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37 Responses

  1. bethrjacobs
    bethrjacobs April 2, 2009 at 7:27 pm |

    So horrible.And so covered-up.JUst think that most people in this country-the U.S. glamourize prostitution.Think of the former N.Y.gov.Spitzer……..The main suspect in rapes and murders of mostly prostitutes across three states is about to have his next hearing in Worcester,Mass. He has quite a history of choking and raping and getting very light sentences.He is also a white male,who “likes” to make olive complected,petite women his targets.Strangly they are also all mothers.One newspaper editor I spoke with laughed and said to me that there were even more(then the five to fifteen)bodies with in a few yards from where he was …tied to this one man.The son of a construction family.Construction is a huge lobby in my state (N.Y.)and it seams to be working well for Mr.Scesny…the main suspect in this horror show of rape and murder.

  2. Elyssa
    Elyssa April 2, 2009 at 8:23 pm |

    I literally just got this book from the library for a paper I’m writing in Human Trafficking; this review makes me hopeful it’ll be quite useful.

  3. RD
    RD April 2, 2009 at 9:11 pm |

    It’s clear that this isn’t a problem that’s going to be solved with police raids

    I am glad that you noted this. More on this later.

  4. S
    S April 3, 2009 at 12:46 am |

    This is unrelated to this article but I don’t know where else to comment.

    Why is the logo for this website a little girl holding a gun? Do you think the way to empower girls and women is to give them weapons? Is this because weapons are so powerful or because we want women to seem as socially and biologically MALE as possible – including on the traits of violence & aggression.

    Maybe we need to think about empowering our girls by teaching them to love being women, and to develop their natural strengths and talents – EVEN IF (or especially if)) THESE TALENTS ARE UNLIKE THOSE TALENTS OF MOST MEN – rather than by coveting the most ugly of male qualities and turning it into “feminism”.

  5. PTS
    PTS April 3, 2009 at 3:16 am |

    I am not especially impressed with the “IMF causes slavery” argument, and I’d like to hear more about it. I mean, we shouldn’t forget that communism collapsed because of its own economic failures. Most of those nations were in pretty poor shape. The collapse of their social welfare systems were already on the verge of collapse, that’s one of the reasons they decided to stop being communists. Do we really need the IMF to explain this?

    And while I profess considerable ignorance on the Asian welfare states, I guess I would be pretty surprised if Indian or Thai educational and welfare policies suddenly became substantially worse in the 90s. I would characterize my position as “waiting to be convinced” but I am skeptical that the IMF and other international organizations are really significant drivers of world poverty, especially compared to other elements of postindustrial capitalism.

    It seems to me that the end of the Cold War and the subsequent ease with which capital flows across borders suddenly made TRANSNATIONAL trafficking substantially easier than it had been. In other words, certain features of globalization decreased the opportunity and transaction costs for trafficking.

  6. PTS
    PTS April 3, 2009 at 3:17 am |

    That should be “Their social welfare systems were already on the verge of collapse”

  7. Natalia
    Natalia April 3, 2009 at 3:51 am |

    Fabulous, Julie. Will have to order this one now.

    It’s great when writing on this subject focuses on solutions, as well as the full-on horror of the situation.

  8. William
    William April 3, 2009 at 9:13 am |

    It seems to me that the end of the Cold War and the subsequent ease with which capital flows across borders suddenly made TRANSNATIONAL trafficking substantially easier than it had been. In other words, certain features of globalization decreased the opportunity and transaction costs for trafficking.

    Thats kind of my feeling as well. I think looking at the causes of trafficking will always come down to one overwhelming factor: people suck. Traffickers aren’t so much filling a new social role as filling an old social role in a new way. There will always be a demand for prostitutes, and there will always be a demand within that demand for women who appear “exotic” or for pimps who would like more easily controlled women. If you look at how pimps have traditionally separated women from their support systems trafficking isn’t essentially different from the old practice of preying on run-aways or luring a girl from the Midwest to LA; its separating women from their support systems in such a way that they become invisible and wholly dependent. All globalism has done is allowed such a thing to be done on a scale and over a distance that was previously more costly than it was worth.

