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Posts Tagged ‘The Face of Trafficking’

People who think they can abolish [sex work] entirely from any country are living in a dream world.  –  Ronald Weitzer

Coming and Going

In 2012, more than 1,000 people were booked into the Bexar County Jail for prostitution and the cost to taxpayers was more than $1.2 million dollars.   State Representative Eric Johnson…has introduced House Bill 1363 to reduce punishment for prostitution.   The bill would make a first or second offense of prostitution a Class C Misdemeanor and calls for an intervention program…community service, counseling, and treatment…

Do As I Say, Not As I Do Samuel Riggi

an Orlando [Florida] police lieutenant…[is] accused of having a sexual relationship with a prostitute and taking nearly $10,000 from her…Gricelda Umana…[said] she and Lt. Samuel Riggi had sex every two weeks for two years, sometimes at the massage parlor where she worked.  She said he asked her for money and said she made 17 deposits totaling almost $10,000 from her prostitution proceeds into his account to protect her from arrest…

One Born Every Minute

A new site that claims to be “the AirBnB for escorts” doesn’t seem to be anything like AirBnB…or like a legitimate escort site, for that matter.  AirSnB—which stands for “Air Sexy Buddy,” I was told— launched in December  and, according to owner Amir Mo, is supposed to be the escort industry’s answer to the sharing economy…Mo said customers pay AirSnB upfront for a date arranged with their escort of choice (based on hourly rates).  After the date, AirSnB transfers the money to the escort, skimming their percentage off the top…if there are any issues—like the escort doesn’t show up or doesn’t follow through…AirSnB will return the money to the customer or give them a percentage back, depending on the situation.  But as if this didn’t sound sketchy enough already, many of the escort listings on the site don’t appear to be…real.  Almost every profile I found was copied word-for-word from listings elsewhere on the internet…

The Course of a Disease

Anti-prostitution campaigners have made grand statements about the effectiveness of Sweden’s hugely influential approach to prostitution.  However, researchers say the claims are grossly exaggerated and the law has put sex workers in greater danger.  The so-called “Swedish model”…portrays itself as an example to emulate.  Ambassadors for the approach preach its virtues to government regulators worldwide…But an increasing number of voices…say claims exaggerate its successes for ideological reasons.  The most recent attacks on the 1999 Kvinnofrid law come from Malmö University researcher Charlotta Holmström.  In contrast to the loud claims of anti-prostitution campaigners, that it has made sex workers safer, Holmström says they are far more vulnerable to exploitation and violence…

J’accuse (#42)

A high-profile pimping case against Dominique Strauss-Kahn nearly unraveled…[when] five of six plaintiffs…dropped their accusations against him…Strauss-Kahn has testified to having orgies…to being “rough” with his sexual “conquests,” and to needing sex with exceptional frequency.  But none of that is illegal…Strauss-Kahn insists he didn’t know the women involved were prostitutes…

But while Straus-Kahn will probably walk away free, French sex workers may not be so lucky:

…Morgane Merteuil…of the French sex worker’s trade union Strass…believes the trial has increased the stigmatisation of the sex industry and has presented a skewed view of the profession.  “There is a confusion with abolitionist organisations between when a client respects a contract and when he does not.  [DSK] didn’t respect the contract…not all clients act like him”…Merteuil says she believes the trial may result in the criminalisation of the sex industry…

Skin To Skin

For many disabled people, sex is off the cards.  While most needs are met through the provision of carers, or by parents, sex is often missed out entirely.  But now a number of sex workers are looking to combat this, stepping into the breach to provide specialist services to help disabled people to fulfil their sexual desires.  It’s easy for disabled people’s sexuality to become obscured by a web of societal assumptions about what it is to be disabled. But of course, disabled people are just as horny as anybody else…

Be Careful Who You Rape

After all, we wouldn’t want to waste effort investigating the rapes of “criminals”:

A new controversial policy requires sexual assault and rape victims to undergo police background checks before they can receive services…[including] rape kits or medical investigations into the criminal activity that was perpetrated against them…The bizarre policy has been around since 2007, but it has only been implemented and enforced since November…Critics of this law suggest that many will not come forward to report sexual assaults and rapes if they feel they maybe prosecuted for something…

Sex Rays

Sometimes it’s hard to believe the people who write these stories actually take them seriously:

Their locations are blended right into the fabric of busy communities. They set up shop next to store fronts and restaurants…police raided the Queen Spa, an illegal massage parlor set up near the University of Rhode Island…next to a Dunkin’ Donuts and Subway sandwich shop…other suburban locations where illegal massage parlors open…[include one] just feet from an ice cream stand and a toy shop…

Remember, sex work was only recriminalized in Rhode Island five years ago.

