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Archive for September 26th, 2014

This essay first appeared in Cliterati on August 31st; I have modified it slightly to fit the format of this blog.

To those who aren’t sex workers and don’t make a full-time job out of following the developments in our  persecution, it must sometimes seem as though I’m exaggerating the awfulness of the situation.  Furthermore, those same people may not think the difference between decriminalization (as practiced in New Zealand) and legalization (as practiced in The Netherlands) is all that big a deal; many times I’ve been asked some variation of “every other job is regulated these days, so why should sex work be an exception?  And what about all the trafficked children?”  So I’m always glad to see someone else write about some specific aspect of the War on Whores in a degree of detail that neither my format nor my crowded schedule allow me time to match.  Today I present highlights of a recent article by the Dutch sex worker Zondares; the original is almost 5000 words and only the last in a series of six.  However, it is well worth your time, especially if you’re skeptical about the situation as I’ve described it; I’m hoping to whet your appetite by these selections, so that you’ll be moved to read the whole thing.

…very hostile actions against prostitutes have become not just accepted by the general public, but are actually viewed as productive efforts to combat trafficking…It started out with police raids on window prostitution areas.  The neighborhood would be closed down, a huge police force would storm the streets, with a ratio of more than 8 policemen per girl…These policemen would force their way into the work areas and take the sex workers to…government buildings for an all-night interrogation.  Meanwhile, police ravage the working areas and adjoining rooms, destroying any closed lockers, boxes, suitcases or bags…Police claim the women are free to go during these raids.  However…if you do try to leave they can order you to stay, and you’ll be arrested if you don’t comply…Every raid is claimed to be a success…[but] very few arrests are attributed to raids – and on closer inspection, this is always found to be false.Die Wallen  So far none of the raids have started any investigation ending in conviction…

So if the raids don’t do what they’re supposed to do, what’s the profit in doing them?

…Communications equipment like telephones or computers are taken, mostly never to be returned, and…there is…great emphasis on tracing your money.  If they can track down where your money has gone, it will be impounded, and never be released.  This is supposed to strike at the heart of trafficking.  If you don’t have a pimp to siphon off your earnings, you can lose much.  Hiding it at home doesn’t help you, because while you’re being interrogated, police has broken down your home door and is ransacking the place…As long as [your money was] moved legally, they can easily find it and take it…They claim you could get it back if detective work shows it to be clean, but so far I haven’t heard from anyone who actually had any returned.  Procedures to get anything returned are a waste of effort…

Think it’s better for independent escorts? Think again:

…The municipality is informed you’re working without a license…whether you need [one] or not…you’ve been in violation during your whole career, and they’re able to fine you tens of thousands of Euros…unless you submit to some other stipulation, like leaving the municipality or joining a licensed brothel.  Police will inform your building society, landlord or mortgage bank that you’re “running an illegal bordello” in your house.  This very often means eviction…If you’re the owner of your house, and it is not mortgaged, there is still the option of evicting you because you’re in breach of zoning laws…If [a part time] sex worker is caught…and they manage to track down where you work, they commonly inform your employer.  This very often ends in dismissal…In rare cases, insurance companies and banks have been informed their client was a sex worker.  Even those few financial institutions that don’t flat-out refuse services to hookers will do so after being “warned” by police.  Whether this is done intentionally to further ruin the sex worker or is a side-effect of police trying to track down money to impound is unclear…As if all the above weren’t enough, they go after your loved ones.  Not only do they tend to inform parents if you’re still in your early 20s, but if you have kids, those will come into the sights of youth services….Men in the house must mean violent pimps, another woman must mean that this was a crowded brothel where clients are tag-teamed, and when a 15-year old girl was present…the press…[didn’t ask who she was]…Prostitution to them is a world of cardboard cut-outs, who don’t have relatives, who can’t babysit for a neighbour when between clients, who don’t live in houses where they also have a family, so anyone near them must be part of the misery porn story…

So why all of this torture; is it just petty sadism?  Not quite:

Once they’ve threatened you with all they’re willing to do to make you miserable, childless, homeless and jobless, they explain that if you would turn out to be a trafficking victim, then all this would disappear.  You would even get help, if you wanted.  All you have to do is claim that you were coerced, and accuse somebody.  Then everything will be right…every time a sex worker doesn’t want to give enough information to actually put anyone in prison, the cops are baffled…the National Rapporteur in her reports calls for even more explicit explanation of the choice between the government ruining your life or you coming up with an accusation.  Because if it isn’t because we’re too stupid to understand the decision we’re making, then she doesn’t understand why we would choose bearing the brunt of what government can throw at us over falsely accusing an innocent.  It can’t be morals, whores don’t have any, right?

The driver for all this, as you may have guessed, is “sex trafficking” hysteria:

The police [are] pretending to be fighting…gangs that don’t exist anymore, mafia structures that never did exist, claiming success after success, but never getting any real gangsters.  They use excessive violence to force whores to help them shore up their fantasy war on trafficking…the media are completely uncritical of government…and…choose to be complicit in hoaxes…pornographic element in the stories is camouflaged by pretending it is a story of heroism and courage…A small number of semi-professional victims dominate the soft news, misery porn books and documentaries.  They get new fake names for each publication, and because their stories change each time to fit prohibitionist fashion, the public tends to view each appearance as a new case…Nor are the media ever disillusioned when large scale police raids fail, over and over, to uncover any significant amount of trafficking, let alone coercion…

And absolutely everything constitutes “evidence”:

…If your husband picks up your work phone, he is obviously controlling you.  If you both testify you love each other, then that is an obvious lie, because no real loving husband would tolerate his wife doing something so vile as prostitution…If you work during your period, you’re working while sick, and that’s proof of coercion.  If your friend spots for you by calling for security words before and after bookings, that’s controlling your work and therefore evidence of coercion.  If your man bought lingerie or condoms, then he is supplying your work and this is proof of coercion…If [your husband] carries your handbag, he’s controlling your documents …If there are deeds to his name, that’s evidence of him exploiting you – and if the deeds are to your name, that’s evidence he’s using you as a shield…

There’s a lot more, but I think you get the idea. Of course, some who read this still won’t believe it:

People are very hesitant to question trafficking dogma, even if they can see that it defies facts.  They will not…doubt the overarching mythology despite seeing it conflicts with reality in any part they can actually see for themselves…They view us as bizarre caricatures, and find it difficult, inconceivable, embarrassing, painful even, to consider that we might be people in charge of our life, with different choices and different values…Toy theatre c.1845-50

Cardboard cutouts are useful for acting out childish narratives; they can be moved around and put in any part of the flat, simply-colored background picture one wishes.  And unlike real people, they don’t argue and refuse to play the parts for which they were created.

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