Evidence shows that ending demand works: A response to Noy Thrupkaew and the attack on the Swedish approach to prostitution

Law enforcement, intellectuals, politicians, and activists all over the United States—last month, even President Obama—are discussing legal approaches toward the related scourges of human trafficking and prostitution. Recognizing that prostitution is a form of sex inequality related to gender-based violence, the Swedish approach criminalizes the purchaser, while decriminalizing the prostituted person, and has dramatically reduced prostitution and human trafficking since 1999. The law has also been adopted in Norway and Iceland. Particularly with the amendment Sweden made in 2011 that enables prostituted persons to claim damages directly from purchasers for violating their equality and dignity, it would fit well as a civil rights law in America. Nonetheless, some critics keep citing inaccurate and biased data, saying the law would not work in the U.S.

For instance, in the New York Times’ Sunday Review section, September 23, 2012, freelance journalist Noy Thrupkaew argues that the Swedish law harms prostituted persons “more than it helps them.” While recognizing Sweden’s intentions to fight exploitation, she claims “it hasn’t panned out as planned.” However, her assessment contains fundamental errors and misinformation about Sweden. Moreover, she does not consider the overwhelming evidence suggesting that prostitution generally is not a genuine “choice” among acceptable alternatives, nor that legalization increase sexual exploitation rather than alleviating its harms. If anything, her position grants men a right to buy another person for sex.

Thrupkaew cites an unfounded rumor that has circulated among proponents of legal brothels, saying that prostitution did not drop in Sweden since their law’s inception due to an alleged increase in “underground” prostitution. Another such rumor was that prostitution became more dangerous with the new law. Both claims originate primarily from an unpublished online piece in English where the Swedish author does not mention, as she did in her book published in Swedish, that her sample of less than 20 women was deliberately composed of persons who said they mainly had a positive view about prostitution because, she thought, so many voices were negative toward prostitution when the law was passed. Nonetheless, claims emanating from this biased study have been promulgated among academics, activists, and others who do not read Swedish, and who do not know how the results were obtained.

Swedish government agencies who interviewed key informants and prostituted persons found no evidence of a more dangerous situation because the law was passed; some prostituted persons even say they’ve been “empowered” by the law, as it gives them leverage when dealing with tricks and others.

Moreover, prostituted persons have to be visible in order to “meet the demand”; thus, “underground prostitution” is rather an oxymoron. When hidden from the streets, the extent of prostitution can be approximated via, inter alia, the number of online or paper advertisements or observations from bars, casinos, strip clubs, and from reports by outreach workers and law enforcement. In 2008, a group of Nordic researchers published a comparison of the number of prostituted people accordingly, showing that Sweden’s prostitution was roughly ten times lower per capita than Denmark’s and Norway’s were (Norway copied Swedish law in 2009).

While the number of prostituted people increased in other countries since the 1990s, the opposite happened in Sweden; estimations in the 1990s of 2500 to 3000 females came down to a mere 600 in 2008. Saying that “underground prostitution” accounts for this decrease, as well as the tenfold per capita difference, is ludicrous. Moreover, several anonymous surveys suggest that the number of tricks has gone down significantly in Sweden since the law was passed. Not surprisingly, international traffickers have even been wiretapped while complaining how difficult a “market” Sweden has become.

Thrupkaew argues that conditions in prostitution range from “upscale to exploitative, from freely chosen to forced.” However, her concept of “choice” is not consistent with the reality, as over 40 years of research has confirmed time and again, that most persons enter prostitution after having been sexually abused and neglected as children, and when they enter, often under age 18, they are further subject to multiple disadvantages such as systemic poverty, racism, homelessness, and sexism.

If “freely chosen” means being able to choose “real or acceptable alternatives” to prostitution—the essential distinction from sex trafficking, according to international law—the fact that 89% of 854 prostituted persons in nine countries, United States included, wanted to escape it, but were unable to, suggests that choice is the privilege of a tiny minority. Among the 854 prostituted persons, whom were sampled both indoors and outdoors, two-thirds met clinical criteria for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) equal to that of treatment-seeking Vietnam veterans and torture victims. A Korean study on females formerly prostituted in brothels made similar findings in 2009, even controlling for prior childhood abuse. In Switzerland, where prostitution is legal, a 2010 study found that the “burden of sex work” causes severe mental disorders, with no general differences between indoor or outdoor prostitution.

International trafficking law urges states to reduce the demand for prostitution, and to protect and assist victims. This is contrary to what making prostitution legal does. Government reports and research in many jurisdictions find that legalization/decriminalization increases prostitution, without addressing the increased demand for unsafe and dangerous sex. In London, U.K., where apartment prostitution is permitted when monitored by a “maid” sitting outside, a study implied such de facto brothels increased the exploitation and unsafe sex, without necessarily reducing abuse. This is to be expected, as prostitution is intrinsically unequal; third parties are there for the profits, tricks think they have an almost absolute right to buy sex, and prostituted persons’ situations provide little leverage.

In 2011, the Swedish law was amended to clarify that prostituted persons may claim civil damages directly from tricks, for having violated their equality and dignity. This position further supports grants of social welfare assistance to prostituted people as crime victims, and offers real choices for the exploited (not to mention deterring the tricks). If America is particularly known for something (apart from jazz, radical feminism, and an admittedly small public welfare system), it is the recognition that people who are legally entitled to compensation will have their “day in court.” Hence, contrary to the suggestions by Thrupkaew, the amended Swedish civil rights law would work exceptionally well in the United States.


Max Waltman is a PhD Candidate at the Department of Political Science, Stockholm University, who’s published several research articles on the legal challenges to sexual exploitation in Canada, Sweden, and the United States, and in the popular press, such as the New York Times and Toronto Star.



The sources of Data for this piece are generally cited in the following of Waltman’s publications:

“Prohibiting Sex Purchasing and Ending Trafficking: The Swedish Prostitution Law.” 33 Michigan Journal of International Law 133, 133-57 (2011). WWW (SSRN) (also available on Westlaw/LexisNexis/Heinonline); in Korean (translated): WWW.

“Sweden’s Prohibition of Purchase of Sex: The Law’s Reasons, Impact, and Potential.” Women’s Studies International Forum 34, no. 5 (2011): 449–74. WWW (ScienceDirect); WWW (free; author’s revised version).

“Ontario Disempowers Prostituted Persons: Assessing Evidence, Arguments, & Substantive Equality in Bedford v. Canada.” (Stockholm University Dept. of Political Science Working Paper No. 2012:1). WWW (SSRN).


Some additional more recent sources:

Kotsadam, Andreas, and Niklas Jakobsson. “Shame on you, John! Laws, stigmatization, and the demand for sex.” European Journal of Law & Economics (June 2012). Advance online publication. DOI 10.1007/s10657-012-9339-y.

MacKinnon, Catharine A. “Trafficking, Prostitution, and Inequality” 46 Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review 271, 271-310 (2011). WWW.

Rössler, Wulf, and U. Koch, C. Lauber, A-K Hass, M. Altwegg, V. Ajdacic-Gross, and K. Landolt. “The Mental Health of Female Sex Workers.” Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica 122 (2010): 143-152.

Meghan Murphy

Meghan Murphy

Meghan Murphy, founder and editor of Feminist Current, is a freelance writer and journalist. She completed a Masters degree in the department of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies at Simon Fraser University in 2012 and lives in Vancouver, B.C. with her dog. Follow her @meghanemurphy

  • cuir beluga

    Prostitution apologists make a big whoop about the supposed differences between “forced” prostitution and regular (implication= most) prostitution. The difference is as big as Whoopie’s rape vs rape-rape, or Akin’s illegitimate rape vs legitimate rape.

    The language of “forced” prostitution says that economic coercion doesn’t count as coercion for the purposes of defining rape as “coerced sex.” It says that unless economic coercion into unwanted sex is combined with other forms of coercion then there is no rape-rape, no rape, and no legitimate rape. It says that rapes of some women aren’t rape-rape violent crimes but mere labor violations of the singular rape sort.

    “Forced” prostitution operates from the same sexist hierarchy Goldberg and Akin invoked to judge the relative worthiness of victims and the imagined extent of the harms they haven’t suffered if certain conditions are met, in this case victims accepting their abuser’s bribes.

    • http://theprojectx.org vanessa

      Rape of sex workers is Rape.

      Rape is when there is an absence of an active and continuous consent made out of free well. However, by saying that all forms of sex that sex workers have with their clients is rape is one-dimensional and shows that you have probably never met a sex worker in your life. There are sex workers who do this out of choice; there are sex workers that are not forced by economic circumstances; there are sex workers who enjoy sex.

