Prostitution versus Porn

Just Another Day at Work

Just Another Day at Work

A few weeks ago I wrote the title of this blog entry on a blackboard in a classroom.  I was lecturing at Sonoma State University and trying to find a way to reach the students on the topic of sex worker rights. In the last few years I have noticed a huge shift in attitudes among the college aged regarding pornography.

Sometimes when I walk into a classroom early I will find the professor from the previous class handing out pornographic DVD’s like candy for kids.  No one blushes about sex and video anymore.  And surveys show a marked increase in the percentage of females who view porn.  The women are still a little behind the men in this avocation but they won’t be for long.  Pornography is fast becoming a standard form of entertainment for both genders.

And yet even with this new-found acceptance of sex for pay – and let’s face it that is exactly what the porn industry is – students still toe the party line on the topic of prostitution.  In fact the anti-prostitution rhetoric is gaining momentum with buzzwords like trafficking which seem to arouse consternation in the most liberal thinkers.  And that is the problem with the word “trafficking” – it bypasses thinking and aims itself at primal fears about “those other people” from “other countries” who kidnap our innocent youth and turn them into “sex slaves.”

Mind you I am not suggesting that these things don’t happen but so far very little proof has been produced to support the assertions that sex trafficking is the huge problem it is being touted to be.  Instead most anti-trafficking efforts purporting to “rescue” sex workers from a fate worse than death are in fact simply harrassing immigrants.

For every heart breaking story about a true trafficking victim, there are hundreds of more mundane stories about coming to America or Europe to make big money but getting deported instead.

The trafficking debate reminds me of domestic violence.  Having volunteered for a domestic violence shelter when I was in college, I am intimately acquainted with the very real problem of family violence.  And yet as a society we don’t indict the idea of family because some people suffer violence in the home.  Instead we look for ways to make families safer for all of us.

I long for the day when voters, lawmakers and social workers will see prostitution as a viable profession worthy of such an approach.  It would be so much more productive to offer sex workers opportunities for empowerment, safety and worker rights.  But right now the trafficking mentality would rather patronize immigrants by “rescuing” them – even if it means forcing them out of a trade they have freely chosen.

But back to that Sonoma State University classroom: I asked the students to list all the “bad” things they associate with porn and with prostitution.  Both lists were fairly long and mostly redundant but prostitution came out as the greater societal evil.  Porn has become acceptable to the masses and prostitution is not.

When I pressed the students for an explanation for this differential treatment they couldn’t produce one.  In short order, they began to see the hypocrisy of considering one form of paid sex (the kind that puts billions of dollars into corporate pockets) as OK while the other kind of paid sex is still deemed responsible for the downfall of all that is good and right in the world (you know, family values, the sanctity of marriage and crime free neighborhoods).

But I wasn’t satisfied with this transformation, I wanted to go further.  So I asked them if any of the arguments against either pornography or prostitution could be applied to marriage. In other words, could one make an equally valid argument against the institution of marriage using the same criteria used to discredit the sex industry?

And of course you can.  Marriage creates even more violence and crime than either branch of the sex industry.  People are killed every day because  they had the misfortune to fall in love with someone with anger management and control issues.

No, I am NOT suggesting that we do away with marriage.  I think that is a personal choice just like porn and prostitution.  And I think there is a lot to recommend all three.

What I am suggesting is that it is time to sort out the salient issues and stop conflating what people do for love or money with the dysfunctional ways some people do life.  Violence is a separate issue.  It really doesn’t have anything to do with how you make a living or how you love.

Violence can take many forms and includes domestic violence, stalking, trafficking in any industry, kidnapping, etc.  If we can stop with the smokescreens we might even be able to do something to reduce violence in its many forms.

Maybe you and your friends can have a similar discussion.  Just make three lists of all the “bad” things you can associate with Porn, Prostitution and Marriage.  You might find they have far more in common than you have been led to believe.  And that alone might help shift our conversations about dysfunctional and abusive behavior to something more productive.

22 Responses to “Prostitution versus Porn”

  1. NaughtyReviews Says:

    Provocative and well stated argument.

  2. Aspasia Says:

    “When I pressed the students for an explanation for this differential treatment they couldn’t produce one. In short order, they began to see the hypocrisy of considering one form of paid sex (the kind that puts billions of dollars into corporate pockets) as OK while the other kind of paid sex is still deemed responsible for the downfall of all that is good and right in the world (you know, family values, the sanctity of marriage and crime free neighborhoods).”

