Sex work advocates attempt to no-platform journalist, Chris Hedges, after damning sex industry report

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, Chris Hedges, is scheduled to give the keynote speech at an upcoming conference about resource extraction at Simon Fraser University (SFU). The State of Extraction, set to take place from March 27-29, 2015, aims to bring together Indigenous leadership, academics, artists, public intellectuals, activists, and the general public to address “the new face of resource capitalism in Canada… and the lack of debate about such issues.” Ironically, a “lack of debate” is precisely what some groups want.

After publishing an unforgiving report on the sex industry and the left’s unwillingness to challenge what Hedges calls “the quintessential expression of global capitalism,” the bestselling author received an email from conference organizer, Stephen Collis.

The email, sent on March 11, explained that Hedges’ article “set off a ‘firestorm.” Collis writes that, despite his “own knowledge of this issue [being] highly limited… the views expressed in [the] piece are highly controversial.”

Collis said in emails that he was informed by “groups opposed to abolition and in favour of harm reduction/legalization” that the arguments Hedges highlights in his report are “not supported by most organizers and organizations in the [Downtown Eastside of Vancouver], who have found comments in the article offensive and prejudiced.” He told Hedges, via email, that “We have been inundated with complaints around your appearance at the State of Extraction conference, both from individuals and organizations.”

While Collis may have heard from those who are opposed to the ideas put forth in Hedges’ report, which outlines a feminist critique of the sex industry, he had not yet heard from those groups and individuals who agree with Hedges’ assessment that the fight against prostitution is a “fight against a dehumanizing neoliberalism that begins, but will not end, with the subjugation of impoverished girls and women.”

Collis wrote, in his initial email, that “the stakes of the conference are premised on solidarity with frontline and marginalized (and largely Indigenous) communities facing continuing colonial dispossession — a loss of agency, and a loss of voice,” informing Hedges that, in an effort to “stand with marginalized indigenous communities,” he intended to cancel the journalist’s keynote speech.

To be clear, those who petitioned Hedges’ talk are individuals and groups who lobby to legalize the purchase of sex. Pivot Legal, Collis told me, was one of the primary voices involved in opposing the Hedges’ involvement in the conference. Pivot played a significant role in the Bedford case, advocating for the full decriminalization of prostitution, specifically, the decriminalization of pimps, johns, and brothel owners. What else seems clear is that groups and individuals (there were only about seven or eight emails received in protest, I’m told) who support the legalization of prostitution have a vested interest in silencing dissent and in no-platforming anyone who dares suggest that prostitution constitutes a violation of women’s human rights.

Lee Lakeman, a prominent activist and longtime member of Vancouver Rape Relief & Women’s Shelter (recently retired), points out that the information Collis received is erroneous. “There is no Indigenous community that has called for the legalization of prostitution,” she says. Lakeman also says she doesn’t know which “frontline workers” he is referring to. “Obviously women working against violence against women [who oppose the sex industry] are frontline workers…”

In fact, there are many local frontline organizations, women’s groups, and activists — including women from the sex trade — who oppose the legalization of prostitution, advocating instead for a model that decriminalizes the prostituted but criminalizes pimps, johns, and brothel owners (a model recently adopted in Canada, commonly referred to as the Nordic model), including Vancouver Rape Relief, Aboriginal Women’s Action Network, The Native Women’s Association of Canada, Women Against Violence Against Women Rape Crisis Centre (WAVAW), Indigenous Women Against the Sex Industry (IWASI), Asian Women Coalition Ending Prostitution (AWCEP), and EVE, just to name a few…

Alice Lee, a member of AWCEP (who published an open letter protesting the decision), says, “While we recognize the important history and ongoing activism in the DTES, the organizer’s claim diminishes the struggles of oppressed and marginalized communities outside of the DTES, including working class communities of colour across the lower mainland.” She points out that the assertions made “dismiss all of the grassroots groups, such as AWCEP and other equality seeking women’s groups who have been fighting the exploitation of all women for decades.” Lee also questions the detractors’ claim to the DTES: “What happens in the DTES affects all of us. For any person, group or institution to lay claim to this activism has no understanding of oppression and has no interest in fighting for true equality.”