The Roof Caves In (#425) 

Disgraced anti-sex trafficking activist Somaly Mam’s new charity – which is headed by former staff of her fallen foundation, a Hollywood actress and a PR guru – announced…that it has been given the green light in the US…The organisation, which will employ about 37 full-time staff and expects to generate more than $682,000 this year…

Bread and Circuses

The war on sex worker advertising continues:

A [Colorado] man…was arrested…for “Use of a Facility in Interstate Commerce to Promote a Business Enterprise Involving Prostitution”…David A. Warmack owned and operated a website business named “Sowet.com”…[which] promoted and facilitated prostitution that took place at multiple massage parlors across the Metro Denver area…

The Face of Trafficking

In the largest ever study into the health of trafficking victims, researchers interviewed more than 1,100 men, women and children in Southeast Asia who had been trafficked into at least 15 sectors – including factory work, domestic labor, sex work and fishing…Most previous studies [only] looked at…women trafficked into sex work…[but] this study found…that women trafficked for other forms of labor, including factory work, domestic work and as brides, suffered worse mental health problems than those trafficked into sex work…

A Year Later

Sex worker advocates are warning Ontario Attorney General Madeleine Meilleur that Canada’s new controversial prostitution law will “force people in the sex trade in harm’s way.”  Meilleur is reviewing Bill C-36 and will file a report on the law to Premier Kathleen Wynne, who has expressed “grave concerns” about the federal Conservative government’s latest effort to deal with prostitution…

Moving Pictures

Add another “sex trafficking” porn fantasy to the list:  “Tricked…features interviews with people in all areas of the sex trafficking trade, including prostitutes who are often victims, the traffickers (pimps), customers (Johns) and the vice officers who fight the trade…

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Given that large numbers of prostitutes operate independently without panderers, it would be difficult to characterize prostitution as inherently rooted in subjugation.  –  Gail Heriot

Think of the Children! Jaqueline Laurent-Auger

The half-life of sex radiation must be over 40 years:

…[73-year-old] Jaqueline Laurent-Auger was a teacher at the Montreal private school, Le Collège Jean-de-Brébeuf…but…the school [fired] her [because]…as a young actress…in France, she starred in a handful of erotic films…[including] Le Journal intime d’une nymphomane (1973) and Dany la ravageuse (1972).  In a statement, school officials maintain that “We’re not talking about paintings or sculptures of naked bodies produced with artistry and aesthetics in mind.  There are erotic scenes destined for an adult audience…”

Dirty Whores

The headline makes the contagion sound voluntary and evokes the “dirty whore” myth:  “…a [Liberian] sex worker…suffering from Ebola…passed the deadly disease to [Floson Louise]…who unknowingly spread it to seven other soldiers…the army barracks are being decongested to ease the spread of the disease…

Rooted in Racism

I’m really pleased to see black intellectuals writing about this:

…the movement against “modern-day slavery” deploys non-racial language to…[solidify] the existing racial regime…and…is inordinately preoccupied with women’s sexual victimization…the focus on white women…working in commercial sex recalls the…late nineteenth and early twentieth century…[panic over] the “white slave trade”…the moral authority that anti-slavery mobilizes today partly stems from the memory of black liberation that it implicitly draws upon—all the while explicitly distancing itself from black historical struggle…

Surplus Women

[Darren Vann of Gary, Indiana]…may be a serial killer who has killed…as far back as 20 years ago…Vann…was arrested…[for the murder of] Afrika Hardy…[after she] did not return from [an]  appointment [with Vann, a friend]…went to track her down and found her dead from strangulation.  Once in custody Vann…admitted…Hardy’s murder and led police to the bodies of six other women, all in abandoned houses…[officials were] unable to say whether the other victims were sex workers…

Not an Addiction (TW3 #6)

Since when do “scientists” treat patients?