    Any time you have rich nations brushing up against poor ones, regardless of the economic systems in use, you encounter exploitive distortions.

  9. sam
    sam April 3, 2009 at 10:12 am |

    But if anti-trafficking forces were better paid, conviction rates higher, and punishments formidable, brothel owners would lose much of their incentive to enslave women instead of hiring them

    I’ve read the book, and this is not an honest telling of Kara’s motivation or his conclusion.

    Kara hammers in throughout the book that men’s demand for paid sex is the core of the problem, and he is quite clear that reducing demand is the solution. He suggests more convictions and punishments of pimps not to achieve acceptable work conditions in the remaining sex industry as is falsely implied here with the phrase “instead of hiring them”, but because those actions will most effectively reduce john demand in the shortest amount of time.

    I’ve since returned my book to the library so I can’t quote exactly, but Kara makes his abolitionist position very clear when he says the sex trafficking policies he considers most effective are the governments of the United States and Sweden.

    When I saw him co-praise the US and Sweden this feminist went “Huh?” because I consider the US not decriminalizing prostitutes a big difference from decriminalized Sweden. However, lumping the two together makes sense from Kara’s non-feminist, economist perspective when he explains that reducing men’s demands for paid sex to zero is the shared goal and the method he prefers.

    What to do with misleading interpretations like Julie’s? I never really know how to proceed. Stating the truth of Kara’s john-criminalizing position is the bare minimum so I’ve done that, but then I have to decide if Julie accidentally left out Kara’s abolitionism and support for the Swedish model or if it was intentional manipulation. I would like extend to Julie the benefit of the doubt that her false reading of Kara wanting to make brothels better employers through economic pressure was unintentional. However, as a Feministe reader for years I’ve witnessed dozens of dishonest contortions performed to keep the male-approved bloggers here from having to tell men to stop their prostitution predations, so I’m going to trust my gut and the obfuscating odds until I have a good reason not to.

  10. Julie
    Julie April 3, 2009 at 11:15 am |

    Sam – you’re right, Kara does advocate making prostitution illegal.

    However, your comment is obnoxious, insulting, and inappropriate. Please don’t comment here again.

  11. Jill
    Jill April 3, 2009 at 12:50 pm | *

    Oh I see, so when a feminist says something you disagree with, you try to shut her up. Nice. This is why I don’t read at this site anymore.

    And yet here you are.

  12. RD
    RD April 3, 2009 at 2:36 pm |

    Ugh, ok, first of all, the US does NOT have good anti-trafficking policy. This is because, as you said, much of the enforcement comes through police raids. You know what happens in these police raids? Human rights abuses, and tons of arrests and deportations (of people who either were not trafficked or are unwilling or unable to testify against their traffickers). Many trafficked women are arrested over, and over, and over again. Without ever being “identified” as trafficked. See the recent report Kicking Down the Door by SWP at the Urban Justice Center for evidence of this.

    Also…extra funding for anti-trafficking efforts? Do you know what they spend that money on now? They spend it on raids. And arresting and/or deporting prostitutes and trafficked women. So I am skeptical of increased funding til I know what they would be using it for.

    The US criminalizes prostitutes and johns. Sweden criminalizes johns. Both approaches hurt prostitutes. And we are pro…whose rights exactly? Not only that, but criminalizing prostitutes can hurt anti-trafficking efforts, because the people who are best situationed to recognize and assist trafficking victims are criminalized.

    Do you know what happened in Cambodia, when the country caved to US pressure and started implementing US-style “anti-trafficking” measures? Hundreds of women have been arrested since Cambodia outlawed prostitution, and many of those women have been raped and beaten by prison guards and police. This is what “anti-trafficking” looks like to way, way too many people.

    If you want better solutions, I would recommend checking out the SWP report. We could make a great deal of difference if we stop criminalizing migration, stop criminalizing prostitution, and direct work toward issues of poverty, etc.