    This also brings up another, economic aspect: there are more independent contractors among prostitutes than among porn performers. Money independent prostitutes make go right into their pockets, 100% imparting true financial freedom. That’s seen as a subtle threat to some people. Independence is “scary”. And this is totally a double standard, because some of those corporations act like pimps with a DJIA tick. I say this as a pro-capitalist too!

  3. rshalomw Says:

    All people are occupied with the daily processes of life on this planet, eating, sleeping, drinking, working, raising a family, daily chores and responsibilities, entertainment, etc. We rarely give a thought to the reality of eternity. We live our lives as if we have a guarantee of tomorrow and even the years to come. There are those who think that when they die it is all there is, just death. Others, push the thought of death far from their minds. They may say, “I don’t want to be bothered with that thought”.

    There are 8,760 hours in a period of a year. According to The World Fact book, updated as of June 10, 2008, the average life span for a male on our planet is 64.18 years, and for a female 68.2 years Total average hours of life on this planet is as follows: 56,221.6 for a male, and 59,743 hours for a female. The World Fact book statistics can be found at this link: https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/xx.html All of us live our hours in both times of joy, and in times of sorrow.

    In the Book of James ( In the Bible) 4:14 it says: “What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes”. In the natural, our finite minds cannot comprehend eternity. Ecclesiastes 3:11 (Speaking of God) says: “He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end”.

    Eternity should be a major part of our thinking process, but why is it not? 2 Corinthians 4:4 “The god of this age [Satan, The Adversary, The devil] has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so they cannot see the light of the gospel [good news] of the glory of Christ (Yeshua, if your Jewish) , who is the image of God”.

    We will all face death at some point in our life, there is no guarantee of our next breath. Hebrews 9:27 :Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgement”. What should we be saying?, James 4:15-17 “Instead, you ought to say, If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that. As it is, you boast and brag. All such boasting is evil. Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins”. Romans 3:23 “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”. Romans 3:10 “There is no one righteous, not even one”. How can we become righteous (right) with our Creator? Romans 3:22 “This righteousness from God comes through faith [trust] in Jesus Christ (Yeshua HaMashiach, if your Jewish) to all who believe”. Jesus (Yeshua) took the punishment of eternal separation from God, which we all deserve, because of our sinfulness. How does a person come to salvation? First we must be humble because it says in James 4:6 “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble”. John 14:6 Jesus (Yeshua) said: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” We must acknowledge to our heavenly Father that we are a sinner, in critical need of salvation. Tell Jesus that you want Him to be the Lord and Master of your life, and surrender your life to him. Ask Him to change you and make you like Him. Read the Bible and obey what it says to do. The New Covenant (Brit Hadashah if your Jewish) is the greatest commentary on the Hebrew Covenant ( Old Testament [Tanach] if your Jewish)

    Jesus spoke more about hell, then about heaven. No matter what anybody else has told you, hell is a real place Mark 9:48 “where their worm does not die , and the fire is not quenched”. Jesus (Yeshua) said in Luke 12:4-5 “I tell you my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who , after killing the body, has power to throw you into hell. Yes I tell you, fear him.” Jesus (Yeshua) said in Matthew 25:41 “Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” Not to come to Jesus (Yeshua) for salvation is rebellion against the Heavenly Father’s only way that he has graciously provided for us. Remember that our life here on this earth is like a “mist”, in comparison to eternity. It would be beyond foolishness to reject Jesus (Yeshua) and spend eternity (never ending) in the fires of hell. The absolute worst conditions you can face here on this earth will be like heaven, compared to the separation in hell from our Heavenly Father

    Remember that our life here on this earth is like a “mist”, in comparison to eternity. It would bebeyond foolishness to reject Jesus (Yeshua) and spend eternity (never ending) in the fires of hell. The absolute worst conditions you can face here on this earth will be like heaven, compared to the separation in hell from our Heavenly Father.

    For those who consider themselves atheists and are reading this, you need to ask yourself the following two questions. 1. What if I am wrong? 2. Am I willing to allow my stubbornness and pride to casue me to make the gravest choice possible?. Remember that you will choose your own destiny, and have no one to blame, except yourself.

    My words echo the words of Paul ( Shaul, if your Jewish) ” We are therefore Christ’s (Mashiach’s, if your Jewish) ambassadors , as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s (Mashiach’s) behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God”. All the love and joy and peace that you can ever imagine are found in Jesus (Yeshua) 2 Corinthians 6:2 “I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation”.

