practically all transwomen I know of who do it and are socially and mentally able enough to do it; is still quite palpable even given your clarification of Victorian times. Also, your hate for escorts who are like middle/uppermiddleclass/upperclass (I’m lower lower class for reference) is also inexusable and bigoted.

    People would say I’m some kind of sex worker because I write erotica, but I’m certainly not one taking money for sex, and am far too disabled as well as Autistic, to ever be one, but I know people who are, and this comment isn’t an informed one concerning them and their situation. They are far more abled and socially savvy (emotionally sophisticated) than I will ever be, and they are not blights on their community; they’re just trying to survive through sex work; put bread in their mouth.

    Your comments are a disgrace, and befit the privilege society has bestowed on you. I will probably wind up a wandering hermit some day, maybe begging for alms, I will never do sex work because I have Autism and am Disabled, and I was raised as a child to commit to someone for life: that’s it, 30-50+ years until we both drop dead. What’s sad in this culture, is that people aren’t actually interested in transwomen as actual committed partners; they’re interested in railroading us into sex work and then having rapey sex (as well as outright rape) with us in that context, when they know damn well we don’t want to be prostitutes.

    This article ( http://janetmock.com/2013/09/12/men-who-date-attracted-to-trans-women-stigma/ ) talks about that problem very well actually, and shows why I don’t take cisgendered people seriously when they say they want me to commit to them and they will commit to me; they DON’T want to commit to me; they just want me to prostitute myself and thus reenforce/reify patriarchal social invisibility of transwomen (myself first, then others) in Society at large, because they’re too ashamed to openly say they’re attracted to transwomen.

    I’ll probably have to wait a few decades (I am 31 and a half years old) until I am in my early 50’s before I’ll get a cisman or ciswoman, who is actually interested in a serious committed relationship with me, because people are still bonkers stupid morons when it comes to transpeople; trying to force us to be an extreme sex fetish they can rape whenever they want, rather than just regular people too who just want to commit long term relationship, and are NOT merely a fetish.

  20. Steersman says

    leni said (#17):

    Some of them I suspect are more symptomatic of homelessness than prostitution, but either way I fail to see how keeping prostitution (much like poverty and homelessness) illegal has helped alleviate any of these problems.

    Well – leni – it seems we might actually and finally agree on something. :-) As opposed, apparently, to very different views on whether suggesting women take reasonable precautions relative to the probabilities of rape qualifies as reasonable “risk management” or as “victim-blaming”. And whether “pouring wine while male” is prima facie evidence of imminent rape or not. ;-)

  21. Steersman says

    AndrewV69 said (#10):

    That matches my experience also for the most part. Mind, I suspect like myself you hired escorts using a reputable agency.

    Yes, most of the time. Although there were more than a few times – in my “salad days”, as they say – when the lady of the evening was “Lili, underneath the lamp-post” – generally speaking just as nice as those met through agencies, and the venues provided variety, an entirely different slice of life. And while there were a few extra surprises along the way – some more problematic than others – I generally appreciate the time had with them all.

    Since you mentioned Maggie McNeill I thought you might also be interested if you are unaware of her, in what Dr Laura Agustín (who has a blog on Migration, Trafficking and the Rescue Industry) has to say on the subject.

    Thanks for the link – definitely a blog worth digging into in some detail. And your quote of it is entirely relevant; the Canadian judge she quotes extensively in her post emphasizes the point you made in a later passage:

    Further, Professor Perrin is a career advocate, and does not provide the appearance of objectivity. …. The idea of sexual victimization of young people is understandably repellent to many people …. That sex trafficking is a nasty business is not in question.

    Lots of people are, quite understandably, quite horrified at the consequences of sexual trafficking – as mentioned, the documentary and book The Natashas – Inside The Global Sex Trade by the Canadian journalist Victor Malarek being a case in point. However, as Agustin and many others argue, the illegality of the profession seems to be a significant contributing factor in much of the grief it currently entails – something that those with an overly moralistic – not to say, a religiously draconian – view seem rather reluctant to consider.

    Part of the reason why I’m willing to answer, at least as far as I’m able to, Maggie’s call for support for the legalizing of the profession. But while all of those who have responded – quite an impressive and extensive list when you get right down to it – will no doubt help to move the ball downfield, it seems that rather more should be done by the clients who presumbably greatly outnumber the sex workers themselves. Although that is, as Maggie pointed out, somewhat of a sensitive issue for them, particularly in the U.S.

