A Closer Look at Sweden’s Success with Reducing Prostitution; Skeptics Rebutted

We have previously written with approval of Sweden’s approach to prostitution. In 1999, Sweden made it a crime to buy sex but not to sell it. The Swedes removed legal jeopardy from prostituted women but increased it for pimps and johns. After the police were trained in the implementation of the new law, the incidence of prostitution and sex trafficking plummeted.

Julie Bindel and Liz Kelly study the Swedish experience in their 2003 report, “A Critical Examination of Responses to Prostitution in Four Countries: Victoria, Australia; Ireland, the Netherlands; and Sweden” (PDF). We present some excerpts here, then respond to objections from skeptics with the help of Genderberg’s S.M. Berg.

In Sweden prostitution is regarded as an aspect of male violence against women and children. The underlying rationale to reverse a legalisation approach was that prostitution, like all forms of violence against women, constitutes a barrier to gender equality. Since moving towards gender equality is a fundamental priority for Sweden, logically its policy must be based on an approach that seeks to end prostitution, rather than manage/legitimise it…

The government also recognised that criminalising demand without support for the women themselves, would be not only ineffective but also unfair, therefore monies were made available to NGOs and statutory agencies for drug rehabilitation programmes, exit strategies and longer term reintegration…

Since 1999 street prostitution in Stockholm has dropped by more than two-thirds. Before the law, between 350 and 400 prostituted women were working the streets in Stockholm…

One important aspect of the new legislation, which is seldom recognised outside Sweden, is that the women and children in prostitution are not criminalised; rather they are viewed as victims of a crime. This not only changes their legal status, but how they are seen and treated by others…

Several opinion polls, conducted in 2000 and 2001, show that approximately 80 per cent of the Swedish population supports the law. Of those who want to repeal it, the majority are men, with only seven per cent of women in support…

Although it is often argued that restrictions on street prostitution results in poor and drug addicted women losing their only source of income, there has been very little protest regarding this issue from opponents of the legislation. However, the Swedish government investment in drug and alcohol rehabilitation programmes and other exit strategies has undoubtedly enabled more women to leave prostitution…

Decriminalising the selling of sex has meant those in prostitution do not have to contend with harassment and arrest from police, which can enable the women to feel less stigmatised. Furthermore, this system serves to prevent the ‘revolving door’, and means that services can be explicitly directed at assisting women to leave prostitution, and with reintegration into society…

It is also worth noting that in the few surveys which ask the opinion of those currently involved in prostitution, few support legalisation…

There are few legalisation or regulation regimes that extend to street prostitution, and recent experiments with tolerance zones, including in Edinburgh and Amsterdam, have failed to deliver the hoped for benefits. Arguments about legalisation for off street venues are based on a presumption that such a move would shift the sex industry off the street. This is more a hope than a reality. As the experience of Victoria, Australia demonstrates an expanding legal sector is accompanied by a similar increase in the illegal. This is for two reasons: some sex businesses seek to evade the demands of regulation; and women who are serious drug users are seldom able to comply with the rules and requirements of legal brothels. It is also possible that a proportion of customers prefer the street prostitution scene. It is clear from research that the majority of those in street prostitution have serious drug problems. A legalisation strategy therefore serves to further criminalise and marginalise them.

On the basis of the materials examined, the case for legalisation is weak and unsubstantiated. The rationale behind both the law in the Netherlands and Victoria, Australia was to “provide more control over criminal behaviour and to ensure women were protected from violence and exploitation”. Neither of these aims seem to have been achieved, with organised crime, including trafficking, flourishing in both localities, and the illegal layers of the industry continuing to accommodate women who are funding drug addiction. As Anne-Marie Lizin, a member of the Belgium parliament commented: “You cannot say you’re fighting the trafficking of people and at the same time legalise (brothels) because you open the market” (Noelle Knox, 2003)…

Gunilla Ekberg from the Swedish ministry states that, as a result of the legislation criminalising buyers, Sweden has become less attractive for traffickers. Ingela Klinteberg, Deputy Chief District Prosecutor in Malmo comments:

The new law has had an effect on trafficking. The trafficked women have sometimes said to police that they overheard traffickers say that Sweden is a very unfriendly country to operate in, and that they should take them elsewhere, such as the Netherlands, where the traffickers can operate with impunity (Interview, 2003).

Project Respect estimates that there are up to 200 women under ‘contract’ in Victoria at any one time, and that at least seven licensed brothels in Victoria have used trafficked women in the last year. Trafficked women commonly pay off debts between $30,000 and $50,000, experience significant physical and sexual violence, and are frequently deported…

[Amsterdam] is a major destination country in Western Europe, with 2000 brothels and numerous escort services, using an estimated 30,000 women (Benneto, 2001). Prostitution and related forms of sexual exploitation is a US$1 billion a year industry making up five percent of the Dutch economy. Sixty to 70 percent of the women in prostitution in the Netherlands are not citizens of the Netherlands or other European Union countries. In one study, 79 percent of women in prostitution gave an indication that they were in prostitution due to some degree of force…

…Since under Swedish law…anyone prostituted is now regarded as a victim of crime, it also became the first country where no prostituted woman, man or child is subject to criminal charges…

In its Factsheet on Prostitution and Trafficking in women (2003) the Swedish governments position is explained:

