Advocates for ‘sex work’ say it is or should be about free choice and the empowerment of women. They claim that if prostitutes have troubled lives, this stems from the fact that many (unenlightened) people find prostitution offensive and the government doesn’t care enough about prostitutes’ working conditions, rather than anything inherent in exchanging sex for money or the common power differences between prostitutes vs. pimps and johns. They ignore the fact that a large proportion of prostitutes begin when they are underage (see below). They demand that feminists lay off criticizing the concept of prostitution:
The Sex Work Cyber Resource & Support Center claims:
Private Consenting Adult Prostitution is legal with no major negative issues in almost all the world except the U.S. The issues of children, trafficking, public nuisance street hookers, and pimps HAVE NOTHING TO DO with Private Consenting Adult sexwork – GET IT! Educate the public to get upset with lawmakers, the courts and police for wasting money on private consenting adult behavior! Get the law out of our bedrooms!
Liberation Feminist writes:
…I’m a sex worker and I’m deeply disturbed by the patronizing, condescending attitudes that “radical feminists” express toward sex workers. Radical feminist is a term that refers to a segment of the women’s movement which is anti-sex work and conveys sex negative attitudes even beyond the sex industry…
To say that sex should just be about intimacy is like telling people why we should have sex. Some people have sex for intimacy, but some people have sex for other reasons as well. It seems puritanical to be telling people why they should have sex…
…prostitutes, as a group, have been referred to as “the victims.” I feel that prostitutes are victims of repressive laws and policies in which workers in this occupation are being persecuted and have no legal labor rights under a criminalized system…
I’ve worked in the Nevada legal brothel system before and I didn’t love everything about it, but I thought it actually allowed me a lot more freedom than a lot of jobs outside of the sex industry did, and the opportunity to make a really good living without having to work a lot of hours. Also, after my stay was up, I could leave the brothel for as long as I wished to, which gave me the opportunity to engage in sex worker advacacy and pursue my education. With most jobs, people can’t just take off for as long as they decide to. I found most of the clients and the ladies I worked with to be very enjoyable.
Not to deny that Liberation Feminist experienced what she experienced, but a great deal of evidence suggests her experience was unusual, in the same way that Jenna Jameson’s wealth is unusual among porn actresses. This ABC News account, “Teen Sex Slave Trade Hits Home”, describes the more common realities of prostitution:
The U.S. Department of Justice estimates that between 100,000 and 3 million American kids under age 18 are involved in prostitution and they’re often targeted by sexual predators…
The average age of a child when he or she is first sexually exploited is 11, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Even if the child is a somewhat willing participant, according to U.S. and international agreements, children can never consent to prostitution: it is always exploitation…
As many as 40 percent of all forced prostitutes are juveniles, according to the FBI…
“He asked if it would be out of place if he said I was pretty,” Miya says. “It was a compliment. He said he was a model agent…looking for models in the area. It seemed interesting…”
According to Miya she was moved from Arizona to California and forced into the brutal world of sexual exploitation.
“They move them to evade detection,” says Ernie Allen, president and chief executive officer of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, in Alexandria, Va…
Pimps are criminals, but often depicted in a glamorous way in movies like “Hustle and Flow,” in music videos, and in national magazines.
For example, in the Dec. 16, 2006 issue of Rolling Stone magazine, rapper Snoop Dogg was featured on the cover with the headline, “At Home With America’s Most Lovable Pimp.”
“I think in the last couple years we’ve seen a real increase in the glorification of pimp culture,” Lloyd says. “Girls growing up now, and boys too, are beginning to see this as cute and sexy or glamorous and not really understanding the realities of the sex industry…”
“What you see in the movies, what you see on TV — it’s not like that,” Sara says. “They don’t tell you the part about the rapes. They don’t tell you about getting beat up. They don’t tell you that you might die every day.”
[Allen:] “This is not something these kids do by choice…”
…authorities know that child prostitutes are subjected to constant sexual abuse. Yet public opinion often paints these girls as criminals. The first step towards ending the misery for the exploited is to recognize them for what they are: victims.
…an estimated 80 to 95 percent of child prostitutes have a history of sexual abuse…
For more information, visit www.gems-girls.org, www.missingkids.com, www.ecpat.net.
Prostitution Research & Education: How Prostitution Works
Real sexual relationships are not hard to find. There are plenty of adults of both sexes who are willing to have sex if someone treats them well, and asks. But there lies the problem. Some people do not want an equal, sharing relationship. They do not want to be nice. They do not want to ask. They like the power involved in buying a human being who can be made to do almost anything…
The john would like to believe he is paying for sex, but the person he has sex with gets little or none of the money. The money goes to the pimp to pay for the force needed to keep prostituted women and children working. It goes to the drug dealer who provides whatever it takes to keep the workers from becoming psychotic or committing suicide. It goes to pay the businessmen who provide the real estate, support services, and legal protection for the trade.
