The New Year, like an Infant Heir to the whole world, was waited for, with welcomes, presents, and rejoicings. – Charles Dickens, The Chimes
Let’s start this new year with a positive thought: I believe I can state with a fair degree of certainty that we’re now past the apex of the “sex trafficking” hysteria. This doesn’t mean that things will get steadily better from now on; in fact, they may get worse in some ways, as demonstrated by California’s recent passage of a law which defines a wide range of normal human activities as “sex trafficking” and then condemns “traffickers” to the “sex offender” registry for life. In “The Widening Gyre” I referred to the “trafficking” myth as “an increasingly-erratic cultural meme spinning wildly out of control, whose far-flung debris is going to cause a lot more damage before it finally disintegrates”, and now that it has entered this last and most dangerous phase we should expect to see a lot more people hurt even as ever-larger numbers of people speak out against it ever more vocally. Because it’s a useful tool of social control and a versatile excuse for tyranny, governments (especially the US government) will work hard and invest huge sums to continue the panic well beyond the time when it would have died naturally; that, however, can only work for so long, and once the edifice of prohibition starts to collapse the US will no more be able to halt the process than the communists could stop the destruction of the Berlin Wall.
Despite the neofeminist pretense that the majority is behind them and politicians’ boasts of “Prohibition now, prohibition tomorrow and prohibition forever!”, the fact is that there are already deep cracks in what I’ve described as the dam of prohibitionism. Trust in government is at an all-time low, people are becoming increasingly intolerant of arbitrary bans on consensual activities, health authorities around the world recognize that decriminalization is the best way to fight HIV, human rights authorities understand that it’s the only way to effectively protect sex workers’ rights, and many countries are moving toward decriminalization despite US threats, just as some countries and American states are defying Washington’s authoritarian proscription of marijuana. The end will come, even if old crones like me will be too long in the tooth by then to really appreciate it; as I wrote a year ago in “Crystal Ball”,
…skepticism about “trafficking”…will slowly increase, and by about 2015 it will be possible for a major media outlet to publish articles critical of both the statistics and the very concept. By 2017 public funding for anti-sex worker hate groups will begin to dry up, and by 2019 or 2020 we should expect it to virtually disappear from public discourse except for a wave of books and documentaries by “experts” who couldn’t be bothered to speak out against it while it was going on but are happy to make a quick buck from it after it’s safely over. Sometime soon after this there may be a pro-sex work backlash against the hysteria, just as public atheism became much more palatable to general audiences after the death of the “Satanic Panic”. I suspect that at this point the ACLU will finally deign to take up a challenge to prostitution law, and sometime in the late 2020s the SCOTUS will issue a landmark decision overturning prostitution laws on civil rights grounds just as Roe vs. Wade overturned abortion laws and Lawrence vs. Texas overturned sodomy laws.
Nothing I’ve seen in the last year leads me to doubt that, or even to alter a word of it. Idealistic fools have prattled about the “end of history” for centuries, most recently in 1992 due to the fall of communism. But not only does history never end, it never even keeps going in the same direction for long (except for some fairly consistent long-term trends like increased technology and individual rights, and decreased violence). Prohibitionism is as much a flash in the pan as its sister communism was; it arrived on the scene about the same time and will exit, if I am correct, only a few decades later. And once it’s gone, nobody who cares about freedom and human dignity will mourn its passing any more than any rational, moral person mourns its late sibling.