…gender equality will remain unattainable so long as men buy, sell and exploit women and children by prostituting them… Prostituted persons are considered as the weaker party, exploited by both the procurers and the buyers. It is important to motivate persons in prostitution to attempt to exit without risk of punishment. By adopting the legislation Sweden has given notice to the world that it regards prostitution as a serious form of oppression of women and children and that efforts must be made to combat it. (Ministry of Industry, Employment and Communications, 2003, p1)

Understandably there was resistance initially amongst law enforcers, at such a major reversal of approach. Some of this was articulated by police officers who argued that criminalizing men would undermine investigations of trafficking, since they had obtained important intelligence from buyers. They feared that the legislative change would mean men would refuse to help, since they would be implicating themselves in a crime. Such misgivings appear to have been overcome through training, and finding ways to work in practice in cooperation with prosecutors; in fact the dilemma is only the reversal of that under the previous regime, where the burden of incrimination fell on women. The training programme also exposed the extent to which some – but by no means all – police officers and prosecutors identified with male buyers.

Early implementation was mixed, with relatively few arrests and prosecutions. As the training programme rolled out, combined with the public debate however, and police and prosecutors entered into constructive dialogue the picture has changed. To date, 500 men have been charged under the legislation, and figures for the first nine months of 2003 are 300% above those for 2002; two thirds of charges result in a conviction. In addition as a result of a major investigation into a trafficking ring that advertised on the Internet, a further 575 men will be charged with this offence in 2003 (Ekberg, 2003)…

Police now have responsibility for monitoring areas where street prostitution takes place, and they report it is now very rare to encounter a foreign woman. The Stockholm-based social service unit Pros-Centrum, that works with persons in prostitution estimate that up to 60 per cent of Swedish women in street prostitution have left the industry…

…it is estimated that between 200 and 500 women are trafficked into Sweden in recent years compared to an estimated 10,000 to 15,000 in Finland…

There is no ‘revolving door’ in Sweden – whereby women are arrested for offences, fined and then return to prostitution to pay this off.

In 2006, S.M. Berg of Genderberg.com conducted a vigorous online debate with people who questioned Sweden’s achievement. Genderberg is an activist resource to combat prostitution, pornography and sexual exploitation. Berg has kindly given us permission to reproduce the following arguments.

tearing down the “Sweden doesn’t work” lie

Through Lost Clown’s Carnival of Feminists I found this conversation at the blog Reclusive Leftist
where a pro-prostitution woman is trying to debunk the successes of the
Swedish model. I’m reposting here what I wrote so people can get an
idea of how to confront the sex industry’s campaign of misinformation.
It’s not an action, but I thought it belonged in a public forum so
non-members could stumble upon it as well.

Because the 20 unanimous women Petra Ostergren spoke with is commonly brought up to deny thousands of research studies done over decades in countries around the world,
it would be good to familiarlize yourself with her non-study that is
treated like a serious piece of research by pro-pornstitutioners.


There is a study pro-prostitutioners foolishly cite sometimes to
try and prove the Swedish model doesn’t work, but if they weren’t so
foolish they would realize that the paper, slanted as it is, actually
concedes that the Swedish model is working better than the Dutch model.

I might run through this one in detail another time, but in short
pro-legalization folk who put this together did not speak with one
single working prostitute in Sweden. Pages 10 and 11 contain a lot of
myth-debunking info about Sweden’s success. Page 24 says, “The Netherlands has around twice as many inhabitants as Sweden. The scale of prostitution is about ten times of Sweden.”

Purchasing Sexual Services in Sweden and the Netherlands: Legal Regulation and Experiences


I may touch up the following at a later date, and please let me
know if you think somthing is weak and needs strengthening with either
more proof or more explanation.


Did anyone else notice how Burrow’s supportive comments on Sweden
cited specific studies with specific numbers in comparison to other
countries and Cicely’s rebuttal contained not one concrete fact, only
conjecture and hypothesis? I noticed.

“this law has been criticized by Swedish sex workers”

Which sex workers? Don’t say the 20 women Petra claims to have
spoken with who all unanimously agree with her that whoring is just a
job and should be fully legalized. Any study where the population of 20
is unanimous should be suspect, especially when no other study done
with prostitutes internationally has ever been unanimous.

the new legislation makes it
harder to assess clients since “the clients are more stressed and
scared, and negotiation outdoors must be done in a more rapid manner

Do rapists emit a rape-pheromone that only prostitutes can smell,
and only if given enough time to adequately sniff? How did Swedish
prostitutes tell the murderous clients from the non-murderous clients
before 1999? Did prostitutes before the 1999 law hand out forms to
prospective tricks with such questions as “Are you going to rob, rape,
choke, cigarette-burn, or otherwise hurt me? Circle one: Y / N”?

there is now a greater percentage of ‘perverted’ customers and the ‘nice and kind’ customers have disappeared.

So when Swedish men rape prostitutes, the solution is not to hold those men accountable but to point the finger at feminists
and blame them for changing the law that made men “have to” ask hookers
for more perverted (dangerous, painful, permanent) kinds of sex acts?
That makes no sense, and neither does suggesting that when the 1999 law
changed suddenly a bunch of sadistic Swedish men decided to start using

I’m pretty sure those men were around long before 1999 because it
is these men’s violent and sadistic treatment of prostitutes that
brought about the need for legal changes challenging men’s “right” to
have sex anytime and any way they wanted. If men who used prostitutes
were nonviolent gentleman there would be no need for the law.

Sex workers are now more apprehensive about seeking help from the police when they have problems with an abusive customer.

