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This essay first appeared in Cliterati on September 14th; I have modified it slightly to fit the format of this blog.

I am often asked if, by calling “sex trafficking” a myth, I’m saying that there is no such thing as coercion in sex work.  The answer, of course, is “not at all”; what I’m saying is 1) that coercion is much rarer than “trafficking” fetishists pretend it is; 2) that the term “trafficking” is used to describe many different things along a broad spectrum running from absolutely coercive to absolutely not coercive, yet all of them are shoehorned into a lurid, melodramatic and highly-stereotyped narrative; and 3) that even situations of genuine coercion rarely bear much resemblance to the familiar masturbatory fantasy of an “innocent” middle-class girl in her early teens abducted by “pimps” from a shopping mall, bus stop or internet chat room.  “Let Me Help” discusses the first two factors, but I recently discovered a fine example of the third:  a situation of genuine coercion which nonetheless runs counter to many “trafficking” claims.

…Pardip Singh [of Indianapolis, Indiana]…was convicted…of promotion of human trafficking, criminal confinement, intimidation, battery and domestic battery.  On May 11, 2012, Singh called several men and told them that for $500 they could come to his…apartment and have sex with a “teacher’s daughter from India”…The first potential client to show up learned that the victim was Singh’s wife and witnessed Singh hit her…that man “told Singh he should not treat his wife that way and then left”…Just after midnight on May 12, 2012…police…responded to a domestic disturbance at the couple’s apartment…the victim, “visibly shaken and crying,” told the officer she needed help…

Pardip SinghRight from the start, the true story belies the familiar “trafficking” porn.  Singh is clearly no slick, mastermind pimp with insidious hypnotic powers, but a crude bully.  He didn’t have a dozen slave-captives confined in dog kennels or controlled via “Stockholm syndrome” or magical mind-control philter, but one wife that he attempted to control through garden-variety brutality.  He didn’t advertise her on Backpage or any other site used by sex workers, but by contacting people personally.  Though the rescue industry’s professional victims entrance their salivating audiences with tales of daily parades of dozens of callous, uncaring men oblivious to their plight, the very first man who answered Singh’s advert was disgusted by what he found and refused to participate.  And while those same prohibitionist shills claim to have been successfully held captive for years, Singh’s wife escaped the very next day after he started trying to “traffic” her.

…Court documents describe a devastating chain of events that began March 13, 2006, when the victim became Singh’s wife in an arranged marriage in their native India…Singh was living in the United States but traveled to India for the marriage…After the wedding, he returned to the United States while his new wife stayed in India to attend college.  In 2012, after obtaining a nursing degree, the victim moved to the United States to live with Singh in New Jersey…Within a few weeks, Singh began physically abusing [her]…Singh was angry that the woman’s family did not send the couple more money [so he] took her to Atlantic City to try to get her a job in a strip club…which he believed would generate a more immediate windfall.  Singh would not allow the woman to speak with her parents except when he was within earshot…and regularly hit and abused her.  During one week when Singh worked as a semi truck driver…he forced [her] to remain in the back of the truck cab during a long interstate trip.  At stops, he would get into the back…and force her to have sex with him…The events in Indianapolis occurred about a week later…

The conventional narrative tells us that huge cartels of slick international gangsters abduct teen girls by the tens of thousands and reap vast profits without detection, but what do we see here instead?  A greedy, pathetic wife-beater who tricked a grown woman (and university graduate) via a venerable social institution.  This sort of “pimp” is much closer to the norm than the racist stereotype in clownish attire, yet I don’t see anyone screaming for the criminalization of marriage.  Prohibitionists are fond of saying that sex workers “believe pimps are their boyfriends” because they can’t face the uncomfortable truth that neither emotional attachment nor a license from the state is a guarantee against emotional or economic exploitation in a relationship, and that the main difference between a “pimp” and a “sex trafficking” fetishist’s own abusive spouse is the label. tractor-trailer

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It is an obnoxious and unacceptable conceit, a form of abuse, to deny sex workers their agency.  –  Graham Scrambler

Think of the Children! buttle opener

Sex rays are so insidious they can even radiate from pieces of plastic via the principle of sympathetic magic:

A week after Mark Gregory was elected chairman of the Williamson County school board, an online petition was launched  …demanding [he] step down from the post because of his role in creating the ButtleOpener, a novelty bottle opener shaped like a female rear end…

The Red Umbrella

Matthew Carney, 18, walked with [a sex worker] to a secluded area…after paying her…But as soon as they were alone Carney…repeatedly [punched] and [kicked] her in the head, causing severe injuries to her face.  He then walked off with her handbag…the courageous victim went to the police…[and] Carney was sentenced to seven years in prison…

Do As I Say, Not As I Do 

[Pittsburgh-area cop] Joshua Rush was [arrested]…[for] texting a prostitute he had a sexual relationship with…When police busted [her]…she showed them a string of text messages…in which he allegedly said he would distract officers from [going into her stroll]…

Check Your Premises

Earlier this year, Bensalem [Pennsylvania] police participated in Operation Cross Country…While the overt goal was busting pimps and prostitutes, the underlying objective was to create connections to help law enforcement find and stop child sex trafficking…“You need an approach that develops trust”…

You read that correctly:  these cops are so disconnected from reality that they think deceiving, raping and caging women is a good way to “develop trust”.

