Huffington Post: “Break the Chains of Modern Slavery: End Demand”

The 12/2/08 Huffington Post has an outstanding article on getting at the root of prostitution and sex trafficking. Far from an immutable part of human society, it is entirely possible to diminish commercial sexual exploitation–and the demand for it–within a matter for years, for countries with a will and the right approach. Here’s an excerpt:

Of the 800,000 people annually trafficked across international borders, roughly 70% are sold into the sex industry. Inside the US alone, at least 300,000 children and adolescents fall prey every year, and their average age is thirteen…

After years of parliamentary debate, in 1999 Swedes passed the Sex Purchase Law, which criminalized buying and decriminalized selling sex. This placed the emphasis on the buyers, while allowing women to seek help without being fined or deported. In five years, the number of prostituted women in Sweden dropped 40%. Today, the government estimates that less than 400 women are trafficked into the country, while in neighboring Finland it’s 17,000.

The law and its accompanying measures are credited with shifting the entire social mindset to one where buying another human being is simply unacceptable. Today, Swedes consider prostitution inherently violent and harmful to society: Even when it’s seemingly consensual, they say, the act is built on and reinforces an oppressive power imbalance between the user and the used. Although there’s a very small percentage of women who freely choose to sell their bodies, they are the well-publicized exceptions. Swedes don’t build public policy around protecting them when the damage to the large majority is so great. We were told that when young men from around the world were asked in a survey whether they had or would be willing to buy sex, only 11 percent of the Swedes said “yes,” compared to 60 percent of Dutch men.

Our local call to action: Call the Valley Advocate today at 413-529-2840. Ask Publisher Aaron Julien to drop the commercial sex ads from their Massage/Escort classifieds. It’s prostitution and it’s wrong.

See also:

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%…

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

Norway makes it a criminal offense to pay for sex

US Department of State: “Prostitution: To Legalize Or Not”

Gloria Steinem at Smith: Cooperation, Not Domination
are more slaves in proportion to the world’s population–more people
held by force or coercion without benefit from their work–more now
than there were in the 1800s. Sex trafficking, labor trafficking,
children and adults forced into armies: they all add up to a global
human-trafficking industry that is more profitable than the arms trade,
and second only to the drug trade. The big difference now from the
1800s is that the United Nations estimates that 80% of those who are
enslaved are women and children…

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…”

Dorchen Leidholdt, “Demand and the Debate”
…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…

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…

Newsweek: “A School for Johns”
[Says San Francisco’s district attorney, Kamala D. Harris,] “To suggest
that this is somehow an issue that only involves consensual adults,
that’s just not true. No matter how these girls and women are packaged
for sale, the reality is that for many of them, their life experience
is often wrought with abuse and exploitation,” says Harris…

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

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…

Press Release: Action Network to use RNC and Minnesota State Fair to Bring Attention to Problem of Sex Trafficking
homeless, abused and at­-risk children are approached by pimps and drug
dealers within 48 hours of landing on the streets.

News Roundup: Age of Entry into Prostitution Declining

Realities of Teen Prostitution Mock Notions of ‘Sex
Work’, ‘Sex-Positive’, ‘Freedom’ and ‘Empowerment’; Media Glamorizes Pimps

Salon: Atlanta’s underage sex trade

Pornography Trains and Indoctrinates Prostitutes
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

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.

Prostitution: Factsheet on Human Rights Violations (explicit language)

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

Wall Street Journal: “Craigslist Gets Tougher On ‘Erotic Services’ Ads”

Escort Prostitution: A Response to Tom Vannah, Editor of the Valley

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

While a few women may choose a life of prostitution in a truly
voluntary fashion, the reality for most is a history of sexual and/or
child abuse, separation from their family and/or country, and poverty.
Addictions to drugs or alcohol are common. They are routinely lied to,
coerced, abused, threatened, and blackmailed (e.g. ‘I’ll hurt your
family back in the Ukraine if you don’t cooperate’).

When a
“progressive” outlet like the Advocate runs ads for commercial sex
enterprises, it not only publicizes them but legitimizes them. It also
puts a big dent in the Advocate’s moral authority. If the Advocate
truly wants to be a friend to underdogs, it needs to side with them over callous profiteers.

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”…

“New York Press No Longer Marketing Arm for Prostitution/Trafficking”

Another Victory for NOW-NYC: New York Magazine Drops Sex Ads