    And it seems part of the reason for that is because many in the public are reluctant to support the legalization as they see that as primarily a benefit only to the profession and those in it, and a serious cost to society, which adds to the negative social attitudes towards the clients. For instance, I remember, during the several cases on the question here in Canada that have worked their ways through the courts, talking in support of the further legalization of the profession, and finding more than a few accusing me of doing so only because I was supposedly directly associated with it, that I was supposedly a pimp. Kind of surprising in a way, rather illogical as a matter of fact, as it seems that at least the street-level pimps are the ones most likely to be seriously discomfited if the sex-workers themselves have more control over their working conditions, and have less hassle from police because of inconsistent or hypocritical laws.

    In which case, it seems of some import to ask why there aren’t all that many clients answering that call. Although it seems a rather complex question, with a great many facets including the “up close and personal” nature of the transaction, the health issues, and, maybe, the questionable elevation of procreation over pleasure. But it seems that a good start on answering that question would be to determine the nature of the demographic, something on which there seems to be very limited and quite biased amounts of information, a case of the latter being Malarek’s own book on the topic – The Johns – Sex for Sale and the Men who Buy It. Far better, from what I’ve been able to determine, is a Canadian study – John’s Voice – by a researcher at Simon Fraser University.

    But definitely a very thorny problem, the solutions to which aren’t likely to be found by ignoring or misunderstanding the dynamics of both buyers and sellers.

  22. Lucy says

    @Jemima

    “Lucy, your idea of what is or isn’t illegal is as wrong headed”

    How so?

    “as your bigoted assumptions about sex workers.”

    What bigoted assumptions?

    “Your hysterical (and I do know the context of the word, since you have absorbed patriarchies division of women into whores and Madonnas I think a gendered term is the most appropriate) scream of hate towards sex workers shows exactly where those who are opposed to women (and men) having bodily autonomy are coming from.”

    Don’t be silly. There are a whole range of women who don’t go the objectification route, it’s you who’ve fallen back on the ol’ dichotomy. Nice try at reducing non-whores as Madonnas, very revealing and underlines my point that misogyny underlies this.

    I don’t hate prostitutes, I think they are doing a shitty thing that causes massive social harm around the world, some of them voluntarily, sure. I think if they want to enter the debate in favour of legalisation, they’d better be prepared to be treated as individuals with moral autonomy, sure. If I have to pick a thing to hate in all this it’s the prostitution-apologists, ethical dissembles, liars and self-justifiers, the air time and respect they are being given by people posing as equality proponents.

    “Prejudice is never pretty but at least you didn’t hide yours behind faux concern as so many do.”

    My concern where I have it, is genuine. What prejudice?

    “Oh and yeah I am a sock for the pimp lobby, paid millions to reply to internet comments, I am also a man, suffer from false consciousness, not representative and deluded…just getting your reply written for you ”

    You don’t have to be paid to benefit from this. You benefit plenty from your self-serving apathy without getting a wage from it. There, fixed my reply for you.

  23. says

    Since you have no idea that sex work is legal in many countries, as is paid egg donation, or that you beliefs about Sti rates are prejudiced nonsense, based on your very clear whorephobia I do not have the time or the energy to educate you.

    The social harm you believe is caused by people consensually selling sexual services is frankly all in your mind, and a rather unpleasant place it is.

    There is a thing called google, use it.

  24. Steersman says

    Lucy said (#23):

    If I have to pick a thing to hate in all this it’s the prostitution-apologists, ethical dissemblers, liars and self-justifiers, the air time and respect they are being given by people posing as equality proponents.

    There are obviously those who support the profession and its legalization because of the benefits they derive from it, on both the buying and selling side. But that comment of yours, and the similar ones in #12 and #15, look to be based on some highly selective colouring and moralizing that doesn’t seem to have much evidence to justify it.

    Analogously, I think it is quite reasonable to “hate” – although that might be too strong a word – sweat shops; rather much to go from that to hating the labour economy, to hating the exchange of one service for another. While I won’t go so far as to insist that all such exchanges are above reproach – hiring a hit-man, for example – I think your position suffers from being unable, or unwilling, to justify your apparent, but quite crucial, premise that the exchange of sexual favours for money is intrinsically morally wrong. What, pray tell, is it about sex – as something we can do for each other – that makes it an entirely different category from, say, fixing someone’s roof, or providing a massage?