Considering the organizers’ limited knowledge of this issue, Lakeman says they “completely overreacted.” Of course, all of those new to this debate are susceptible to the bullying tactics of the legalization lobby. It appears they are fully aware of and take advantage of this naiveté, using language intended to manipulate the well-meaning.

When I spoke to Hedges over the phone yesterday he emphatically denied Collis’ attempts to defend his decision on account of “solidarity” with “marginalized Indigenous communities.”

“The oppressor class always finds people who will betray their own,” he said. “I mean, this is the whole nature of colonialism — to [find people to] carry the water for the oppressor.”

Hedges went on to say, “This is just an example of the utter hypocrisy of the liberal establishment which, on this issue, has abandoned poor women – primarily poor women of colour – to a form of sexual slavery and abuse.”

He calls Collis’ response “an example of how spineless and morally bankrupted the liberal establishment is, particularly on this issue as well as on many others. Every time it’s uncomfortable to stand up for something they run for the exit door. Yet they position themselves as moral or good people.”

Lakeman agrees that liberals too-often refuse to take a stand in difficult times, referencing a quote from Bernadette Devlin, who once said, “in the absence of a fence to sit on , the weakly hearted liberals will go about the business of building one.”

Lee feels a decision to cancel Hedges’ presentation would reveal SFU as “an institution that accepts complicity with the systems of imperialism and colonialism that prop up the exploitation of women.”

Needless to say, no one is prepared to accept a cancellation.

“This [would constitute], let’s face it, censorship,” Hedges says. “And it’s particularly pernicious that it’s done in the name of liberalism.”

Lakeman wants “a resolution that supports free speech and that supports more connection between those resisting the extraction industries – particularly the Indigenous organizers.” And it seems, now, that this is what we may get.

Since the initial email from Collis, informing Hedges about the organizers’ intent to cancel his talk, they’ve backtracked. Collis resigned from his position on the organizing committee this morning and it appears as though Hedges may, now, be back on as keynote.* In addition, it’s been suggested an extra panel be added to discuss the connection between resource extraction and prostitution.**

Hedges is happy that Collis and the other organizers decided revoke the decision to ban him from the conference and censor his voice. “Their decision to add a panel to discuss this issue is a good one,” he says. “But will they bring onto that panel the pimps, traffickers, johns, massage parlour and brothel owners who manage and profit from this industry? Or will they allow those who make money from this abuse and exploitation to hide behind a handful of women who serve as their mask?”

“Any real debate should be carried out with the exploiters, not the exploited,” he says.

Hedges has requested that, as a white male and as an American, there be women — particularly women of colour – who join the panel as well, to speak for themselves.

In this case, efforts to silence those who push back against the commodification, exploitation, and abuse of women’s and girls’ bodies have failed, but this is not the first time the sex work lobby has tried to censor feminist opposition to the sex industry and it won’t be the last. Perhaps it’s time, at long last, for liberals and the left to get off the fence when it come to women’s human rights.

Silence, in the face of backlash, may be comfortable, but it isn’t right.

*It appears that, since this morning, the decision Collis made to resign from the organizing committee may have been reversed, as he’s still listed among organizers in the most-recent conference email update.

**Update, 03/16/2015: The organizing committee has withdrawn their offer to add an extra panel on resource extraction and prostitution.

 

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Meghan Murphy
Meghan Murphy

Founder & Editor

Meghan Murphy is a freelance writer and journalist. She has been podcasting and writing about feminism since 2010 and has published work in numerous national and international publications, including New Statesman, Vice, Al Jazeera, The Globe and Mail, I-D, Truthdig, and more. Meghan 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.

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  • how many issues are going to go on the no platform list?

    today i heard a wonderful presentation from Natasha Jamieson of Wagmatcook First Nation on trafficking for sexual purposes – i’d love to see these fools try to shut a whole community down!

    • Meghan Murphy

      All feminists, seems to be the plan…

    • The liberals would probably claim that she is a “white feminist”. Afterall, any feminist who opposes the sex industry is “white feminist”, right? Regardless of her actual skin colour, upbringing and any racism she experienced over the course of her life. *Sarcasm*, LOL.