      I am not denying that some do choose to go into sex work due to economic hardship. That said, name me someone who does not go into a job for economic reasons. You have a job? Why do you do it? You obviously need to pay bills, support your family, feed your cat. Yea, so do sex workers.

      It is hypocritical to say that sex workers are all forced into sex work. Denying the agency of sex workers is a patriarchal and oppressive mindset. Yes there are sex workers who are coerced, but let’s not confuse that with those who do it willingly. More importantly, do not undermine the power of consent just because you yourself harbour prejudices about a woman’s (or a man’s or a transgender’s) sexuality.

      • Meghan Murphy

        Of course there are “sex workers who enjoy sex”. But what does that have to do with anything? “Enjoying sex” has nothing to do with prostitution. And yes, it is true that some women ‘choose’ prostitution, but choices are made within a larger context. Saying ‘forced’ or ‘willingly choose’ is not at all representative of reality. It’s just not as simple as that. Regardless, none of what you say changes the fact that prostitution exists because of, and to support, male power and a patriarchal system.

      • KittyGalore

        Vanessa’s point, ‘Denying the agency of sex workers is a patriarchal and oppressive mindset’ is spot on. It is rather patronising to view all women who are prostitutes as simply puppets of men. This attitude comes across as quite Victorian. There is a large difference between women trafficked and/or otherwise forced into it and those who are doing it of their own free will!

      • Ivy

        So how are men supposed to know the difference between the women that absoultly don’t want to be there and were coereced(the magority) and the minority of sex workers who are there by choice. Also, why should “sex work” be considered an honorable job for women, I know I want so much more for my daughter then havinh to work in the sex industry just to earn money.

        • Mareike

          It is a simple fact that all sexwork is legitimized rape since a woman in need of money cannot truly give meaningful consent. She will always feel the pressure to fake such consent in order to survive. The same goes for all relationships and marriages in which the male partner in any way directly funds the woman. There are two simple solutions:
          a) Male-on-female intercourse is an act that women have been incotrinated to accept or even “enjoy” for millenia. In the same way as there have been some slaves content with their lot, MoF sex has still its proponents, but as well as slavery it will perish one day. Reproductive technology will help a lot.
          b) In order to end the centuries-old dependence, women should receive an unconditional base income. Men today spend a lot on the exploitation of women via sex work, so in place of that there should be a simple reparation tax paid by the male adult population.

          With these uncomplicated steps, the problem of sex work will be solved.

          • KittyGalore

            So because you do not seem to like heterosexual intercourse and view it as an act of violence towards women in both prostitution (a situation in which this viewpoint may be valid) and also in the everyday, non-violent relationships between men and women where the male may earn more than the woman and therefore fund their lifestyle, you assume all women basically do not enjoy sex witn men and therefore were the technology available to replace MoF intercourse in a reproductive sense, it would ‘perish’. I doubt that somehow. Also, how would that eliminate sexual desire in men (and women)?

            As for men having to pay a reparation tax to fund a ‘base income’ for women.. well there are so many variations of situations for men and women that this can only come across as unfair, biased, and would cause massive resentment from men towards women, many of whom I am sure would completely oppose such a patronising idea!

            Your view is extremist, petulant, unhelpful and is the cause of setbacks in cultural attitude from both men and women towards feminism.

          • Mareike

            Sexual desire is nothing to be proud of in this overly sexualized world. Haven’t you read all the good statements on this site about the “slutwalk” and the interests that push them? Sexuality has become a commodity and women and men (and even teenagers) are drilled to want these goods. Often, what you call sexual desire ist just an addiction for the stuff the dealers in porn, perfume, fashion or arranged dates are selling.

            You call my view extremeist, I think you have allowed yourself to be fooled by the patriarchat. Advocating peace and understanding between oppressors/exploiters and oppressed/exploited is no virtue at all.

          • Rye

            Although I think political lesbianism is extreme, I’m not going to blame women who identify with it.

            But I’d like to know if you purely object to the idea of a trade involving sex, or if your objection is based on prevailing contingencies? For example, I agree a woman can’t give meaningful consent when she is compelled to in order to survive. But what if her income in employment unrelated to sex enables her to live a dignified life, but she sells sex on the side for extra disposable income? In your opinion, is consent more meaningful then?

          • KittyGalore

            Mareike, sexual desire is, whether you like it or not, something which happens to pretty much all young people during puberty. Sexual desire on a personal level can veer towards being attracted to males, or females, or both, or neither. I am well aware of the vast amount of advertising/television programmes etc which use sexuality to push their product. However, I do not know anyone that has been so influenced by the media that it has dictated their internal sexual attraction. Yes, many of my gay friends have been affected negatively by cultural attitudes that have been negative towards homosexuality. But they always knew that they were gay. Their sexuality was not formed or dictated by cultural attitudes, though these impeded their ability to be honest with themselves to begin with, not to mention with family and friends.

            Condemning me as someone who has “allowed” herself to be “fooled by the patriachat” is absolute rubbish, but does display your holier-than-thou attitude towards your own convictions.

            So if wanting to get along with the other c.50% of the world’s population is “no virtue at all”, what would you suggest, in an ideal world? A sex and/or gender-based world war? And what would define ‘winning’?

          • Mareike

            Why are you so hyperbolic? I want no war, I want no fighting. Yes, men are shaped by biology to be invaders and penetrators. But I believe they can overcome these urges.
            But they won’t if society is still set up to favor and reward those who give in to the urges.

            In an ideal world, all women should stop accepting the role of the exploited, and enough men should stop wanting to be exploiters to bring about meaningful and permanent chnges. But that needs a lot a education und far less backstabbing and namecalling.

          • KittyGalore

            There is a huge difference between men acting on their sexual biological urges (to desire women/men/both/neither) by dating women for example and having consensual sex with women for example (who also have the same biological urges, remember) or on the other hand using force, raping or abusing others. Men will not overcome their biological sexual urges any more than women will do so! Abuse is not acceptable but there is nothing wrong with consensual attraction and sexual interaction whatsoever.
            I agree that ‘a lot of education and far less backstabbing and namecalling’ is essential to further progress. But a lot of the women debating this issue on here do an awful lot of that, towards men, and towards women with a different viewpoint.
            Going back to your earlier point regarding trying to work together between men and women being ‘of no virtue at all’, how does that fit in with the idea of education and reducing backstabbing etc? How is anything going to change when men are excluded from the conversation as soon as they try to make a point which does not fit with the idea that they are all inherently at fault?

          • river

            Men are not excluded from the conversation anywhere. They can make their points all over the internet whooops THEY DO! And when they don’t women like you do it for them. Oh my gawd men’s biological urges? What have we here the Christian right? Sex is not consensual if women are coerced into thinking them being sexually exploited is their sexual espression. For example: dear little Amanda. And you “kitty galore”. Wake up.

          • KittyGalore

            A response to River (below -there is no ‘Reply’ button after River’s comment).

            The internet is open to anyone, so it is full of people like you, as well as men. But when males try to get involved on this site – one specifically discussing feminism – and make perfectly reasonable and valid comments, and want to learn about the stance taken and why, they are indeed ostracised. By doing that, commenters burn their bridges with those men who wanted to actually learn something. Discussion, self-reflection, and education are all key to making men understand the world according to the other half of the population so it makes me mad to see such antagonism towards those specific me.

            Funny that you try to align me with the Christian right – it is your view which is extremist and unwilling to listen to any other legitimate viewpoints without resorting to extreme language such as your Christian right comment. And I know you want to dismiss biology because it doesn’t suit your viewpoint, but it plays its part in sexuality and desire. ALL abuse is without question appalling (and it has happened to me, btw). But the choices I make consensually are mine and mine alone.
            It is you that needs to get some perspective, River, and stop looking down from your pulpit upon anyone who disagrees with your extremism like fools, when they are clearly not.

            (PS – I wonder why my posting name is in quote marks in your response? You don’t like the name? Or perhaps you think I am a man being paid by someone to post comments on here, or some other ridiculous delusion…)

  • dot dot dot

    Thank you for this.

  • http://www.heikewrites.com heike

    thank you for the data and for finding the words to respond to the nyt sunday review piece that was so horrible and painful to read.

    just one thing: i would change the sentence towards the end “If America is particularly known for something (apart from jazz, radical feminism, and an admittedly small public welfare system)[…]” , or just take it out. it has nothing to do with the topic of your article, it limits your audience and it offends readers on a broad scale who are ,really, on your side with everything else you address. after editing, feel free to delete my comment, as it, too, now distracts from the subject you want to address.