Validation

It’s always nice to be backed up by academics:

…the wealthy and powerful should not be permitted to swap policy-based evidence for evidence-based policy…Stereotypes of sex workers are simplistic, replete with errors of commission and omission…most public health researchers…respect…sex workers and oppose…any attempt to (further) criminalize them…[but] the weird admix of radical feminists and Christian…right-wingers who [push] “sexual trafficking”…are resistant to data:  they…wish the public to believe that [all] sex workers…have been trafficked.  Their…”moral crusade” is to legislate for the abolition of the industry…

Public Service Announcement Brooks Newmark

Just in case you thought only American politicians were this foolish:

…Brooks Newmark quit as Minister for Civil Society after he was caught sending an explicit photograph of himself…to someone he believed was a woman…as part of a tabloid newspaper sting operation …Mr Newmark initiated a private message conversation on a social networking website and sent a graphic picture exposing himself…

Surplus Women

Authorities are looking for the killer of a woman found in Lake Lucerne and identified…as a 36-year-old Bulgarian prostitute…Work colleagues…[contacted] police… because they had not been able to contact her for a long time on her cell phone…

Legal Is as Legal Does

Almost all countries criminalise some aspect of sex work, including…Australia…sex work under “legalisation” is still…conceived of as a crime for which the law makes allowances.  These laws that govern sex work can be found in the criminal code…and…the police [enforce the]…regulation.  When I asked Jules Kim…of Scarlet Alliance…about the effect of all these regulations on the lives of sex workers in Victoria, she pointed out that many were deeply invasive of privacy…

See also “Bottleneck” below.rapist pig Michael Arnold

Above the Law 

Michael Arnold sexually assaulted a female prisoner shortly after she gave birth in 2012:  He pleaded guilty…[but spent] no time in jail…a just-filed lawsuit [names]…Arnold…the [rent-a-cop] firm for which he worked…[and]  Arapahoe County Sheriff David Walcher…Angela Weishoff…was [still] groggy [from an epidural] when [Arnold orally raped her until]…a nurse noticed the dimmed lights and entered the room, causing Arnold to quickly re-zip his pants…

An Example To the West

I hope this is available outside of India, too:

…a music band led by children of Sonagachi sex workers…[launched] their maiden album…Nijhum Raater Taara (Star of the Silent, Still Night)…[is a] compilation of seven adhunik gaan (Bengali modern songs)…The band [is backed by] DMSC…

Wise Investment (TW3 #23)

Let’s hope we see many more cases like this:

Fairview [New Jersey] has agreed to pay $145,000 to a [massage] business that had accused police officers of trespassing and…illegal search and seizure…during a prostitution sting…After five years of legal wrangling…the parties this week agreed to settle rather than go to trial…

The Widening Gyre

All it takes to be a “sex trafficking expert” is to declare yourself one, and to be able to tell tall tales with a straight face:  “Detective [Bill] Woolf said he’s seen some horrifying things working with victims.  ‘Girls have been…locked in refrigerators as punishment for not performing various sex acts’…

Bottleneck

Despite the fact that she found some sex workers to support this precursor to criminalization, remember that about 90% of whores worldwide prefer to work illegally than submit to licensing:

A…[politician] wants to force sex workers in Buenos Aires City to register their names with authorities…[as] part of a larger bill that seeks to impose regulation…in order to “distinguish sexual work from human-trafficking”…Maria Rachid…insists [the registry] will be confidential and only accessible to competent authorities…

The “competent authorities” are the most dangerous ones.

King of the Hill

Prince George’s County…[is] seeking to crack down on human trafficking…by banning hourly rentals of hotel rooms…The Maryland Human Trafficking Task Force has called the state a “hot spot” for trafficking on account of…Interstate 95…bus stops and truck stops…The state ranks eighth in the country for…human trafficking-related reports.  Police in Prince George’s County have conducted a number of high-profile prostitution stings in recent years…

With Friends Like These…

I’ll bet this delusional ignoramus thinks he’s being “fair” and “sensible”:

…Most of the women who enter the sex trade have done so before a true age of consent.  They are…dependent on their pimps and usually on one or more narcotic substances, they have entered the sex industry as serfs…They age at an exponential rate of maybe 5 to 1…The average age is 13.  Some victims are as young as 9 and 10…many…are…literally…abducted…the reality for most…lured into this work is…a seven-year life expectancy…I think that regulating the sex work industry — granting and renewing licenses…would give sex workers some of the protections they want and make it possible for…authorities to rescue teen sex slaves…this…recognizes both the reality of human behavior…and this new…exploitation of children…There is an explosion of pornography…and…perversion.  Americans are oversexed…Something is deeply wrong in our culture and…spiritual life.  And I have to think that this is related to the sexualizing…of children…

Dysphemisms Galore 

“Authorities” have no idea how moronic they sound:

Ramona Judith Mora Garcia…pleaded guilty…to two felony counts of conspiracy to commit pimping…Garcia is a pimp/ modern-day slave owner who exploits women and/or children for financial gain.  She required the victims in this case to turn over half the payment they received for performing unlawful sex acts from sex purchasers…

Book Review:  America’s War on Sex

At long last, Dr. Marty Klein has made a public statement against “sex trafficking” hysteria:

…if you define trafficking broadly enough, it does look like there are a million or more victims…Some…define [it] to include all prostitutes…[and] porn actresses…No wonder these…“researchers” get such enormous, scary, numbers…activists keep warning of the number of people “at risk” for being sex trafficked…because they’re poor, or unloved, or drug-addicted, or have trouble with English.  Using that logic, 45 million Americans are “at risk” of dying in plane crashes every month, and twenty million Californians are “at risk” of dying in car crashes every week…

A Procrustean Bed (TW3 #339)

Ohio now has “trafficking court” as well:

Judge Paul…Herbert’s five-year-old human trafficking court…[is] the first…in Ohio…The court is an intensive two-year commitment that starts with women arrested for prostitution pleading guilty before Herbert.  They’re required to enter counseling programs…Erica Cortez said…”I had to completely surrender to what they were trying to show me”…

China and Vietnam recently abandoned coerced “re-education” for sex workers, but Americans are embracing it.  Welcome to the future.