    If you know you are not right with God, repent [t'shuvah in Hebrew]. Repent means to turn from doing things your way and turning to God’s ways. Trust in Jesus [Yeshua], not yourself. Ask Him to fill you with the Holy Spirit [Ruach HaKodesh] Attend a Church that believes that the Bible is the inspired Word of God. Get baptized. Read your Bible daily and follow the teachings of Jesus [Yeshua] Walk in His Love to all you come in contact with.

    Shalom in Jesus (Yeshua)

  4. veronicamonet Says:

    The first admonition Jesus delivered was “Judge not that you be not Judged.” The second thing Jesus taught us is that he was friends with prostitutes – best friends with Mary Magdalen. And yet modern day “Christians” bare little resemblance to their founder. They seem to have much more in common with the Pharisees which Jesus despised.

    I recommend you stop assuming that prostitutes and their clients don’t have a spiritual life – or that their spiritual life might somehow be inferior to yours. You are no better than anyone else so stop hiding behind Bible quotes and get honest about the “sins” you need to work on. We all have character defects we can improve upon. Might I suggest you look into acquiring a little more humility than you appear to currently possess?

    Blessings,
    Veronica Monet, ACS

  5. domainmaster Says:

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  6. Susan Says:

    Happy New Year, Veronica!

    I would like to comment about this article.

    It pains me to say that many people who are at the forefront of the so-called anti-trafficking movement call themselves “feminists”. Gloria Steinem, unfortunately, has chosen to be a part of this. Recently in New York, she hosted a so-called anti-trafficking panel, and I reported my observations on another blog. I’ll cut and paste them here:

    #

    My Observations From the “Sex Trafficking and the New Abolitionists” panel on December 13 at the Brooklyn Museum.

    The panel was sponsored by Equality Now, specifically their “Fund for Grassroots Activism to End Sex Trafficking”.

    The panelists were Taina Bien-Aime, Executive Director of Equality Now; Rachel Lloyd, Executive Director of GEMS (Girl’s Education and Mentoring Services); and Gloria Steinem as the moderator.

    My first impression going into the event is that most of the attendees were there to see Gloria Steinem rather than having any real interest in the subject matter. There were a few less-than-enthusiastic women going in, which could have been college students doing this as homework or extra credit.

    Elizabeth Sackler, who runs the Center for Feminist Art at the Brooklyn Museum, gushed ecstatically like a schoolgirl when introducing Steinem, setting the tone for the next two hours.

    Steinem quotes the usual erroneous stastistics from Melissa Farley about prostitution, and then pimps her book “Enslaved: True Stories of Modern Day Slavery” by Gloria Steinem, Jesse Sage, and Liora Kasten. Which happens to be on sale in the museum bookshop.

    Steinem then plays a segment of the film “Very Young Girls”, which was produced by GEMS. I took this opportunity to go to the bathroom, since I don’t need a lecture on how underaged girls in low-income areas are pimped out by men who specifically look for these types of underprivileged girls. It should be pretty obvious to the panelists and the audience that poverty and the lack of social services in these areas contributes to this problem. Also, the pimps in the movie were young black males, yet there was no mention of the lack of good job opportunities for low-income black males. It’s much easier just to demonize them rather than the economic policies that put them into their admittedly odious position in life.

    After the film, Steinem says something along the lines of 85% of enslaved people are women and children. I always wonder how anyone is able to do a head-count of all the slaves in the world. Don’t you? The way I see it, if there is one slave in the world, then there is one slave too many. It wouldn’t matter if 85% of the slaves in the world were men. It’s still bad no matter what.

    The next topic that Steinem brings up is where I disagree with her the most. She says that it’s not true that prostitution is the “world’s oldest profession”. Prostitution is absolutely and positively the world’s oldest profession, even predating money. And Steinem is at her most ridiculous when she denies this. The example that she uses is a report given by early European colonists to America when describing the Native population and their practices of warfare. The colonists reported that there was no rape of prisoners, including females, when the “savages” conducted warfare. Steinem uses this as proof that these societies did not practice prostitution. Since in her mind, prostitution and rape are the same thing, this is enough to serve as proof. But the act prostitution is exchanging sex for money, goods, and services. It is not raping prisoners.