  • KittyGalore

    So how do women in Sweden who ‘were’ prostitutes before the law change to criminalise those buying sex support themselves financially now? Did their circumstances change overnight the day the law was passed? I can imagine that those desperate enough (for example, drug addicts) would indeed ‘go underground’ and those men who remain undeterred by the law change are likely to be those who are more dangerous as ‘clients’ as they are consciously able to ignore the legal and moral implications of their behavior. Just because it may ‘appear’ that there are less prostitutes on the streets does not mean that there necessarily are. Just because smoking cannibis is illegal and I don’t see many people smoking it in the streets doesn’t mean it is not happening!I am glad that the law change may influence the cultural landscape to make using prostitutes/becoming a prostitute much more frowned upon, but I worry about those women who still are involved in it and are now even further away from the help they need and at greater risk from sexual perverts.

    • http://bonerkilling.blogspot.ca BK

      as far as I have read, Sweden provides exit programs for women and gives them opportunities that they wouldn’t have otherwise if exiting prostitution. I don’t think it’s simply “that’s it, you’re on your own now” kind of attitude. The government deeply cares about gender equality in Sweden, unlike many other “developed” countries.

    • http://www.anemonecerridwen.net Anemone

      “to make using prostitutes/becoming a prostitute much more frowned upon”

      I think the point of the law is to frown on people who purchase sex but NOT to frown on people who are prostituted. Kind of like frowning on people who drive drunk, because it’s unnecessary anti-social behaviour that hurts people. Except I think purchasing sex has a much higher probability of hurting people than driving drunk does.

      I think the biggest thing that keeps prostituted people from getting help/support is folks thinking they are the ones with the greatest responsibility for their situation in the first place. That may even be true for prostitution victims who were always deep underground like younger children. Shifting the focus to the purchaser is supposed to change that.

      • KittyGalore

        Well, no-one has answered my query about what happens to those women who are prostitutes and continue to be so after such exit strategies are offered, so it seems that those women are left to rot and no-one cares about them as they are seen by many on here as actively instrumental in the continuation of prostitution and their own exploitation. I assume that because they refuse to be seen as ‘victims’ and ‘prostituted persons’, they fall outside the parameter of care offered to those who will condescend to being ‘victims’ and ‘puppets’ despite the involvement of their own agency in working in sex work. I am not of course talking about trafficked people or those forced in some way into sex work here, but the large numbers who feel insulted by the idea of victimhood that some feminists so want to assign to them, removing their agency and saying ‘There there, the bad man did it didn’t he darling? You didn’t use your mind, you didn;t make any decisions yourself, you are a woman in a patriarchal society and therefore you are always a victim of everything and never respnsible for anything’!

        • http://www.anemonecerridwen.net Anemone

          I would assume that people who have a choice whether or not to do sex work have the equal choice to do something else, and that if working conditions get bad enough, they will find some other work that treats them better. On the other hand, if they don’t have a choice, yet at the same time don’t want to be seen as victims, well, then you have an impasse. Everyone (above the age of majority) has the right to refuse help, even when everyone else thinks they obviously need it. Which is why I would emphasize general standards rather than individual victimhood.

  • Iusw

    Many of the figures in the official Government report was based on thin air. Where they say prostitution rose in a neighbouring country, that a fiasco of research. They looked at street work in Denmark before the Swedish law cam in to existence, and some how looked then looked at prostitution figures which included indoor sex workers. A case of comparing apples with oranges.

    There has been a downward trend in street prostitution in all these countries, and for along time, even before the Swedish law was enacted.

    The was a dip in street prostitution in Sweden for a while after the law cam in to effect, but in recent years not covered in the report pro situation on the street is almost back to the same levels. Great success!!!!

    Yes prostitution is in doors, and in criminalised societies this does happen discretely, as in the US where both the client and sexworker , there is so much prostitution in the US, and despite all the stings and reverse stings it will continue. Sex is a powerful motivator men, and money, deprivation and glamour is a powerful motivator for women. The war on drugs has failed, and war on sexwork will also fail.

    Norway has been making noises about repealing their act. They have not seen a decrease in prostitution, instead an increase in violence as the sex workers are unable to screen the men.

    There is no extra reporting of violence back to the police. Prostitutes in these countries still see the police as their enemy, the police are denying them their customers. Instead look at the UK example where the UK government has put forward money to sexwork outreach organisations to set up a National reporting scheme. Sexworkers can report to these scheme. The scheme sends out warnings to subscribers, and collects the data to be passed to police for prosecution. The National Ugly Mugs scheme has been running a short time now, and hopefully in the trial period of a year prove a deterrent to the few clients, and those non clients who think sex workers are easy to target. Most violence in the UK on sexworkers is not from clients, that is relatively small, but from criminal gangs who target sex workers for easy cash, knowing they won’t report the crime.

    Though prostitution is legal, Sweden has laws that make prostitution difficult for the supplier. The laws on apartment rentals make it illegal to work from flats, so the police are still able to charge sexworkers.

    • KittyGalore

      Lusw, I think you have highlighted many important points.
      History has repeatedly shown what happens with any behavior/substance/etc that is banned or on which a ‘war’ is fought – does it disappear or does its ‘consumption’ become less visible and more intense? It is not necessarily helpful to ban something – did the banning of Lady Chatterley’s Lover mean that no-one got hold of a copy? Did it dampen the public’s interest in reading it or did it in fact increase it? Did the 1987 banning of Peter Wright’s autobiography on his time as a senior intelligence officer for MI5, ‘Spycatcher’, again mean the public therefore turned away their interest, or did desire to read it increase? Making something illegal can increase its allure. I believe that a bit more acceptance of the current reality of prostitution and taking steps to address those issues in practice is a far more likely way to achieve results; for example Sweden is also a country which introduced needle exchanges for drug users, along with health checks and the availability of rehabilition for those addicts who felt ready to get clean. I can see how a change in the law for those using prostitutes may well put off punters, but at the same time, how are the police going to implement arrests to any great degree? The flyers in telephone boxes and prostitutes on street corners may have reduced, but what has taken its place and offers greater anonimity for prostitutes who want to retain their ‘job’? The internet. As I’ve already said, it’s a certainly positive for prostitutes to be made aware that assistance is at hand should a woman wants to get out of prostitution, but I doubt that includes the ability to earn a similar ‘wage’ in a different type of ‘work’, especially when that money is desperately needed for an instant drug hit. So do we simply abandon those women to greater threats of violence, who feel unable to report abuse due to the potential of then being arrested for using a residential address to see ‘clients’? I know some feminists will say that this is part of a greater cause and therefore because the police can report lower figures of arrests of johns it fits that cause quite nicely, but what about those who are now further underground due to the illegalization of using prostitutes, do wse simply ignore their plight because its more comforting to insist that this law actually works?

  • KittyGalore

    Yes, it’s great that the Swedish government has exit programs in place. I hope these are as reliable as they should be for vulnerable women. However for those who do not want to exit because of, for example, addiction, I hope there is also help available for quitting drugs. Unfortunately quitting drugs can be a very hard and lengthy process with relapses likely, and is something someone will not undertake until they are ‘ready’, so those women are then likely to go back to prostitution and possibly an even more dangerous set of clients.

  • beige

    KittyGalore, have you spoken with any black people about your belief that the 13th Amendment to the US Constitution (the one banning slavery) was an overreaching attempt at social engineering that hurt black people more than it helped them?

  • KittyGalore

    Slavery of course was and is an absolute abomination; I am quite shocked that you have stated that I have a ‘belief’ regarding an ‘overreaching’ impact of the 13th amendment, on which I have not commented whatsover in any of my posts! It is insulting that you have created the implication that I am in some way racist due to my views on the potential/proven negative impacts of some of the proposed approaches to prostitution from the Swedish model! The 13th amendment granted universal suffrage and was a wholely postitive piece of legislation (though it took decades longer for cultural shifts to flow though the United States, and is still something today which cannot be said to have been eliminated by any means). However, the plight of race-related enslavement is not quite the same situation as that of prostitution. Economics is at the heart of it and for those who are involved in prostituion as a way of life they despise, it is abhorrent and I fully support ways in which the situation can be analysed and effective methods enacted to help those women. However, would you not say that for those who do not wish to exit prostitution, and who have commented on another thread on this site to voice their opposition to such legal changes which they feel will alienate them further and make thieir work far more dangerous, it seems that the women involved in demanding legal changes and who have no actual experience of life as a prostitute, are repeatedly ignoring their voices and their agency? Is that not an accusation we have made towards patriarchy? Are your feelings on the matter more important than those women’s lived experience?