Rough Trade (TW3 #351)

Jillian Keenan is proving herself a worthy ally:

…If history is any evidence, serial rapists target sex workers first.  And when they get away with it, they’re…free to hunt all women…Prostitutes who report sexual assault to police can be laughed at, ignored, accused of lying, arrested, or worse…New York State’s…rape shield law—which protects rape victims from having their sexual histories used against them in criminal proceedings—explicitly does not apply to anyone with a prostitution conviction…And when an…Oakland [California] sex worker…applied for state-funded victim compensation after…rape left her unable to return to work immediately, she was denied support…The police and criminal justice systems treat sex workers as though rape were a mere “occupational hazard” of their work — an accusation that would never be thrown at a bank teller who survived a robbery…

Imaginary Crises (TW3 #410)

This parody springs from the absolutely true observation that “if the risk of sexual assault on campus were truly one in five…no parent in their right mind would send their daughter to coed universities.”

Only Rights Can Stop the Wrongs (TW3 #431)

File this one under “100% predictable”:

…Surabaya…mayor…Ibu Tri Rismaharini…[assumed] that Dolly’s sex workers would be eager to take up a lower-paid…vocation, such as cookery or garment making…[but] only 476 sex workers bothered to claim their $400…severance package…the overwhelming majority of ex-Dolly sex workers are now…undercover – working Surabaya’s streets, hotels and karaoke bars…prior to the shutdown the sex workers…told us that they would…go on selling sexual services no matter what…But…the shutdown went ahead regardless…

Bait and Switch

If you believe this, I suggest you reread the original of this title:

Long Beach police…arrested 91 suspected pimps and johns during an eight-month investigation aimed at combating sex trafficking.  Authorities also recovered 22 young women who they alleged were working as prostitutes…In one case, a man arranged to have sex with two children under the age of 10…When the trunk of his car was searched…a large roll of carpeting, several rolls of duct tape, handcuffs, and a magazine full of bullets were found…

“Recovered” means “abducted and caged”.

Surplus Women (TW3 #439)

Peechington Marie on the lack of media concern for Tjhisha Ball, Angelia Mangum and black sex workers in general:

…Little has been said about the murder of…these young women, and what has been said either glosses over or luridly magnifies one very important factor…Tjhisha and Angelia worked as exotic dancers…Even in…mostly positive [articles]…I walked away…feeling both shameful and shamed, as if they were written to say, “News reports say they were exotic dancers, quick, let’s fight to erase that so the girls can appear deserving of our sorrow and rage”…

The fundraiser for their funeral expenses is still open for donations.

The Roof Caves In (TW3 #439)

Somaly Mam’s…comeback scheme…hinges on that one Marie Claire interview, acquired in the course of four and a half days on the ground by Abigail Pesta…the interview is spurious.  It paints all of the allegations against Mam as unique to Newsweek, when in fact they are of a compendium of years’ worth of investigative work…Simon Marks…had done at the Cambodia Daily…one of the…Marie Claire sources, Thou Soy, works for AFESIP…and…holds a stake in seeing Mam’s reputation restored…only 49 percent of…women and girls at AFESIP shelters…could be considered “trafficked” under any definition of the term…and…the job training…[they] receive…is largely suited for employment in the service industry and Cambodia’s $5.53 billion garment sector…It’s one reason the global garment industry may be one of the primary sources of funding for anti-trafficking NGOs…C-36 hearings

Whither Canada? (TW3 #439)

Unlike their US counterpart, the Canadian media are not only politicians’ lap dogs:

…Alan Young…had a lot to say…about the constitutionality of…bill [C36] and where his focus would be if he…[challenges] it.  Few Conservative senators seemed terribly interested…apparently they’re content with assurances from Justice lawyers that the bill is constitutionally sound.  This is the same Justice Department, of course, that argued the previous law was constitutional…I wouldn’t trust these people to tell me it’s raining…What does it say about the Senate if everyone already knows what they will do with one of the most hotly debated and controversial bills in recent memory?  Forget about sober second thought.  Can we at least get some thought?

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I started to fall in love with an escort I first saw as a client; there was a tremendous spark between us from the first, and she always gave me extra time and soon started refusing payment entirely.  We had great dom/sub sexual chemistry, but it wasn’t just that and we soon started to get very serious.  However, she did not want to give up her financial independence and I’m not wealthy.  Also, I was worried that I only believed I was in love with her; I couldn’t trust that there wasn’t a pimp or pimp-surrogate somewhere, or that she was somehow scamming me.  I also didn’t want to be a rescuer figure, and didn’t want a relationship I could never really be honest to my family about.  I didn’t disapprove of what she did, but the whole thing made me uncomfortable regardless and I worried something terrible could happen.  So it eventually got messy and complex and I cut it off terribly and hurt her.  The whole thing feels unresolved; I don’t know if it’s over, or if I’m over her.  Should I just stay away because of what it is?

As I’ve explained in many previous essays, sex workers’ relationships actually aren’t dramatically different from others’ relationships unless their partners try to make them different.  When a reader asked my husband,  “How do you know that she won’t fall for someone else the same way that she fell for you?”, this was his reply:

Like any other marriage.  She’s not more likely to fall in love with someone else than any other woman would be.  You might as well worry about your wife falling in love with some guy she sees in the produce aisle at the supermarket.  There has to be trust.  I have to trust her just like any other man has to trust his wife; if you don’t have trust your relationship won’t work whether she’s an escort or a secretary.