    The next panelist to speak is Taina Bien-Aime. She speaks about how she got into her anti-trafficking work. She describes a fellow classmate in college who lived in a feminist collective with her. Bien-Aime claims that this classmate needed the money and decided to work as an escort. The collective didn’t like this, but decided it was her choice. But then Bien-Aime claims that “her soul began to die” because the classmate stopped looking at them in the eye. Then eventually the classmate moved out of the collective, and they never saw her again. It would seem to me that, rather than the classmate’s “soul dying” as a reason for the downcast eyes and eventual disappearance, it’s more likely that she couldn’t face the disapproval of the collective because of her escorting. So she moved out.

    Next, the panelists talk about porn. Steinem differs with many radical feminists in that she distinguishes between “porn” and “erotica”. Porn is bad, but erotica is okay. She didn’t mention the difference much during the discussion, but I remember reading an article written about twenty years ago where she explains the difference, at least to her. Porn is any portrayal of sex acts in a context of power exchange; where one or more partners asserts dominance over another partner or partners. Erotica, on the other hand, has no power exchange. I would have loved to see Maggie Hays go up on the stage and duke it out with Steinem on that little difference of opinion. Anyway, it brings to mind the quote from Gloria Leonard–“The difference between porn and erotica is lighting”.

    Now, we get to the part where they praise the Almighty Swedish Model of criminalizing the customers of prostitutes while decriminalizing the prostitutes themselves. This is their solution to the problem of sex trafficking. As proof that this is the solution, they mention a supposed Interpol monitor of alleged sex traffickers telling each other to “stay away from Sweden” after the Swedish Model was put into effect. The fact that Sweden wasn’t really a mecca of sex tourism before the Model was put into place isn’t mentioned by the panelists. My opinion in regards to introducing the Swedish Model into the United States is that it would be a definite improvement to most of the existing laws on prostitution here, because arresting and prosecuting prostitutes couldn’t happen under this system. But at the same time, the Model would be redundant in most places because the soliciting of prostitutes is already illegal. It wouldn’t have the same deterrent effect as in places where soliciting is a legal activity.

    Steinem and Bien-Aime then bring up other methods they’ve used to combat sex trafficking, such as the TVPA, which even they admit didn’t do much to deter trafficking. But then they praise the Almighty Wilberforce Act, which would divert Department of Justice funds from investigating trafficking in all its forms to investigating prostitution in general.

    Steinem then moves to the subject of Nevada brothels, and it descends into the ridiculous again. She says they all have barbed wire surrounding them (all of them?), and she engages in emotional masturbation with the audience by recounting a story of a woman who threw ramen noodles over the (supposedly) barbed wire fence, probably because the owner of the brothel charged five dollars for a bowl of ramen. I agree that five dollars is too much for ramen, but the impression that Steinem was giving is that these women were starving to death eating only bowls of over-charged ramen. I doubt it. The truth of the matter is probably that the brothel owner is being a jerk, and the women don’t want to pay five dollars (and I don’t blame them), so they have someone smuggle in ramen of the same variety.

    But there is one part of the discussion where I agree with the panelists. In Germany, there is a law that a person under 55 must take an available job after one year or lose their unemployment benefits. In 2005, a woman after a year of unemployment was referred, without knowing at first, to a job in a legalized brothel. I agreed that this is wrong, but not in the same way as the panelists. Prostitution is NOT a job, it’s a profession, and you can’t move someone into it as if it were “just a job”. It is not a substitute for social services and benefits; no profession or job is, for that matter. And in any case, I doubt that a male would be forwarded into a brothel or lose his benefits, so there is sexism involved here.

    Last, but certainly not least, the panel moves on to the Eliot Spitzer/Ashley Dupre debacle. It should not have come to as any surprise or shock to the panelists that Eliot Spitzer would betray them, he who worked on anti-trafficking legislation with them for eight years. And it should be a brutally obvious lesson to them that passing laws do absolutely NOTHING to curb prostitution or it’s demand in any way. That is the lesson that Spitzer himself provided to these women, but god-forbid they should actually learn it. I don’t know if I heard this right, but I believe Steinem said that there is a “difference” between a man who fights anti-trafficking efforts and goes to prostitutes and a man (like Spitzer) who does the same and advocates this legislation. Now I’m not absolutely certain she said this, but that’s the way my mind processed it. I have to give credit to Silda Spitzer verses Gloria Steinem in that at least Silda didn’t make excuses for his behavior.

    When the panel moves on to talk about Ashley Dupre, they commit an outright lie. They claim that Dupre only received a tiny percentage of the money she earned escorting. But none other than their hero Melissa Farley stated that the Emperor’s Club received 50% of earnings (Farley said this in the New York Times). Since any google search reveals that Dupre earned $2000 dollars an hour gross, then she would net $1000 an hour. I don’t think that amount qualifies as tiny. Even if the Emperor’s Club received 75% of earnings, she’d still make $500 an hour.

