In the field of human trafficking, I detest data because most of it is made up and bogus. - Martina Vandenberg, Human Trafficking Legal Resource Center
Lack of Evidence
It’s good to see the media finally noticing this:
There is no law that says…condoms [are] illegal…and yet NYPD…routinely…[uses them] as…evidence for…prostitution…one city agency conducts a public-health campaign and…[those] who take advantage of it are…promptly arrested by a different city agency—leading to cases being thrown out of court, a suppressed and redacted…study of the problem, and a bill to address the matter in…the state legislature…arresting people because they are in possession of condoms…distributed…by the city itself…looks an awful lot like entrapment…
Nor are the arrests limited to sex workers; as I’ve explained many times, laws which violate whores’ rights invariably violate everyone’s.
I love seeing profiles like this one of Australian escort Grace Bellavue; the more the public sees of real sex workers, the harder it will be for prohibitionists to sell their stereotypes and myths about us.
Check Your Premises
This is only “stunning” to those who believe in the “pimps and hos” myth:
A sex-trafficking case got the hook in…Brooklyn…when prosecutors revealed their victim was advertising herself as an escort…the woman, now 19, who claimed defendant Robert Pannell forced her into prostitution in April 2011…advertised herself online…last month. The stunning revelation contradicted the accuser’s testimony that her ordeal as a 17-year-old runaway was the only time she ever turned tricks…
The Women’s Legal Centre…in Cape Town…provides legal services for sex workers…[who] face routine harassment, intimidation, and…abuse from police…[who] threaten, arrest, or detain [them] for days at a time…many are released only after paying large fines…WLC began its outreach by offering weekly group workshops…[but] soon expanded, employing four former and current sex workers as paralegals…
An internal investigation of the Wilmington [North Carolina] Police Department’s narcotics enforcement team revealed inadequate documentation of funds, poor…supervision…and a “code of silence” cover-up of a March 2012 undercover prostitution operation…Police Chief Ralph Evangelous…[claimed] the undercover operation was in response to a citizen complaint about…escort services…the narcotics enforcement unit came up with a “unique approach” in [which]…more than $2,000 in city funds…were used…
Translation: The narcotics squad had a party but got caught, and it took the police chief a year to come up with a cock-and-bull excuse.
A federal appeals court struck down Virginia’s anti-sodomy law…a decade after…Lawrence v. Texas…The appeal originated in a 2005 case in which a 47-year-old man was convicted of soliciting a 17-year-old girl for sex. The girl refused and reported the incident to police, resulting in a “crimes against nature” charge…
One Size Fits All
As you might expect, Swedish neofeminists do not like surrogate motherhood and consider it a form of “human trafficking”:
Surrogate motherhood is a serious crime against women’s human rights…Even when the woman has voluntarily become a surrogate…she gives up the rights to her own body…surrogacy…opens the door for viewing women and children as goods, and to regarding women as containers…having children is not a human right…
Nor, in the minds of neofeminists, is using one’s natural abilities in a way which violates the neofeminist religion. Though this collectivist stance is evil because it denies women the right to control their bodies, it is more philosophically consistent than that of the US (which allows surrogacy but bans sex work) and Australia (vice-versa). But lest you believe that Swedish neofeminists are truly motivated by concern for women’s well-being:
Equality Minister Maria Arnholm wants Sweden to keep the right to deport women whose relationships with Swedish spouses end within two years…The…rule was introduced in an effort to clamp down on sham marriages and to put an end to so-called “wife imports”. But it has been blamed for forcing women to remain in abusive relationships…[and] a 2012 government-ordered inquiry [recommended it] be abolished…The Centre Party’s Women’s Association has also demanded that the…rule be…[replaced with] “immediate action” against “the practice of wife importation”…
It Looks Good On Paper
Prohibitionists just love to tout “diversion programs” which supposedly “help” whores instead of criminalizing them, but if these are so great why do they need cops to force women into them, and why are their standards so strict that very few qualify to avoid jail? In a recent example from Tucson, Arizona, members of SWOP warned sex workers away from a sting they had learned about, but 13 women still got caught…and only four qualified to escape jail. The scheme’s organizer Steve Kozachik, a local politician with a reputation as a control freak, claimed SWOP’s protecting women from cops was “unnecessary” and that “This is not anti sex worker.” Tell that to the nine women whom the prohibitionists “helped” into cages and branded with lifelong criminal records for trying to earn a living.
Politicizing the Personal
Dr. Laura Agustín feels the same way I do about the concept of “empowerment”, as she explains in this older essay she recently republished:
The verb is transitive: someone gives power to another, or encourages them to take power or find power in themselves. It’s used among those who want to help others identified as oppressed…[the] emphasis [is] on the helper and her vision of her capacity to help, encourage and show the way…To empower me as a sex worker you assume the role of acting on me…
…a California…law prohibits women from being compensated for donating their eggs for medical research, despite payments to subjects in other human research studies…[and] eggs…donated for fertility treatments…[but] a recently introduced bill…would allow women to be compensated…the California Family Council…[claims sponsor Susan] Bonilla’s bill opens up “dangerous medical ground.” The…anti-abortion group…said eggs should be treated like organs and should not be sold…Bonilla said…”I think women are able to decide for themselves if they want to participate in a clinical trial”…
Jesse Walker published a good short piece on Santa Muerte which includes links to a recent AP article, an FBI scare-screed and an essay comparing anti-Santa Muerte hysteria to the Satanic Panic.