Scientists have treated…the first patient with internet addiction disorder brought on by overuse of Google Glass.  The man had been using the technology for around 18 hours a day – removing it only to sleep and wash – and complained of feeling irritable and argumentative without [it]…he had also begun experiencing his dreams as if viewed through [its] small grey window.  The existence of internet addiction disorder…is hotly debated among psychiatrists.  It was not included as a clinical diagnosis in the 2013 update to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders

It is not “hotly debated”; OCD is not “addiction”, no matter how much money-hungry scammers want to rebrand it as such.

Above the Law 

A Birmingham [Alabama] police officer arrested earlier this month on child sex abuse charges is now charged with rape of an adult woman.  Joshua Herbinger…was not in any kind of…relationship with the [victim]…In the earlier case…Herbinger was charged with four counts of sexual abuse of a child less than 12 years old…

Shift in the Wind

One of the members of the US government Commission on Civil Rights openly criticized “sex trafficking” hysteria in a dissent with the Commission’s predetermined rubber-stamp “findings”, and may have cited yours truly in it:

…terms like “sex trafficking”…obscure more than they enlighten, because there is little agreement on what they mean…claims that the Super Bowl is a magnet for sex traffickers appear to be more myth than fact…In the late 19thcentury, Great Britain was also swept by a wave of hysteria over “white slavery“.  In time, the panic spread to the United States…the Heriot dissent decries the tendency to view the complexities of so-called “international labor trafficking” as something inherently sinister…There is plenty of opportunity for fraudulent or coercive behavior in these transactions.  But there is also opportunity for gain by the most vulnerable of the world’s people, trapped in poverty…

Bottleneck

Why 90% of whores prefer to work illegally than submit to licensing:

…Dancers and managers at a Washington state strip club are…suing to stop their county from releasing their names, photos, and other identifying information to a man who has filed a public records request…because strippers in most areas of Washington must obtain an “entertainer’s license”, their identities are a matter of public record…it’s entirely likely [David A. Van Vleet]…is a crazy stalker or an anti-sex nutjob.  Maybe both…it’s hard to imagine many non-nefarious reasons for requesting personal information on a wide swath of individuals in a sensitive job…

Capricious Lusts (TW3 #37)

M.C. Nanaiah , chairman of the [Indian] expert committee to suggest measures for safety of women and children has favoured a wider discussion on legalisation of prostitution…to prevent rapes…

That Old Black Magic

The “Juju sex slaves” myth just keeps on going like a zombie:

Juju “magic” may seem strange, mythical and other-worldly but it is a problem that is all too real when it comes to the sex trafficking of women from Nigeria…Trafficking expert Siddharth Kara from Harvard University said:  “[Juju] exerts a kind of control that’s so much more potent than chains or locking someone up.  It’s control of the spirit which is far more powerful and insidious”…

Westerners have our own Juju faith in self-declared “experts” like Kara, a charlatan whose degree of ignorance is astonishing even in a field dominated by charlatans.Barry Freundel

Buried Truth 

One of the nation’s most respected rabbis…[is] accused of placing a camera in the women’s…area of a sacred bath…Barry Freundel is a…leader in the Modern Orthodox movement…with controversial opinions on everything from abortion to homosexuality.  He…was known to take a strict position on morality, [saying]…just weeks ago:  “The lack of sexual morality…pervades this society…Pornography and its accessibility is wrecking marriages”…

Scapegoats (TW3 #49)

Daily Beast writer (no giggling, now) says Denmark doesn’t have enough reasons to lock people up yet:

…A new law on the table in Denmark proposes to make sex with animals…illegal.  The Danish law currently states that humans can have sex with animals as long as the animal doesn’t suffer…[but] how would one know if an animal enjoyed human sex?…If the law passes…only Finland, Hungary and Sweden will remain lawless…[the bill’s sponsor] is…concerned that…Denmark…could become the [Mecca] of animal sex tourism…

I’m not sure what’s sillier, the writer’s conflation of “doesn’t suffer” with “enjoy” or her idea that “human sex” is fundamentally different from other mammals’ copulation.

Traffic Jam (TW3 #318)

How many moronic prohibitionist plays can the market bear?