Again, I ask for quotes from sex workers, because the Swedish
reports say that not only are prostitutes turning abusive men in more,
but those violent men usually have criminal records beyond assaulting
prostitutes so they often are brought up on those charges as well,
resulting in more criminals behind bars where they belong.

prices on the streets are lower
since there are fewer customers and more competition. “This means that
women in more desperate need of money will engage in unsafe sex and
sexual activity they usually would not perform.

Doesn’t this actually mean Swedish men who use prostitutes have
been shown to willingly take advantage of vulnerable women to
economically coerce them into painful, degrading sex acts? Again, the
notion that these Swedish men weren’t asking for double-anals,
vagina-tearing dry sex, “prosti-tots”, etc before 1999 is absurd.

National Police Board has observed that it is harder to prosecute sex profiteers because sex-purchasers won’t testify.

Of course tricks won’t testify, and they didn’t regularly before
either. Quotes from tricks show that they are often afraid of violence
or robbery from pimps just like prostitutes. One man who responded to a
researcher’s newspaper ad said, “I’ve never tried to rescue a girl. You
can get killed doing that.” You can get killed testifying against the
organized criminals that lord over prostitution internationally.

Sex workers can be made to testify and have “neither the rights of the accused or the victim.

Not true, cicely. Under Swedish Criminal Procedure Law (Chapter 36,
6 Rattegangsbalken) a prostitute can refuse to give evidence that can
reveal that she has undertaken a “disreputable” act. It pretty much
guarantees the prosecution will have a hard time getting a conviction,
but a prostitute is not forced to give evidence under Swedish law.

Driving prostitution underground,
whether through moral condemnation or criminalizing purchasers, only
exacerbates the most dangerous aspects of prostitution.

Actually, even groups working towards prostitution legalization
have had to admit there is no evidence of an increase in underground
prostitution since 1999. The best they can say is that there’s not
enough information, but nothing has shown numbers of underground,
trafficking, or other organized criminal prostitution rising and it is
clear that trafficking into Sweden has decreased dramatically.

In the real world, the demands of sex workers — better working conditions and complete de-criminalization

In the real world, 90% of prostitutes say they want out of
prostitution immediately. One 5-country study of 475 prostitutes found
92% said they wanted out, and a 9-country study of 854 prostitutes
found 89% wanted out immediately.

Please show where you picked up the belief that what most
prostitutes demand is help staying in prostitution and complete
decriminalization so they can stay prostitutes. You are demonstrably
wrong about that, Cicely.

Here is what 475 prostitutes from 5 countries said:

United States: 56% don’t want it legal, 88% want out now.

South Africa: 62% don’t want it legal, 89% want out now

Thailand: 72% don’t want it legal, 94% want out now

Turkey: 96% don’t want it legal, 90% want out now

Zambia: 92% don’t want it legal, 99% want out now

From http://www.prostitutionresearch.com

I would very much like to see whatever proof you may have to
support your claim that what “sex workers” are really demanding is
decriminalization and better whoring conditions.

Neutral observers in Sweden have
conceded that it’s impossible to measure accurately the incidence of
prostitution since the legislation took effect as methods of soliciting
have moved dramatically to the internet and mobile phones.

That would go against what you said earlier about an increase in
underground prostitution. It has been guessed at but not proven, and
recorded phone conversations with pimps and traffickers have shown the
new law effectively deters them.

there is a new crime in Sweden.
Women posing as sex workers rob their ‘clients’, who are unlikely to
report the theft to authorities for fear of being prosecuted

I think that’s woman hating, unproven bullshit that feeds off men’s
loathing of women as gold-digging, conniving greedy bitches. What
you’re saying is that there’s a new crime that no one has reported yet,
but you’re certain it’s there anyway because women are lying bitches like that.

Sure, it’s theoretically possible Swedish women might pretend to be
prostitutes (who don’t fear men’s insane amount of violence towards
whores for some strange reason) to begin robbing men, but for a long
time now Swedish women could threaten to “cry rape” in order to steal
from or blackmail any man, trick or not. That hasn’t been happening, so
saying that to give prostitutes the power to turn the men who abuse
them has lead to malicious, lying Swedish women “crying rape” for an
easy payday, oh but the men are too afraid to report it so there’s zero
proof, is misogynist bullshit…

I’m home now and I thought it would be good to look up the statistics
from the other 4 countries that I left out of the first post.

Canada: 68% don’t want it legal, 95% want out now

Colombia: 80% don’t want it legal, 97% want out now

Mexico: 49% don’t want it legal, 68% want out now

Germany: 65% don’t want it legal, 85% want out now

Particularly interesting about Germany’s numbers is that brothel
prostitution is already legal in Germany but 59% of the prostitutes
interviewed did not think legalization made them safer from rape and
physical assault.

Prostitution is also legal in Columbia, and the age that children
are legally allowed to become prostitutes is 14. Prostitution is legal
in Costa Rica and the acceptable age of entry into prostitution is 15.
Unsurprisingly, both countries have enormous problems with child
prostitution and are hotspot destinations for child sexual predators
from around the world.

Across the 9 countries, 47% were upset by attempts to make them do
what others had seen in pornography and 49% reported pornography was
made of them as they were prostituted…

The debate at Reclusive Leftist continues. As a reminder, everything I write can be used by any of y’all any time you like.