    • beige

      I don’t think you’re racist, I think you’re misogynistic.

      • KittyGalore

        Er, so being a feminist (I have been so actively since a young teen) who is concerned that the Swedish model may have a negative impact on some of the women to whom this legislation applies makes me a MISOGYNIST?!
        I find prostitution and what it represents to be abhorrent. I fully support exit stategies and the provision of care and support (financial, emotional, provision of housing, mentors…) to exited women so that they have the best chance of escaping that role and creating a better life for themselves, as I have already said (hmmm, was is that attitude that apparently definded me a ‘misogynist’, I wonder?)
        Again you have patronised a fellow feminist, calling me a misogynist, because I am concerned that the proposed Swedish model could impact some of the women very negatively, and you simply do not like anyone who has an opposing view to your own! Why are we not able to discuss without resorting to extreme blanket comments such as implying that I am a racist, then a misogynist!

    • Ivy

      yeah, I’ve seen how prostitution proponites act online, any one who writes about how they just LOVE being prostitutes or strippers or whatever gets a voice, anyone that has negative experiences like Stella Marr or the Dublin Call girl get called liars. Punters and their apologists don’t respect women, so forgive me if I am skeptical that any of them would give a shit between a woman forced into prostitution and a super happy escort.

      Also once again, do we want to live in a society where prostitution, stripping ect is considered a great opportunity for women! I mean lets forget about that the fact that it could ruin their lives and they have to retire at the old age of 25, but it is sooo fun and you make great money! How about we create a world for our girls were they have ample oppurtunities in good respectable jobs.

      Sorry, about the above rant, I am just sick and tired of the pro sex industry lobby acting like feminists are denying the agency of women, when in reality they use and abuse women.

      • KittyGalore

        I am definitely not pro-sex industry. I think it is an insult to women, and encourages some men’s subsequent further-sexualized views of women in general. It is also a waste of those women’s lives. I deplore and oppose the idea that girls growing up might think that stripping, pole dancing, and prostitution are positive ways to earn money.
        However I am wary of a group of women that refuses to analyse the evidence from both sides of the fence democractially, and instead retorts any criticism of a concept on which they are keen with insults and blanket statemens, such as where I been accused of being a racist and a misogynist above, which is quite disgusting as I am an intelligent woman and expected other women who call themselves feminists to be more willing to debate and critically analyse a potential legal change. It seems if you are nopt fully behind all aspects of the Swedish model, then you are not viewed as a ‘proper’ feminist whic is frankly a very unpleasant trait at which I am quite surprised to be on the receving end of from fellow feminists. I have seen a number of posts on this site and elsewhere where anyone who sensibily puts across their queries, reticence or life experiences regarding aspects of the Swedish model are dismissed, accused of being trolls, banned, ignored, disbelieved. Unless they say what you want them to say, you would rather shut their vioces out. And just how feminist is that?

        • Ivy

          I was mostly replying to Vanessa, and reading older posts on another femineste where and feministing that were just AGAHST that feminsits still critisize the sex industry! of course the main voices are always high class call girls and pimps, and I am just really angry that they control the discourse and act like feminists are just man and sex hating prudes who want to take away men’s fun and the proper way for women to make money! If you read close enough most of their rhetoric is pretty much well, women are whores anyway!

          Actually, you are bringing a lot of good questions. The Swedish Model does have a lot of problems and my answer to what would happen to women that just can’t get out of it is…I don’t know:( I just wish we didn’t live in such a sexulized society where women feel their main worth is in their looks and sexuality. It makes you wonder…what would happen if men actually started respecting women as women as people instead of sex objects?

    • http://rididill.wordpress.com Rididill

      “Slaves lose everything in their chains, even the desire of escaping them.”



      Why don’t we just legalize murder as well? I mean, it’s always been around, it’s just the natural order of things. People (men, usually) will always have the desire to kill one another, and banning things just makes people do them more, right? We could set up a meetup site to connect those who want to commit suicide with those who want to commit murder, nice safe and regulated. You wouldn’t want to ‘deny the agency’ of those who want to die, would you?

  • Rye

    I strongly disagree with some of the comments here. A lot of what radfems say about prostitution concur with my experience as a client of prostitutes. So to correct these misunderstandings, I’d like to elaborate on three things. (1) I never encountered a prostitute who indicated that her motive was to get paid for pleasure. (2) Abuse and exploitation are highly prevalent at all levels. (3) It is common for the clients of prostitutes to depersonalize them.

    1. Motives

    It’s possible that some prostitutes enjoy the sex, but unless my experience is unrepresentative, it must be very unusual. Overall, prostitutes either just lay there or pretend to enjoy it. Moreover, they usually lubricate their vagina with artificial lube. Even higher-end escorts do these things. I’m not an expert on what a woman enjoying sex does, but I’m confident that these observations suggest a lack of sexual satisfaction.

    Of the prostitutes I asked, they reported that they became prostitutes because they couldn’t find work or they needed extra money. And if they found work, they either retired from prostitution or greatly cut back. For those that cut back, they tended to either adopt extreme screening practices or refused to accept new clients.

    2. Abuse and Exploitation.

    The fact that the prostitutes I knew who eventually found employment at least adopted very exclusive practices should raise some eyebrows. From what I experienced and what prostitutes shared with me, both high-end and low-end prostitutes experienced an unacceptable amount of abuse and exploitation. Here are some examples below:

    – When I called low-end prostitutes, a man answered the phone about 20% of the time. They often acted like they owned the prostitute, and were manipulative in their ability to keep me on the phone longer than I intended (I always hung up).
    – I once saw a prostitute with a bruised arm, and another admitted she was an alcoholic.
    – One prostitute openly told me about how the men on backpage are often rude and arrogant, contact her while using explicit language, fail to practice basic etiquette, call her degrading names like “whore,” frequently ask to go without a condom, try to coerce her by threatening to write a bad review, and sometimes are so physically aggressive that she can’t work for at least several days. She also complained about how some men wanted to date her.
    – One prostitute told me that she doesn’t trust the police, and that one of her friends (also a prostitute) was raped by a police officer.

    I will point out that higher-end prostitutes seem to experience much less violence. However, these women enjoy the privilege of screening new clients with background checks because they can afford to reject them.

    3. Depersonalization

    If you read message boards that cater to prostitutes and their clients, the things that clients say are often disturbing. One gets the idea that they view prostitutes as just “semen receptacles,” a term used by Andrea Dwokin. They depersonalize them so much that they casually discuss bareback full service (intercourse without a condom), which means they don’t care about a prostitute’s life. Secondly, they frequently silence prostitutes in debates. For example, one prostitute complained about how her clients frequently wanted bareback blow jobs (blow job without a condom), and provided scientific evidence that it was risky. The clients generally responded to her with insults and ignored her scientific sources. One client replied with something to the effect of “Get over it! It’s a buyer’s market.” A third thing I noticed is that reviews are often way too explicit. I like the idea of customer reviews, but what’s often included blatantly violates the woman’s privacy.

    I hate to say it, but I think Andrea Dworkin had a point. Too many of them see a prostitute as nothing, not even a thing of value, but as a thing that can be destroyed.

    4. Now, a little about why I pay for sex. The bottom line is that I’m an omega male and women continue to eroticize male power, so my practical choices are either celibacy or prostitution. I believe my choice may be wrong, but I lack the will to live as a celibate. The most I can compel myself to do is to participate in prostitution in a way that is as ethical as possible. For one, I choose prostitutes who can best be said to have a choice. That usually means she is intelligent and college educated, is employed full time, is no younger than 25, and only prostitutes herself a few times over weekends. Additionally, I practice good etiquette, respect her boundaries, make sure I don’t cause her physical discomfort, never question condom use, get tested 3 times a year for STIs, and I am vaccinated for HPV.

    Additionally, I feel that my experience is more fulfilling with a prostitute when I spend more time and intellectually connect with her. And when a prostitute is comfortable with me, some will agree to show me how to please them. When a prostitute allows me to please her and communicates how, then she participates, and is much more animated and engaged with me. The mutuality makes the sex in to a much more rewarding physical and emotional experience, and our pillow talk is many times more exciting! I realize that prostitution conjoined with mutuality may sound bizarre, but keep in mind that I only understand sex for pay. I also don’t view prostitutes as “dirty” or less than human.

