Dorchen Leidholdt, “Demand and the Debate”

Dorchen A. Leidholdt is the Co-Executive Director of The Coalition Against Trafficking in Women. Here are excerpts from her speech, “Demand and the Debate”. She provides an excellent history and analysis of the “sex-positive” spin on prostitution.

“Prostitution is a job like any other job,” [Wages for Housework activists] insisted. “Some women prostitute their fingers as secretaries; others prostitute their minds as college professors.” “It’s all the same.” “If we unionized brothels and recognized sex work as a job, this never would have happened.” “There’s no difference between prostitution and marriage: hookers and housewives unite…”

…their basic argument didn’t ring true to me. I had never heard of a single instance in which a secretary or college professor had been flung out of a window of her workplace to her death on the streets below. And while married women were leaving abusive homes in droves, their prostituted sisters often didn’t have homes to leave. It would be six years before I would encounter the Canadian Report on Prostitution and Pornography with its finding that prostituted women in Canada suffer a mortality rate 40 times the national average. But it was no secret that prostituted women were the special targets of serial killers. How many jobs had murder as a frequent workplace safety hazard?

…I began to understand…that prostitution was not a job at all. The money it generated rarely ended up in the pocket of the prostituted girl or woman. It usually was confiscated by one of a series of men who pulled her into prostitution and kept her there, often at first through coercion but later by the creation of an environment that made the batterer’s dominion of power and control look like child’s play. Worn down by abuse and degradation, she finally submitted to her fate–and that submission was called consent or choice…

The truth is that what we call sex trafficking is nothing more or less than globalized prostitution. Sex industry profiteers transport girls and women across national and regional borders and “turn them out” into prostitution in locations in which their victims are least able to resist and where there is the greatest demand for them. Ironically, the demand is greatest in countries with organized women’s movements, where the status of women is high and there are relatively few local women available for commercial sexual exploitation. The brothels of the United States, Canada, the Netherlands, Germany, Austria, and Australia are filled with women trafficked from Asia, Latin America, and Eastern Europe. No less than 50% of German prostitutes are illegal immigrants and a staggering 80% of Dutch prostitutes are not Dutch-born (Owen, 2002; Louis, M., 1999).

Conversely, what most people refer to as “prostitution” is usually domestic trafficking. The bulk of the sex industry involves pimps and other sex industry entrepreneurs controlling women and girls, often by moving them from places in which they have family and friends into locations in which they have no systems of support. Movement is also essential because customers demand novelty. In the United States, for example, there are national and regional sex industry circuits in which prostituted women and girls are rotated among cities, ensuring customers variety and sex industry entrepreneurs control…

…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…

See also:

Puncturing Alan Dershowitz’s Delusions about Prostitution
Levitt and Sudhir Venkatesh analyzed arrest records and sexual
transactions in Chicago. Far from earning a thousand dollars an hour,
prostitutes typically receive $25-30 per hour. The risks of getting a
disease are high–condoms are used in only a quarter of tricks. The
average prostitute experiences one violent assault a month…

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”…

Ads in the Valley Advocate’s Back Room (4/6/08)

Escorts, Massage, or TVs/TS

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$150 cash Outcalls (860) 331-xxxx

The Best Forget about the Rest! (413) 588-xxxx…

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”….

Diane Sawyer Special Examines Prostitution in America; Challenge the Valley Advocate “Rat King”

Orlando Weekly Drops Adult-Services Ads in Wake of Police Sting; “Operation Weekly Shame”

Orlando Sentinel: “Weekly’s publisher: Arrests are payback” (10/23/07)
the video comes out, it will be telling because our officers tell them
about specific sex acts they perform for money and ask how they can get
that across better to their clientele,” Zambouros said…

“First Amendment rights do not protect anyone from committing a crime,” he said.

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…”

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.”

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.”

Prostitution Research & Education: How Prostitution Works

Prostitution: Factsheet on Human Rights Violations (explicit language)

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
prostitution.” The Guardian reports:

“The physical appearance of these buildings is shocking,”
says Farley. “They look like wide trailers with barbed wire around them
– little jails.” The rooms all have panic buttons, but many women told
her that they had experienced violent and sexual abuse from the
customers and pimps…

From 1987, prostitutes in Nevada have
been legally required to be tested once a week for sexually transmitted
diseases and monthly for HIV. Customers are not required to be tested.
The women must present their medical clearance to the police station
and be finger-printed, even though such registration is detrimental: if
a woman is known to work as a prostitute, she may be refused health
insurance, face discrimination in housing or future employment, or
endure accusations of unfit motherhood. In addition, there are
countries that will not permit registered prostitutes to settle, so
their movement is severely restricted…

According to Farley’s
research though, most women in legal brothels have pimps outside
anyway, be they husbands or boyfriends. And, as Chong Kim, a survivor
of prostitution who has worked with Farley, says, some of the legal
brothel owners “are worse than any pimp. They abuse and imprison women
and are fully protected by the state…”

One former Nevada
brothel worker wrote on a website: “After your airline tickets,
clothing, full-price drinks and other miscellaneous fees you leave with

Sweden’s Prostitution Solution: Why Hasn’t Anyone Tried This Before?
In the fog of clichés despairing that “prostitution will always be with
us”, one country’s success stands out as a beacon lighting the way. In
just five years Sweden has dramatically reduced the number of women in
prostitution. In the capital city of Stockholm, the number of women in
street prostitution has been reduced by two thirds, and the number of
“johns” has been reduced by 80%…