Unfortunately, you could not give the lady your trust.  This is not a recrimination; you said it yourself, and people can’t help their feelings.  You mentioned “pimps”, but as I have explained before that is nothing more than a pejorative term for any non-client male in a whore’s life; managers, drivers, bodyguards, boyfriends, landlords and even male relatives and friends are tarred with the epithet “pimp” even if their behavior is no different from that of a man in the equivalent relationship with an amateur.  I might point out, in fact, that had your girlfriend been arrested while the two of you were together, the police might very well have accused you of being her “pimp”.  So you’re right in that there really was a pimp somewhere…and it was you.  Again, that’s not a recrimination, just a wake-up call about how cops and prohibitionists would have labeled your relationship (especially since it was a dom-sub one; just imagine what a reporter would’ve made of that!)  Not wanting to play the part of a white knight, and not wanting to be dishonest with your family, are certainly valid concerns…however, I must point out that her not wanting to give up her independent income makes her a far less likely candidate for “rescue” than many a husband-hunting amateur.  And since I sincerely doubt you are planning to discuss the intimate details of any future dom-sub relationship with your family, I do think the thing about honesty is a bit of a cop-out.

As I said, nobody can help the way we feel; we practically absorb cultural prejudices and fears with our mothers’ milk, and it’s nearly impossible to root all of them out no matter how hard we try.  I wish I could give you some magical means of erasing your concerns, but I don’t have that power; had the relationship gone on you would probably both been hurt a lot worse.  So I think it’s for the best that y’all both move on:  you to a woman who won’t trigger the biases you never asked to be burdened with, and her to a man who somehow managed to avoid or shed them.

(Have a question of your own?  Please consult this page to see if I’ve answered it in a previous column, and if not just click here to ask me via email.)

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This is the second part of the story of Molli Desi, a young Indian woman abducted into a “rescue center” under the excuse that her sex worker friends might “traffick” her.  If you missed the first part yesterday, I urge you to go back and read it first before continuing.

At the “rescue” centre (which we only thought of as a “detention” centre) we were told that the NGO had custody papers for us from a court, and that we could not leave.  I think it is important to understand why we are held in custody rather than given our freedom after we are “rescued”.  Most anti-trafficking programmes must have what are called the “Three Ps”: Prevention, Protection, and Prosecution; without cases the NGOs cannot meet their prosecution quotas, and without women and girls in their centres they cannot meet their “protection” quotas.  Many of these NGOs are not rights-based at all, but rather prioritise prosecution of traffickers; they must therefore detain sex workers under “safe custody orders” so as to force them to testify in court.  This detention can last many years because the court process is so slow, so the trafficker can get bail and live free while the “victim” is held in centre or even prison.  If women or girls run away, the NGO claims they were kidnapped by traffickers.  In reality, though, it is the NGOs who are the real traffickers; sex workers and other women they capture are a commodity that they buy and sell.rescue center show  To get money from USAID they must promise to be anti-prostitution, and to get money from other donors they use women they have captured to put on shows.  The women are even given false ages to make it look like they are very young; they told the court and donors that I was 12 years old though I was actually 17, and one woman of 23 was said to be 16.

The detention house was not like the orphanage; the women and girls were scared and cried a lot.  Several of them were not even sex workers, but rather migrants without papers; the NGO said they were “at risk” for trafficking.  Most of the girls there with me were not sex workers; some had been raped while in domestic service.  Everyone wanted to leave but many had nowhere to go, because the NGO had told their family and home village that they had been trafficked and raped.  They do this to stop you from being able to go home, because they know your family will reject you for being a sex worker; it’s a way to discourage running away from the centre.  This is why it is so important to give a false name and say you are from a faraway place when they catch you (which we did); it also helps to prevent anyone from filing a First Instance Report (FIR).

After a couple of days, the NGO demanded we undergo gynecological examinations and take HIV tests, but I refused to undress or to let them take blood.  They would not respect my wishes, so I had to physically fight them; the NGO director hit me in the face with her hand, and I now have a scar on my forehead from her heavy ring.  Each day we had to do activities in the centre, and we were not allowed to go outside.  One day two white donor women came to visit the centre, and we were forced to sing and dance for them and let them take photos of us; when the staff realised I could speak English they took me upstairs and locked me in a room until the women had left.  After we had been in the centre for a week, we started planning our escape, but our hidden phone needed credit and charge; though we had the money I had hidden, we did not have any contact with outside.  We learned from other women who had been there a while that night security would exchange food and candy for sex, so we propositioned one night guard and in exchange for oral sex and money he eventually brought us a phone charger and phone credit.  We were then able to contact our sisters in the orphanage, who had been very worried about us; the orphanage had filed an FIR on us because they thought we had been kidnapped and trafficked.

Microsoft Word - Document1After another few more days of oral sex with the night guard and some of his friends (whom he was charging money for access to us), we arranged for two of our sisters to come to the centre in an auto-rickshaw, late at night (this was during a festival time).  We then used a metal bar we got from the guard to prise open the metal cage on our window, lowered ourselves onto the annex roof, and got down to the garden.  Unfortunately, the main gate was still locked and we could not get to the street, so we rang our sisters outside and they convinced the auto-rickshaw driver to break the lock and let us out, whereupon we all ran to the auto-rickshaw and fled away into the night.  We did not go straight home, but stopped for iftar food; it tasted so good, and we were all so happy to be free we laughed and cried all the way home.  When we got home everyone was so pleased to see us, and we immediately washed our clothes and had showers; I then slept for almost a whole day.  We told our director that we had been lured away by miscreants and eventually escaped from their hideout, so she wrote a report and the FIR was cancelled.  We eventually heard from a woman who escaped the detention centre later that the staff had claimed traffickers had kidnapped us from the centre, and that we had probably been sent to Mumbai.

