My Three Cents
“My Three Cents!”
(a rotating column in our newsletter, Fight Slavery News!)
BY SARAH PORTER
Prostitution – It’s the world’s oldest profession and it’s not going away, or so we have heard. But on the ﬂip side, it’s the world’s oldest oppression and until we go after the oppressors, it is true that it’s not going to be eradicated any time soon. What is mind blowing is that the exploitation of women and children continues to be the most grotesque human rights violation that is overlooked and ignored.
I have heard the argument several times before, that by legalizing prostitution we can control it. It will be safe. People are always going to want and buy sex, so why not just let the government control it? And for a while, I really thought that this could be something that would work. Not until recently did I learn how closely prostitution and trafﬁcking are linked. It’s easy for us to believe, or to want to believe, that most women who engage in prostitution have chosen it. For whatever reason they got into it to begin with, they are giving conscious consent and if they decide to leave, they can at any time. The reason they stay is because the money is just so good. They’ll never make more that what they are making now, and many have children to feed.
Whatever your stance is on this, the reality that it’s not always a choice has to be explored. What seems true though, is that a trafﬁcked woman standing on a street corner or working at a brothel, is under an expectation that she will bring back money. A lot of money. And if she doesn’t bring back what is expected of her, she knows that horrible things will happen to her. This is because she is owned. She does not have control over her life. She cannot leave at any time. She is not bringing home more money than she could ever dream of to feed her children. But she will smile coyly and sell her body for sex to be able to stay alive.
So what do we do? We have taken the ﬁrst step to educate ourselves and make the correlation between prostitution and trafﬁcking. Which leads us to the glaringly obvious realization of who is buying the sex. Who is demanding that this continue to exist. Who is continuing to insist that women and young girls are exploited for a proﬁt and so they can have 15 seconds of a physical release.
The johns. The group of people supplying the demand and demanding the supply. Women selling themselves and being sold are demonized as whores and sluts, where the men perpetuating this are clients, patrons and customers. Yet, they generally remain overlooked even though they are an extremely integral part of the equation. How could there be sex trafﬁcking of women, if no one wanted to buy the sex?
So how do you get rid of the demand? How do we rid our global society of something that has been happening since the dawn of time? “Shame Campaigns” have been proven to work well in other cultures. Instead of glorifying paid sex, the “pimp lifestyle” and teaching young boys that there is no greater power over women than being in a position to buy her, we instill a sense of shame and embarrassment for those who think that this is acceptable. If at a young age, boys were taught about human trafﬁcking and that the woman lying in front of them that they paid for may be there against her own volition, we may be able to combat this maladaptive thinking. If buying a woman was considered a serious crime and the consequence was more than a slap on the wrist, we could begin to see some changes. But when our society would rather arrest and prosecute a 14 year old girl who has been coerced and enslaved on the streets, we will not begin to see any changes. If it’s considered statutory rape to have sex with a 14 year old and she is considered a victim, why in “prostitution” cases do we criminalize that same 14 year old for being raped?
It is an axiom in law that “ignorance of the law is no excuse”. Similarly it should be no excuse for a john to claim that he didn’t know a prostitute was not acting of her own free will. Most prostitutes are acting as a result of coercion and a great many are victims of childhood sexual abuse. Some people have equated patronizing such women as “pay to rape”. Where prostitution is illegal, johns should not get a free pass as they constitute the driving force behind the demand. Prosecuting only those who may in fact actually be victims, is a gross perversion of justice. While john schools are effective in educating men, jail time should not be reserved only for those that are selling sex. It is the buyers who create the demand!
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