Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Sex Trafficking?

So I saw an article in Popular Science about sex trafficking, and it kinda soured me on a magazine I usually respect (although the issue also features Mark Zuckerberg on the cover, so they're 0 for 2, lol). This is one of those topics (like the 2257 Regulations) - it's a pet peeve of mine, but it's a hard thing for you to speak out against without incurring divine judgment, because the conversation is phrased (read: has been hijacked) in such biased terms. And that's really unfair. You can't say that sex trafficking is a myth (despite scientific evidence from those actually involved in the field) without people immediately jumping to the conclusion that you're trying to silence opposition to (and are thereby enabling) the selling of women and children (but especially children) into sexual "slavery" (and, egads, only a monster would do that!).

But what is "sex trafficking"? Migrant sex work? Sex workers moving from one country to another? What is wrong with that? If you have a problem with sex slavery, then call it sex slavery. But are sex "slaves" really individuals forced into prostitution via imprisonment and threats of physical violence, or individuals who choose sex work as the best (or only) of several bad options, amidst the pressures of poverty and poor education? And if the latter is true, then the real problem is poor living conditions, and lack of opportunities - how does taking one of these people's only solutions away from them help them in any way? For those concerned with the sometimes sketchy conditions of the work, the solution is improvement and regulation, not prohibition. And that can only come from transparency. The truth is, the concept of "sex trafficking" is a highly convenient (and emotionally-charged, and politically correct) front for moral conservatives to pump money and support into an infrastructure that is designed to punish anyone who buys or sells sex. It's cracking down on the sex trade disguised as empathy for the victims of sexual violence (who rarely identify as victims, until encouraged to by imperialists dubiously self-styled as "rescue" workers). It's a classic case of doublespeak - frame your position in terms that no sane person would dare challenge.

Am I against slavery, and forcing women and children into prostitution? (Notice that men - and especially transgender individuals, who are a uniquely vulnerable population - are never a subject of these discussions. I'll also point out that statistics are inflated and misrepresented as a matter of course, especially regarding the ages and numbers of "children" involved). Absolutely! But the best thing we can do to stop sex slavery, and improve the lives of those who have little choice but to rent (they're really not selling) use of their bodies, is to decriminalize sex work. Bring it out of the shadows. Stop enabling the predators (including many law enforcement officers) who take advantage of the fact that prostitutes have no recourse to the law if they are mistreated. Until we do that, any talk about "sex trafficking" is just a slimy cover for zealous bible thumpers, used to persecute people living taboo lifestyles. If you really care about victims of sexual violence, then the least you can do is identify who those victims really are, sniff out the deceptive wolves with ulterior motives that roam among you, and demonstrate that you are not, in fact, being directed by a moralist agenda. Because I'm not going to let you pull the wool over my eyes.

Now, you're welcome to rebut my position, but don't even think about opening your mouth until you've heard both sides of the issue.

"I often meet people now who, when they discover what my work has been, dismiss it with a smug claim that we have a 'difference of opinion'. I object: my knowledge is based on research and analysis over many years, not an awareness campaign disseminated on facebook or an online petition, not the acceptance of heavily biased or badly researched media articles."

- Dr. Laura Agustin, the Naked Anthropologist

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