  25. Jackie Papercuts says

    I notice that Lucy projects the guilt for men street harassing women on sex workers. Wouldn’t that blame lie solely on the harassers? I mean, there are several establishments that sell ice cream up the road from me. I never stand around and scream at random passers by about how much I want some ice cream. So, that connection fails.

    Lucy, can you tell us how engaging the services of a prostitute is any worse for your marriage than a plain old affair?

    Can you show evidence that it is prostitutes, not merely litterbug lovers leaving condoms on playgrounds? I’ve seen the road side droppings of used condoms and empty bottles of booze on Sunday mornings. Sure some sex workers might get sexy in a car, but so do alot of other people. Even if they were flung on the ground by a thoughtless pro, the problem is not that he or she is selling sex. The problem would be that he or she is littering. Littering is not caused by sex work.

    There is too much fail to even sum up in Lucy’s comment. All I can do is shake my head.

  26. mildlymagnificent says

    There is too much fail to even sum up in Lucy’s comment.

    Thank you.

    I must have deleted half a novel’s worth of comments but this is all I really wanted to say.

    (Mentioned to my husband in passing. He remarked that if someone’s so worried about STDs they should be pleased to see condoms being used even if they’re unthrilled by litter.)

  27. leni says

    Steersman:

    Well – leni – it seems we might actually and finally agree on something. :-)

    Well- Steersman- I had to read about you visiting prostitutes and my heart had to break in…several pieces for those people. So hey you can probably take some satisfaction from that!

    As opposed, apparently, to very different views on whether suggesting women take reasonable precautions relative to the probabilities of rape qualifies as reasonable “risk management” or as “victim-blaming”. And whether “pouring wine while male” is prima facie evidence of imminent rape or not. ;-)

    Not that this will make any difference to you and it’s OT so I won’t respond further than this and neither should you, but 1) people handing out intoxicants have just as much if not more responsibility than those receiving them. It’s interesting to me that you don’t mention that. And 2) A “risk management” failure does not mean a crime didn’t occur. Frame it in corporate bullshit speak all you want, but you know that crimes are crimes regardless of the precautions the target took. I suspect you also know that asking people to “take responsibility” for doing things that made them more appealing to criminals is tantamount to asking them not to prosecute, and I suspect you are using this in a calculated way in the case of sex crimes. But that’s another story ;-D One that no one except possibly your therapist wants to hear.

    Steering shit off course yet again. Well, off course for everyone else, perfectly on course for you.

  28. leni says

    I notice that Lucy projects the guilt for men street harassing women on sex workers. Wouldn’t that blame lie solely on the harassers? I mean, there are several establishments that sell ice cream up the road from me. I never stand around and scream at random passers by about how much I want some ice cream.

    Oh, are we not supposed to do that? But I like to press my face right up to the freezer window in Walmart and scream “WHORE” at the frozen Heath bar bars? They’re so fucking toffey-ey and caramel-ey and delicious and my cholesterol is so high it’s not fucking fair!

    God FtB thought police, you people suck. Thanks for ruining my Friday nights forever :/

  29. Steersman says

    Leni said (#28):

    Well – Steersman- I had to read about you visiting prostitutes and my heart had to break in…several pieces for those people. So hey you can probably take some satisfaction from that!

    I don’t deny that there is probably no small amount of grief associated with the profession. Although I would tend to agree with those who argue that no small amount of that is due to the associated antedeluvian laws, and the rather bigoted morality that many seem predicated on.

    However, I think large parts of your sympathy are misplaced if not a case of some self-serving over-indulgence in taking umbrage. For instance, you might want to read and pay close attention to this post by Maggie McNeill – “The Honest Courtesan” – who was centrally featured in this post of Ally’s. Her lead-off paragraph in her argument that for a great many women in the profession it is an enjoyable, freely-made, and remunerative choice:

    It’s a kind of black joke among sex workers that everyone is an expert in our lives except us. That poorly-named, rare quality called “common sense” would tell anyone who possessed it that in order to understand what any given profession, trade, lifestyle or other social phenomenon is actually like, one must talk to those who actually live it. But because so-called “common sense” is anything but common, all too many fools are all too ready to listen to people who have never done sex work, yet proclaim themselves experts in our lives. What’s worse, they insist that they know them better than we do, that we are suffering from “false consciousness” and are therefore unfit to talk about what sex work is like…unless we agree with them, of course, at which point we instantly and miraculously become experts not only in our own experiences, but those of all other sex workers of every background, type and temperament in every country in the world.