Here’s how cicely responded:

Firstly, I did write earlier in this thread, or in another thread
here on prostitution, that I accept that the vast majority of girls and
women working as prostitutes want not to be. I wouldn’t contradict 90%
plus, overall. It probably follows that these women would not want
prostitution legalised. On the other hand, from your own statistics, a
considerable percentage of sex workers surveyed would. 44% in the US,
38% in South Africa, 28% in Thailand, 4% in Turkey and 8% in Zambia. At
least these women havn’t said they would not want prostitution
legalised, since it would have been noted if they had.

Clearly there are differences between countries, which will have
origins in those particular cultures, but don’t you agree that 44% in
the US is a pretty significant minority? So, the next question, set
against that statistic, is, why do 88% still want to get out in the US?
Is it for some because of the unsafe conditions they are forced to work
in, while prostitution is criminalised? What do you think explains this

My thing is, we do have to have these discussions directly with
those women doing sex work, and who do want to continue but with legal
protections and safe conditions. (and I can reference a few sex worker
organisations which have websites if you’d like me to…) I can’t find
any justification for ignoring them since they will demonstrably
continue to be motivated to put themselves at risk even without these
basic civil rights. What motivates them? Are they entitled to define
for themselves what doing sex work means in their own lives?
Conservatives say ‘no’ for moral reasons, many feminists say ‘no’ for
political reasons, I say ‘yes’ for largely humanitarian and civil
rights reasons. I believe that only de-criminalisation has the
potential to fully protect sex workers, whatever the underlying reasons
for their participation in the sex industry may be. And I don’t pretend
to always know what they may be.

This is all I have time to write for now. I will return…

Here’s my response

“My thing is, we do have to have
these discussions directly with those women doing sex work…since they
will demonstrably continue to be motivated to put themselves at risk”

Well first, thousands of prostitutes (male, women, transgendered)
have already been spoken with and I have shown you where you can find
what they have to say about it. Wendy McElroy started a study of women
volunteering at sex worker rights organizations and she abandoned it
when it became clear even among this most biased of prostitution
populations the women didn’t really want to be sex workers. Carol
Leigh, aka Scarlot Harlot, said in a 2004 debate, “95% of my friends
want out of prostitution.”

You see, my thing is to
stop looking at poverty-stricken, desperate women and asking them why
they do desperate things for money they desperately need. My thing is
focusing on men with disposable income who could freely choose not to
sexually exploit drug addicted, sexually molested girls and asking them
why they insist on their “right” to do so.

Your focus on prostituted women is not where the problem lies so
you will not find the solution there either. You need to start talking
about the men who choose to use prostitutes just because they want to
and it gives them pleasure. Pro-prostitution advocates consider talking
about the men who use prostitutes anathema, so they focus on the women
as if changing women is going to change how violently and abusively men
treat prostitutes, and all women really.

The male belief in their entitlement to sex is the problem, not
prostituting women. A great thing about changing the prostitution
debate to reject men’s “right” to have sex any time, any way, as much
as they want is that it goes right to the heart of rape culture and
will benefit all women.

Men’s widespread sexual violence against prostitutes is caused by
the cultural acceptance of men’s ownership and entitlement to access
women’s bodies. Men’s sexual harassment of the women they work with
also stems from a culture that accepts men’s entitlement to access
females sexually. Men who rape believe men have a right to use women’s
bodies to relieve themselves any time, any way, as much as they want.
Anti-choicers believe men have a right to women’s bodies by dint of the
sexual use of her body by an impregnating man.

The problem, I mean The Problem, of sexism is that men feel they
have a right to use all female bodies any time they want, any way they
want. Feminists who cannot bring themselves to reject the patriarchal
notion that men have a right to sexually access women’s bodies are not
going to be effective lessening any of these epidemic sexist ills if
they keep looking at women as if it were women who had the problem that
needs fixing.

The Swedish policy addressing prostitution as women experience it
(harmful, humiliating, violent) instead of how men experience it
(harmless, entertaining, pleasurable) is a revolutionary moment in the
history of the women’s movement. I hope more good-intentioned feminists
can move away from the ideological place that accepts prostitution as
inevitable because boys will be boys and men’s “right” to sex from
women will not be questioned.

Until more feminists start questioning men’s entitlement over
female bodies, significant advancements in women’s right to be free
from rape, sex harassment, and prostitution can’t happen. Rejecting
prostitution is consistent with the feminist belief that men do not
have a right to sex from women, but too many feminist women still can’t
say this standing tall and without apologies for believing it…

Tearing down the “New Zealand decriminalization works” lie.

New Zealand is not protecting prostituted women and children. In
April 2005, the naked body of sex worker Susan “Ritalin Sue” Sutherland
was found in Christchurch. She was described as being in a disturbed
state of mind the night she was killed after she was chased down the
street by people to whom she owed money.

Tell me how decriminalization of prostitution helped Susan escape
first from her addiction, second from her murderer(s). If men don’t
change their sexually exploitive, abusing ways, nothing changes.
Decriminalization didn’t keep Susan alive and it didn’t help her beat
her drug addiction.

I have a number of articles about prostitution in New Zealand I’ve collected.

Scoop Independent News reported on April 19, 2005 that, “A police
survey undertaken in 2001 found just six brothels offering in-house
services, whereas the most recent survey undertaken between November
2003 and April 2004 identified 93.”

Is that what a successful prostitution law looks like?

Stuff reports the number of prostitutes rose 40% and that street prostitution jumped from up from 3% in 2001 to 11% in 2004. http://www.stuff.co.nz/stuff/0,2106,3252861a11,00.html

Scoop announced on September 27, 2005 that a Wellington brothel
owner who sold a 14-year old, who was in the care of Child, Youth and
Family Services, to 24 paying men was given a paltry sentence of 300
hours of community service.