    The panel concludes by “recruiting” others to become “New Abolitionists” like themselves. I don’t know if they motivated anyone in the audience to do that or not. But in my opinion, if the so-called “New Abolitionists” sincerely want to stop trafficking, there needs to be

    A) Total and complete world-wide social services, meaning access to food, clean water, health care, clothing, and housing.

    B) Access to education and meaningful activity in communities.

    On my way home from the event, I obtained a copy of the New York Times. On the front page of the Arts Section was a beautiful full-length picture of the Notorious Betty Paige. What a relief.

  7. Susan Says:

    In the above piece, it was rather arrogant of me to say what prostitution is or isn’t, but then much of what I learned about it I learned from you.

    :-DDD

    However, although it seems arrogant to emphatically state that prostitution is the World’s Oldest Profession, this phrase is repeated constantly, even though those who participate in it are dehumanized and criminalized. Even those who claim prostitution is enslavement, like Nicholas Kristof of the NYT, had a freudian slip of a moment and used the phrase himself. Which leads me to believe that, yes, it’s exactly that: the world’s oldest profession.

  8. elchinas Says:

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  9. jacklynlick Says:

    Great article! I love it when people make you think. My issues have been that society many times DON’T differentiate between pornstars and prostitutes. So, I’ve had a saying for many years. The difference between being a pornstar and a prostitute for me is, ‘As a pornstar, it’s all about MY orgasm, as a prostitute, you would be paying me for YOUR orgasm, and I don’t give a rats a** about YOUR orgasm’. Selfish? Absolutely! I would truly make a horrible prostitute. I have friends that do it, and I honestly believe they are doing society a great service.

    Love,
    Jackie

  10. Jasmine Says:

    I enjoyed your blog post very much until I came to your statement: “Marriage creates even more violence and crime than either branch of the sex industry. People are killed every day because they had the misfortune to fall in love with someone with anger management and control issues.”

    28% of the women that are victims of abuse and abused by husbands AND boyfriends. Please let me know where you are getting your facts from because your views on marriage are absurd and inaccurate. I understand that you want to make a point for your cause but why try to use false examples to try to sway people towards your opinion.

    Trafficking is a huge problem so I don’t understand why escorts get so upset when it’s mentioned in the media. Those women are victims and DO deserve help. Instead of escorts getting upset that it’s mentioned so much, do something for yourself and lobby lawmakers to make prostitution legal.

    • Advocate Says:

      Your claim that only 28% of dv comes from marriage… As many incidenences go unreported due to the lack of good suuport for dv victims. Most dv survivors do not ever leave their relationships for various reasons that are valid.

      Regarding trafficing- rescuing and deporting a legal aged escort back to ie China guarantees the girl will be forced into marriage, and forced to submit to her husband who may have aides ( look at that countries statistics), contract aides, give birth to a child with aides, and die all because of their cultural expectations. Here she at least She has a chance to support herself on her terms if only our “system” would stop threatening to rescue and deport back to Ie China where the odds of her making it are slim
      to none. The only reason an escort wouldn’t make it is fear of being nailed for something illegal…Causing her to compromise her safety because she has no backup because it has to be done discretely because let’s face it most clients are married. Though charging for
      time and companionship are not illegal and known to be theraputic for clients, for some reason that gets twisted into and exchange of sex for money.

  11. veronicamonet Says:

    On average in 2005, more than three women a day were murdered by their husbands or boyfriends in the U.S.

    My views on marriage are informed and quite accurate. Before I became an escort, I was a trained volunteer for a Domestic Violence Shelter. I am also a domestic violence survivor. It was my husband who attempted to abuse me – NOT any of my clients. And since when is 28% – well over one fourth – a paltry statistic?

    Apparently you think a larger percentage of prostitutes are abused by their clients? You would be wrong. Most prostitutes contract sexually transmitted infections from their boyfriends or husbands – not their clients. And most prostitutes are more likely to suffer abuse from a boyfriend or husband – not a client. Are there bad clients? You bet. But the real danger to ANY woman is sleeping next to her in her own home – not at work – regardless of what she does for a living.

