How did you become involved in supporting the abolition of prostitution?
By coming across sex trade survivors’ blogs – reading these blogs was and continues to be a mind-blowing, opening, altering experience and some of the best and most intense education I’ve had in my life. It leaves no doubt in my heart that the sex trade is soul destroying for the vast majority of those in it and it has to go.
What draws you to support people who are prostituted?
Survivor voices deeply touch my heart and my sense of humanity. There’s no way I can sit idly by knowing the horrors endured inside the sex trade and the deep bio-psycho-social-spiritual wounds it creates. I like, respect, and want to be part of a movement that cares about the well-being of a population that society dismisses and deems disposable, because nobody is disposable. The massive ignorance around, and ignoring of, the prostituted is something I want to help change.
What does your work involve?
Much educating of myself and others. When time and ability better permit, I look forward to getting more involved in the movement by connecting with and supporting the work of some awesome local abolitionists in my community.
What legal improvements or changes would help to abolish prostitution?
I am a Decolonist, which means I work on and advocate for full and literal decolonization of our minds, spirits and ways of being, so we can get back to tribal, indigenous living. As such, I see the law (as we know it today) as a colonist tool of oppression, repression and depression. The law is also flaky, in that it changes as different lawmakers come into and out of power. All of this is not safe, reliable or good enough change for me. As Emma Goldman said, “No great idea in its beginning can ever be within the law. How can it be within the law? The law is stationary. The law is fixed. The law is a chariot wheel which binds us all regardless of conditions or place or time.”
That said, I respect and support abolitionists who say the Nordic model – decriminalizing the prostituted while criminalizing the buyers and pimps – is a good first step to reducing the harm of the sex trade. This kind of law works to fear monger (some) buyers and pimps who may get scared of getting busted and not rent or profit from the sexually enslaved, which is great if it stops some from getting harmed.
But the law doesn’t address the root problem, which is the thoughts and desires that fuel and normalize the domestic and international commercialized import, export and consumption of women and children’s bodies. The law is about punishment, so it cannot and will not address the prevention or creation of male violence, the backbone of the sex trade. The law deals with problems after the fact. Male violence is a huge, multi-layered cultural and spiritual cancer that will take much work from many different directions to abolish. The sex trade is a most excellent source of knowledge of what the center of male violence looks like, and looking at it from the center, allows us to address it effectively.
How can we abolish the sex trade outside of the law?
By being human, which is something the world is increasingly forgetting how to be and encouraging and rewarding us not to be. The sex trade revolves around men who are disconnected from their humanity, who in turn demand and horrifically dehumanize the women and children they slave trade in. Nobody connected to their humanity would ever rent a person’s body to do as they wish with, or support those who do, or organizations and industries that do it.
Education in basic humanity and our relations – how we see and treat ourselves and others – seems to me to be a big piece of addressing and eventually erasing the demand for the sex trade. It appears many of the men (and their supporters) who buy the right to rape, torture, and enslave people don’t see themselves as participating in or condoning rape, torture and slavery, or else are completely disconnected from the horror of this reality.
So, some serious education needs to happen to come to the collective understanding that the sex trade is sexual slavery. Money doesn’t make a sexual ‘transaction’ magically equal or harm-free. All this will end when men begin to think and act fully human. How do we make this happen? It’s as simple as it is complicated because of colonist and other cultural barriers which cock-block us from connecting with our own and other people’s humanity in so many ways. I have more questions than answers as I work my way towards a deeper understanding around all this.
For anyone else who wants to be involved, what can other people do to help?
I would say first, foremost, and always, listen to the voices of the prostituted to shape the direction of your advocacy. Make sure you are listening to voices of those who have actually ‘worked’ in the sex trade (more accurately, been victimized by it), not imposters who speak the language of ‘sex worker rights’ and ‘harm reduction’ because they do not have the most vulnerable people’s best interests at heart. This is clear in their words and lack of humanity in their arguments. These people are easy to sniff out because of their selfishness in that they never speak about the male violence inherent in the sex trade, nor do they care about, or adequately address, the harm this male violence inflicts on prostituted people’s psyches and bodies. ‘Sex worker rights’ and ‘harm reduction’ arguments are all sizzle and no steak; the words are hollow and lack humanity when compared to what survivor voices have to say.
Listening to and letting survivor voices shape our actions is critical because these people are the ultimate experts and authorities on the subject. The more of these voices you listen to, the deeper your understanding will become, and the clearer your action plan will be.
Also, be creative. Survivor voices don’t always tell us what advocacy to do, which is where our own creativity comes in. Whatever action we take, let it spring from the root issues survivors talk about, so that our actions are helpful to the abolition movement and truly supportive rather than hindering. I would also suggest talking with and bouncing ideas off survivors, they are incredibly intelligent, brave, clear and coherent people with vast knowledge that no sex trade outsider has – the depth and breadth of clarity informed by trauma is an amazing thing. Use their knowledge and education to inform your work.
Lastly, I really liked William Eberle’s idea where he says: “I believe that it is also clear that criminals see their gain from human trafficking, especially sex trafficking, far outweighing potential and actual costs. We need to change that equation so that it is no longer profitable for them. There needs to be asset forfeiture similar to that associated with drug crimes. Take these seized assets and put them to work helping the survivors of human trafficking.” I would love to get on board with this in some way and now have something more to think about as I continue to shape my own advocacy (thanks William!).
What are your plans for the future?
To keep connecting with and listening to survivor voices and continuing to expand my knowledge of the issues they raise so that my own advocacy can be as fierce and supportive as possible.
Recommended websites/further reading:
#1 – Sex trade survivor voices! I hugely, highly and emphatically recommend starting with these blogs. No matter how much academic, scientific or other ‘expert’ info or studies you come across, always, always, always come back to and prioritize survivor voices such as these ones because they are the true experts on the matter.
Survivor blogs I’d highly recommend reading are Rebecca Mott, FreeIrishWoman, XLondonCallGirl, Stella Marr, and Survivors Connect (an excellent resource for and collection of many survivors’ voices). Also Sextrade101 (co-founded by survivor of child trafficking, Bridget Perrier) and the Aboriginal Women’s Action Network (AWAN).
My blog is Feminist Rag.