Is that what a successful prostitution law looks like?

Here’s a Prostitution Law Review Committee report

http://www.justice.govt.nz/pubs/reports … index.html

There have been just five convictions under the Prostitution Reform
Act since it was enacted in June 2003. Five convictions in two years
and the Prostitution Law Reform Committee released a report indicating
20% of those involved in street soliciting are under-aged and street
prostitution has escalated to nearly 4 times its numbers prior to

Is that what a successful prostitution law looks like?

It’s proven fact that trafficking into Sweden is down enormously
since 1999. A Stockholm organization found a 75% decrease in men
seeking prostitutes in Sweden since implementation of the new law. It
is also true that the Netherlands has twice the population of Sweden
but 10 times the prostitution. Those facts alone should be considered
successes, especially when the new law has been in place a scant six
years. I believe the Swedish law is meeting its goals where
legalization and decriminalization have failed to meet theirs and I
feel it’s a positive step towards the evolution of humanity as a whole.
There can be no equality and democracy while the human bodies are
considered buyable and sellable

cicely says, the most
disadvantaged women appear to be still left hanging out to dry, and
working in more dangerous circumstances than they were prior to 1999.
but that has not been proven. I’ll need to see exact numbers and quotes
from sex workers before believing this has come to pass and so far all
I’ve seen is unproven speculation. A report that says “probably circumstances have gotten more dangerous” is not something I can take seriously.

I would believe Petra’s report if she didn’t only use vague terms
like “some” and “many”. If she were honest she would lay her data out
to be examined, maybe saying “Of 20 sex workers interviewed with
methodology X, 10 wanted out of prostitution immediately, 8 wanted
legalization and government assistance to stay sex workers, 2 did not
want any government action, and here are some representative quotes
from each viewpoint.” That’s what a quality piece of convincing
research looks like, and that’s not Petra’s study.

cicely, it should come as no surprise I do indeed think your belief
that men have a biological need to stick their penises in many more
body holes than a prostitute-free world can accommodate is bogus. But
I’m more concerned with the way you still can’t seem to the look the
extreme amounts of sexual violence men commit against prostitutes
directly in the eye. You wax poetic about families, social cohesion,
and the biological nature of human sexuality but you haven’t addressed
the incredible amount of violence
men commit against prostituted women and I feel the generalities you’ve
used in your last post serves to obfuscate men’s abuse of women and
men’s responsibility to stopping that abuse.

You have to be able to explain why prostitutes are the most raped
women in the world to see where people who reject prostitution as
“work” are coming from when they deny that any person has a right to
economically coerce others into sexual servitude…

My latest reply:

Your link to the source of the 3-11% jump in street prostitution is broken. I don’t know what that figure means.

You can read the original data at the Prostitution Law Committee
Report linked. There’s a handy chart that shows in 2001 street
prostitution was 3% of New Zealand prostitution and in 2003 the number
jumped to 11% of prostitutes on the street. This, combined with a 40%
increase in the numbers of prostituted women overall and the massive
increase in brothels, make New Zealand the latest country to experience
these well-recognized trends in countries where the government profits
from selling women’s bodies.

After the Netherlands legalized the sex industry it was estimated
to have grown overall by 25%, trafficking to the Netherlands increased
to meet increased men’s demands, child prostitution increased, and
street prostitution remained as dangerous and organized-crime
controlled as ever.

Alon, from untrue and meanspirited comments like “New
Zealand’s decriminalization policies is probably the world’s most
successful, so anti-prostitution advocates won’t do any research about
to comments accusing me of wanting prostitutes “thrown on the street so that you can feel better about it” to slamming the Swedish model with inanities like “So
far there’s a clear reduction in the reported number of prostitutes and
of abuse cases, but there’s also an increase in the unreported number,”

when it’s oxymoronic to definitively report on unreported cases, I
don’t care to do further keep-up on correcting your many mistakes
beyond this post.

You said the Swedish model has failed and were given specifics
about how it has reduced trafficking, reduced men’s demand and reduced
street prostitution. Rumblings of increased underground activity may or
may not be true and time will tell for sure, but trafficking, demand
and street prostitution are down and those were the goals set forth by
the Swedish law.

You said New Zealand decriminalizing brothel prostitution to try
and reduce street prostitution is the most successful model and were
shown New Zealand reports that there are 40% more prostitutes than
before decriminalization, street prostitution has quadrupled, there
have been only five child “prostitot” convictions in three years and
pimps caught sexually selling children are given community service
hours for facilitating systematized child rape. New Zealand has gone
backwards in its stated goal to reduce street prostitution because
decriminalization actually increased street prostitution fourfold.

You seem to think an adequate reply is the dismissive “Decriminalization won’t fix my socks, either” and “That sort of non-enforcement is the norm in every Western country,” but then how can you conclude that New Zealand’s decriminalization is working better than what is done in other countries?

“Thailand, where NGOs provided
condoms and educated people about how to avoid STDs, resulting in an
immense drop in AIDS infection rates among prostitutes”

What about the immense drop in men raping prostitutes, or the
immense drop in men murdering prostitutes, or the average age of a
girl’s subsumption into prostitution rising above the early teen years?
What about men’s violence, a subject you and cicely assiduously avoid
despite my best attempts to address that male violence? What if
prostituted women’s lives mattered more than Western men’s fears of
catching AIDS from a cheap, teenaged Thai whore while on vacation, and
by saying that we mean no man has a right to sex on demand, with or
without condoms?

