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Joy to The Word

Jan 12 2018 End Human Trafficking Day: The Secret War on Sex Workers, Women and the MarginalizedCategory: Rants     04:56PM   0

 Marching with SWOP Seattle on "End Violence to Sex Workers Day", 2015 

I have shameful and embarrassing confession to make: If you asked me in 2010 what I thought of someone who worked as prostitute or did any kind of sex work, this would have been my answer: 

“I’m assuming most of them have been molested or sexually abused at a young age. They probably dropped out of high school, never had any formal education, maybe got pregnant as a teenager and they need to support themselves and their child by any means necessary. Their pimp abuses them and they’re scared to leave. They’re probably feeding a drug habit and they are desperate women who live on the streets with no other options. The ‘johns’ are disgusting perverted men who need to be reformed. We need to get rid of prostitution and give them better options.”


It’s funny how often what we fear and condemn what secretly appeals to us the most. Then we discover the truth.


I remember a time when I was that naïve, condescending “feminist” who thought a prostitute was the stereotype of what I had seen portrayed in movies and books my whole life. I need to remember who this person was so when I out myself as a former escort I can proactively shatter the stereotype of “who is a sex worker?” On Twitter I see so many posts from  “feminists”  who who constantly conflate consensual sex work with human trafficking. They want to magically stamp out sex work like alcohol during Prohibition (a time when alcohol flourished underground, car accidents and deaths from drunk drivers were skyrocketing, mobsters and police got rich from the corruption.) I try to empathize from the place they’re coming from as I also had their mindset; they have good intentions to “rescue” females from a perceived horrible life (never mind the boys, men or the thousands of migrant farm laborers because they can take care of themselves and we need cheap farm labor.) Their statistics and facts on trafficking numbers are made up to create a moral panic and get more funding to anti-trafficking police forces and “end demand” NGOs. These groups claim they want to end human trafficking, but they’re actually oppressors to helping real trafficked people. Arresting trafficked people so they can’t leave prostitution with an arrest record even if they choose to is completely counter intuitive. There are some police stings when arresting a suspected prostitute, they are given a “choice”: either do jail time, pay fines and have an arrest record, or go to a religious program to “repent” (mind you they don’t actually provide jobs, housing or funds.) They are seen as “bad girls” who need to be taught a lesson, not adults with agency.


The “Nordic Model”  is another push by anti-prostitution proponents. It decriminalizes the sex worker (because they’re seen as “victims” not criminals) but criminalized the client. It’s an approach to killing prostitution by killing the client, thus killing the prostitute. Killing the victim’s income is like slowly cutting off someone’s air supply and calling it “humane”, hoping they just suffocate peacefully and the numbers of them die off (isn’t that a great way to “save” those so-called victims?) After clients (“criminals”) are arrested, the press is free to publicly humiliate them, the the modern equivalent of a scarlet letter to leave a mark on them forever on the internet. The press publishes stories of these men showing their faces, names and addresses. These news stories are warning propaganda: “This could be the dire consequences if you’re even contemplating hiring a sex worker. You should be ashamed of yourself.” They created “john school” a way for the client to “repent” for their sins like in Project Rose. They have lots of completely made up statistics of how many prostitutes are victims of trafficking. It further perpetuates the shaming of people who buy sex and making the argument that criminalization protects sex trafficked people.


By using these tactics to scare off potential clients, it just makes it harder for sex workers to screen them as clients are even more nervous about giving out their information. When sex workers can’t screen (keeping themselves away from potentially dangerous clients), sex work just goes further underground and becomes dangerous and corrupt. This is why Amnesty International  and the Sex Workers Outreach Project (SWOP)  is pushing to decriminalize sex work worldwide. 


I think sex trafficking is smoke-and-mirrors to cover up what’s really the core issue: Sex is bad, especially females having sex. Women with money equals women with power, agency and choices, and that’s a dangerous idea. This past year with Number 45 at the helm of our country, it’s has felt like we’re on a scary, out-of-control ride leading us backwards and downwards. The positive change we’re now seeing is a backlash against the negative and we’re rising up collectively. Women are coming together to speak out against abuses by men in power, we are finally having dialogues about the power dynamic and harassment that’s been happening for centuries. 


There’s still a huge gender pay gap. Less than 5% of the top 500 companies CEOs are women. From a labor and pay standpoint, sex work is the one form of labor that stands those statistics on their head.  The majority of sex workers are women, and the majority of people who consume sex are men, so from an economic standpoint this is one of the few arenas where women have the upper hand. I am in no way saying that sex work is empowering for everyone, but I’m pointing out why it’s so attractive for women to get into the business. The gender pay gap and percentage of women CEO’s rising to 50% isn’t going to happen overnight. In the meantime, let’s respect people who chose to do sex work to pay their bills or feel empowered by their work. Let’s respect the nuanced reasons why people do sex work when it’s not what they really want to be doing for work but aren’t in a privileged position with better economic choices. Let’s respect people who are trafficked by force, fraud or coercion but can’t go to the police for fear of arrest and are often are deported. Let’s see sex workers as not something to be saved from themselves but having agency and their own voice to be listened to. Let’s respect people (mostly men) who buy sexual services, not arrest and shame them for wanting sex and paying for it. Let’s respect gay, trans women and trans male  sex workers who are invisible to the public eye.


Let’s decriminalize sex work.


Tags: sex work, end human trafficking day, sex trafficking, decriminalizing prostitution, end demand, feminism, nortic model, human trafficking statistics

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