    Domestic Violence is the dirty secret – still. Instead of focusing on how we can protect women from the men who profess to love them, we focus on the more rare event – abuse from a stranger. The fact is that family violence is and always has been the real problem. But that makes us uncomfortable so we prefer to minimize it. Marriage is sacred after all. And woe to anyone who might cast doubt on just how sacred it is.

    It is much more acceptable to project our fears on a scapegoat. Prostitution fits the bill nicely. Instead of ditching our denial so we can deal with domestic violence, we as a society would rather profess our devotion to protecting women by “rescuing” prostitutes who do NOT want to be “rescued.”

  12. deni Says:

    What if the evil in prostitution and porn alike is that it makes sex into a commodity, and the person whose sexual services are bought and sold, also as a commodity? We do not normally think people are commodities–that is why we are against slavery. Now, for part of the time, we “sell” our time in jobs. However, if we as a culture value sex, then we as a culture must be against selling our sex in the same way as we sell our time. I think that the arguments against the sex industry are all based on a shared belief that some things should be above money. And in marriage, sex is not commodified; it has no price tag.

    You can call that puritanical. It is indeed arbitrary, to put this limitless value on sex. But we must ALL choose some things that are above money; for example, the idea that human life cannot be bought and sold in slave markets is also an arbitrary assignment of value on human life, which we nevertheless accept without further defense. These values are all irrational.

    As for the difference between porn and prostitution, there is not really much difference, but there is some. A porn movie can hypothetically be made by a loving couple. This is because they are not selling sex, but the right to be watched having sex. They would have sex either way, you are only paying to watch them; by contrast, every encounter with a prostitute is dependent on the client’s paying. A prostitute sells sex itself; if the client says no to the prostitute, the sex will not happen, whereas if a person refuses to watch porn, the people making the porn will have already completed the transaction either way. Still, like you said, these differences are not that great.

  13. deni Says:

    sorry, in the previous comment, i should not have said that all these values are irrational. I mean to say that they are picked out of thin air, arbitrarily; for example, for thousands of years, people did not think slavery was wrong or immoral, because they did not think that human life had value in and of itself. They viewed only SOME life to be of value, while the lives of others (foreigners, the poor, etc.) to be of less value or no value. So, we assigned value on human life, we did this arbitrarily, and we did not discover a “truth” when we did it.

  14. deni Says:

    another addendum: I personally it’s foolish to support or ban an institution based on how much it hurts or helps the people involved. To make a broad analogy, cars are a great cause of death, but nobody is making cars illegal to protect those who get in accidents. But our societies believes that the dangers associated with having an institution like a family (or car driving) are outweighed drastically by the benefits. For example, it’s easier to raise children with two parents, according to some psychologists it is more helpful for the children if they have two parents, etc. Likewise, car driving allows people to live further from work, it speeds up commerce, etc.

    The benefits of prostitution, however, are only for the women who choose to be prostitutes, not the society as a whole. The dangers of prostitution extend to society at large–no woman is safe from kidnappers, and legalizing prostitution would make life easier for kidnappers and human traffickers, because they would be able to pass of the kidnapped women as if they were free and voluntarily in the business.

    I was born in Eastern Europe, where the girls for your Western streets are often taken. I personally resent the slight hand with which you treat human trafficking, because I know family friends whose daughters and sisters have still to be heard from, due in part to your countries’ thirst for prostitutes. So if you will try to counter the above argument by saying, as Ms. Monet did in the blogger, by saying that trafficking isn’t really a big problem in the first place, perhaps you should take a stroll around my country.

  15. veronicamonet Says:

    I am sorry that human trafficking has had such a tragic and personal impact on your life. I don’t doubt that people are the victims of trafficking. And even if one person is forced to sew a dress or have sex against their will, it is abhorrent.

    However, the statistics which we are being fed about trafficking grossly exaggerate the incidence of trafficking for purposes of prostitution. Again, even one incidence of human trafficking is deplorable but if we are to make sensible decisions about policy and laws, we must familiarize ourselves with those conditions which apply to the largest group of people as well as the individual.

    Certainly what happens to the individual is of extreme importance but just as we don’t pass laws against marriage because some husbands and wives are murdered by their mates, we cannot pass laws against prostitution because some people are trafficked. We don’t do it in the garment industry and we shouldn’t do it in the sex industry.

    The only reason we pass laws against prostitution is because the act of prostitution inflames and outrages the moral sensibilities of people who are not prostitutes. If we have real concern for prostitutes then we must ask the prostitutes what they want – all the prostitutes – not just those who are sitting in our jails or dependent upon government and NGO money/housing/etc.