Alon, you’ve been aggressively rude, don’t have facts to back up
what you’ve said, and the weird logic you use to justify men’s “right”
to selfishly, sexually use female bodies whenever and however they want
defies reason.

Cicely said: “We are not going to change much at all in 6 or 3 years anywhere”
and you couldn’t be more wrong because a lot has changed in the past 3
years in New Zealand and the past 6 years in Sweden. New Zealand’s 40%
increase in prostitutes, explosion of brothels, and quadrupling of
street prostitution are big changes for the worse. Sweden’s
decriminalization of prostitutes but not pimps and johns, reduction in
men seeking prostitutes in Stockholm by 75%, reduction in trafficking
to the country, and increase in services available to help women
transition out of prostitution are major changes of the past few years.

There is a huge difference
between being economically and circumstantially free (say, drug
addiction free) to choose sex work, and not being free to choose.
That’s where our efforts should be being directed in my opinion.

I consider this rather offensive. Prostitutes are clear about where
they want your efforts to be directed when they say they want help
getting out of prostitution. They are saying they need drug addiction
treatment, safe housing, job training, and childcare to meet their
goals of escaping a life of prostitution and you’ve twisted that to
say, “What they really want is the freedom to choose sex working as a
career.” What gives you the right to rewrite their clear requests for
help getting out of prostitution into them wanting to be “free to
choose” prostitution? That’s not what they’re saying, and you need to
listen to what they’re saying when they overwhelmingly say they want

Suggesting that we should wait until there’s a sexism-free world
before we can determine if prostitution is sexist, humiliating,
violent, health-wrecking, and soul-detroying is a slap in the face to
prostitutes living now and an abandonment of responsibility to
prostitutes living now who need help getting out from under the
crushing weight of men’s demands for prostitution now…

My latest; I’ve gotta say I’m very pleased with how the ending turned out:

What about men’s violence, a subject you and cicely assiduously avoid despite my best attempts to address that male violence?

I don’t think I’ve been thorough
enough in responding to your posts at all Sam, as I’ve left you with
the impression that I want to avoid the issue of male violence. I
absolutely and unequivocally do not. I wrote my previous post without
reading your last one and I hope it helps assure you that this is the
case. Unlike you though, I haven’t come to absolute conclusions about
the best way to approach the issue of prostitution, or that
prostitution per se is always violence against women.

still not even minimally acknowledging and addressing the men who do
commit violent acts in huge numbers against prostitutes or the violence
they’re committing. You’re written a lot of apology but I’d rather you
skipped with the apology paragraph and move on to the “Why are
prostitutes the most raped women in the world?” and “If laws against
rape and asking pimps and tricks nicely not to rape haven’t worked so
far, why believe pimp & trick decriminalization is going to stop
men’s violence against prostitutes?”

Here’s another good one,
“Why are legal brothels built with ‘panic buttons’ in them?” I believe
if we have to build brothels with the routine expectation that many
women are going to get violently attacked by many tricks then we
shouldn’t be building them at all. A Dutch brothel owner complained
about the regulation that there be pillows on the beds because, “You
don’t want pillows in there, it’s a murder weapon.”

never disputed that the vast majority of prostitutes in the world would
rather not be, or that they should be able to access all the help they
need to change their life circumstances.”

But you have. You do when you say, ”There are clearly requests from both sides – and from prostitutes, or sex workers, themselves,”
which implies a near 50-50 split. To go with the numbers we have, 92%
of prostitutes want help getting out of prostitution immediately, so to
speak of “both sides” and “the other side” as you do really does
dispute that the “vast majority” of prostitutes want out immediately.

women, who are prostitutes themselves, believe so. Should they stand
accused of betraying all women, even being ‘responsible’ for the pain
of unwilling participants – or do they have a right to their own

You still haven’t talked about
men’s responsibility for stopping their exploitation and violence
against prostitutes, you’re still focusing on prostitutes and trying to
make it as if it’s their “choice” to get raped, cut, slashed, burned,
punched and kicked by men regularly. There is no sensible feminist
reason to ignore the 92% of prostitutes who do not consider it work but
slavery in favor of the 8% minority, especially when doing so only
affirms the rape culture that affirms men’s God-given right to wet
their penises with women’s holes any way they desire, any time they
want it.

Like Einstein said about not being able to
simultaneously prevent war and prepare for war, you cannot affirm men
demanding and coercing sex from women anytime they want as acceptable
at the same time you’re trying to get through to men that they do not
have any right to demand or coerce sex from any woman, ever.

Einstein also said, “The real problem is in the hearts and minds of men.”

what do you say to the women who wish to continue to work as prostitutes?

Not much, because prostituting women aren’t the problem, men who
use prostitutes are the problem and I’ve got a lot to say to them.