    Sadly, most prostitutes are both surprised and annoyed when I ask how to please them. For some reason, the only time they might allow some mutuality is after they become familiar with me over the course of several months.

    As for policy, I’m conflicted over the Swedish model. As prostitution is commonly practiced, I agree that the majority of prostituted women would not be prostitutes if they had acceptable alternatives. Also, the attitudes commonly held by clients suggest they have no empathy for prostitutes, and I’m concerned that violent crime correlates with such attitudes. However, I believe prostitution can be reformed. But if it can’t be reformed, and I have to live as a celibate, then I request that radfems show some mercy for omega males like myself by amending their abolitionist stance to include full medical coverage for a lifetime supply of medication that would relieve me of my sexual desires by chemical castration.

    • sweet redemption

      I’d call you a disgusting, delusional rapist but “omega” that you are would just get off on it. Do something useful with your self loathing and tell me where and when to show up with the bullet to put you out of women’s misery.

      • Rye

        I’m omega because the majority of women are taller and stronger than I am. When there is patriarchy, such a man is considered less than human and women treat him cruelly.

        My actions are no different from the “gentle” husband of a dependent wife. If that is deserving of death, then you have sentenced the majority of men to death. Don’t you think the men who derive pleasure from torturing prostitutes are of far greater concern than I am? And shouldn’t my motives and far greater ethical treatment of prostitutes be mitigating factors?

        • cuir beluga

          You think you deserve respect for being a rapist instead of a legitimate rapist-rapist?

          • Rye

            I don’t understand how the so called distinction between rape and legitimate rape is really relevant. I don’t believe that a woman must actively resist to be raped. I think people who believe that confuse consent with compliance. So I believe a woman who cooperates with a man’s sexual advances because she is fearful of the consequences has been raped. I also believe men who commit rape in these contexts should be punished and viewed with contempt.

            The problem is that consent is obscure in other contexts. A woman’s consent can be corrupted by her socialization, and thus be raped even if she honestly articulates it. For example, a girlfriend can articulate consent to her boyfriend, but still be raped because she believes it’s her obligation to satisfy him.

            Further complicating consent is that a woman’s sexual desire can be warped by being socialized to eroticize male domination. Thus, it is possible for a woman to be raped even if she initiated sex and articulated consent to every act.

            The point I’m trying to make is that almost every heterosexual woman has been raped because her consent was corrupt. So unless you label most heterosexual males as rapists, I don’t think it’s fair to single me out.

            If the prostitute was enslaved by a pimp or I used her in a way she did not consent to (I always asked and respected her wishes when she denied my request), then I would be justly labeled a rapist. But I do not understand how paying for sex in the absence of such conditions is any different from other instances of corrupt consent that are almost impossible to avoid in patriarchy.

          • Lela

            Rye, if I’m not mistaken, you’re using feminist concepts to obscure your status as a rapist. Using the bodies of prostituted women in exchange for money is rape. It doesn’t matter how gently it is done. The rape is economic as much as it is physical.

            Interesting logic: If “most” men pressure and otherwise coerce their partners into PiV sex, then non-consent is the norm, and as such it is useless to argue for an end to coercion and rape because it is too widespread. So we shouldn’t blame little old you for a indulging in a bit of paid rape! Because, like, at least you’re *honest*, right? If something is widespread, it couldn’t possibly be changeable, could it? Welcome to male dominance; if you ever wondered where it was, there it is, in your words. Enter radical feminism.

            Acknowledging that you are part of the problem is not enough. Are you expecting a round of applause for basically saying “the Patriarchy made me do it!” on a feminist blog?

          • Rye

            @ Lela

            Thank you for your reply, and I apologize for having taken so long to respond. I think there is some misunderstanding of what I have said because I was too obscure, so please allow me to clarify my points better. Basically, what I am trying to say is:

            1. Women are socialized to have heterosexual intercourse in contexts that deny them sexual autonomy and prioritize male sexual pleasure.
            – Unlike men, women are expected to have intercourse within the confines of certain relationships, and they are stigmatized as “sluts” by both men and women if they do not.
            – Women are expected to give less priority to their sexual pleasure than to their male partner. For example, it is common for wives to give their husbands “duty sex.”
            – Women are expected to attend to their appearance so they are pleasant things for a man to have intercourse with.
            – Women generally earn less money than men, and most heterosexual intercourse implicitly occurs in the context of an economic transaction.
            – Men usually initiate intercourse.

            2. Intercourse with a prostitute is not inherently any less ethical than intercourse with a wife.
            – Prostitutes surrender their sexual autonomy and give priority to their male partner’s sexual gratification in a similar context that most women do when they have intercourse.

            3. Radical feminists are applying a double standard.
            – Radical feminists seem to distinguish between abusive and non-abusive husbands, and reserve their contempt for abusive husbands.
            – Radical feminists do not seem to distinguish between abusive and non-abusive buyers, and seem to assume that all buyers abuse and humiliate prostitutes for their own sadistic enjoyment.

            4 Concluding thoughts:
            – The contexts under which women typically have intercourse look a lot like rape.
            – I don’t think prostitution is any less despicable than in the contexts that women usually have heterosexual intercourse.
            – I don’t believe it’s right and I think change is possible, but it’s more complicated than men laying down their privileges.
            – I think I should be held in the same regard as benign husbands.

          • Lela

            Oh, Rye. You’re breaking my heart here.

            I am not going to write a novella-length entry here, as I suspect my effort may be wasted, but in response to your points:

            1. Radical feminists recognize that this state of affairs is deeply harmful to women, and want it to change, fundamentally and completely. If you want to learn how, by all means, do some research. Incidentally, some male-female partnerships DO happen to be respectful of women’s sexuality (my own, for example.)

            2. No, no, no. Men need to stop treating both their wives and prostituted women in this way.

            3. Radical feminists speak against all forms of male coercion of women, whether they occur within a marriage or in transactional sex. In the present day, society recognizes that marriage is not a contract wherein a woman abandons her autonomy. If it is being treated as such, that is abuse.
            Radfems do distinguish between abusive and non-abusive buyers, except, not in the way you’d like. We recognize that both types of buyers are abusive.
            Buying sex from women, in and of itself, is violence against women individually and as a class. Women are not individually or collectively responsible for relieving men of “urges,” it is up to men to control said impulses. Women are separate, autonomous human beings, not sex toys.

            4. Refer to my response to point #1.

            I sincerely hope the best for you, Rye, and think that you should seek some therapy. Changing your life is possible, but it will be difficult and it will involve being willing to see things from women’s perspective. Get out into the world, be selfless, help people, meet people, and you will find that you are not alone and that life can be beautiful if you really try.

          • Rye


            Thank you for your reply. Again, I apologize for taking so long to respond to you.

            1/2. I agree that such treatment of women is deplorable. Women should not be reduced to sex objects, even in the context of dating and marriage. Although progress has been made with marriage, I frequently notice that married men feel cheated if their wife regularly refuses to have sex with them. At the same time, the men won’t consider the possibility that their wife is stressed out and overworked because he refuses to do “women’s work.”

            3/4. I’m relieved to learn that radfems recognize that there are non-abusive buyers in a certain sense, since reading radfem authors gives me the impression that they think all johns want to humiliate and brutalize prostitutes.

            However, I do not understand why both types of buyers are inherently abusive, so perhaps you could elaborate? It seems bizarre to me because I don’t understand why a prostitute is less worthy of moral status, and the intercourse I have with a prostitute makes me feel more connected to her. I don’t think it’s love, but it’s strong enough that it feels uncomfortable to even think about her being harmed or humiliated.

            I can agree if radfems mean that prostitution perpetuates the economic coercion of women and men’s entitlement to use women’s bodies. Since prostitution seems to often occur in such contexts, I admit I can’t really challenge such a claim. Just by reading the message boards for johns, it seems they are overall a selfish bunch who rarely seem capable of seeing from a prostitute’s perspective.

            Thank you for wishing me the best. I may benefit from therapy, but I don’t think the benefits would outweigh the costs. Having to explain to a date that every woman was a prostitute is almost certainly a deal breaker. Moreover, I feel attached to the prostitute I have been exclusively frequenting for some time. She is in her early 30’s, has respectable full time work, and she no longer accepts new clients. However, she is an intelligent woman and I enjoy her company as much as I enjoy having intercourse with her. So I would have to give up a valuable “relationship” and become celibate for the rest of my life, which is a very hard decision for me to make.