    Her article was generally a response to some hysteria from the religious cohort in North Carolina, notably a public prosecutor Lindsey Roberson who “… adds that public misconceptions about sex trafficking are also part of the problem. There’s this myth of choice, that a woman chooses to get into this. …. Which led to some pointed comments from some dozen escorts who sought to disabuse her of that particular myth of hers, notably this one in particular:

    Law graduate and former pupil barrister here. I’m now studying for a degree in psychology after which I plan on doing a PHD. Sex work is my choice to fund my studies and support my family too. I wouldn’t say I’m desperate or damaged, in fact I am an intelligent and successful business woman. I love my work and wouldn’t change it for the world. What I would change is sweeping statements with no foundation or research behind them.

    Considering that a significant percentage of the people in the profession seem hardly to see themselves as victims, one might wonder how you and many others justify your apparent condemnation of their clients as victimizers. Not willing to give credit to their “lived experiences”? Ready to reject them – “with extreme prejudice” – as “false consciousness”?

    While one might reasonably criticize McNeill for deprecating the issue of trafficking – I haven’t read enough of her to be sure of her position on that – it seems to me that there are far too many people throwing stones at the profession and at those associated with it – on both the buying and selling sides – without knowing much of anything about either. Based largely on rather pigheaded ignorance and bigotry if you ask me.

    As for “A ‘risk management’ failure does not mean a crime didn’t occur”, my impression from less biased sources than PZ is that the woman in question “embellished” that tale rather shamelessly, that the “magically refilling wineglass” was not at all due to any direct actions by the person currently accused of rape in a somewhat related case. While I’ll readily agree with your “… does not mean a crime didn’t occur”, I very much object to the rather hasty and quite problematic judgement by more than a few that a crime did occur. Which kind of looks like pre-judgement, like prejudice, to me.

    And, relative to “my therapist”, I’ve generally found that, for my money, the “neighborhood professional” is far more effective, and has a much better “bedside manner” to boot.

    And finally, I think your “Steering shit off course yet again” very badly misjudges the issues referenced as I think they are all “of a piece” with the questions surrounding prostitution, all of which seem to come in under the rubric of “sexism”. While I will readily agree that sexism seems to be a rather severe problem in society, my impression is that no few on the FTB/Skepchick/AtheismPlus side are compounding it, are muddying the waters rather badly, by trying to peddle a definition for the concept that doesn’t hold much water, and by refusing to debate or provide evidence to justify it. A rather egregious case of which is this guest post on Brute Reason, and as I argued thereon.

  30. says

    @Steersman
    I have largely stayed out of this debate, because defending my right to exist to people like Lucy gets very wearing, but there are two points I actually think you might be willing to engage with.

    Firstly enjoyment of ones job does not confer ant legitimacy, if it did millions of people this morning could demand their employers be prosecuted. What matters is full and informed consent. This is exactly the same for sex work as any other work.

    As for trafficking, a moral panic first employed by the Salvation Army to raise funds in the 19th century and currently doing the same for various charities and law enforcement today, any mention of it must be treated with extreme caution. The old saw “who benefits” is worth considering when reading any story. A quick glance tells us that it is usually not the “victims” of rescue.

  31. Steersman says

    @ jemima2013 (#31):

    Firstly enjoyment of ones job does not confer [any] legitimacy, if it did millions of people this morning could demand their employers be prosecuted.

    Yes, quite agree with you, although I might rephrase that slightly as “… does not necessarily confer any legitimacy ….” That is, it can; that enjoyment is typically, though not always, an indicator or “informed consent”.

    What matters is full and informed consent. This is exactly the same for sex work as any other work.

    Seems to be the crux of the matter – rather analogous to the question of rape. Although it reminds me of an old joke or trope: She (horrified): “Oh no! Anything but the whip!” He (hopeful): “Anything??!!” She (resigned): “The whip.”