Tony-award winning playwright…Sarah Jones…has been publicly “workshopping” her newest one woman show, entitled Sell/Buy/Date…The play is really one insult after another…Everybody was a “prostituted woman” except for a Russian male pimp who self-described as a sex worker.  And the sex worker rights activists are caricatured as dimwitted and undereducated supporters of Sarah Palin…Jones seems to be under the impression that the sex worker movement is funded by big corporate interests…Jones’ monologues [are set in an imaginary future dystopia] where…prostitution could not possibly exist…emergency medical treatment will be necessary to cure male porn addicts…However, magically, there will be a “re-sensititization” of men by forcing them to watch Thelma and Louise

Cops and Condoms (TW3 #330)

a 30-year-old female sex worker [has been sent] to prison for at least nine years under Germany’s “preventive detention” law, because she has shown a pattern of not disclosing to clients that she was living with HIV before they chose to have condomless sex with her…

The Course of a Disease (TW3 #337)

Sex workers in Northern Ireland are overwhelmingly opposed to…a law that could criminalise those who pay for prostitutes…only 2%…are in favour of the so-called “Swedish model”…61%…thought [the]…law…would make them less safe.  And…only 16% of…clients…said such a law would make them stop seeking to pay for sex…

Unfortunately, facts don’t concern politicians.

Damned If You Don’t (TW3 #343)

Charles CouchA man arrested in a police operation to harass and jail gay men was not only abused and threatened:  cops also stole his property, trashed his reputation and seriously jeopardized his career.  “Charles S. Couch…is suing the city [of Manhattan Beach, California]…Chief Eve Irvine and five police detectives, seeking $5 million in damages for mental distress, aggravation and loss of work.  He is being represented by civil and gay rights attorney Bruce W. Nickerson, who specializes in litigation surrounding police sting operations…

Rhinoceros (TW3 #403)

It turns out COAST is even sleazier than I thought:

…The majority of the board members of COAST’s backing group, the Association of Club Entrepreneurs (ACE), have been sued by their own employees for violations of labor law including wage theft, intimidation, charging debt-inducing illegal fees, and even sexual harassment…one of COAST’s co-founders, Michael Ocello, got involved in anti-trafficking efforts after the Illinois club he owned was raided by federal agents…

The Missing Word

The ridiculous claim that 42% of all UK sex workers are male derives from a bad study which makes two false assumptions: that each sex worker takes out one and only one ad at a time, and that all sex workers use all advertising platforms equally.  But that’s not the interesting thing about this article; it’s the fact that when men are the subject, agency is not denied and the word “trafficking” is nowhere to be found.

Property of the State

Women’s advocacy and drug-policy reform organizations are calling on the Department of Justice (DOJ) to “publicly renounce” enhanced criminal penalties for pregnant women.  It’s an issue that’s been gaining more attention since the July…conviction of Lacey Weld…[who] was pregnant at the time she made (and used) meth…[and] received an extra six years of prison time…Many object to charging a pregnant meth user with “child endangerment” on the grounds that an embryo or fetus is not yet a “child”.  But we also…[know] that heavy drinking and poor nutrition are much more dangerous to developing fetuses than exposure to meth…

The Roof Caves In

The Somaly Mam Foundation…shuttered its entire operation…and urged its followers to support other anti-trafficking groups…The SMF website on Saturday appeared to be stripped of all its content except for the announcement on its homepage…

Of course, the same bunch have already started a new “rescue” scam.

If Men Were Angels

A man who claims he can “cure” gay people…raped a teenage boy and threatened to kill him with his “warlock powers” if he told.  Kentucky police have arrested…youth pastor Rex Allen Murphy…the 16-year-old [victim said Murphy]…told him…that by brushing his skin or shaking his hand…he could tell his sins…Murphy reportedly asserted he thought he would be able to help the victim with his “battle with homosexuality because he, too, had experimented with homosexuality”…

Schadenfreude (TW3 #434) 

Five Women in Whitechapel (TW3 #437) 

It was supposed to have been the definitive piece of scientific evidence that finally exposed the true identify of Jack the Ripper…However, the scientist who carried out the DNA analysis has apparently made a fundamental error that fatally undermines his case…it would mean his calculations were wrong and that virtually anyone could have left the DNA that he insisted came from the Ripper’s victim…

Only Rights Can Stop the Wrongs (TW3 #440)

following the mass eviction of over 1,449 prostitutes from…Dolly…it would appear that Papua has become a destination of choice among a small portion of the evictees…Papua is by far the richest province in Indonesia in terms of natural resources, boasting some of the largest gold, silver, copper and timber reserves on earth…nouveau riche mining capital has ensured that sex workers in Papua are among the highest paid in Indonesia…

The Face of Trafficking

I’m going to use this subtitle for stories refuting the myth of the evil client:

A woman who was lured to Dubai by promises of a job [in a beauty salon] but was then forced into prostitution was rescued by her first customer when she burst into tears and told him her story…the victim [said]…“He…booked me a ticket back to Morocco and even drove me to the airport”…she was not allowed to leave the country because…her employment contract had not been cancelled, so she headed to airport police and told them the whole story…

There was an earlier example here.

