Already I prophesied to my countrymen all their disasters. – Aeschylus, Agamemnon
I have often joked that a better nom de plume would’ve been Cassandra McNeill, because despite my extremely high level of accuracy in predicting the development and course of social phenomena, most people tend to discount my forecasts anyway. Those of you who have been reading this blog for a long time may remember “Crystal Ball“, my column of four years ago today, in which I wrote:
…major moral panics only tend to last about 20 years at the outside…most…endure for about the time it takes a generation to grow from infancy to adulthood (during which time a lot of the “leaders” who enable such panics die off or at least retire, and young liberals who reject their elders’ crusades on general principle come into power)…Given this pattern, the “human trafficking” hysteria should be dead by the end of this decade; though there were a few alarmists spreading the propaganda (which if one treats it skeptically reads an awful lot like the “Satanic abuse” literature with sex and profit replacing “Satanism” as the supposed motivator) by the mid-‘90s, official designation of it as a “world-wide problem” occurred in 2000 and the genuine hysteria did not begin until about 2003…If things run according to form, we can predict that over the next three years skepticism about “trafficking” (especially in regard to its conflation with sex work) will slowly increase, and by about 2015 it will be possible for a major media outlet to publish articles critical of both the statistics and the very concept. By 2017 public funding for anti-sex worker hate groups will begin to dry up, and by 2019 or 2020 we should expect it to virtually disappear from public discourse except for a wave of books and documentaries by “experts” who couldn’t be bothered to speak out against it while it was going on but are happy to make a quick buck from it after it’s safely over…
As they usually do, things are unfolding exactly as I predicted; those who take the time to peruse the “Traffic Circle” tag will note that though articles debunking “sex trafficking” have appeared for the past three years, the number of such articles (and the prestige of the publications in which they appeared) dramatically increased in 2015. The more reputable “trafficking experts” are beginning to distance themselves from the hysteria (even to the point of denying the myths), and even cops, politicians and yellow journalists sometimes find themselves in the position of having to admit that there is no evidence for their lies.
But two things happened in 2015 to virtually assure that the panic adhered to my schedule; one of them was predictable (and had been in development for some time), while the other was a gift from the federal government (obligingly shooting its own hysteria in the foot). The first was that Amnesty International, probably the largest and most respected human rights organization, finally took the long-anticipated step of advocating for decriminalization. And though the prohibitionists were understandably upset about that, the announcement also brought a large number of heretofore-silent supporters out of the woodwork; Amnesty’s announcement apparently gave them the courage to do the right thing at last, and that is probably worth as much to the movement as Amnesty’s actual advocacy for the cause will be.
The second, unexpected development was that mere weeks after the Supreme Court gave the gay rights movement its last major concrete goal by legalizing same-sex marriage everywhere in the US, the feds staged an ill-considered raid to shut down the venerable gay escort site, Rentboy. I say “ill-considered” because none of these thugs with titles bothered to think about the fact that the narrative they’ve promoted for over a decade now pretends that sex work is a form of “male violence against women”, and that all sex workers are passive, doll-like “victims” of evil “pimps and johns”. In other words, there’s no room in the “sex trafficking” paradigm for male sex workers, and by calling attention to their existence the feds shot themselves in the foot while simultaneously giving Gay, Inc another target to aim its big guns toward. While it’s true that a lot of really ignorant gay activists are now trying to pretend that they just invented the sex worker rights movement, it’s also true that they’ve got a powerful activism and mind-changing apparatus that we lack, and which is now gearing up to support our cause.
As I predicted, the “sex trafficking” hysteria is beginning to collapse, and will soon be a thing of the past. Unfortunately, the laws it has spawned will not disappear along with the moral panic; still, nationwide same-sex marriage followed Lawrence v. Texas by only twelve years. Decriminalization is coming, and the end of “sex trafficking” hysteria is only the first step in that direction.