    I think the point there is that if we force people to do things that are completely antithetical to their “core values” as a condition of survival then even if they do them then I’m not sure that really qualifies as “full and informed consent” – more like “under duress” which, if I’m not mistaken, potentially entails some fairly serious legal penalities. The question then seems to be one of how much duress is legally and ethically acceptable, and in which circumstances: while I’ll agree with you that there are some significant similarities between sex work and “any other work”, it seems there are also some fairly important differences, at least to some people.

    For instance, would you think it ethical or fair to, say, force a dyed-in-the-wool PETA supporter to work on the killing floor of an abbatoir? I seem to recollect a similar case that came up in Germany some years ago where there was a suggestion that women would be obliged to work in brothels or lose their benefits. Probably no skin off the noses of some women, but for no few others that would apparently be the proverbial “fate worse than death”. This woman, for example, who said: “There is something really awful at the core of the act of a man paying to use a woman’s body.”

    Now I will readily argue that that is a highly questionable proposition for any number of reasons – I wonder what she would think of surrogate motherhood, for example – but I sort of think it is somewhat of a question of taste, of idiosyncratic values based on personal feelings. For instance, while one might at least quibble about the verb “use” as it suggests the potential abrogation of agency – I would go with “humanly use”, my own opinion on the matter is that, absent that abrogation, it can be a decidedly “Beautiful Thing” – and that I rather appreciate the fact that no few women have consented, apparently, some with more enthusiasm – feigned or otherwise – than others, to engaging in that particular transaction with me.

    However, I think the wicket gets very much stickier when either group wishes to impose, directly or indirectly, its particular values in that regard on the other group. Which seems to be the nub of the matter as far as legalization is concerned.

    As for trafficking, a moral panic … any mention of it must be treated with extreme caution.

    Agreed, although I’m at least willing to consider the possibility, and think it should be addressed, that at least some women wind up getting the short end of the stick as a result of that supposed process. Which might well be alleviated by legalization. However, I also think that, on balance, that legalization, or increases in that here in Canada, is likely to provide the greatest number of benefits, both to workers and clients, as well as to society in general – the “greatest good for the greatest number”.

  32. Dani Wells says

    I’ve argued this for years. Let’s deal with the basics.
    Prostitution is objectification of women and it’s the poor, underprivileged prostitute that is most common.
    Choice is not a good word to describe what’s going on. It leaves out the LACK of choices that women have.
    Legalizing prostitution increases demand which then creates MORE trafficking.
    How many trafficked women and children are we prepared to accept when we know we can use the Swedish model and hit the problem where it lies: with the demand.
    Men don’t want their ability to purchase women’s orifices away. I’m sure I’ll get men telling me how wrong it is that they will be charged while the prostituted woman goes free.
    You were willing to pay her a measly amount of money to use her and therefore continue the demand and trafficking so it’s only fair you pay that to society and stop increasing demand.
    Every prostitute that TRULY does it out of CHOICE does it because she DOES have multiple options and therefore does NOT have to put her sisters in ‘demand’ jeopardy by selling herself.
    This is not a moral argument. It’s a social one.
    It’s about women’s health.
    Strolls are disgusting. Nobody wants to live in a public safety disaster with needles, used condoms etc.
    By making ONE area legal for prostitutes, which would be the automatic answer to this prior statement would be to increase demand since men will go where it’s legal and another market, requiring ILLEGAL trafficking will occur.
    Calling people ANTI’s is a sign of unintelligence. It typically comes from people who have no argument.
    I have been a prostitute. So don’t make the mistake of telling me I know nothing of what I say.
    Every woman I ever met on the street did not want to be there.
    Women who work indoors may be slightly safer but are still in the same dilemma. They have little options.

    The cost should be laid squarely on the men who buy women and children. Not on the woman who has no options.

    If you have a problem with what I’m saying, make an argument. Don’t go off calling me crazy or telling me ‘it’s been around forEVERRRR so it’s totally ok!!’ That will make you look ridiculous in my eyes. Oppression of women HAS been around foreverrrr so it’s time to stop it. Prostitution might bring a woman a short term gain but it brings the rest of women and girls around her a social and health nightmare.