  • Lotus


    You seem very eager to criticize the Nordic model, but have not mentioned anything about the failure of legalization. http://www.glasgow.gov.uk/nr/rdonlyres/c19e010b-1a4f-4918-97bd-f96af7d7f150/0/mainreport.pdf

    Here is a more recent article: http://standpointmag.co.uk/dispatches-october-12-window-brothels-get-the-red-light-julie-bindel-amsterdam-prostitution

    Personally, I think the real success of the Nordic model will be realized in the next 10-20 years when young men in Sweden, Norway, and Iceland grow up having learned that prostitution is a form of violence against women. Similar to the drinking&driving and anti-smoking campaigns we have seen in Canada, the educational aspect of this law is key.

    • KittyGalore

      Lotus, I don’t disagree. Legalisation may well not have helped to change popular cultural opinion further away from acceptance of prostitution. That is something I would like to see change in my own country. If the Swedish model has aided the public to change some ingrained attitudes towards women and prostitutes, then other countries’ governments should adopt those aspects proven to be effective.
      My problem with arguments on here is that no-one seems to analyse its problems. These are swept over, ignored or belittled. I am sure the Swedish model has much to demonstrate positively, but people should not pretend that all aspects of it are amazing and successful and refuse to discuss these points sensibly. Most of us are on this site assumably because we are feminists and are keen to discuss the sex-related problems we face. That is the path to finding sensible and suitable approaches to those problems, along with men. Constant antagonism towards men (the majority of whom are not rapists, abusers, do not frequent prostitutes, are not misogynistic but may harbor some sexist attitudes) will get us nowhere.

    • Rye


      As the report from Julie Bindel and Liz Kelly articulate, prostitutes do not benefit from regulation (legalization), nor do they want it. Business-owned brothels exploit prostitutes and strip them of their autonomy. Prostitutes do not want to lose their anonymity, pay 50% of their earnings to the brothel, pay rent for their room, get fined for minor transgressions, work 12+ hour shifts, or acquire permission to leave the brothel.

      My understanding is that prostitutes want a form of decriminalization. Sadly, the decriminalization lobby seems to have been hijacked by male entrepreneurs. The prostitutes I talked to, so it is by no means representative, do not want brothels or pimping. They just want the buying and selling of sex decriminalized, and the means available to operate their business with the freedom of an independent contractor. That could mean that the prostitute would:

      1. Advertise over a website, or put ads online or in a phone book.
      2. Operate her business inside her residence, a hotel room, or travel to her client’s residence.
      3. Have access to affordable services that let her perform background checks, verify her client’s identity, and share white lists and black lists.
      4. Be able to rely on the police to assist her.

      Now, I don’t think any sane person is opposed to criminalizing pimps, heavily penalizing violent clients, or providing adequate services to enable involuntary prostitutes to transition out of prostitution. It’s sad that the countries in the report didn’t deliver on their promises to provide assistance. It appears that much of it had to do with immigration policy.

      Also, abuse does not have to be prevalent in prostitution. It’s unimaginative to not be able to conceive of a situation where a prostitute is not abused by her client or able to operate independently. The reason why abuse is so prevalent is because of how men are socialized to view certain women.

      There is one point I want to challenge in the report. Prostitution likely existed long before slavery. Primates and penguins do it, so why wouldn’t early humans have done it?

      I have not addressed the view that prostitution is incompatible with gender equality. But the primary difference between prostitution and marriage is that the former tends to be more violent. At one time marriage used to be more brutal than it is now, but feminists fought for reforms such as recognizing marital rape and the right to abortion and contraception. So why settle with kicking the can down the road after reforming marriage, but resist reforming prostitution?

      • KittyGalore

        Rye, I am glad to hear your voice on here, you talk a lot of sense. Getting rid of pimp-run brothels along with an attitude that it is OK to be violent towards any woman – and that includes prostitutes – is an absolute basic belief for feminists and the great majority of men. That means that if reform can be made to prostitution that makes the ‘working conditions’ for women who want to do it and have turned down exit strategies (which have been proven to be below the necessary requirements in those Nordic countries which have promised this) improve, and enables them to retain their autonomy and right to choose a way in life that they feel is best for them, then this should be looked at seriously, not brushed away becaue it does not conform to the idealised, rather than actuality in practice, of the Swedish model. Parts of the Swedish model could be used in other countries, (definitely the exit strategies), but this could only be effective as long as the backing, planning and funding of this was most definitely in place, otherwise those exit strategies would be of little help to those women wanting to escape prostitution and would also then make them suspicious of exit strategies which might well let them down and leave them in an even worse situation.

        • river

          Can I get a clarification? You’re saying exit strategies need to be in place…paid by whom? The backing, planning and funding in place, you say.

          I thought “sex workers” made so much money. Isn’t that part of your argument, that they aren’t the beaten down aboriginal drugged out ho? The one you’ve been pitting the happy sex worker mythology up against?

          • Rye


            I believe the idea is that the state would spend tax dollars on public services for involuntary prostitutes, or contract those services to feminist organizations like CATW.

            Can you clarify what you think a happy hooker is? Is she in the business as a way to enjoy sexual pleasure and earn money at the same time? If that’s what you think a happy hooker is, then I agree she is very unusual. While some prostitutes report enjoying the sex with some regular clients, that isn’t the norm.

            But if a happy hooker is a prostitute who:
            1. Works for herself
            2. Has acceptable employment alternatives

            Then I don’t think happy hookers are unusual. They may be a minority, and my conservative estimate is 25%.

          • river

            I think a happy hooker is the “sex worker” troll who comes here arguing what you’re arguing. Since I think you’re a waster of our time, like all the johns and pimps who come here, I won’t pretend you’ve offered half a conversation that deserves some response. In fact I’d spit in your face if I ever met you in person. Consider yourself lucky. I mop up after what your politics enables. If I haven’t made it clear, I think you are a malicious abuser.

          • marv

            I totally agree with river. As a male, I find it reprehensible that men rationalize any kind of prostitution. Thinking through the phallus is what it amounts to. Sexually dominating women’s lives is the outcome.

        • KittyGalore

          I do not think prostitutes are happy with their work on the whole, and have not suggested that they are. What I have suggested is that not all women would necessarily want to jump at exit strategies, perhaps because they need the money to support themselves/their families, or have a drug habit which, being an addiction, has a hold on them and often needs specialist rehabilitation services in place, along with the willingness of the addict to want to quit drugs, which is easier said than done.

          Regarding my comment on the “backing, planning and funding” of exit strategies – like any group of people who are stuck in a terrible situation they despise, the government, local councils, the police and charities would need to work together to ensure that exit strategies work in practice and do not let down those women who want to leave prostitution. If a woman wanted to report abuse, she would need to feel safe from retaliation for doing so. She would need to feel confident that the police are not going to treat her as a piece of meat due to her former prostitution, to take her seriously and not abuse her. For those who stay in prostitution due for example to needing instant money to fund drug addiction, rehabilitation would need to be on offer. But addiction recovery is a long path and for those who, despite all of the above support networks (in an ideal world), stay in or go back to prostitution, I am concerned that they would be open to greater abuse and threats of violence.

      • http://rididill.wordpress.com Rididill

        primates and penguins do not have a money system. therefore it is impossible that they have prostitution.

  • river

    Look at this. Why did they DO this? Because they know what men do and they are conscience bound to protect those children. I can just imagine the fear and scheming among the female flight attendents. WE KNOW.

    “In August 2010, British Airways changed its policy and began seating unaccompanied minors in a nondiscriminatory manner near the cabin crew.[6]”

    Three out of five female sexually abused, two out of five males. But almost 100 percent of the sexual abusers are male.

    I am furious that men would demand we place our children next to them. We know why they demand, and why they are refused, come hell or high water.

  • http://cfpdx.blogspot.com/ Carol

    Difficult to argue with evidence:
    Since Sweden implemented the ban on purchasing sex there are more pimps in Sweden and pimping accounted for the increase in sex offenses.http://www.bra.se/bra/bra-in-english/home/crime-and-statistics/rape-and-sex-offences.html

    New UN Report: http://www.undp.org/content/undp/en/home/presscenter/pressreleases/2012/10/18/new-un-report-takes-a-stark-look-at-links-between-sex-work-hiv-and-the-law-in-asia-and-the-pacific.html

    • Lotus

      Um, the article you linked does not say that there are more pimps. It says that more sexual offences are being REPORTED to police in Sweden.

      “But the increase is mainly due to a general rise in people’s tendency to report crime and the changes in legislation that have led to more crimes now being viewed as rape.”