My main accusation against the “rescuers” is that everyone presumes that they take proper care of those they “rescue”; in truth, however, the NGOs have complete power over their victims. There is no proper protection for women and girls they detain, so it is very common for centre staff to rape them.  Though the Government is supposed to supervise orphanages and centres, the reality is that it lacks the capacity to do so; all NGOs know there is inadequate supervision, and many of them resist external accountability and will pay the few inspectors who do come to give them clean reports.  This power and impunity from consequences invites abuses of all kinds, such as the way the night guard charged his friends for sex with us; personally, though, I did not find the sex trading for telephone credit and food nearly as bad as the way the women senior staff acted toward us.  They want sex workers to be forced into domestic work or garment factory work, or to be married to low caste men; they know they are trapped inside patriarchy and resent our determination to live free.  You can find many “rescue” stories on the internet, but most of them are usually mediated by the “rescuers”; if you read my account here and the various links I have included, you will hear another truth.

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When we say “science” we can either mean any manipulation of the inventive and organizing power of the human intellect: or we can mean such an extremely different thing as the religion of science the vulgarized derivative from this pure activity manipulated by a sort of priestcraft into a great religious and political weapon.  –  Wyndham Lewis

tobacco ad pseudoscienceWhile unsupported arguments from authority are a powerful persuader for a certain fraction of the population (especially when they agree with existing cherished beliefs), they simply aren’t enough to carry bad policy any more.  Don’t get me wrong; they’re still the basis for the majority of laws, rules and regulations.  However, the internet provides a powerful tool for those who actually know something about a subject to present facts which refute the propaganda, no matter how heavily it is promulgated by establishment media.  This allows them to break the government’s information control over skeptics and people with at least a grade-school level of scientific literacy, who can in turn make their own arguments from authority to counter the official narrative.  Bogus studies have thus become a vital tool for keeping the masses sedated; since most people aren’t scientifically literate or well-informed enough to recognize a fake “study” when they see it, this gives the mythmakers their own “facts” with which to counter those disseminated by the real experts.  And even though those experts can debunk the faux “statistics”, the establishment’s lies are much louder and shouted through a far larger number of megaphones, so countermeasures may not be believed even when they’re heard.

This is why it’s always a relief to see debunking of “sex trafficking” mythology reported in large media venues; the moral panic will not end until our debunking of the fetishists’ claims begin to receive equal publicity to statements of those claims.  Here’s a good example of what I’m talking about:  the “trafficking” paradigm pretends that huge numbers of underage girls are forced into the trade by evil “pimps”.  But unfortunately for pimp-fantasy-lovers, this is not only false, it was disproven by a major study funded by none other than the US Department of Justice:

…the John Jay study…“thoroughly obliterated the…core assumptions about underage prostitution…Only 10 percent were involved with a…pimp…about 45 percent got in…through friends…Nearly all…said they exchanged sex for money because it was the surest way to support themselves.  In other words, the typical [underage sex worker]…is not a tween girl, has not been sold into sexual slavery, and is not held captive by a pimp”…law enforcement “authorities” were very unhappy with the results…which is why they have been buried…the DoJ…immediately ditched [principal researcher Ric] Curtis in favor of his younger, hungrier and less-principled assistant [Meredith] Dank, who was obviously instructed to do another study which would find what the DoJ wanted found – that pimps run the whole show – so as to shore up “sex trafficking” mythology and justify the vast expenditures and rampant civil liberties violations of the War on Whores.  Since interviewing real sex workers would merely find the truth again, they were largely avoided except for an easily-manipulated handful in prison…And since interviewees might still tell some truth despite incentives to the contrary, the fantasies of cops and prosecutors were included to balance that…

White Slaves of ChinatownOf course, this countermeasure was touted far and wide; it was called a “landmark” study and its preordained “conclusions” were trumpeted in every news source in the US and many abroad, and the fact that it was as bad a piece of bogus “research” as anything Melissa Farley or the Schapiro Group ever produced wasn’t obvious to the average consumer of establishment infotainment.  Not to be outdone, Curtis and others performed a data analysis of the John Jay and several other studies to serve as a counter-countermeasure to Dank’s countermeasure.  While Dank interviewed 36 jailed street workers, the new study drew on interviews with 372 still in the business; while Dank encouraged 73 jailed “pimps” to tell tall tales, the new study drew on non-leading interviews with 85.  Naturally the results were totally the opposite, and best of all they were reported in several major venues.  International Business Times was first, though its headline bizarrely contradicts the article itself by claiming “half” of underage sex workers were “lured by pimps”:

…Although 87.2% of these young sex workers reported wanting to leave their line of work, none of them stated that a controlling pimp was their reason for staying…The most popular cause for staying…was economic status [and] problems with finding…alternative employment…only 10% of the minors had a pimp at the time of the research, only 1.6% lived with a pimp and 47% reported not knowing a pimp…pimps were only responsible for initiating 8.1% of the minors into sex work.  Instead, minors were coerced into joining the industry by their peers 47% of the time and their customers 23% of the time…

Slate’s coverage a week later was even better:

…the researchers…found…that the narrative of [underage prostitution]…they had been sold by local activists—one where knife-wielding pimps lure girls into prostitution then brutalize them into compliance—existed in only rare cases and didn’t describe most people’s experiences…“stereotypical pimps are far less common and important to street sex markets than would be expected…all sex workers in both Atlantic City and New York City described experiencing increasing, rather than decreasing, agency and control over their work over time.”  Many of the girls and boys they interviewed “had left pimps because they were violent, mentally abusive, lazy, poor business associates, unable to protect them, extracting too much money, or no longer fun to be around,” sometimes within days or weeks of meeting…Pimps, too, failed to fit the stereotypical mold.  “We were told pimps were not approachable because they were too dangerous and didn’t want to talk,” [said Dr. Anthony Marcus]…“But all they wanted to do was talk, talk, talk—that’s what they do for a living”…One pimp told them that going after underage girls constituted “pimp suicide…teenage prostitutes don’t earn enough money”…And while some pimps boasted about exerting control over “their” sex workers, the women working with them told a different story…

The war of information continues:  sex workers explain what the demimonde is really like, prohibitionists counter by pretending we don’t know what we’re talking about and presenting lies and exaggerations as though they were facts, then activists and sex work researchers debunk the bogus reports.  Measure is followed by countermeasure, which is in turn answered by a counter-countermeasure; though it may seem hopeless, big lies take a lot of effort to maintain, while we only have to keep repeating the truth.

