This essay first appeared in Cliterati on November 9th; I have modified it slightly to fit the format of this blog.
I’ve previously predicted that the “sex trafficking” moral panic will start to fall apart in about three more 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…
I’ve seen nothing in the past three years to convince me that this prediction is off by very much; in fact, we’ve already started to see skeptical articles, including some from within the “anti-trafficking” movement itself, and academics, health officials and human rights organizations are now openly attacking the hysteria. But what I actually want to concentrate on today is that last part of the quote; when such books start to appear, you can be sure mine will be among them. And I plan to spend a large part of it in discussion of the truly bizarre and outrageous myths that the hysteria has spawned. Take this article, for example; even by “sex trafficking” standards, it’s jaw-droppingly stupid:
A couple of years ago, Bo Quickel…[quit his] real estate…job…[to] dedicate his life…to ending sex trafficking…“I’ve never been in the trucking industry, but I [talked]…executives for a trucking company…[into hiring me] as a consultant…The following week I was…with social workers learning more about human trafficking”…
Let that sink in: a real estate agent with a folksy name, who knew absolutely nothing about sex work, migration, psychology, law or the trucking industry, somehow managed to talk a trucking company into hiring him as a “sex trafficking” expert; he neither sees a problem with admitting this, nor with admitting that he didn’t even bother to learn anything about the subject he was hired as a “consultant” in until after he already had the job. This is not at all unusual in the rescue industry; time and again we see cops, lawyers and even people whose “expertise” consists of having watched one propaganda film, hailed as “experts” by morons who hang on their every pronouncement, no matter how appallingly idiotic. Given this low regard for actual evidence, it isn’t surprising Quickel contented himself with listening to the masturbatory fantasies of a couple of “trafficking” fetishists, nor that he, like other “rescue” opportunists, has absolutely no credible plan for fighting his imaginary bogey:
“…[there are] stickers on bathroom stalls (at truck stops) with an 800-rescue number on it…because that’s the only time these girls are alone.” Quickel said truck drivers account for 60 percent of the people who pay for sex with those who are being sex trafficked…From there, Vigilante Truckers was born, an organization dedicated to creating awareness among truck drivers to end the demand to what Quickel calls “the sale of rape”…
Don’t even ask where Quickel got that 60% figure; he simply made it up as his mentors taught him. “Sex trafficking” opportunists portray women as passive, childlike creatures completely without agency; sex with them, as with an infant, is automatically defined as “rape” because they lack the capacity for rational consent. They are, in fact, so passive that they can’t think of calling 911 for the local police, yet the number of a “rescue line” in some other part of the country will reflexively trigger an unconscious dialing behavior if placed before their eyes in a loo on a sticker or the wrapper of a bar of soap. But Quickel goes even farther than most, imagining whores as literally inanimate objects:
“If you look at it from a manufacturing perspective through supply and demand with sex slavery as the business, the supply is the use of their own bodies, and the demand is the people paying for sex…if there are 10 bottles of Tide at the market and the goal is to meet the people’s demand, and I go in and…purchase five bottles, but there are still 10 needs for it, the supplier will bring in seven more bottles to replace the five that were rescued and the same could be said when looking at sex slavery.”
Yes, he actually said that bottles of laundry detergent can be “rescued”; he also seems to be saying that for every five doll-like girls who are “rescued” by cops or vigilantes, “pimps” will go out and abduct seven more…which if anything constitutes an argument against his methods. And what exactly are those methods?
Quickel’s organization has 10 semi-trucks that are regularly parked in truck stops across the Southeast, wrapped in information about the parent organization “Stand As One”…the 800 number of the national hotline for anti sex slavery and rescue, and anti-sex slavery statements…Quickel said they’ve had highly effective results from placing the trucks at area truck stops as they are considered “moving billboards that create sex free zones wherever it is parked [sic].” Quickel said trucks are parked at their respective locations for 10 hours at a time and essentially stop the demand for the product during that time period under the authority [sic] that they are being watched and all slavery activities will be reported to the national hotline in real time, and GPS located pictures will be uploaded to the Vigilante Truckers database for public viewing and rescue response… “If we have 10 trucks parked for 10 hours that’s 100 hours of sex-free zones at truck stops…Their handlers will not bring in a supply of girls when one of our trucks is parked at a truck stop for fear of being reported, and the same goes for the truck drivers.”
This ludicrous fantasy would strain the credulity of even the most lawheaded simpleton were it not for the presence of the magic word “sex”, guaranteed to freeze all cognitive functions in at least 40% of all humans and 60% of Americans. Imagine someone seriously declaring that a billboard plastered with anti-drug propaganda had the magic power to stop people from carrying or consuming drugs in the area; he’d be laughed off the stage. Even taken out of context, the phrases “sex free zones”, “slavery activities” and “supply of girls” are astonishingly dumb. Yet Quickel insists his lies are superior to those of other self-declared “experts”:
Quickel said Charlotte [North Carolina] ranks sixth in the nation “for the demand of sex slaves and services provided by human trafficking victims”…Quickel disagrees with Mooresville Police Chief Carl Robbins’…opinion that human trafficking is not a problem in this town. “I’ve personally sat outside (four massage parlors [here]), and I can tell you that the only people coming in and out of there are men every 45 minutes, and if the women that are working at these places were there of their own free will they would leave”…
“I’ve personally sat outside four grocery stores in Yahootown, and I can tell you that the only people coming in and out of there are shoppers every minute, and if the cashiers that are working at these places were there of their own free will they would leave.” This is the level of nonsense emitted by those who declare themselves “experts” in this foolish fairy tale; I imagine future students reading this idiocy in my book and laughing themselves silly. Alas, we aren’t in a position to laugh at present, because clowns like Quickel are parroted by politicians with absolutely straight faces, and thus actually influence the policies which are inflicted on sex workers, our clients, our associates and our families by heavily-armed gangs of thugs.