  33. Steersman says

    Dani Wells said (#33):

    Prostitution is objectification of women and it’s the poor, underprivileged prostitute that is most common

    The first part seems only your opinion – my impression is that many other prostitutes don’t see it that way at all. As for the second, one might reasonably argue that that is a consequence of the laws regarding the professsion, and nothing intrinsic to it. Rather like the status of those working in sweat shops – protective laws and equitable working arrangements tend to float all boats.

    Every prostitute that TRULY does it out of CHOICE does it because she DOES have multiple options and therefore does NOT have to put her sisters in ‘demand’ jeopardy by selling herself.

    So you then concede that some prostitutes engage in the profession out of choice? But, apart from the highly questionable “selling herself” – generally it is no more than services rendered for remuneration, I wonder what sort of evidence you have for “[putting] her sisters in ‘demand’ jeopardy”. May happen in some cases, but it might also reduce that jeopardy in many others.

    Strolls are disgusting. Nobody wants to live in a public safety disaster with needles, used condoms etc.

    They might well be true. But one might also say the same thing of the squalor of sweat-shops. Both cases are, arguably, the consequences of a lack of credible laws to make the first one legal, and in both cases to protect worker rights.

    I have been a prostitute. So don’t make the mistake of telling me I know nothing of what I say. Every woman I ever met on the street did not want to be there. Women who work indoors may be slightly safer but are still in the same dilemma. They have little options.

    Terribly sorry to hear that your experiences seem to have been uniformly bad. But you might want to take a look at the Honest Courtesan site which includes any number of testimontials – here (1) for example – that suggests that that isn’t necessarily the rule. In addition, one escort that I saw for quite some period of time seemed quite certain in adamantly insisting that she “had the best job in the world”. And you might also wish to consider the views of the sex workers in this (2) story.

    But it seems to me that the situation you described and experienced is due, in part at least, to some rather hypocritical laws surrounding the profession. And to the related fact that so many so called “good” people look down their noses at the profession, and at those providing and purchasing the services rendered. All without much effort, as McNeill put it, to consider “what sex work is like” from those with the most direct experience of it. Which is rather unfortunate for any number of reasons, not least of which is that I at least – apparently among many others – think it is of more than passing if not of profound value.

    The cost should be laid squarely on the men who buy women and children.

    Doesn’t really help your case to seriously suggest that sex workers are bought and sold like slaves. Or to conflate the choices of adults with the assaults of children.


    1) “_http://maggiemcneill.wordpress.com/2013/09/17/just-call-me-nobody/”;
    2) “_http://www.straight.com/news/sex-workers-defend-buyers”;

  34. Dani Wells says

    Reply to Steersman

    Dani Wells said (#33):

    Prostitution is objectification of women and it’s the poor, underprivileged prostitute that is most common

    The first part seems only your opinion – my impression is that many other prostitutes don’t see it that way at all. As for the second, one might reasonably argue that that is a consequence of the laws regarding the professsion, and nothing intrinsic to it. Rather like the status of those working in sweat shops – protective laws and equitable working arrangements tend to float all boats.

    Sweatshops and prostitution are both slavery of underprivileged people. It’s not an opinion. It’s a fact. I realize prostitutes may say they ‘love’ what they do. Psychologically, prostitutes use this language as a way of keeping themselves thinking they have control, but they don’t. The demand has control. He can choose what woman to buy. How much money he will pay and more importantly, he KNOWS she doesn’t have choice and uses that fact to make her do things she doesn’t want to do. Selling your sexual self is NOT healthy for MOST prostitutes who have sexual abuse backgrounds, drug addictions, mental health issues etc.

    Prostitution is just like sweatshops. It uses the most vulnerable people and exploits them.

    Every prostitute that TRULY does it out of CHOICE does it because she DOES have multiple options and therefore does NOT have to put her sisters in ‘demand’ jeopardy by selling herself.

    So you then concede that some prostitutes engage in the profession out of choice? But, apart from the highly questionable “selling herself” – generally it is no more than services rendered for remuneration, I wonder what sort of evidence you have for “[putting] her sisters in ‘demand’ jeopardy”. May happen in some cases, but it might also reduce that jeopardy in many others.

    Absolutely concede that a RARE few women who have multiple options ASIDE from prostitution engage in it. They don’t have to prostitute themselves but do and it’s these women who should NOT engage in it because it increases the demand and the misery for other women who DON’T have the choice.

    Strolls are disgusting. Nobody wants to live in a public safety disaster with needles, used condoms etc.

