Each time a man stands up for an ideal…or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers, those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance. - Robert F. Kennedy
Almost two years ago I started pointing out signs of the impending collapse of “sex trafficking” hysteria, and early last year provided a rough sketch of how things might play out via comparison with the collapse of the Satanic Panic over a course of about five years (from the first outspoken skepticism among mainstream journalists about 1987 to the general collapse in 1992). Last summer I began chronicling examples of the increasingly bizarre and extreme rhetoric which heralds the disintegration of a panic, and also of the increasingly-widespread turn toward advocacy for decriminalization among reasonable people. And now a few journalists are beginning to join the chorus of skeptics, either by writing pro-decriminalization and/or anti-“trafficking” hysteria articles themselves, or by providing a platform for sex worker rights advocates to do so; their number is small right now, but it’s growing, and before too much longer the volume of their voices will be sufficient to begin the process of destroying this edifice built on lies and ignorance. Some examples are one-offs, like this one from the Sacramento News and Review which I missed in February, but which is too good not to share: the lede is “Religious do-gooders and grant whores flock to human-trafficking causes, subjected to spotty oversight,” and it just gets better from there:
…Ever since “human trafficking” caught fire as a tear-jerking buzz term about five years ago, it’s swept up people’s imaginations…[detective John] Sydow said…“I don’t know where [“trafficking estimate”] numbers come from, frankly. There’s some serious extrapolation going on”…The local FBI task force says more than 250 children have been recovered in the Sacramento area over the past seven years. More than 90 percent of these kids were in some form of foster care. Still, the dizzying guesswork has proven effective in whipping up a frenzy of interest and financial investment, especially for well-meaning community groups that aren’t always subject to formal monitoring…When I bring up the inordinate amount of attention and financial resources child sex trafficking is getting compared to homelessness, poverty, hunger or any other stale social issue, [“rescue” NGO leader Jenny] Williamson is quick to agree…“We are riding the wave of the soupe du jour, if you will, of social issues,” she [said], noting that Halle Berry and Ashton Kutcher have embraced trafficking like Bono once embraced AIDS in Africa. “In five years, it’ll be something else.”
I’m pleased to hear that the head of at least one “trafficking” NGO agrees with my analysis of the timetable for the end of the hysteria. But while writer Raheem Hosseini doesn’t seem to have written anything else on the subject, we’ve seen Tim Worstall’s work before and he seems determined to be a valuable ally in trashing “trafficking” nonsense:
…a piece in The Guardian…[claims] some 100,000 Vietnamese women [are] employed in nail bars…then forced into prostitution in the evenings…When all police forces in the UK did detailed investigations into brothels, street walkers and escort agencies they were unable to find one single person in the entire country who could be prosecuted for forcing someone into sex slavery…given that the population is 60 million odd, 50% of which is female, the claim of 100,000 Vietnamese nail salon workers is that one in every 300 of the women in Britain is a Vietnamese nail salon worker…and there’s only 1,512 nail salons in the country. We really would notice if each and every one of them had 10 Vietnamese employees…if each of these trafficked Vietnamese women is put out to work on the streets each night and has three customers…then one in one hundred of all Englishmen is having sex with a trafficked Vietnamese manicurist each and every day. These are just not believable numbers: they’re obviously wrong to anyone with even the vaguest pretensions to being able to understand the world around them…
I also debunked that story two weeks ago in an article for Cliterati (which contains links and relevant quotes if you’re interested). This particular “trafficking” tale was so absurd it was even debunked by another Guardian department, supporting my standing prediction that the paper will be among the first major ones to officially come out against the hysteria. But in the meantime, there are a few publications both online and off which have either picked up the banner or at least occasionally give space to sex worker activists like Norma Jean Almodovar:
…All the rationales for prohibiting prostitution could apply to the work and life experiences of millions of women in many other types of labor…the US government claimed that in 2006, there were an estimated 673,000 college women raped. Should those shocking statistics be used to forbid women from obtaining a higher education?…Prostitution abolitionists…hypothesize that “prostitution is like rape”…If [that is so]…why is there “proactive” enforcement of prostitution laws if the prostitute has not claimed to be a victim? For all other violent [crimes]…a victim must first report the crime before the police are permitted to begin an investigation…but…the primary reason that so-called “vice laws” are extremely harmful to society…is because such laws always have and always will engender corruption…There are so many “law” breakers whose only “victim” is themselves…that such laws…can only be enforced arbitrarily and selectively…If cops stopped enforcing all other laws, such as rape, robbery, domestic violence and even murder, to devote all their time and energy to arrest only those violating “vice” laws…and prosecutors [pursued] no other criminals…and we emptied out all the prisons and jails of serious predators, there would still not be enough resources to enforce “vice” laws without cops and prosecutors selectively deciding which prostitutes, madams or clients, which drug users…or…poker players…ought to be arrested, prosecuted and punished…
Incidentally, Norma Jean has recently released a monumental (246-page) study entitled The Truth About Cops, Prostitutes, Sex Trafficking and Child Sexual Exploitation, crammed with reams of data on nearly every facet of the question. She wants it to be disseminated as widely as possible, so please feel free to download it and share it with anyone who might be interested.
Nearly everything I see about “sex trafficking”, from the increasing absurdity of the claims, to the increasing tyranny of the laws, to the increasing courage of the skeptics, convinces me that we are on track to see the end of the hysteria by 2017 despite the efforts of governments to continue it. The collapse of the panic is only the beginning; the laws which criminalize sex work or most of its aspects in most countries are a vestige of the previous “sex trafficking” panic of a century ago, and there are still people rotting in prison or entrapped on “sex offender” registries due to their convictions during the Satanic Panic. Even after the hysteria is over, the work of undoing the damage it caused will continue for decades, probably beyond the lifespan of everyone reading this today; but before the recovery can begin, the orgy of destruction has to end. And though the citadel of prohibition may today seem impregnable, even the mightiest wall must yield to the force of a million ripples joined into one great current.