Pornography Trains and Indoctrinates Prostitutes
In a study of 475 people in prostitution (including women, men, and the transgendered) from five countries (South Africa, Thailand, Turkey, USA, and Zambia)…92% stated that they wanted to escape prostitution immediately…
Salon: Atlanta’s underage sex trade
The problem isn’t restricted to so-called Hotlanta; Herbert notes, dispiritedly, that “the overall market for sex with kids is booming in many parts of the U.S.” But the city’s role as a convention and travel hub has given it a particular boost. And advocates say that the prevailing preference for ever-younger prostitutes — fueled by “the cultural emphasis on the sexual appeal of very young women and girls” and “the widely held belief among johns that there is less risk of contracting a disease from younger prostitutes” — has pimps and sex traffickers recruiting more at-risk kids than ever before.
Testimony in Los Angeles: Pornographers Place Recruitment Ads for “Models” in Newspapers
And she proceeded to tell me her friend, who’s on welfare, has three children, saw an ad in the newspaper. It said, “Girls, Girls, Girls.” And she brought it in and showed it to me, and it’s very typical in all the newspapers: Modeling, $300 a day. And she felt she could get money for her children for Christmas for presents. She didn’t have money.
Penn State Law Professors Trot Out ‘Female Porn Leaders’ to Whitewash Realities of Adult Industry (explicit language)
As D.A. Clarke wrote in Christine Sparks and Rebecca Whisnant’s anthology Not for Sale, most porn performers work under conditions more akin to sweatshop labor than to professional-level jobs. Sex workers receive very little of the profits made from their bodies; they have no social standing, no health care benefits, heightened risk for STDs and addictions, and little protection against sexual harassment and violence.
The Science Behind Pornography Addiction
[Performers in the sex industry] have high rates of substance abuse, typically alcohol and cocaine, depression, borderline personality disorder which is a particularly serious disorder and dissociative identity disorder which used to be called multiple personality disorder. The experience I find most common among the performers is that they have to be drunk, high or dissociated in order to go to work.
A Review of Can’t Buy My Love
Again and again, Kilbourne’s book exposes how the underlying philosophy of mainstream advertising is identical to that of pornography: addictive craving, despair about meaningful relationships, a narcissistic model of personal fulfillment, the displacement of desire from persons to things, and the reduction of human bodies to objects of consumption. If we’re having a hard time seeing porn as a serious problem, could it be because porn is too much like the corporate-driven culture we take for granted?
Testimony in Minneapolis: Prostitutes and Porn
One of the very first commonalities we discovered as a group: we were all introduced to prostitution through pornography. There were no exceptions in our group, and we were all under eighteen.
Testimony in Minneapolis: Prostitutes Blackmailed with Porn
Another way that pornography plays a part in the lives of my clients is that as young women, very young women, some as young as eleven, they want the good things that they see on TV, and they see taking part in nude modeling, taking part in movies–pornographic movies–as a way to be a star, get to Hollywood. Now, this may seem foolish to those of you who are adults and say ha ha, we know that is wrong. We are talking about children who are very naive and are told that Marilyn Monroe made it this way, Brooke Shields made a movie about Pretty Baby. You have been there baby, you can do it.
On sale at Tesco: Kiddie Stripper Pole
“‘Unleash the sex kitten inside … soon you’ll be flaunting it to the world and earning a fortune in Peekaboo Dance Dollars.’ – From a product listing by $75 billion British retailer Tesco, plugging the $100 Peekaboo Pole Dancing Kit – which includes an 8.5-foot chrome pole, a ‘sexy dance garter,’ and play money for stuffing into said garter – in the Toys & Games section of its website. After complaints from parent groups, Tesco decides to keep selling the item as a ‘fitness accessory’ but agrees to remove the listing from the toy section.”
Hasbro’s Pussycat Dolls
…aimed at girls as young as 8 years old and modeled after the risqué, burlesque-inspired pop group of the same name… (Yes, the “Don’t cha wish your girlfriend was a freak like me” Pussycat Dolls…) After protests by parent groups, Hasbro nixes the line.
Added 4/24/07: “Lives for sale”, Pasadena Weekly, 8/3/06
In a recent study by the Mary Magdalene Project, researchers interviewed 126 prostitutes and found that many of them began their careers when they were as young as 15, and then remained in the business for about 10 years…
The study also found that the main reason for maintaining this lifestyle was a drug habit or merely a need for steady financial support…
“The violence is unending,” McCombs [of the Mary Magdalene Project] said. “One of the women who left our program early was stabbed seven times by a john just last night…”
“You have two kinds of prostitutes out there: The older ones who are hooked on drugs and are just trying to get high, and the younger ones who are being pimped. Some of the others work without pimps, but those are the main two,” said McCombs…
Earlier in this series, Suriyopaf explained that many prostitutes may actually be victims of human trafficking — young girls from Asia and other impoverished places throughout the world who, lured by the promise of legitimate work, agree to be smuggled into the US only to become exploited as sex slaves with little or no hope of escape.
A federal crime with penalties as high as life in prison, human trafficking is also a burgeoning industry, with as many as 50,000 women and children trafficked into the United States each year. Most victims end up coming to Los Angeles or San Francisco and, according to UC Berkeley researchers, nearly half work in the underground sex-for-sale economy.