    If you want to read more about trafficking some really informative websites can be found here:

    http://www.bayswan.org/traffick/

    http://www.nodo50.org/Laura_Agustin/only-10-of-alleged-trafficking-cases-in-the-us-confirmed

    Additionally, the dire predictions you assert regarding decriminalization are simply not true. New Zealand decriminalized prostitution about 6 years ago and the sex workers enjoy equal protection under the law as well as safer working conditions. Forced prostitution and trafficking are of course still crimes. Interestingly, prostitution as an industry has NOT expanded as some feared. A 2008 government report was quite favorable.

  16. deni Says:

    Thank you for replying to the post, Ms. Money, as I only half-expected you to bother with it.

    I’d like to ask, though, whether or not there are cultural differences between New Zealand and the United States (or Canada, where I happen to live) which might lead to different results if the same laws were to be applied regarding prostitution.

    Gun crime might be useful to consider here. It is perfectly legal in Canada to own guns, but because the culture here is different, it does not lead to some of the problems that it has led to in the United States.

    Similarly, New Zealand may be culturally different from us. Criminals tend to gravitate their operation toward Europe and North America, since the market in these places is much greater. There is more flow of illegal immigrants here; and many of the networks used to bring illegal immigrants are used also to bring in kidnapped or coerced women from poorer countries. In other words, perhaps human traffickers are not looking at New Zealand as intently as they are looking at the United States.

    This is not proof, I realize, I am just offering some points worth thinking about, it’s possible that none of it casts reasonable doubt on your thesis.

    Aside from that, you said that we outlaw prostitution because it inflames the moral sensibilities of non-prostitutes. Isn’t that what any society must necessarily depart from to make laws? For example, gun control advocates say that it is immoral to own guns, but they don’t necessarily need the consent of gun owners to do this. Another example: I’m sure there are groups in the United States who would like to bring back slavery. But we do not legalize slavery because we think that slavery is immoral, even though objectively speaking, there is no right and wrong action in and of itself, it is we who attach that meaning to actions.

    Ok, you will say that we do not legalize slavery because the slaves themselves oppose slavery, while prostitutes themselves might not oppose prostitution. However, this decision, to ask the people affected themselves for what they think, is an arbitrary decision to make, reflecting arbitrarily chosen values. So, are we not basing all our laws on arbitrary morals? Why is this bad in terms of prostitution?

    I’m not trying to compare prostitution to slavery or anything, I mean that only conceptually, because I cannot find a better example. Please don’t respond (I don’t want to take up more of your time unnecessarily) if I’ve been too convoluted or if you’d rather not talk about this further.

  17. deni Says:

    oops! I meant Ms. Monet.

  18. Eli Aino Says:

    21st century slavery is often invisible or semi-visible. It’s very easy to see some girl on the street in the Tenderloin, or a “massage parlor” where the women can’t leave, but often it isn’t so clear cut. There are slaves who work as maids in hotels, or busboys in restaurants, who are basically invisible. There’s no survey (that I know of) which divides people who volunteered to be prostitutes, people who did so only for economic reasons, and people who were forced into it or tricked into it. If a prostitute wants to leave but doesn’t, it isn’t clear if they can’t leave because the economy sucks, because they have no other skills or they’re legitimately afraid for their safety.

    In the USA human trafficking is not as big a problem as in, say, Germany or Turkey or Israel. That doesn’t mean it isn’t a serious problem, or a big money maker for criminal organizations. Sex sells, even in the most horrifying circumstances. The state department estimates that 14-17,500 people are trafficked into the U.S. annually, which is about the same rate as the number of Americans murdered every year. To me that’s a serious problem, and deserves the same sort of law enforcement response that murders get.

    Slavery isn’t just an immigrant issue, either; you might have teenage runaways, or young women (even children) from the underclass, drug addicts, even suburban teenagers who are held captive through psychological intimidation or debt bondage (a guy buys them a lot of stuff at the mall, then says “you owe me”).

    I can see where you’re coming from, that anti-trafficking legislation can be used to harass prostitutes and other “undesirables,” similarly to how the war on drugs is an excuse for all sorts of crimes and absurdities, like harassing black teenagers with a lid of pot. That’s a valid point. The best response is to be mindful of that as you work towards ending slavery, and seeing if any abuses occur, which they might. I think the only solution is to educate law enforcement, help slavery victims recover, and to increase the penalties for the real criminals, the pimps and the customers, as Sweden already does.