    They might well be true. But one might also say the same thing of the squalor of sweat-shops. Both cases are, arguably, the consequences of a lack of credible laws to make the first one legal, and in both cases to protect worker rights.

    You can’t protect prostitutes until you criminalize the demand because that’s where the power lies. You can’t make a better sweatshop. It’s called a sweatshop for a reason. The unequal nature of prostitution means you cannot protect anyone in it. Just like you can’t protect slaves. They are slaves. The only solution is to END slavery.

    I have been a prostitute. So don’t make the mistake of telling me I know nothing of what I say. Every woman I ever met on the street did not want to be there. Women who work indoors may be slightly safer but are still in the same dilemma. They have little options.

    Terribly sorry to hear that your experiences seem to have been uniformly bad. But you might want to take a look at the Honest Courtesan site which includes any number of testimontials – here (1) for example – that suggests that that isn’t necessarily the rule. In addition, one escort that I saw for quite some period of time seemed quite certain in adamantly insisting that she “had the best job in the world”. And you might also wish to consider the views of the sex workers in this (2) story.

    Don’t be sorry. Refuse to purchase women. That would do me and my sisters a LOT of good. You will prevent harm from coming to other women. Every woman you buy increases the demand and therefore more prostituted women are needed. You contribute to the misery of women when you buy them. Just like a prostitute who TRULY has multiple choices of making money but CHOOSES prostitution. She also is responsible for increasing the demand and the misery of other women and children.

    But it seems to me that the situation you described and experienced is due, in part at least, to some rather hypocritical laws surrounding the profession. And to the related fact that so many so called “good” people look down their noses at the profession, and at those providing and purchasing the services rendered. All without much effort, as McNeill put it, to consider “what sex work is like” from those with the most direct experience of it. Which is rather unfortunate for any number of reasons, not least of which is that I at least – apparently among many others – think it is of more than passing if not of profound value.

    Had nothing to do with any laws. Wouldn’t matter if it was legal or decriminalized. You’re making a moral argument and I’m not. It doesn’t matter who looks down anyone’s nose.

    The cost should be laid squarely on the men who buy women and children.

    Doesn’t really help your case to seriously suggest that sex workers are bought and sold like slaves. Or to conflate the choices of adults with the assaults of children.

    This is a typical response from someone who’s never had to sell their body. They are bought and sold like slaves. The fact you deny that means you don’t have a very good grasp on what you’re contributing to OR you just don’t want to take responsibility for what you’re doing when you buy a woman. You don’t understand the equation that I laid out. Here it is, really simple:

    Buying a woman INCREASES demand and increases trafficking. If a woman TRULY had multiple options and CHOSE to sell herself she is DIRECTLY responsible for INCREASING demand and putting more women and children into prostitution who DO NOT have a choice. You increase demand, you increase the suffering of women and children through trafficking. It’s a very simple equation.

    I’m not just arguing the equation, although that is quite enough to make my point that nobody should buy or sell women and girls.

    You didn’t do a very good job of countering my arguments. You basically just said this is a moral issue and women like to do it therefore it’s all good.

  35. Steersman says

    Dani Wells (#35):

    Sweatshops and prostitution are both slavery of underprivileged people. It’s not an opinion. It’s a fact.

    Maybe figuratively speaking, but certainly not literally. You might want to actually check the relevant definitions instead of trying to conflate at least two different meanings of the word:

    slav•er•y
    n. pl. slav•er•ies
    1. The state of one bound in servitude as the property of a slaveholder or household.
    2.
    a. The practice of owning slaves.
    b. A mode of production in which slaves constitute the principal work force.
    3. The condition of being subject or addicted to a specified influence.
    4. A condition of hard work and subjection: wage slavery.

    By token number 4, we’re all slaves – if we don’t work then, generally speaking, we don’t eat. And if we don’t eat then we die. A fairly stark “choice”. More of a sticky wicket for some than for others, of course, but that hardly changes the nature of the beast for most of us.

    Absolutely concede that a RARE few women who have multiple options ASIDE from prostitution engage in it. They don’t have to prostitute themselves but do and it’s these women who should NOT engage in it because it increases the demand and the misery for other women who DON’T have the choice.