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This essay first appeared in Cliterati on September 14th; I have modified it slightly to fit the format of this blog.

I am often asked if, by calling “sex trafficking” a myth, I’m saying that there is no such thing as coercion in sex work.  The answer, of course, is “not at all”; what I’m saying is 1) that coercion is much rarer than “trafficking” fetishists pretend it is; 2) that the term “trafficking” is used to describe many different things along a broad spectrum running from absolutely coercive to absolutely not coercive, yet all of them are shoehorned into a lurid, melodramatic and highly-stereotyped narrative; and 3) that even situations of genuine coercion rarely bear much resemblance to the familiar masturbatory fantasy of an “innocent” middle-class girl in her early teens abducted by “pimps” from a shopping mall, bus stop or internet chat room.  “Let Me Help” discusses the first two factors, but I recently discovered a fine example of the third:  a situation of genuine coercion which nonetheless runs counter to many “trafficking” claims.

…Pardip Singh [of Indianapolis, Indiana]…was convicted…of promotion of human trafficking, criminal confinement, intimidation, battery and domestic battery.  On May 11, 2012, Singh called several men and told them that for $500 they could come to his…apartment and have sex with a “teacher’s daughter from India”…The first potential client to show up learned that the victim was Singh’s wife and witnessed Singh hit her…that man “told Singh he should not treat his wife that way and then left”…Just after midnight on May 12, 2012…police…responded to a domestic disturbance at the couple’s apartment…the victim, “visibly shaken and crying,” told the officer she needed help…

Pardip SinghRight from the start, the true story belies the familiar “trafficking” porn.  Singh is clearly no slick, mastermind pimp with insidious hypnotic powers, but a crude bully.  He didn’t have a dozen slave-captives confined in dog kennels or controlled via “Stockholm syndrome” or magical mind-control philter, but one wife that he attempted to control through garden-variety brutality.  He didn’t advertise her on Backpage or any other site used by sex workers, but by contacting people personally.  Though the rescue industry’s professional victims entrance their salivating audiences with tales of daily parades of dozens of callous, uncaring men oblivious to their plight, the very first man who answered Singh’s advert was disgusted by what he found and refused to participate.  And while those same prohibitionist shills claim to have been successfully held captive for years, Singh’s wife escaped the very next day after he started trying to “traffic” her.

…Court documents describe a devastating chain of events that began March 13, 2006, when the victim became Singh’s wife in an arranged marriage in their native India…Singh was living in the United States but traveled to India for the marriage…After the wedding, he returned to the United States while his new wife stayed in India to attend college.  In 2012, after obtaining a nursing degree, the victim moved to the United States to live with Singh in New Jersey…Within a few weeks, Singh began physically abusing [her]…Singh was angry that the woman’s family did not send the couple more money [so he] took her to Atlantic City to try to get her a job in a strip club…which he believed would generate a more immediate windfall.  Singh would not allow the woman to speak with her parents except when he was within earshot…and regularly hit and abused her.  During one week when Singh worked as a semi truck driver…he forced [her] to remain in the back of the truck cab during a long interstate trip.  At stops, he would get into the back…and force her to have sex with him…The events in Indianapolis occurred about a week later…

The conventional narrative tells us that huge cartels of slick international gangsters abduct teen girls by the tens of thousands and reap vast profits without detection, but what do we see here instead?  A greedy, pathetic wife-beater who tricked a grown woman (and university graduate) via a venerable social institution.  This sort of “pimp” is much closer to the norm than the racist stereotype in clownish attire, yet I don’t see anyone screaming for the criminalization of marriage.  Prohibitionists are fond of saying that sex workers “believe pimps are their boyfriends” because they can’t face the uncomfortable truth that neither emotional attachment nor a license from the state is a guarantee against emotional or economic exploitation in a relationship, and that the main difference between a “pimp” and a “sex trafficking” fetishist’s own abusive spouse is the label. tractor-trailer

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