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Making pimps the centre of things justifies more money to catch/punish them & keep the status quo where women are collateral damage in a war.  –  Laura Agustín

Es dimonióI’m sure you saw all the hype and ballyhoo about a “landmark” government study of pimp bragging the sex industry,  and if you’ve read my columns about the relative rarity and non-centrality of pimps, the so-called “facts” this report “found” must strike you as the farthest thing from.  As I wrote in my recent Washington Post article,

The researchers made bold statements about the “U.S. sex economy” based on interviews with law enforcement personnel, 73 men convicted as “pimps,” and only 36 incarcerated street workers.  As the sex worker activist Melissa Gira Grant observed, the average sex worker activist follows more sex workers on Twitter than these researchers managed to find for a supposedly “landmark” study.  Furthermore, the report’s bias is clear from the skewed proportion of its interviewees:  Street workers represent less than 15 percent of the trade, but were 100 percent of the sex workers interviewed for the study.  Moreover, fewer than half of street workers have pimps, and about half of the pimps are actually the employees of the women they manage, not the other way around.  Yet the researchers interviewed twice as many pimps as sex workers, thus inflating their perceived importance remarkably…

Dr. Laura Agustín had much more to say about the report than that, both on Twitter and in her blog.  But I’m not going to write more about how awful this report is; rather, I’m going to discuss the motive behind it.  Agustín’s statement in my epigram sums it up nicely, but more detail will provide a better picture.  The story starts in September of 2008 with the publication of “The Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children in New York City”, AKA the John Jay study, which was funded by the US Department of Justice:

[Meredith] Dank and [Ric] Curtis…interview[ed]…249 underage prostitutes…and…thoroughly obliterated the long-held core assumptions about underage prostitution:

• Nearly half the kids — about 45 percent — were boys.
• Only 10 percent were involved with a “market facilitator” (e.g., a pimp).
• About 45 percent got into the “business” through friends.
• More than 90 percent were U.S.- born (56 percent were New York City natives).
• On average, they started hooking at age 15…
• Nearly all of the youths — 95 percent — said they exchanged sex for money because it was the surest way to support themselves.

Jenny HaniverIn other words, the typical [underage sex worker]…is not a tween girl, has not been sold into sexual slavery, and is not held captive by a pimp.  Nearly all the boys and girls involved in the city’s sex trade are going it alone.  [Curtis and Dank] were…completely unprepared for the way law-enforcement officials and child-advocacy groups reacted… “I remember going to a meeting in Manhattan where they had a lot of prosecutors there whose job was to prosecute pimps,” Curtis recalls.  ”They were sort of complaining…that their offices were very well staffed but their workload was — not very daunting, let’s say.  They had a couple cases, and at every meeting you go to, they’d pull out the cherry-picked case of this pimp they had busted, and they’d tell the same story at every meeting.  They too were bothered by the fact that they couldn’t find any pimps, any girls.  So I come along and say, ‘I found 300 kids’ — they’re all perky — but then I say, ‘I’m sorry, but only 10 percent had pimps.’  It was like a fart in church.  Because basically I was saying their office was a waste of time and money.”

As Curtis explained, law enforcement “authorities” were very unhappy with the results of his study, which is why they have been buried (you won’t find them on any official website dealing with the subject of prostitution).  As Maier’s Law states, “If the facts do not conform to the theory, they must be disposed of”; the DoJ therefore immediately ditched Curtis in favor of his younger, hungrier and less-principled assistant Dank, who was obviously instructed to do another study which would find what the DoJ wanted found – that pimps run the whole show – so as to shore up “sex trafficking” mythology and justify the vast expenditures and rampant civil liberties violations of the War on Whores.  Since interviewing real sex workers would merely find the truth again, they were largely avoided except for an easily-manipulated handful in prison.  Since the John Jay study couldn’t find any pimps in the actual environment where sex work takes place, Dank instead just interviewed people the “authorities” had already decided were pimps.  And since interviewees might still tell some truth despite incentives to the contrary, the fantasies of cops and prosecutors were included to balance that.

Fiji mermaidTo ensure that the “researchers” stayed on-message, the report’s “recommendations” must have been dictated in advance:  they include “Cross-train drug, sex, and weapons trade investigators to better understand circuits and overlaps” (i.e. more money to cops); “Continue using federal and local partnerships to disrupt travel circuits and identify pimps” (i.e. justify illegal use of federal funds and manpower to enforce local prostitution laws); “Offer law enforcement trainings for both victim and offender interview techniques, including identifying signs of psychological manipulation” (i.e. teach cops to psychologically manipulate arrestees); “Impose more fines for ad host websites” (i.e. pressure the courts into giving politicians the power to censor the internet); and so on.  The result?  A Jenny Haniver, a methodological monstrosity cut and stitched and distorted to provide bogus “evidence” for a creature that exists only in the minds of prohibitionists:  a sex industry dominated by “pimps” and “trafficking gangs”.  When charlatans produce objects they claim to be mummified mermaids, chupacabra carcasses and yeti scalps, it’s the duty of skeptics to expose the scam.  And when the con artist is the government, and the goal destroying people’s lives rather than merely separating them from a few bucks, that duty is even more crucial.

