Faced with the choice between changing one’s mind and proving that there is no need to do so, almost everyone gets busy on the proof. - John Kenneth Galbraith
This column’s title is that of an H.G. Wells short story about a man who stumbles into a remote Andean valley cut off from the world for centuries; he finds that the inhabitants suffer from a congenital disease which destroys their eyes, so that after fifteen generations they lack even the concept of sight. At first he believes the proverb which states, “In the country of the blind the one-eyed man is king,” but quickly discovers that the inhabitants simply refuse to accept what he describes to them and instead conclude that he is an imbecile. Dealing with trafficking fanatics is a lot like stumbling into the Country of the Blind; they have their own narrow and ignorant concept of sex work, and anyone who tells them the truth is treated as a fool, an idiot or a liar. But the metaphor breaks down on one important point; while Wells’ blind tribe cannot see and have absolutely no knowledge of the sense, those who believe in the dogma that all prostitution is degrading and that no woman would do it willingly are perfectly capable of opening their eyes. Wells’ villagers are hemmed in by cliffs on all sides, but prohibitionists have the whole world of information at their fingertips via the internet, yet choose to remain in darkness and viciously attack anyone who so much as describes the light.
so, from what I gather from the article and from the comments (excluding the giggling posts about rectal maneuvers), you don’t believe in such things as “trafficking” or that women/girls required by their families to enter into prostitution are coerced into the field. How about when parents sell their daughters? Still perfectly ok?
I let the comment through, but since its biased viewpoint was obvious I altered the email address associated with it so as to subject any future comments to moderation. The tone of the post (especially the snarky question at the end) led me to the conclusion that nothing I said would change this person’s mind, but I recognized years ago that responses to this sort of internet comment are not for the benefit of the person to whom one replies, but rather for others who are genuinely looking for answers. Kwontity’s mind was clearly already made up, and it’s impossible to reason anyone out of a position he didn’t reason himself into. But there may be other, silent readers out there who may genuinely not understand why I and others oppose the trafficking hysteria, and who may sincerely want an answer. So for those people, I wrote the following response:
Like many people, you are pretending that sex magically makes everything different. Women whose families pressure them into prostitution are NO DIFFERENT from those who pressure them into any other kind of work, especially in countries like Switzerland and Hungary where prostitution is legal. If it’s “wrong” for a family to push a woman to do sex work, then it’s also “wrong” when she’s pushed to get an office job. So is the average American man a “human trafficker” in your mind? Because most men expect their wives to work nowadays.
Laura Agustín has pointed out that while men who cross borders to work are usually labeled “illegal immigrants”, women who do so are called “trafficked”; that’s why there is the dual fallacy that most illegal migrant workers are men and most “trafficking victims” are women. The truth is, they both cross the borders for the same reasons, but the paternalistic view of woman as helpless victim encourages women’s migration to be viewed as a separate phenomenon; this is exactly the same delusion which gave rise to the “white slavery” hysteria of 100 years ago. I suggest you read my columns of June 22nd, 25th and 29th and also Dr. Agustín’s blog, starting with this reprint of an article from the beginning of the current trafficking hysteria in 2001.
Does actual, bona fide slavery exist? Certainly, and it always has. But the numbers are not “growing”, as alarmists would have it; it is now a very small phenomenon. It’s just that sheltered middle-class white Westerners with silly beliefs about sex work and pie-in-the-sky notions of “fairness” refuse to understand that just because they can’t imagine themselves ever doing a certain job doesn’t mean it’s unthinkable for everyone, and in fact may be the best alternative. Do I consider slavery morally defensible? No, and I’ve spoken out against it in this blog many times. But it’s ludicrous for you to define all animals as “human” in your own mind and then call me a cannibal for eating a hamburger. I’m against real slavery (such as parents selling minor children), not against freely-chosen (if difficult) jobs that fanatics wrongfully define as slavery when in fact they’re nothing of the kind.
As I expected, Kwontity soon tried to post another comment, which I did not let through because, as I’ve said before, I reserve the right to exclude pugnacious individuals. Here it is, exactly as submitted:
It’s eerie the way you read my mind without my making a single opinion known! How do you know what i think? Are you able to read all peoples’ minds as you have mine? Let me test you: What am I, a man or a woman? What colour is/are my skin/hair/eyes? Where am I from? What is my age? My race? What Languages do I speak?
I asked a simple question and you used the opportunity to deliver some canned hash, a cut and pasted diatribe to thrill your vast readership, all but one dismissive half-sentence completely unrelated to what I asked. But Ad hominem attacks like what you and your tiny tribe seem to relish just reveal the attacker as a disingenuous charlatan. In fact, I doubt you even believe what you write since you certainly haven’t done any actual work to prove what you believe. The truth no doubt is that you’ve always felt you were outcast from society for your lifestyle and now you just want attention so you flail your arms and honk ferociously and pretend a counter-culture outrage that you merely are pulling out your arse. Since you obviously have no use for thought I’ll just wish you good day and you and your incestuous little group can masturbate each other in solitude, celebrating your moral victory over everyone who you feel has done you wrong.
This response makes it abundantly clear that he not only refused to consider anything I wrote, but apparently skimmed it rather than reading it. He refers to a direct response as “canned hash”, and to links to full columns as “cut and paste”; surely he cannot have imagined that I would totally rewrite information contained in four of my columns on demand in a comment for the benefit of an obviously-hostile stranger? And had I synopsized Dr. Agustín’s column rather than linking it, that would have been cut and paste. I’m not sure where he sees ad hominem in my attack (perhaps the first line, since it seems to have incensed him), nor how he can claim that only “half a sentence” was devoted to answering him, nor how the research which has gone into almost five hundred essays constitutes no “actual work to prove what [I] believe”. The only thing I can assume is that he thought to draw me into a grueling and unprofitable flame war, and was angry that I refused; that assumption is supported by this further attempt to bait me the next morning. For full effect, reread the first paragraph of his reply above (starting with “It’s eerie”) and then the comment below:
You cherry pick comments and allowed yourself the last word on my previous post, so this message is just for you, “Maggie”. I believe you were never a prostitute, that you are just a punter yourself. Your understanding on the psychology of coercion and manipulation is so minimal as to be laughable. Never heard of the Stockholm Syndrome, I suppose. Or is that, too, bollocks and a hostage can get to know and love his or her captor? Yours is the same reasoning self-serving, willfull ignorance of NAMBLA..
Projection really is an amazing psychological defense against cognitive dissonance. But I guess it’s easier to indulge in sleazy, sexist personal insults than to actually think or research (hints: several other bloggers have met me in person, I’ve appeared on internet radio shows and there’s a subject index on this blog which includes the term “Stockholm Syndrome”) before making an ass of oneself. Wise people exposed to proof that their preconceptions are wrong adjust their thinking, but fools expend that effort on rationalizing why their opponents cannot be right.
Since the “last word” seems important to you, Kwontity, please feel free to make one reply to this column (readers, I already informed him via email that this would appear today) and I promise I will not respond to it. I can’t and won’t stop my readers from replying to you, though, nor will you get more than one comment for reasons I’ve previously stated. I’ll stay completely out of the comment thread once you appear, except to answer direct factual questions from other posters. But consider this a warning: most members of my “incestuous little group” are both intelligent and well-informed, and if they aren’t afraid to contradict me (which I can assure you they aren’t), you may not like what they have to say about you.
One Year Ago Today
“Whores in the News” reports on labioplasty, Spanish streetwalkers, Charlie Sheen’s meltdown, the FBI raid on Escorts.com and two very different articles on “sex trafficking”, the second of which Kwontity really needs to read.