      I find it bizaar that sex industry advocates are so eager to link their cause with indigenous people. It’s happening in Australia too. Last year, the “sex” edition of my student magazine (which is different to every other edition of the magazine in that it is mostly devoted to shoving pornography and pornographic sex down students’ throats, instead of being just partly devoted to such things) had a large Aboriginal flag (accompanied by a message about how the paper was produced on Aboriginal land) on the back of its front cover. Of course, such acknowledgements are common in leftist and social justice activist publications, but this one was much larger than normal (took up almost the entire page.) Maybe it is just a coincidence, but I can’t help but feel that the (white) people who made the paper were going out of their way to make it look as though the Aboriginal community endorsed their sexual libertarian message or maybe they thought their sexual liberation gospel was going to end the oppression experienced by Aborginals. Obviously, I don’t think that is at all likely to happen.

      The whole notion of sticking acknowledgements on magazines and newspaper strikes me as empty symbolism, especially when the magazine or newspaper in question features no articles dealing with Aboriginal issues. It is important to acknowledge that white people invaded Australia and committed acts of genocide against Aboriginals. Those who forget history are doomed to repeat it (and Australia has.) But anyone can stick an acknowledgement on their paper and thereby claim that they support Aboriginal rights, even if they have done nothing or taken action that was harmful to Aboriginals. How about instead of acknowledging that Aboriginals have the right to own land that they do not actually exercise any control over (e.g. white-owned universities), we get involved in helping them maintain control over their own communities and the land they live and rely on. Using symbols to express one’ support for a group or movement is fine, but only if one has given real support to the movement, otherwise they are deceptive.

      • ArgleBargle

        Agreed, I’ve always been astounded by the pro ‘sex work’ groups working in the DTES and other places justifying, in part, their advocacy of ‘sex work’ as advocacy for disadvantaged indigenous peoples. This reeks of racism, in particular their acceptance that, due to lack of economic opportunities for some indigenous people, ‘survival sex work’ will happen. It’s sad, but unfortunate, so let’s hand out free condoms and a bad date sheet. What kind of privileged blinkers are they wearing? If it was their daughter who was being used in this way by some strange man, would they simply sigh sadly and hand out the harm reduction tools? NO, they would be on the police to arrest him. But it’s A OK for indigenous people, because you know, for some, meaning not us, ‘survival sex’, (strange men sticking dicks in you), is OK. Blowjobs better than no job, even though social assistance could be available, amirite?

    • A Non-white US Lady

      The great irony is that the original idea of no platforming was just to prevent explicit White Supremacists from being given public platforms to claim that non-whites are inferior. You know bc of that whole white supremacists going out & murdering people thing. To see it devolve from stopping neo-nazis to this BS just goes to show how petty so many liberals are.

  • Yoda

    This is horrifying, but I’m really glad it’s ended where it has. Hopefully the panel really will be comprised of the oppressed and they will truly be given a voice at this conference. And I hope at least some people’s eyes have been opened as to how oppression is continued under the “liberal” guise.

  • Elise Chenier

    This is a grossly unfair attack on an excellent, progressive scholar launched by Hedges who is exploiting the issue of sex work for his own purposes. Where ever you stand on the issue of sex work and the law, please read this article with a very critical eye.

    • Meghan Murphy

      What on earth are you talking about. Who, exactly, is Hedges “attacking” in his work???

      • Non-PC Radfem

        “Who, exactly, is Hedges “attacking” in his work???”

        Sorry, Megan, but it needs to be said: he’s “attacking” the dog-given right of menz to have their boners serviced whenever they feel like it, provided they have a minimum of 5 bucks a pop (as per; hand-jobs and even blow-jobs going’ rates are nowadays…)

        What can you get for 5 dollars nowadays?

        http://www.yelp.com/topic/washington-what-can-you-get-for-5-dollars-nowadays

        Depressing, isn’t it? Yet, these disgusting excesses of human beings can buy a chunk of another human being’s dignity for the price of a candy bar, or a slice of pizza…

        • Non-PC Radfem

          Sorry [X2*] for the typo: I meant to say ‘excuses,’ [instead of “excesses”] further… I actually wanted to say: waste of human skin, human waste + wastes of space and valuable oxygen!