      Exactly. Before the legislation, prostitution was not regarded as rape. Now that it is, people are beginning to report it as such. Hence the increase in reported rapes.

  • Sam

    Excuse the disjointed nature of this post, there are several points I am trying to make.

    KittyGalore, I have so much respect for you and I am suprised at how little support you have been recieving.

    I am sadly disappointed by some attitudes here. As one who has spent much time studying the concept of human agency I believe that those radfems who demand an end to all prostitution and insist on the vilification of all males to be equally oppressive as those who say that there is no problem with prostitution or the commodification of the human form (both male AND female). To deny the agency of an individual is oppression, no matter how you attempt to justify it. Yes some women (and MEN) are forced or coerced into sex work, and anyone who denies that is an oppression of agency and a crime is a fool, but they are no more the fool than one who denies an individual their right to choose what they do with their own body.

    I am a feminist, and have always felt that this was a quest for EQUALITY with men, not a campaign to set them up as monsters with no self control or morals. Frankly I find this just as disgusting as men who believe that women are inferior as it is simply the other side of the same coin. Why should men want a social change when those demanding it insist that they are animals, and whenever a man attempts to understand a feminist viewpoint he gets shut down and attacked. If you refuse to allow dialogue, you will never reach a conclusion. Also, if I ever meet you, River, I will personally ensure that the remaining minutes of your life are so unpleasant you’ll wish you had never been born. “I am furious that men would demand we place our children next to them. We know why they demand, and why they are refused, come hell or high water.” What gives you the right to say that if a child is sat next to a man on a flight the child will be abused? Show me a scientific article that definitively proves all men are paedophiles and I will gladly change my view, but until then I hold you and all who judge on such generalisations in the highest contempt.

    Yes the West is an overly sexualised culture, no it is not entirely male dominated. It is CONSUMER dominated. That sex sells is a well known and documented fact, and this has led to the situation we have arrived at today, where we have young girls dressing and acting like prostitutes because that’s what they see everywhere, young boys who are shown these overly sexualised images everywhere and taught that this is normal and being sexually active is cool, and fundamentalist Eastern groups (Islamic states) who insist on modesty when it comes to body image and family values rather than consumerist “me, me, me”. There are major flaws in the Islamic systems, but they do not put their women on display as sex images. One could argue that the hijab acts as a means to prevent objectification of women as men can no longer look at their bodies with lust, or that interactions with the woman wearing it become those between intelligences and personalities rather than physical beings. Similar in fact to online message-boards.

    Finally for an example of a government system that seems to be working with prostitution, look at New Zealand. Here sex work is legalised, but all legislation is aimed at protecting the workers.

    • Lela

      I don’t want to link spam, so I won’t, but there are numerous examples of writing by exited women (many of whom are also radical feminists,) and radical feminists who have not been exploited in the sex industry personally but study and write on the subject, on the Internet that contain strong arguments and evidence against all of the above. Some of them are on this very blog. Do some creative Googling, and you will find others. This might help ease some of the confusion that some on this thread are clearly experiencing about what it is that radical feminists are actually arguing. This information is out there if you need it, and we need not rehash it here. The women on this thread are exhausted, from having to make the same arguments and come up against the same ignorance, day after day.

      I’m not sure where this “vilification of all males” thing is coming from. Rye has said that “most men” are sexually coercive… perhaps there? Rye is the person on this thread whose attitudes directly evidence what you believe radfems say about men. Radfems didn’t speak for him, he spoke for himself.

      Patriarchal culture convinces men that they are entitled to access women’s vaginas at will, to exorcise their “urges.” (As we saw so clearly in Rye’s words.) Misogyny and the potential to purchase sex (i.e. exploit women’s position of disadvantage) are NOT inherent in men, but socially constructed in patriarchal culture. That is what radfems are pointing to, not the idea that men are somehow essentially bad. Challenging the misogynistic ideas that are internalized and then put forth and perpetuated by men who buy sex does not represent a vilification of men, or a shutting-down of arguments.

      “Equality with men,” as some of us know, in reality, tends to mean equal participation in existing oppressive systems. Radical feminists step beyond this and demand a restructuring of society to eliminate the systemic subordination of women, to which prostitution is central.

      Sam, you yourself make the connection that radfems make, in saying “that sex sells is a… documented fact…. this has led to the situation we have arrived at today….” How can you, on the one hand, openly acknowledge that the forces of consumer culture make up some very negative realities for women, but also advocate for a culture that accepts and promotes men’s sense of entitlement to purchase women’s sexuality?

      I’m scratching my head over the North American culture vs. Islamic culture dichotomy here. This doesn’t represent the sum total of human potential. Yes, you are right, the West is consumer dominated… but it IS also male-dominated. Men hold the vast majority of powerful positions in business and government.

      Just a note to both sides: phrases like “Where do I show up with the gun to put you out of women’s misery” and “If I ever meet you, River, I will personally ensure that the remaining minutes of your life are so unpleasant you’ll wish you had never been born” are counter-productive personal threats, not sure how they made it through moderation.

    • Meghan Murphy

      Sam – you can’t post death threats here. Either you can leave comments that don’t include death threats or I’ll just delete your comments. Your choice.

    • http://www.anemonecerridwen.net Anemone

      “That sex sells is a well known and documented fact . . .”

      Sometimes, maybe. It’s attention getting, that’s for sure. But sex is actually negatively correlated with box office in mainstream movies, even controlling for budget (www.filmcontentdatabase.com for data), when everyone was telling me the opposite, so who knows how often it’s actually true in other domains. I think you should check the documentation before believing the propaganda. It may just be misleading advertising.

      • Lela

        Yearly porn industry profits have recently met or exceeded “mainstream” Hollywood profits.

        • http://www.anemonecerridwen.net Anemone

          No! no! no! That’s not true! The true annual income of porn (including print) in the US is a lot smaller. If porn makers really did make more money, where is it all?

          Two articles looking at the true value of porn in the US:

          • Lela

            Thanks for the correction Anemone, seems I received the wrong numbers. Apparently I wasn’t alone on that one! It also seems as though the true figure is elusive. I don’t think this necessarily takes away from the main point, which is, “sex” does sell, whether we like it or not (and I don’t.)

          • http://www.anemonecerridwen.net Anemone

            I haven’t seen any evidence that sex is anything more than a niche product, so I still don’t believe that it sells. You can make profits if you don’t pay your workers, of course, but is that what we’re talking about? I think the main point is BS. (Sorry, Sam. No offense, Lela.)

            Animated family movies sell, though. Mega profits.

          • Lela

            You’re kidding, right? To say that sex is a “niche product” is still to say that it sells (what are products for? Selling!) There IS a porn industry that still pulls in billions a year, and men ARE buying women’s sexuality. Not to mention widespread use of women’s sexualized bodies in advertising to sell all kinds of products. It’s right under our noses, Anemone. It shapes the way we view ourselves. What I’m trying to say that this is a serious problem that we must recognize and combat. I personally don’t believe that women’s bodies should be on the marketplace at all. I’m not sure what you’re trying to do here by denying that we collectively have a problem.

          • http://www.anemonecerridwen.net Anemone

            I’m not kidding. Yes, sex is everywhere, and it’s a huge problem. And some people even make a profit from porn/prostitution. (Though I think in the aggregate it’s not a big money maker if you’re actually paying people. You can make piles of money if you don’t pay your workers, but we’re talking about legalization here.)

            What I’m saying is that I have yet to see proof that you can make more money using sex than you can without it. I think mainstream marketing works better without it. I know movies do better without it. But if you don’t test the hypothesis, if you just keep sticking sex everywhere assuming you have to, how do you know it’s working? You need controlled experiments to see if adding sex in works, or if it costs you money you might otherwise bring in, or if it’s neutral.

            My research shows that films do better without it. There is research that ads work less well when positioned with sexy TV shows. I found an advertising website that tested two otherwise identical mailouts, and the non-sexy one got better responses. (The sexy one wasn’t even that sexy.) Those event models they use to promote cars in malls? Car customers (usually women) prefer regular looking people who can answer their questions. I don’t know of any more research than that. It needs to happen.

            With films, people kept saying “But what about – ?” There are individual examples that do well, but when you add in all the failures, the picture changes a lot.

            From my point of view, sex is not a good investment. It’s not the ’60s anymore. I wouldn’t buy stock in it.

            My background is science. So I tend to assume that we should combat the problem through science. Like, you know, challenging assumptions with hard data.

