Slavery still exists, but now it applies only to women and its name is prostitution. – Victor Hugo, Les Miserables
It seems that in the past few years, and especially this year, the gap between those who want the US to join the developed world on prostitution and those who want us to align ourselves with theocracies and totalitarian states has dramatically increased; while most Americans used to sit on the fence on this issue, debate now seems to have become polarized between those in favor of decriminalization and those who support increased demonization and prohibition. Nearly every week now I read an article like this one in which an intelligent, informed person calls for an end to prohibition and the ensuing waste of public funds which results from the completely ineffective attempts to enforce the unenforceable. This particular story is about the newest “strategy” employed by the city of Arlington, Texas – an electronic billboard on which the mug shots of men arrested in prostitution stings are posted. The author rightfully compares the tactic to the stocks used by the Puritans, and even includes a link to my column of November 23rd (for which I am very grateful). Arlington, as you may recall from that column, is also the city which is trying to scare touring escorts away by sending them booga-booga emails like this one:
Hello. You are hereby informed that your escort service posting on (insert website here) is in violation of Arlington’s Sexually Orientated [sic] Business Ordinance and other laws. In order to operate as an escort in the City of Arlington, you are required to obtain a license and present that license upon request. If you are caught operating without that license, you may be arrested and fined an amount up to $2000.00. For further information, please contact the Arlington Police Department Vice Unit.
Judging by these tactics (designed to hinder prostitutes without arresting them) and the crucifixion of clients without due process, it seems as though the Nordic Model infection has spread to northeast Texas. The vector for this sickness is of course “trafficking” hysteria, and it isn’t limited to the cops; take a look at the response (in the linked article) from one Jeff Kladec, who writes (among other drivel): “Prostitution is typically ONE consenting adult (the john) and one slave. Most women in prostitution (even where it is legal, so legalizing it doesn’t help) are forced through physical violence to give the money to their pimps, not allowed (through violence or threats to their families) to leave the lifestyle, and want to get out…Prostitution is not a “choice” for women, and more often than not, is a way for some evil people to kidnap children as young as 12 (in the US they are 12, in other countries, 5 or younger); they drug these children, and they are forced into this lifestyle…Prostitution is not a profession, or a lifestyle, or a choice; it is slavery. Do some research.”
The “all whores are slaves” propaganda also permeates this column from a recent issue of The New York Times; thanks to regular reader Maria for calling it to my attention. The writer, Nicholas Kristof, apparently spends a great deal of his time working to “rescue sex slaves”; obviously I don’t know his motivations and so can make no accusation, but the phrase “reaction formation” leaps unbidden to my mind. The column is careful to avoid most of the usual prohibitionist claims, but subtly implies that sex worker activists such as myself are being less than truthful: He says of an enslaved Chinese prostitute, “Those who think that commercial sex in this country is invariably voluntary — and especially men who pay for sex — should listen to her story.” No sane person claims that commercial sex is “invariably” voluntary; Kristof certainly knows that as well as we do, but by implying otherwise he make those who support prostitutes’ rights look either ignorant or dishonest. I’ll use his words to make a much more honest statement: “Those who think that commercial sex in this country is invariably involuntary — and especially men who support witch hunts against prostitutes — should listen to my story.” I’ll make a deal with you, Mr. Kristof; for every horror story you give me to read, I’ll give you a “happy hooker” story to read. But you won’t take that deal, because facts which do not conform to your sex fantasy must be discarded. All pretense is dropped in the concluding paragraph, however, which clearly reveals its “Nordic Model” underpinnings: “There are no silver bullets, but the critical step is for the police and prosecutors to focus more on customers (to reduce demand) and, above all, on pimps. Prostitutes tend to be arrested because they are easy to catch, while pimping is a far harder crime to prosecute…Nearly 150 years after the Emancipation Proclamation, it’s time to wipe out the remnants of slavery in this country.”
The “anti-trafficking” movement has largely absorbed the propaganda of the “Nordic Model” because it allows prohibitionists to attack our livelihood and suppress our profession without openly attacking us and thereby revealing their misogyny. But the “Nordic Model” is even more misogynistic than traditional abolitionism; established prostitution law at least presumes that women are capable of moral choice and should be held accountable for our actions, but the “Nordic Model” is based on the astonishingly sexist premise that women are psychologically and morally incompetent to make our own sexual choices. To “Nordic model” proponents in general and trafficking fanatics in particular, all women are eternal children who are psychologically unable to consent to sex for any reason but a childish, fairy-tale version of “love”, and therefore any prostitute must be the victim of evil “pimps”. This sort of belief system is very appealing to crypto-sexists who secretly believe women are inferior to men, yet cannot say it out loud nowadays except by disguising it in neofeminist rhetoric. Female proponents of this system are so blinded by their hatred of men and sex that they cannot see the dangerous precedent it establishes, but those male proponents who are not driven by reaction formation are almost certainly drawn to the propaganda because it allows them a socially acceptable venue for their paternalism.
Male trafficking fetishists are also, more importantly, seeking a defense against the frightening truth that the vast majority of women are fully in control of their own sexuality, and therefore male sexuality. As described in my column of July 20th, insecure men have a deep and abiding need to believe that sex is not under female control; one way to maintain this belief is the Myth of the Wanton, which holds that women (or at least sexual women) have a male-like sex drive, but another is to hide (as Victorians like Victor Hugo did) in a belief system which teaches the exact opposite. The male trafficking fetishist immerses himself in a lurid, exciting and adolescent fantasy that female sexuality is always controlled by men (pimps and customers), and that all heterosexual women who are not owned by husbands are instead owned by “pimps” and “traffickers”. If they simply used this fantasy to masturbate or in sessions with professionals it would be harmless, but unfortunately they project it outward and insist society accept it as fact and proceed accordingly. To men such as Mr. Kladec and Mr. Kristof, I have this to say: You aren’t fooling us, so I suggest you buy yourself the complete set of Gor novels, enjoy them in the privacy of your own home, and stop trying to force the rest of us to indulge your sexual fantasies without paying for the privilege.