Neither Addiction Nor Epidemic
Neuroskeptic points out the deep connection between addiction rhetoric and crypto-moralism:
…The dopamine theory of addiction is extremely popular today…[but] if you view addiction as essentially about reward (pleasure), surely that means…anything pleasurable could…be addictive?…if…addiction is the direct consequence of over-indulgence in a reward, then aren’t you saying that reward itself is ultimately what’s addictive?…If everything from food to friends to music are rewarding because they trigger dopamine release, then surely all of those things could be ‘addictive’…The more fun, the more (potentially) addictive…this idea – for all its medical, neurobiological, scientific language – actually undermines the concept of addiction as a ‘disease’ and reduces it to what amounts to a moral failing – it casts addiction as over-indulgence…
Finding What Isn’t There
Ministers, the police and social workers have been accused of a “shocking” failure to prevent the spread of modern slavery in the UK, leading to sexual exploitation, forced labour and the domestic servitude of adults and children…Describing government ministers as “clueless”…[about] human trafficking…the most exhaustive inquiry yet conducted into the phenomenon concludes that the approach to eradicating modern slavery is fundamentally wrong-headed. Instead of helping vulnerable victims…the legal system prosecutes many for immigration offences…
Though I hate to defend government officials, I feel compelled to point out that it’s difficult to adapt to ever-expanding definitions, and impossible to produce enough “victims” to satisfy “estimates” which are essentially just made up.
Obfuscation Via Dysphemisms
Gloria…Giammalva…was [sentenced]…to… months in prison and to be partially responsible for a $600,000 money judgment…U.S. Attorney Trent Shores…[claimed] the conspiracy…charged $30 per encounter, which he said meant that 20,000 commercial sex acts were performed by the women who were exploited…Giammalva…conspired with others in the operation of a multistate prostitution business that coerced and enticed women across state lines to participate in commercial sex acts…
Trim off all the dysphemisms and what remains is: she owned an escort service and the prosecutor lied about the fee to ratchet up the number of “counts”.
Coming and Going (TW3 #35)
Dallas officials are trying to push their “prostitution diversion” scheme on the rest of Texas as a replacement for locking women up. While any move away from incarceration is good news, the motivation is a desire to save money rather than a recognition that criminalization of consensual adult behavior is wrong; whores are still regarded as “criminals” to be “rehabilitated”, and all are assumed to be miserable victims who want out of sex work.
Book Reviews (October 2012)
When Rob Arthur (author of You Will Die) noticed that Chester Brown (author of Paying For It) had expressed interest in his book in the comment thread of this post, he asked me to forward his email address to Chester and the two of them each sent the other a book. I am both pleased and honored to have facilitated the meeting of two awesome authors whose works I greatly enjoyed.
Hard Numbers (TW3 #48)
…Steph Key will introduce new laws to [the South Australian] Parliament…to decriminalise all forms of sex work, after a previous attempt was rejected by one vote in November. The new Bill, based on a New Zealand model, would…allow local government…regulatory control…but…prevent councils from outlawing brothels simply because they offer sex work…Ms Key and [Status of Women Minister Gail] Gago were confident the new attempt was more likely to pass…
That’s the Ticket! (TW3 #138)
Dr. Brooke Magnanti on Comic Relief’s subscription to prohibitionist lies:
…This figure comes from a paper that surveyed only street-based sex workers, who represent less than 20% of prostitution…we should be…wary of…any group that throws around this number as if it represents sex work in general…Similarly, we are regularly told that the “average” age of entry into sex work is 13. This is actually incredibly mathematically unlikely, unless there is an epidemic of infants being sexually exploited we don’t yet know about. Former librarian and escort Maggie McNeill has broken down why this oft-repeated assumption is incorrect…The Comic Relief site continues: “The UK is a major destination country for trafficked young people. They are at a very high risk of being sexually exploited.” No source is given for this statement – probably because no such data exists. Confirmed trafficking cases in the UK are more likely to enter other jobs like agriculture, hospitality, and domestic service than they are to become sex workers…
No Friend of Ours
In the process of criticizing Nevada’s proposed “Everyone is a Sex Trafficker” Act, Jennifer Reed also debunks the “sex trafficking” panic:
…Prostitution in the U.S. was largely legal until changing women’s sexual norms led to a “white slavery” panic that resulted in the closing of brothels with the White-Slave Traffic Act, better known as the Mann Act in 1910…The reality was numerous young women were drawn into prostitution for “mundane” economic reasons [but] the ambiguous language of the Mann Act…was used to criminalize forms of consensual sexual behavior for many years…The [American] conception…developed because a crusade against prostitution…[conflated it] with human trafficking, a claim for which there is no evidence, even according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office. An executive summary of human trafficking put forth by the non-profit Center for Health and Gender Equity concludes that “conflating human trafficking with prostitution results in ineffective anti-trafficking efforts and human rights violations because domestic policing efforts focus on shutting down brothels and arresting sex workers, rather than targeting the more elusive traffickers”…investigations…[focus] almost entirely on commercial sex. It is a structure built on vice squads rather than labor investigators…
I wrote: “…many European countries seem more interested in ‘trafficking’ as an excuse to restrict immigration than as a genuine concern for the human rights of migrants.” Jim Cusack of The Independent wrote: “The Department of Justice and the courts are turning down ‘nearly all’ asylum requests from African women who say they fled [to Ireland] to escape sex traffickers in other European countries…”
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