To women who want to legitimize men’s right to economically coerce
poverty-stricken girls and women into sex they would otherwise not
consent to I’ve got something to say. To anyone who says we should look
at prostitution as an acceptable job for poor, brown, young females, to
anyone who personally profits from the globalized pornstitution
industries, to anyone who knows that prostitutes are brutalized by men
more than any other group of women and still encourages vulnerable
women to put their bodies in control of dangerous men who show no
willingness to respect their basic human rights, I have some things to

Mostly it boils down to, “Stop pushing women to pain-filled lives
highly likely to culminate in early and violent deaths because you
can’t muster up the courage to tell men they have no right to
masturbate with a woman’s body and their abuse will no longer be

Women who are prostitutes have my sympathy and my extended hand for
the help they want. Anyone who pushes to have men’s right to demand sex
from women at all times even more accepted and formalized in culture
than it is gets my extended middle finger…

This may be my last post there, as I’m getting tired of repeating
myself and I think I’ve done as much good for looker-ons as I can.


prostitutes are the most
‘available’, the easiest targets for male violence, (and all the more
so the more hidden their workplaces)

That’s not true. Kids are always the easiest (smallest, least able
to defend themselves emotionally or physically) targets of male
violence, which is why the average age of entry into prostitution is
13. How many women have pimps with a moneyed interest in “protecting”
them from other men’s
violence like an estimated 80% to 90% of prostitutes do? Why are there
burly bouncers in strip clubs but not the average beer-swilling
establishment? Strip clubs are legal and very open, but that hasn’t
lessened the amount of violence men commit against strippers.

I know you read my question about why legal, open, regulated
brothels have “panic buttons”, so it isn’t true that if prostitution is
made more open then men will be less violent towards prostituted women.

I don’t see how criminalising prostitution is going to eradicate male on female violence in general.

I thought we were talking about male violence against prostitutes
not male violence in general, but the amazing gender equity successes
Sweden has had in other areas of its culture would certainly seem to
tie into their rejection of men’s coercive control of prostituted women
or any other woman. To too many men all women are whores, just some
more than others.

Sex isn’t violence. Violence is violence.

I keep saying that to pimps and tricks but the boogers don’t seem
to understand. How are you going to make prostitute-using men and pimps
believe this when they show no inclinations of changing their fusion of
sex and violence into sexual violence? I’m pretty sure these guys
already know rape and battery are wrong and illegal, so adding to
existing laws “…and that goes for sex workers, too” isn’t effective
at reducing men’s violence, as every country that has legalized
prostitution or decriminalized men soliciting has discovered.

Or do you think that the fact that prostitution exists is the root cause of all violence against women?

Men and their sense of superiority and entitlement are the root
cause of violence against women and violence against prostituted women.
You leave out men as the agents of the actions when you speak of
“prostitution exists” as if there weren’t actually people, men, who
make it exist. I know some people say that about God, that he always
has been and always will exist, but prostitution exists because men
want it, not by some eternal mandate…

I saw this at Women’s Enews and wanted to stash it here somewhere, and
this is as good a place as any. In Australia, the provinces that have
legalized prostitution also have the highest rates of men’s domestic
violence against women. What a coincidence, huh?

Somewhere right now a pro-sex industry feminist is typing into her
sassy, sexy blog, “I know! We’ll affirm men’s rights to use pornography
and hookers however much they want and that will lead men to treat all
women with more respect and with less acts of controlling violence!”
and you better believe she means it seriously.

“New Zealand’s top family court
judge said the country is suffering a serious social breakdown shown by
a high rate of domestic violence, The Age, an Australian newspaper,
reported March 28.

Half of that nation’s murders happened within
families last year and 11,000 incidents of domestic violence– one
every eight minutes –occurred over a recent two-month period, the
judge said.

In the United States, the rate of spousal homicide
as a percentage of total homicides is between 11 and 12 percent, 40
percent lower than New Zealand’s rate.”

…This debate with Sweden’s Gunilla Ekberg is helpful.


See also:

Sweden’s Prostitution Solution: Why Hasn’t Anyone Tried This Before?

Bloomberg Columnist Likes Sweden’s Approach to Prostitution

Investigates Human Trafficking and Prostitution in the US; Valley
Advocate Advertises “Foreign Fantasies” Where “Everything Goes”

While MSNBC is busy investigating the sex industry, the Valley Advocate
is busy making money from it. The Massage/Escort ads in the 1/10/08
edition below include an advertisement of “FOREIGN FANTASIES” where
“Everything Goes”…

Escort Prostitution: A Response to Tom Vannah, Editor of the Valley Advocate
Mr. Vannah concedes that “there is some percentage of people who are
not willing participants in the sex industry”, but believes that if the
Advocate refuses to accept Massage/Escort ads, this will unacceptably
crimp “artistic freedom”. He mentions Mapplethorpe pictures as an
example. How dropping ads for commercial sex enterprises will
compel the Advocate to turn away Mapplethorpe pictures is not clear to

Prostitution: Factsheet on Human Rights Violations
Estimates of the prevalence of incest among
prostitutes range from 65% to 90%. The Council for Prostitution
Alternatives, Portland, Oregon Annual Report in 1991 stated that: 85%
of prostitute/clients reported history of sexual abuse in childhood;
70% reported incest. The higher percentages (80%-90%) of reports of
incest and childhood sexual assaults of prostitutes come from anecdotal
reports and from clinicians working with prostitutes…

Pimps target girls or women who seem naive, lonely,
homeless, and rebellious. At first, the attention and feigned affection
from the pimp convinces her to “be his woman.” Pimps ultimately keep
prostituted women in virtual captivity by verbal abuse – making a woman
feel that she is utterly worthless: a toilet, a piece of trash; and by
physical coercion – beatings and the threat of torture. 80% to 95% of
all prostitution is pimp-controlled…

78% of 55 women who sought help from the Council for
Prostitution Alternatives in 1991 reported being raped an average of 16
times a year by pimps, and were raped 33 times a year by johns…

A Canadian Report on Prostitution and Pornography
concluded that girls and women in prostitution have a mortality rate 40
times higher than the national average…

In one study, 75% of women in escort prostitution had
attempted suicide. Prostituted women comprised 15% of all completed
suicides reported by hospitals.

