Dr. Robert Brannon, chair of the National Organization for Men Against Sexism, has published a fine analysis of choice and consent in prostitution. Here are a few excerpts from “Does Consensual Prostitution Exist?”:
If we say that a person (e.g. a woman) is consenting to have sexual intercourse with a stranger, what actually do we, or should we, mean? Minimally, it should include that:
- She made a conscious decision, which was more-or-less free and self-chosen;
- She understood what she was consenting to;
- She had some reasonable & accessible alternative (other than homelessness, hunger, deprivation, etc.);
- She had the right, after agreeing, to change her mind at any time.
…Yes, there are undoubtedly at least some women who do have other life options, but still choose to engage in prostitution. (We estimate there are between 100 – 300 women in this category, today in the United States.) Public policy and laws however should not be based on these situations, because they are highly atypical of the horrific, non-consensual ordeals of the huge majority of women, girls, and boys being used in prostitution.
And in a fascinating contrast, here is what the sex industry and its allies say:
There undoubtedly are some women who are coerced, or enslaved by pimps and traffickers, and that is terrible, and should not be allowed. Public policy and laws however, should not be based on such situations, because they are so unusual and atypical.
Each side concedes that there are “some” cases of the opposite scenario, but there is a total disagreement about the relative percentages….
To most academic scholars, the preponderance of scientific evidence points to the conclusion that prostitution today in the United States is overwhelmingly – 85%-95% – of the devastating, no-exit, variety. (In the absence of real, broad-based data, there is still of course some room for argument.)
Escort Prostitution: A Response to Tom Vannah, Editor of the Valley Advocate (3/10/08)
On March 4, Tom Vannah, editor of the Valley Advocate, took a few minutes to voice his displeasure with NoPornNorthampton on his WHMP radio show (listen to the mp3). We have been bringing Mr. Vannah large amounts of information about the sex industry since 2006. We have asked the Advocate to drop ads for escort services and other commercial sex enterprises. Unfortunately, Mr. Vannah believes this is a matter of freedom of speech. Any compassion he might feel for people in the sex industry or the community at large is not as important.
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 us…
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’).