  13. RD
    RD April 3, 2009 at 2:50 pm |

    Also, I probably know more about “prostitution predations” than most people here. I’m not saying everyone, but I’m guessing I have some experiences Ms. Sam Berg doesn’t have for instance. I’ve done sex work in fairly desperate circumstances, hell, I have been more or less held captive (I had to run away) by a man who both raped me and placed ads and put me in w client to pimp me out for things I did not want to do (it was not supposed to be sex, nor had I done prostitution yet at that point). I did not have a place to live at the time aside from the hostel I was staying in (tho somebody who was not good to me took me back in for a little while after, in that way at least I was ‘lucky’).

    And yet, Sam, I want prostitution to be decriminalized. Including johns. Why? Because doing otherwise HURTS PROSTITUTES. And you know what? It hurts trafficking victims too.

  14. chava
    chava April 3, 2009 at 2:55 pm |

    ….
    So, it’s all the fault of the big bad West’s “stranglehold?” Human trafficking ain’t nothing new–even transnational human trafficking. Romans had slaves from Africa, North Africans had slaves from Europe, singing slave girls were sold from Baghdad to the rest of the middle east throughout the high middle ages. Today, Morocco has a problem with European sex tourism, yes–but one of their biggest problems is rural subsistence farmers selling their 12 year old girls to other Moroccans. Saudi Arabian men are notorious for their own sex tourism in Southeast Asia, Morocco, and other underprivileged Muslim countries. I could go on, but you get the idea.

    I’ll give you that as a current major power player on the world stage, the “West” (Western Europe and North America) undoubtably has its hands quite dirty. But this view of the West as the big bad boogeyman is simplistic, ahistorical, and ignores the non-Western countries also involved in human slavery worldwide.

    If you want to then lay the blame on “capitalism”—well, I’m the first one to back the idea that many events driven by organizations like the IMF have ultimately done more harm than good. But laying the blame of “capitalism” as such is just a straw man, unless you are advocating a revolution to some kind of a-monetary, a-religious utopia (and we’ve all seen how fantastically easy THAT turns into totalitarianism).

  15. chava
    chava April 3, 2009 at 3:00 pm |

    For the record, I am utterly in favor of legalizing prostitution as a first step towards the eventual societal acceptance of prostitutes as human. A nice second step would be free STD testing and sexual health checkups, and a giant freaking crackdown on any police officer who doesn’t treat rape or physical abuse of a prostitute as punishable to the full extent of the law.

    I am not positive that legalization would ever eradicate a black market for those with illegal desires, or those who just want the sick ownership of another human being. But it could help a lot of women.

  16. RD
    RD April 3, 2009 at 3:02 pm |

    I’m sure there is more I had meant to say, but I forgot to make this point…which is that the criminalization of migration and criminalization of prostitution are weapons many traffickers wield. They USE fear of arrest and/or deportation, fear of state-sanctioned violence.

  17. chava
    chava April 3, 2009 at 3:09 pm |

    @ RD.

    Exactly. Thanks for pointing that one out. I think you could also argue that even “hired” prostitutes in this political climate are all to some degree enslaved. If you are afraid of death, arrest, or bodily harm if you quit–sounds like slavery to me.

  18. RD
    RD April 3, 2009 at 3:21 pm |

    @ RD.

    Exactly. Thanks for pointing that one out. I think you could also argue that even “hired” prostitutes in this political climate are all to some degree enslaved. If you are afraid of death, arrest, or bodily harm if you quit–sounds like slavery to me.

    Hm. I agree that the people described by that are to some degree enslaved. But I don’t think that describes everyone in “hired prostitution,” that they fear those things for quitting. By “hired prostitution” you mean everyone who works for others? Yeah, still don’t think it is true for everyone. But true for enough people that it is an important issue yes.

  19. chava
    chava April 3, 2009 at 3:26 pm |

    No, it definitely isn’t true for everyone. One has to be very careful of not falling into the “all sex workers are oppressed and enslaved and had no CHOICE oh noes!” argument. That way goes whorephobia.

