The war on sex workers

The February Reason magazine has a great article by Melissa Gira Grant on the “An unholy alliance of feminists, cops, and conservatives” that targets the commercial sex industry.  Those of you who arrived at this site via Sex Hysteria! are already familiar with my past writings about how conservatives and liberals have joined forces in a fight to wrest from women the right to control their bodies, their sex lives, and their incomes.

Melissa Grant’s article presents an excellent portrayal of the movement to ban sex work, how it evolved into what it has become, and what its strategies are to eliminate the world’s oldest profession.  My few comments don’t begin to do the article justice.

While these crusaders prefer to be called abolitionists, they are much closer to prohibitionists in terms of their end goals.  They have been hard at work to recast their message in a way that makes it much simpler and easier to sell.  By focusing on prostitution as separate from pornography, the  movement has eliminated opposition from that part of the women’s movement that supports First Amendment rights.

To garner further support through the tools of newspeak, they broadened the definition of sexual exploitation to include essentially all commercial sex work. Essentially, all prostitution is now human trafficking, conflating voluntary prostitution with sex slavery, instantly painting themselves as if they were out to rescue women from bondage, hence their adopting the mantra of “abolitionists” and identifying themselves with the Civil War era abolitionist movement.

To shed the stigma associated with advocating the arrest and imprisonment of those they are claiming to be rescuing, they now define prostitutes as victims of their customers and campaign for tougher laws against soliciting prostitution.    When sex workers reject the characterization that they are victims, the prohibitionists ignore them: Anyone who claims to be selling sex by choice are simply deluding themselves.

The power of this strategy hinges on one factor above all others.  By characterizing these victims as adolescents (which can mean anyone under 22 years old), they combine the issue of sex with children, instantly disarming people’s natural skepticism.  The mainstream media totally buys into the theme and quotes these organizations without question.  The logic works like this: All prostitution is human trafficking and almost all prostitutes begin as children, therefore to voice opposition to this movement is the same as condemning children to live as sex slaves.

The extent to which these organizations distort the facts is nothing short of stunning.  They know they are doing it, but they’ve convinced themselves that they’re saving children, so the ends justify the means.  They know that they will get a warm reception by CNN and be seen by a million people, but those who actually question and investigate their claims reach only a few thousand.  They can’t lose.

And what is the ultimate result of all this crusading to deny woman the right to make their own decisions about their own lives?  The bad side is that it drives prostitution deeper into a lawless underground where exploitation, danger, and fear are an inevitability.  There is no good side.

Read the whole article.