            Sam said “That sex sells is a well known and documented fact”, but I insist on seeing the documentation before buying the message, because the documentation I’m seeing says otherwise. That’s all I’m saying.

          • Lela

            Good points, Anemone! Obviously we’re on the same team here, I appreciate your approach.

  • http://www.anemonecerridwen.net Anemone

    We had all these arguments over at the human trafficking blog on change.org a while back, too. Very unproductive a lot of the time. And none of the arguments put forward there in favour of legalizing prositution would have prevented me from being trafficked at age 12.

    I am an abolitionist: I believe in banning all sexualized content from all jobs, not just prostitution, porn and stripping but also acting, modelling and dance, on the grounds that including it in the job description is coercive, *even though it is not equally coercive or harmful for everyone*. Sexual harassment (which is what this is in a way) does not have to hurt everyone to be bad.

    But in the interests of open dialogue, I offer an alternative model to the Nordic model: raise the age of consent (across the board) for paid sexualized content in the job description. (For jobs where it is a bona fide occupational requirement – I do not want to undo years of activism on sexual harassment in the workplace.) It is common knowledge that it is the youngest workers who are most likely to get hurt on the job, in any job (just ask workman’s compensation). In addition, a low age of consent makes it easier to pass minors off as adults. Raising the age of consent for this kind of work would help protect street kids (and other kids? – I was trafficked without ever being on the street, or missing school), as well as ensure that workers have been in the workforce long enough that they know they have alternatives, and also that they have more perspective. It would also encourage (I hope) making sure street kids *have* alternatives.

    Personally I think the age of consent for paid sexualized whatever should be 35-40, since that is the age at which women start standing up for themselves more (most of the women in my self defense class were >=35, for example), but I would settle on 25 to start with. As a talking point, at least.

    As far as exiting or not exiting, no adult can be forced to leave an abusive environment, for whatever reasons (it often takes years for women to leave abusive relationships, for example, and sometimes the reasons are practical, like money), but we still need to make sure that people can exit safely when they want, have somewhere better to go (e.g. real jobs, safe housing) and encourage them to raise their standards whenever they’re ready.

  • Sam

    Apologies for the death threat, that was out of line.

    I cannot deny that “equality” under the current system may not be true equality, but this simply reflects the need to change the system to bring men and woman back into balance. I firmly believe that men and women are of equal worth, and should not be discriminated against because of gender in any environment. But from a biological perspective, however, there are some activities that either men or woman can perform better. Men cannot naturally give birth, women cannot naturally inseminate. Women are, on average, smarter than men, just as men are stronger physically than women. If we were to recreate the social structure it would not be able to ignore this. I am not saying that women should just stay at home and raise families, but that they would probably be more competent in positons of authority and leadership then men.
    However, I do not think that if there was a social revolution that reset everything there would be an end to prostitution, because the desire to reproduce is a fundimental aspect of all life, and if that desire brings pleasure then it is reasonable to asume that there will be a demand for sex. Also, whilst small in number, there are women who pay for sex and who go to holiday locations specifically to be entertained by the young men who live there.

    • Lela

      From women’s perspective, Sam, prostitution has nothing to do with our sexuality as we experience it, but it has everything to do with male power, privilege and the almighty dollar. We all experience sexual urges, however, in no way does it logically follow that we should have paid access to the bodies of other people. Our urges are our own responsibility, by the same token that we generally modify our behaviour to accommodate others in a socially complex world. “Sex,” that is, intimate contact with another human being, is something to be earned, much like trust and friendship. It is not an item that can be separated from our bodies and taken by force/economic coercion.
      If women are participating in men’s paradigm of sex-purchasing, I think it is likely part of this idea that to imitate men’s behaviour is to liberate ourselves, which is deeply flawed. We can all make different choices.

    • marv

      Demystifying and unmasking biology and sexuality is an heretical act. We should be wary of appealing to a “biological perspective” when rationalizing bodily strength, social roles and sexual conduct. It is presumptuous to claim that complex aspects of human social group tendencies are innately caused without questioning the nature of biology. Nature is not as immutable as commonly thought. Evolutionary biologists, Richard Dawkins and the late Stephen Jay Gould agree that human organisms may be inclined by evolution to be and act in certain ways but assert that these aptitudes can be changed over time. Women Olympic athletes are closing the gender gap in terms of physical abilities, for example. To these biologists’ conviction I would add that seeing human evolution as existing independently from our androcentric social environment is sheer folly.

      When it comes to sex there is an uncritical belief among mislead people that it is natural and wonderful as long as it is thought not to be determined by patriarchal influences and non-consent. Many sexual behaviours and some forms of prostitution are often viewed in this way. In this mindset if I deem that my choices are not shaped by gender inequality or other social factors but by inborn or learned agency, they must be efficacious. By comparison, if a slave loved being a slave would that make it something acceptable or favourable even if this desire existed completely free of social conditioning (however unlikely)? Should we rejoice if a worker enjoys subservience to her employer since she thought her labour was not really being exploited by capitalism? Are the aspirations of slave masters and capitalists to control others exonerated by the willful submission of those beneath them? Would we want to affirm these cravings as something positive whether they are innate or memes? Similarly, what humane gain can be won by paying for sex?

      Inner longings don’t usually know what is best. We may have these yearnings but we should resist them if they violate equality. On the other hand if you really believe in the authority of nature then why not emphasize nature’s capacity in us for choosing equality over inequality. There is no one true nature in terms of human social relations. Our natures are pliable, contingent, fluid and open to a multitude of possibilities and expressions depending on social conditions.. Better to pursue a social hermeneutic of biology that advocates equality desires and structures than to accept current regressive and damaging representations. Regrettably this important nuance is lost on many naturalists. They can’t overcome the idea that “nature made me do it”, and are therefore unable to develop an alternative vision. Yet the picture we are trying to paint is hidden in plain sight.

      • Lela

        “We should be wary of appealing to a “biological perspective” when rationalizing bodily strength, social roles and sexual conduct. It is presumptuous to claim that complex aspects of human social group tendencies are innately caused without questioning the nature of biology.”

        Thank you, Marv, for this comment. I think it gets to the heart of the trouble I’ve been having accepting this ideology of “nature made me do it.”

        • marv

          I neglected to tell you Lela that I really appreciated your commnent too about the tragedy of women adopting men’s notion of “liberation”. It demonstrates how the oppressor trains the oppressed in mimicking, not just docility. You are a joy to read along with the other rad-fems in this blog.

          • Lela

            Thanks, Marv. I think the kicker for me, regarding this discussion, is the pro-“sex work” trolls’ scrupulous avoidance of assigning responsibility to men. That’s really telling. We have seen Rye, a john, professing some really backward and misogynistic ideas, and these trolls, while claiming to be “feminists,” have done nothing but support and enable this. It’s one of the rare situations in which a radical feminist can, and should, rightly ask: but what of the men?

          • marv

            Unequivocally true, Lela!!!

          • Kinneycat

            Lela, this is exactly what I am talking about – you have decided that my and Sam’s differing perspectives, whilst most definitely feminist, can only be those of a ‘troll’ because I don’t buy the adoration of the Swedish model wholeheartedly. It has some excellent aspects and some less excellent ones too; why shut the book, put your hands over your ears and scream ‘I want the Swedish model!’ when what we could do is analyse it’s problems and just how well it really works, just how much the Swedish government actually cares in practice, then come up with an improved version?

          • Lela

            Thanks for trying to characterize me as a whiny baby, Kinneycat, or “KittyGalore” (referencing a highly sexist mainstream film franchise? Sounds feminist!) I presume? It won’t work. You have been all over this thread engaging in offensive distortions, i.e. claiming that feminist arguments are “…..extremist, petulant, unhelpful and is the cause of setbacks in cultural attitude from both men and women towards feminism.” How about addressing the point I’ve made about your failure to challenge Rye’s male entitlement apologia? Supporting male power and privilege, and a kinder, gentler form of commercial sexual exploitation, are not feminist.

            Your use of MRA-style language like “petulant” leads me to believe that you are not a feminist of any stripe, but an abusive troll, quite possibly a man. Put that in your pipe and smoke it.

          • Stan

            Well, most people who say that they want the Swedish model do not actually insist on getting the exact same thing. We just want something similar, a model that criminalizes the johns and decriminalizes the prostitutes.

            Everything else – how to help the prostituted women to get out of prostitution, how to ensure the safety of those who choose to stay, how to avoid rape tourism to neighbouring countries, et cetera, is up to debate. That should be obvious, really. The Swedish model may have its weaknesses, but it is much better than what most countries have at the moment.

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