          * Megan = Meghan. Plenty of apologies to our gracious host.

        • I’m from the DTES and I WAS exploited and prostituted by a social system that doesn’t care for its disabled adults.

          I am so tired of the pro-exploitation lobby trying to silence the marginalized like me who will never speak on panels due to our marginalization.

          I’m pissed off at the orgs in the Eastside who VIEW the conditions of us women every day and try to push an agenda that prostitution is healthy and empowering, to sell yourself to men so they can abuse you.

          My main point was that in the Eastside a blowjob is as low as a twonie, not even enough for a small meal at a fast food joint.

          • pjwhite

            Thank You for your courage. Do not let them silence you.

        • Vancouver Sex Workers

          Radfem, it isn’t my dignity that I’m selling. I’m not selling anything.
          My job is no different than when I worked in heavy labour; I receive a set fee in exchange for work.
          I am sick and tired of seeing and hearing people speak on my behalf, saying that I sell my dignity.
          As for Chris Hedges, he has a right to say his mind. But should he be a keynote speaker tonight? Hell no. His writing on sex work is dehumanizing man-splaining.

          • Meghan Murphy

            He didn’t mansplain anything. He centered feminist voices and arguments in the piece. Men need to speak out against imperialist patriarchy, too. You don’t have to agree with him, but nothing he said was either wrong or dehumanizing.

          • Non-PC Radfem

            @Vancouver Sex Workers: Well… with a moniker like that, you would say that, now, wouldn’t you?

            So tell us, are you a member of any pro-sex industry organization/NGOs/lobby-group by any chance? It would surprise a grand total of: nobody, here, if you are. And in the off chance you aren’t; you certainly do sound like one of them.

            But to address one of your comments; I will never in m/billion years speak in your behalf (since I consider you, and your ilk, to be part of the problem: why the hell would I?) And as if this needs clarifying, but I’ll spell it out for you anyways: I was speaking on behalf of the millions of women and underage girls around the world that are being – and/or have been – damaged physically and psychologically, by this so-called “industry” you’re cheerleading for.

          • pjwhite

            Thank You times a billion! No one will ever ask the opinion of refugee’s from sex work I’ve met in my incest survivor groups and in my work as a peer counselor for mentally ill women in poverty. You will never see these brave tender amazing women on a news show or speaking on a panel. And to be honest, most would be too upset to share their experiences in front of an intimidating crowd of privileged people. So we need people like you, with empathy and common sense, to hear us even when we’re shouted down, silenced, and erased. Thank You so much. Never surrender.

    • “exploiting the issue of sex work for his own purposes”

      And the payback for this “exploitation” is what, exactly?

      • Meghan Murphy

        Abolitionists are always the richest and most popular! I’m sure you’ve noticed…

        • That explains the sacks of money I keep finding next to the trash cans near my apartment door and the constant requests for autographs I get at the No Frills…

          • Meghan Murphy

            They just put my face on the five dollar bill! So weird, they didn’t even ask…

          • Well it’s about time they replaced Mr. Spock.

  • In Québec, women’s groups have been denouncing the so-called “Plan Nord” for its gross exploitation not only of resources but of women and girls. Especially Indigenous women and girls of course, but even non-Native women who can’t find a job in the resource industries. The wage and employment gap in such places takes us back many decades. The situation also leads to a much greater rate of domestic violence.

    In many resource-extraction regions, ecocide goes hand in hand with femicide.

  • Zoe

    At least two groups that endorsed the conference sent letters demanding Hedges be reinstated. Great pushback.

  • Good to hear that Chris is back on. It appears we won, in this case. It’s great to see a broad swathe of groups helping to push back on this issue.

  • Susan Smyth

    Thank you Meghan for writing about this.
    For over ten years I have been working as a front line registered nurse in Vancouver’s downtown east side.

    I am sick of witnessing women being forced into prostitution to support their drug addiction or feed their children.

    SFU has accepted money from Goldcore and now may censor Chris Hedges. Shame on Pivot and others for pushing their agendas which I think will only bring more harm to the women I work with.