    It disturbs me how many prostitutes rights advocates seem to regard trafficking victims, or anti-trafficking activists, as the enemy. I’m not saying you do, but some people do, and it worries me, especially since sex slaves are so damaged by the experience, it’s hard for them to have a voice of their own, and there is some common ground between anti-trafficking and prostitutes’ rights groups, which it’s important to recognize so the public doesn’t get mixed signals. We need to recognize that in situations of forced labor, women can be so degraded by their captors that they develop Stockholm syndrome, and say it’s a choice when, in reality, they’ve just given up hope of escape. It behooves all of us to to end this crime without punishing people who are guilty of nothing. How we do that is another essay entirely.

    • veronicamonet Says:

      I don’t think most sex worker rights activists envision trafficking victims as “the enemy.” Quite the opposite, most of our efforts are directed at making what we consider to be authentic progress on their behalf. For instance, the sex worker rights movement maintains that trafficking victims are better served when sex work is decriminalized so that the sex industry is not forced underground where organized crime often thrives. If prostitution is decriminalized than prostitutes who are working out of choice are more likely to report any and all abuses in the profession including trafficking, slavery, under age workers, etc. But where we have laws against prostitution, organized crime is given even more power to intimidate and abuse individuals. Also the prostitute who works out of choice and the one who is trafficked are often difficult to distinquish when the profession is illegal – everyone must claim to be trafficked or face deportation – something many find even more noxious than indentured labor. While it may make some law enforcement and NGOs feel like heroes when they “rescue” prostitutes, the prostitutes often return to the same work once law enforcement leaves. If we value the integrity of women, we can no longer afford to talk out of the side of our mouths. ALL women have the right to live their lives as they see fit and it is extremely patriarchal to designate certain women unable to choose because we don’t approve of the choices available to them. If choices and options are limited, then increasing those choices is the better course of action. Rescuing” “victims” and then perhaps “de-programming” them so they will say and do what we think they should say and do is the worst kind of oppression.

  19. Odo Says:

    Spectacular comments. Spectacular article. I love how you say above that, “Domestic Violence is the dirty secret – still. Instead of focusing on how we can protect women from the men who profess to love them, we focus on the more rare event – abuse from a stranger.”

    Being a parent I’ve had to limit my son’s freedom because other parents are nervous about his safety; they’re nervous that a stranger will come and abduct him, so I must keep him on a short leash in our front yard. Gone are the days in the 40′s, 50′s, and 60′s when children could play freely with the neighborhood kids unsupervised, the impromptu games of baseball and tag that populated the streets of yesteryear. I’ve even become infected by the fear, myself.

    Today I read that, “The notion that a child will be seized from the street and forcibly molested has been effectively dispelled through information obtained in thousands of child sexual abuse investigations over the years. Although these incidents do occur, the vast majority of child
    molesters are adults who seduce children through subtle intimidation and persuasion, and are known to the child or the parents.” I’m now more suspicious about the “concerned” parents in our neighborhood than the strangers on the street. It’s better that he play video games in his room, where he’s safe, instead of outside in the fresh air… Right?

    • veronicamonet Says:

      It’s a sad fact that many children are not safe to play in their neighborhoods nowadays. However it all depends upon where you live and the circumstances of your yard. If the yard is fenced and away from a busy street it’s probably safer than a little patch of grass facing a busy street without benefit of a fence. If the neighborhood is prone to drive by shootings that is another hazard.

      Yet given all the dangers of stranger rape, abduction and drive by shootings, it can never match the dangers found in our own homes and circle of freinds and family. And the denial and projection required to turn a blind eye to those much more common risks to safety and well-being are crippling our culture. We rountinely deny the addictions and compulsions which drive people we love and trust to do things we simply don’t want to admit they are doing. Most of these family and freinds don’t admit to themselves what they are doing and then their victims become adept at denying what is happening as well. Denial and projection are very entrenched human defense mechanisms which protect us from the shock and grief of facing the truth. But as adults we must face the truth. That of course does NOT justify falsely accusing others of crimes they have not committed. Unfortunately there is a fair amount of that going on as well – especially during divorce and child custody battles.

      As an alternative to staying indoors playing video games mights I suggest daily trips to outdoor recreation as a family? As parents it is all too easy to let the video games and television interact with our children for us. I know we all lead very busy lives and I have been just as guilty of allowing my step-children to disappear into the electronic media while I pursue my own interests – but we must begin to shift our values to that of creating more face to face interaction and time in nature. This is where we form our values and find our spiritual connection.

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