67% of 475 people in prostitution from South Africa,
Thailand, Turkey, USA, and Zambia met diagnostic criteria for
posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). 92% stated that they wanted to
leave prostitution, and said that what they needed was: a home or safe
place (73%); job training (70%); and health care (59%)…

In 1993, 42% of women arrested in Seattle on prostitution-related charges were convicted…

In 1993, 8% of men arrested in Seattle on prostitution-related charges were convicted.

Prostitution looks chic, but truth is ugly (Chicago Tribune, 4/27/08)
A comprehensive 2004 mortality study, funded by the National Institutes
of Health and conducted by the American Journal of Epidemiology, shows
that workplace homicide rates for women working in prostitution are 51
times that of the next most dangerous occupation for women (which is
working in a liquor store). The average age of death of the women
studied was 34.

Puncturing Alan Dershowitz’s Delusions about Prostitution
[University of Chicago study:] According to our estimates, a woman working as a
prostitute would expect an annual average of a dozen incidents of violence and 300
instances of unprotected sex…

The Village Voice Earns $80,000/Month from Prostitution, Sex Trafficking and other Adult Ads (explicit language)
[Manny, a former pimp,] says it’s not difficult for a pimp to recruit his harem.

“You don’t have to tie a girl up — you just keep her high.”

looks Vanessa over and observes that the more decrepit a hooker looks,
the more they get picked up. Johns see vulnerability; they see a
weakness, they see a five-dollar blow job…

New York Times: “The Girls Next Door”; Worldwide Sex Trafficking; Role of Porn
Kevin Bales of Free the Slaves says: ”The physical path of a person
being trafficked includes stages of degradation of a person’s mental
state. A victim gets deprived of food, gets hungry, a little dizzy and
sleep-deprived. She begins to break down; she can’t think for herself.
Then take away her travel documents, and you’ve made her stateless.
Then layer on physical violence, and she begins to follow orders. Then
add a foreign culture and language, and she’s trapped…”

a vast misunderstanding of what coercion is, of how little it takes to
make someone a slave,” Gary Haugen of International Justice Mission
said. ”The destruction of dignity and sense of self, these girls’
sense of resignation…”

S.M. Berg: “Hey, progressives! Cathouse got your tongue?”

News Roundup: Age of Entry into Prostitution Declining

Penn & Teller Think Nevada’s Brothels are A-OK
…Farley shows that life inside Nevada’s legal “pussy penitentiaries” is
far from safe, glamorous, or remunerative. The prostitutes are often
locked in. Many were sexually abused as children. Fines, tips and the
owner’s share typically cut into half the workers’ earnings or more.
“More than 80% of those interviewed told Farley they wanted to leave

Bob Herbert, New York Times Op-Ed Column, “Politics and Misogyny” (1/15/08)
Prostitution is legal in much of Nevada and heavily promoted even where
it’s not. In Las Vegas, where prostitution is illegal but flourishes
nevertheless, Mayor Oscar Goodman has said that creating a series of
legal, “magnificent” brothels would be a great development tool for his

A grotesque exercise in the dehumanization of women is carried out
routinely at Sheri’s Ranch, a legal brothel about an hour’s ride
outside of Vegas. There the women have to respond like Pavlov’s dog to
an electronic bell that might ring at any hour of the day or night. At
the sound of the bell, the prostitutes have five minutes to get to an
assembly area where they line up, virtually naked, and submit to a
humiliating inspection by any prospective customer who has happened to
drop by.

Prostitution Research & Education: How Prostitution Works
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…

Why Do Johns Buy Sex?
“Money displaces the emotions. It frees you from that bond, that
responsibility,” explains Sam. “The distance you get from exchanging
cash for sex means that afterwards you don’t contemplate the impact on
the prostitute.”

How to Deter Johns from Buying Sex
One punter said: “You can buy a lot of things but you can’t buy your
reputation – losing your reputation is the biggest deterrent.”

…Men often used prostitutes in their lunch hour, some using company
cars, and the interviewees said getting their car impounded and their
company finding out would stop them…

…almost a quarter thought that once they had paid for sex, they had free rein…

[Said one punter,] “You need to know how to manipulate and control
[prostituted women], which is easy with street prostitutes, you just
dangle drink and drugs in front of them.”

…some 89% would stop using prostitutes if “named and shamed” on the sex offenders’ register.

Dorchen Leidholdt, “Demand and the Debate”
…the Dutch and German experience—along with those of other
jurisdictions that have legalized prostitution—have demonstrated just
what happens when prostitution is legitimized and protected by law: the
number of sex businesses grows, as does the demand for prostitution.
Legalized prostitution brings sex tourists and heightens the demand
among local men. Local women constitute an inadequate supply so foreign
girls and women are trafficked in to meet the demand. The trafficked
women are cheaper, younger, more exciting to customers, and easier to
control. More trafficked women means more local demand and more sex
tourism. The end result looks a lot like Amsterdam…

As Norma Hotaling has demonstrated in her work to educate and deter
buyers and as the Swedish government has shown in arresting buyers,
while demand is essential to sex industry success it also represents
the weak link in the sex industry chain. Unlike prostituted women and
girls, prostitution customers do have choices to make. And when they
see that choosing to buy women devastates lives and threatens their own
freedom and social standing, they make different choices…