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We don’t know what sex workers themselves think about [the Swedish model] because nobody, it seems, bothered to ask them.  –  Fionola Meredith

R.I.P. Andrew Hunter Andrew Hunter

The president of the Global Network of Sex Work Projects and founder of the Asia-Pacific Network of Sex Workers died suddenly on Boxing Day at the age of 47.  There is very little information available for a fitting tribute to this amazing and tireless activist, but I am in contact with his partner, Dale, and hope to get a proper full-length obituary ready in the next few days.

Out of Control (The Camel’s Nose)

It’s been quite a while since we’ve seen a creepy rapist doctor:

An [Ohio] emergency room doctor was sentenced to 35 years…after pleading guilty to raping and killing a pregnant prostitute…Deanna Ballman…died of a fatal overdose of heroin, which Salim [Ali] gave her at his home…Salim acknowledged that…he dumped her body.  However, he only intended to have sex and not harm her or the unborn child…

License to Rape

Another serial rapist cop protected by his department and given a slap on the wrist when caught:

…Michael Vagnini…had a thing he liked to do when he busted someone.  He liked to do it a lot.  “The complaint lays out in graphic detail how…Vagnini…conducted searches of men’s anal and scrotal areas, often inserting his [ungloved] fingers into their rectums”…when the complaints piled up so high that even…Police Chief Edward Flynn couldn’t come up with an excuse for ignoring it, Vagnini’s pleasure at humiliating and physically violating his victims was finally subject to prosecution…Of course, arrest and prosecution for serial anal rape is one thing.  What comes of it is another.  A deal was cut…“that would not require him to become a registered sex offender”…he [only]…got…a sentence of 26 monthsfat Barbie

I first reported this in “Links #119”.

Barbie 

More adults badly in need of lives:  “Plus-Size-Modeling.com is suggesting Mattel create a plus-size Barbie.  While some say more realistic curves would be a better role model for girls, others say an overly large Barbie would be an unhealthy example…

To Protect and Serve

Another casualty of the War on Whores:

A dog owner is demanding a [Florida] police officer’s badge, after that officer shot his dog while…[trying] to serve a woman with a warrant for prostitution charges…the woman doesn’t live there anymore. [Richard] Stotler moved in after her, and said he has no idea who the woman is…[but the cops] didn’t listen…[and trespassed] through the gate around the back of the house, where they found Lady…She’s…[now] on three different pain medications, with part of a bullet still lodged in her ear canal, and other wounds Stotler isn’t sure will heal…police…haven’t released the officer’s name or whether he will face any disciplinary action…

Subtle Pimping

Tragedy pornographer Erin Healy claims to have “investigated sex trafficking” for her latest novel, yet somehow she didn’t find any of the numerous debunkings of the myth which would have invalidated her premise.  To quote this plug piece Fox News published for her, “Go ahead, please cringe with me.”

Why Not Teach Them Critical Thinking Instead?
lurking traffickers

The New Jersey…Attorney General will sponsor assemblies statewide…to warn students about the dangers of human trafficking…surrounding Super Bowl XLVIII…the “Say Something Assembly” program…[says] traffickers may target minors through social media, telephone chat lines and after-school programs, and at shopping malls and bus depots.

Droit du Seigneur

Rebecca Woodard says…in her new tell-all tome that prosecutors forced her to continue to turn tricks after she agreed to wear a wire to help snare…Anna Gristina in 2008…“The [Assistant District Attorney] told me to work…and then turn over to his office the money and any gifts that clients gave me…this ADA was my pimp”…Woodard does not name the ADA…but gave several clues to his identity.  Sources…confirmed…that she is referring to former ADA Mark Crooks…[now working] as an assistant federal prosecutor in Maryland.  Woodard…says she didn’t tell prosecutors about all her gigs.  “Obviously, if I did this with every client I saw, I would have been broke”…prosecutors [threatened to]…arrest her for prostitution if she didn’t [work for them]…

Woodard also claims that while working earlier for Kristin Davis she was hired by Eliot Spitzer, who liked to choke escorts during sex.

The Crumbling Dam

The number of charges for prostitution-related offences in Toronto courts has dropped by 90 per cent over a five-year period, as the constitutional challenge against Canada’s prostitution laws [went on]…Toronto courts received 1,088 charges…in 2006.  In 2011, the number of charges was a tenth of that, just 110…Alan Young, the lawyer who argued the case, said…Prostitution-related offences have been low priority for enforcement…“The government kept asserting that when the laws were invalidated, there would be…chaos…and my position was, we’re charging so little, the community wouldn’t notice much difference”…Cartoon History of the Modern World 2

Presents, Presents, Presents!

The mails were a bit slow during Christmas, so I got a few cards and one present at the end of last week: The Cartoon History of the Modern World, Part 2 from Kevin Wilson.  Thank you, Kevin!

Legal Is As Legal Does (TW3 #7)

Prostitutes [in New Zealand] are hitting back at a bill that aims to restrict where they can work, saying it’s unnecessary and could put their safety at risk…The bill…would give police the ability to arrest and fine them and clients if they break the rules…Another…bill [proposes] to recriminalise street prostitution and confine the trade to brothels…

Useful Idiots

“Feminists” never, ever think of the implications of laws they push:

Domestic abuse involving “emotional blackmail” – but no violence – could become a criminal offence carrying a heavy jail term…the…bill…proposes making it illegal to…“intend to control or coerce” their spouse.  Anyone found guilty…would face up to 14 years’ imprisonment…its definition of abuse includes…“[depriving] them of the means needed for independence”…

As Tim Worstall points out, the definitions criminalize the normal behavior of most British wives.