    Still, like you said, there is a large enough group that it is an important issue. I’d also see the the very fact that prostitution is illegal as a kind of oppression on the part of the government–if telling you that you don’t own your own body isn’t a kind of slavery, than what is. Of course I’m exaggerating for the sake of argument, but still.

  20. RD
    RD April 3, 2009 at 4:23 pm |

    For the record, I am utterly in favor of legalizing prostitution as a first step towards the eventual societal acceptance of prostitutes as human. A nice second step would be free STD testing and sexual health checkups, and a giant freaking crackdown on any police officer who doesn’t treat rape or physical abuse of a prostitute as punishable to the full extent of the law.

    I am not positive that legalization would ever eradicate a black market for those with illegal desires, or those who just want the sick ownership of another human being. But it could help a lot of women.

    Hmmm. If it is decrim instead of (most schemes of) legalization, and if the free testing is voluntary and confidential, then I am with you. And “crack down” on those officers you mentioned (and the other institutional stuff that allows/makes it happen) but be sure to “crack down” on the ones who are out there committing the violence against prostitutes too.

  21. Gayle
    Gayle April 5, 2009 at 8:54 am |

    Why is it that every time people who actually work in the area of anti-trafficking tell us demand is at the heart of the problem, and that Legalization, and decriminalization (for johns) makes trafficking easier and all the more acceptable, their examined conclusion is treated as simple opinion.

    It reminds of the “debates” between evolutionists and creationists. The latter don’t have fact or research to back them up, but they demand their faith based beliefs equally respected.

  22. Gayle
    Gayle April 5, 2009 at 8:59 am |

    Oops, my cat just hit the submit button before I had a chance to proof-read! (Hit as in walked across the damn keyboard.) Hopefully my comment is readable enough.

  23. Lynn
    Lynn April 5, 2009 at 2:49 pm |

    What? Thanks for the saturday night special gayle. Since when don’t decrim supporters have facts? And don’t assume all people doing anti-trafficking work have the same conclusions about decrim.

    And way to ignore ppl’s *direct experience* while spouting some straw man BS about not having “fact or research”.

  24. RD
    RD April 5, 2009 at 3:18 pm |

    Ok, I appreciate Lynn’s comment but I am not feeling overmuch like being put under a microscope or attacked on the basis of personal stuff so let’s keep way from that ok? I actually regret a lil bringing it up. I see it more as coercion than trafficking, cuz ppl mean so many different things by that word and my experience does not fit everyone’s definition. I am not an immigrant, I was not there very long cuz I got away (still pretty damn traumatizing tho), and I was not in a raid. So there is a mix of things I know personally and things I know second-hand here, with a lot of it second-hand.

    That said, Gayle…you are very mistaken if you think that everyone doing anti-trafficking work agrees with you and the author up there. I already linked some folks who dont…the Sex Workers Project at the Urban Justice Center. They work with trafficking victims. And are not anti-prostitution. There are plenty of others too…I will post more later.

    Oh I linked fact and research too. There’s plenty more of it out there.

    But I’d guess you are more into being obnoxious than researching the stuff anyway.

  25. bethrjacibs
    bethrjacibs April 5, 2009 at 3:41 pm |

    Hello…I had to write again:#1 Ilove your logo and if you had t-shirts and bumperstickers I would buy them…with this very logo.Though I would have to pay via the mail as I am at a public computer and do not trust it with my credit card.#2 I am so very sorry that so many people are hating the book on trafficing!……um if they or any one they know have ever been close at all …..they would not be acting like this!Perhaps they work or have ties to the community in question.

  26. bethrjacibs
    bethrjacibs April 5, 2009 at 3:44 pm |

    I ment close at all to being trafficed…..got all upset sorry….must go now.Thank you so very much though for your great work.

  27. bethrjacibs
    bethrjacibs April 5, 2009 at 3:46 pm |

    I ment trafficking please forgive me.

  28. RD
    RD April 5, 2009 at 3:46 pm |

    Anyway I dont think the author’s “examined conclusion” is better informed or backed up better with research and experience than any number of ppl who disagree with him.