    Well that’s a start. But those who can easily create pretty or engaging pictures and who enjoy doing so increase the demand on, and misery of, those who can’t, and don’t. Considering that that is a very common process, increases in the demand for various goods and services says absolutely diddly squat about the morality of the actions engaged in.

    You can’t protect prostitutes until you criminalize the demand because that’s where the power lies. You can’t make a better sweatshop. It’s called a sweatshop for a reason. The unequal nature of prostitution means you cannot protect anyone in it. Just like you can’t protect slaves. They are slaves. The only solution is to END slavery.

    Again, you’re using the word wrong – neither those working in sweat shops nor those, generally speaking at least in the West, working as prostitutes are “bound in servitude as the property of a slaveholder or household”. Attempting to conflate those different meanings qualifies as the disingenuous or egregious tactics of the demagogue – or of the deluded.

    But it is called a sweatshop because the rights of workers that we take for granted in the West aren’t available to those working in such places. The way to protect prostitutes, I think and as do many others, is to legalize the profession – in benighted places like America where it is still criminalized even though the law and society turn a blind eye to mountains of evidence for it under their noses – and to grant those same worker rights to them.

    This is a typical response from someone who’s never had to sell their body. They are bought and sold like slaves.

    What unmitigated horseshit. Take a real close look at the definitions again – or for a first time.

    You don’t understand the equation that I laid out. Here it is, really simple: …. You increase demand, you increase the suffering of women and children through trafficking. It’s a very simple equation.

    As are the ones that astrologers use. Doesn’t mean that they or the conclusions that follow from their use correspond to reality.

    You didn’t do a very good job of countering my arguments. You basically just said this is a moral issue and women like to do it therefore it’s all good.

    Yes, well, I do think it is a moral issue, one where it isn’t at all clear what is right and what is wrong, particularly in a categorical sense that would apply to all cases. For instance, you seem quite certain, dogmatically so, that it is entirely and always wrong even if some people – both men and women – who work as prostitutes don’t think so. But you’re unable or unwilling to provide any evidence – apart from a specious and self-serving misreading of the definitions for the word “slavery” – to justify your claims. And while I have periodically wondered whether my hiring of various escorts over the years entailed more coercion than was morally justified – as I do in buying cheaper T-shirts – I don’t see the situation as being terribly different from the entirely common and generally justifiable exchange of goods and services that is part and parcel of “economic man – and woman”.

    For instance, consider the case of me having had my hair cut the other day – and by a woman barber as it turns out. Or, maybe closer to the nub of the matter, a female physiotherapist or a masseuse, and a male customer. All generally pleasurable experiences provided in exchange for money. How are those cases significantly different from prostitution? While the simple answer is that genitalia aren’t generally involved, that only raises the further, rather sticky, question as to why that should make any difference.

    Now one can answer that, as some – notably the Catholic Church – apparently do, that any use of sex for other than procreation is morally wrong. But, considering that some 10 billion condoms are produced every year, that seems a rather untenable position to take. Seems far better, more consistent, and far more rational to consider prostitution simply as just another exchange of goods and services – comme les autres – and to legalize and protect it as such. Particularly absent any credible argument from you or others as to how it is a substantially different kind of service, one entirely different from those others.

  36. says

    I have stayed out of this argument largely because the whole your experience doesn’t trump my experience is pretty lazy argument.

    However as the semantics of racism, slavery and a whole host of appropriated tropes get thrown around I keep thinking one thing. Why on earth would a supposed sex worker support a model that increases violence against sex workers, decreases condom use, increases stigma, pushes sex workers into criminality and drives away the safest clients.

    Then I remember that today Laura Agustin revealed the Equality Now training that suggested those opposed to sex work impersonate sex workers on the web…cant link as they have removed it now.

    This isnt about deep feminist arguments, this is about what makes women safer, the Swedish model kills, any genuine sex worker knows that.

    http://www.bayswan.org/swed/Canada_law_reform_models.pdf

    http://humboldt1982.files.wordpress.com/2012/12/dangerous-liaisons.pdf

    http://sometimesitsjustacigar.wordpress.com/2013/07/12/justice-for-jasmine/

    Read the comment from Jasmines mother…where were you on the day of action…think about those 2 children who saw their mother murdered in front of them…and defend a model that says sex workers need to be protected from themselves. There are many ugly things in the world, one of the ugliest is someone who thinks dead whores are a price worth paying

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