Naked Truth

Melissa Gira Grant presents a long list of her picks for the best sex work writing of the year, including journalism which treats sex work rationally.  Many of these were linked here when they appeared, and you may enjoy reading the others.

The Course of a Disease (TW3 #34)

A rare Irish denunciation of the Swedish Model:

…the planned introduction of new laws criminalising the purchase of sex in Ireland, north and south…conflates sex workers and targets of human trafficking, treating them…as…one homogeneous group of oppressed and distressed victims…destroyed by the abhorrent appetites of men…[supporters] are wilfully blind to the consequences of their sanctimonious stance for the very individuals they say they want to rescue and protect:  the sex workers themselves, some of whom, inconveniently enough, refuse to allow themselves to be saved…criminalising clients does not wipe out prostitution, or even substantially reduce demand.  But it does hurt sex workers, placing them at increased risk of violence, exposing them to stress and ill-health, making them feel stigmatised and hunted…Where buying sex is outlawed, it is the people selling it who pay the price…Laura Lee

The Public Eye (TW3 #324)

Douglas Fox is retiring as the editor of Harlot’s Parlour, and handing the reins to our friend Laura Lee:

…I am handing harlots to Laura with the assurance that she will continue to encourage a wide and diverse opinion within sex work to be heard.  There is not, after all, only one message about what or who is a sex worker.  Despite our disagreements what unites us is a desire that our work is recognised and that we are provided the full protection of the law…

Sold Out

This at first seems to be just another of the inane “libertarians are bad because of this strawman I made!” articles we’ve seen so many of this year, but it contains this gem:  “Libertarians…called for the abolishment of ‘victimless crime’, which lumped homosexuality with prostitution, polygamy, recreational drugs, abortion, and gambling…certainly not a ringing endorsement of the LGBTQ community…”  How dare they include wonderful gays with that riff-raff!

Dirty Laundry (TW3 #326)

This is another long, horrifying article on the Magdalene laundries; it covers ground that will be mostly familiar to those who have studied the history of these monstrous slave-labor camps, but includes a fact I did not know before:  “Australia had eight Magdalene laundries – all at Sisters of the Good Shepherd convents – from the 1940s until the ’70s.  There is no firm data on how many girls they held but it’s estimated to be several thousand…[they] were for girls who were wards of the state or deemed delinquents but often were victims themselves who had committed no crimes…

Innocence Never Had

Let's Talk About TouchingImagine that you’re a young sex worker (say, 16-19) who’s just been arrested in a “sting”, manhandled by leering cops and pressured by scary perverts to reveal a “pimp” you don’t have.  Then a creepy middle-class woman comes in to see you in your cage and gives you… crayons and a coloring book:  “The Human Trafficking Coalition of the Palm Beaches…provides backpacks for immediate needs to those rescued from sex traffickers…items needed are:  travel size toiletries,  toothpaste and tooth brushes, small blankets, flip-flops…notebooks, pencils and cases, erasers, crayons and coloring books…

Bootlickers (TW3 #345)

More totalitarian prudery from Everett, Washington:

Everett police updated the boundaries of zones used to designate high-prostitution areas…The newly zoned areas include some of the bikini barista stands that have made headlines in recent months…and…are used to enforce court orders given to those convicted of prostitution activity, including people who buy sex…Offenders can be arrested on the spot for violating the court order…

Note that many people accused of “prostitution” in Everett are the aforementioned bikini baristas, so these “orders” deprive them of their jobs.

The Course of a Disease (TW3 #351)

An excerpt from Mindy Chateauvert’s Sex Workers Unite:

…despite the acceptance of “sluts,” the “prostitute” remains a deeply embedded symbolic marker between decency and disrespect.  The “ethical slut” engages in sex of her or his own “free” will, while the “dirty whore” insists on getting paid…Sex-positive feminists and other “sluts” believe there is nothing morally wrong with consensual sex between two (or more) people…but money changes everything…That cognitive dissonance — the deep chasm filled with stereotypes and prejudices — interferes with the capacity…to hear sex workers speak about their experiences.  Stories that don’t conform to the “superhappyfunsexysexwork!” narrative tend to flummox pro-sex feminists; they can identify with privileged exotic dancers, porn performers and professional dominants…but think “junkie whores” need to be rescued and should be prevented from working in their…neighborhoods…

Opting Out (TW3 #352)

A few more examples of the dirty, nasty porn Cameron’s filters are “protecting” British women and children from:

…One of your ISPs blocked access to the website for Glasgow’s St. Mary’s Cathedral [and] the blog of its provost.  A second ISP blocked access to charity sites including ChildLine, the NSPCC and the Samaritans.  Other websites blocked include the British Library, National Library of Scotland [and] your Parliament…best…of all is the site of Claire Perry, the Member of Parliament who campaigned so prominently for the new law.  How’s it feel, Claire?  Oh, your site is legitimate and shouldn’t be censored?  That’s how the owners of every single other site being blocked feel…

Cops and RobbersPot Noodle

A…police officer refused to deal with a harassment complaint from murdered Bijan Ebrahimi because it would mean his Pot Noodle would get cold…On a separate occasion…Mr Ebrahimi had banged on a police station door to make a complaint but no-one had answered, despite there being staff inside.  A…police spokesman…was unable to comment on the claims…until the conclusion of the [Independent Police Complaints Commission]  investigation…[Lee] James, 24, was jailed for life, with a minimum sentence of 18 years…for beating and stamping …Ebrahimi to death.  Stephen Norley, 25, was jailed for four years after helping James to set Mr Ebrahimi’s body on fire…

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