  29. RD
    RD April 5, 2009 at 5:24 pm |

    bethrjacibs…do you have experience with trafficking? are you pro-raids? pro-locking up and abusing prostitutes when it is the state doing it instead of someone else? what makes you like the author’s solutions better than, u know, everything else i have said here?

  30. Julie
    Julie April 5, 2009 at 8:39 pm |

    Everyone, chill. Debate is great, but name-calling and personal attacks aren’t.

    Also, if you have opinions on the header, feel free to email us (see the email address on the about page), but please don’t derail.

  31. Valerie
    Valerie April 5, 2009 at 9:02 pm |

    First off, Sam wasn’t all that rude, but I guess it’s your blog and you can tell people whether they can post or not. It might help if you explained exactly what she did that was so awful though.

    I also found it a bit disingenuous that you said he supports making prostitution illegal, to be honest. It appears that he supports making it illegal to pay for sex and is indifferent to whether it is legal to sell sex. This isn’t good enough by a long shot, obviously, but it also sure as hell isn’t the same thing as “making prostitution illegal” with all the overt hatred of prostitutes that that implies.

    Second, I feel like these comments are getting sort of off track. There’s a person above who’s been in prostitution and found herself forced by her “boss” to do things she said she wouldn’t do. (BTW, I’m very glad that you’re out and safe.) She feels, as I feel, that it’s a horrible thing to do to criminalize prostitutes. She also disagrees with me in that she feels that it’s a horrible thing to do to criminalize johns.

    I, a former prostitute who was repeatedly abused and physically forced to engage in sex acts which I did not consent to, feel that criminalizing my old clients would be an excellent idea. I am somewhat confused as to why it would be somehow bad for those who are trafficked or otherwise experiencing a particularly high level of violence within the sex industry to make paying for sex illegal. According to at least one Swedish pro with a blog, criminalization of clients hasn’t stopped enough of them buying her services for her to make a living, just made them nicer. Certainly, it would appear that criminalization makes clients willing to pay more. How is this bad for prostitutes? Could someone explain?

    http://swedishsexworker.wordpress.com/

    In any case, I’m just sort of wondering why people aren’t talking more about criminalizing the clients. It seems like every feminist alive agrees that criminalizing prostitutes is not the answer, so why on earth are we still hashing it out amongst ourselves at the expense of talking about criminalizing clients?

  32. RD
    RD April 5, 2009 at 11:56 pm |

    …? Do you mean me?

    Sorry, if you do.

  33. RD
    RD April 6, 2009 at 9:13 am |

    that comment was meant for Julie btw

  34. bethrjacobs
    bethrjacobs April 7, 2009 at 7:17 pm |

    On #3 occasions I have been painfully close to being a “sex-worker”.On the first occasion I didn’t realise what was up…not till much later…..long after I lost the job that was tied to the “offer”.The second time I was almost killed and it took thousands of dollars and much legal wrangling to get away,and I was sexually assaulted.This resaulted in a P.B.S. producer contacting me to make a movie.The third time I was out of the country and call me nieve…..SO GREAT BOOK………..!!!!!!!!!

  35. bethrjacobs
    bethrjacobs April 7, 2009 at 7:25 pm |

    I ment naive……AND EVERY WORD I SAID……

  36. Trafficking « SixToedKitties
    Trafficking « SixToedKitties April 8, 2009 at 1:01 pm |

    [...] I wrote to the Rachel Maddow show back in January, because it relates to a recent discussion on Feministe, and it is too long and involved to post back there. Here [...]

  37. Mariya
    Mariya July 3, 2009 at 3:29 pm |

    Great post (I know, it’s a rather late to contribute to this thread).

    I actually got really interested in this issue when I read a New York Times Op-Ed piece by Nick Gillespie, who jokingly (at least I hope it was a joke) suggested that the current administration tax prostitution. I wrote a piece about it here. I think raising awareness is the important issue here – I’m not sure what everyone was so upset about.

    Anyway, thanks for the post!

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