  • RadFemPornBasher

    I’m jealous that you got to speak with Chris Hedges! I absolutely love his work. I’ve got or have read all of his books but this latest (soon!), and find him courageous and incredibly perceptive. Reading the comments after his latest articles about porn and prostitution is depressing. “He’s usually great, but…” are the *nice* comments. Seems he speaks for the oppressed in general. Reading all the white males write his articles off as missives from a misguided minister (sorry about the multiple ‘m’s’- just came out that way) made me want to cry. Seems oppression is oppression, unless it’s done to a woman. Then it’s just sexy…

    • Meghan Murphy

      Yes, I a HUGE fan. White leftist males are expected to toe the legalization party line as most do. Good on Hedges for standing up for women. He is in the minority. Even Dave Zirin is fucked up on this issue.

    • Non-PC Radfem

      (You and me both, sis) 😉

      I almost fell out of my chair when I saw Chris Hedges’ article regarding the sex industry published in one of the alternative news site I frequent. Bear in mind that these places never talk about women’s human rights issues and you’ll begin to see why I was so happy to finally see a feminist topic addressed in one of these sites, and by Chris Hedges non the less! Only for my premature excitement to get doused by the comments section under the article… and it all boils down to something like this;

      What you ladies must understand (by ‘ladies’ read: feminazi and by ‘understand’ read: mansplaining)… (1) It’s safer for women to “work” in a secure and regulated environment [even though we know this has been proven not to be true time and time again] and (2) let’s not demonize the poor old, awkward and socially-challenged men-folk that are just looking for some human “closeness” they wouldn’t get otherwise.

      So there you have it :/

      Obviously, they didn’t read the article, because those very issues are directly addressed in there [hence the part where it says: “But men will have to accept feminist leadership. They will have to listen to us. And they will have to give up the self-indulgence of prostitution], or worse; they did, and they truly do not understand what’s being said because it clashes with what they think they know about the topic in hand.
      In other words; they’re guessing and they think they already know everything there is to know about it.

      Have you ever tried to explain ‘rape culture’ to someone unfamiliar with the term? Or worse; try explaining what true feminism is really about to the uninitiated… they think it’s something about “equality” and that’s pretty much it. But for us, it does feel like you might as well be speaking Chinese to them. No wonder women get frustrated and send these idiotic ignoramus to read feminist theory 101!
      I truly, honestly do not blame you gals 🙂

      On that same week I found another pro-feminist article in yet another alternative news site, while I don’t agree with everything in it, I guess it’s a start. I’ll link it for you…

      http://www.counterpunch.org/2015/03/10/epic-fail-feminism-and-ecological-crises/

      (And just in case you guys are wondering… I came by Hedge’s article here…)

      http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article41171.htm

  • Hedges’ Boxing Buddy

    Definitely one of those divides between the left.

    Hedges’ concerns seem completely valid, yet I also think about what kind of legal protections to marginalized women in the sex trade would open up if prostitution were legal like the Nordic model. I would argue that Johns seem like abhorable people, unwilling to be less crass with respect to their ‘needs’ regarding women, and unwilling to embody a more full sense of appreciating the opposite sex beyond just bare sexual gratification with no deeper desire to care for someone you have sex with and to be there for the less sexy moments at least.

    With that said, how are women currently caught up in the sex trade to have legal recourse under the current system in cases of abuse, intimidation, even withholding of money from their pimps, money that is grossly tied to their exploitation to begin? A Nordic model, although abhorable for its endorsement of Johns and pimps tacitly, it only legalizes the actions for the woman selling her body in the neoliberal context or more broadly defined, and in this way may do more to protect the women involved than the men. The Nordic model keeps illegal the activities of Johns and pimps let us remember.

    I just wonder how continuing to allow prostitution to exist in the underground black market of criminal activities will help these women currently caught up in prostitution rings. On the other hand privatizing sex work is the langauge in which Hedges’ concerns are voiced, and needs to be considered. Are we going to create another capitalist commodity by regulating some legal protections for prostitutes? But is what exists in the black market currently some form of socialism or communism with regards to prostitution? That doesn’t seem like the right way to understand the issue either. Maybe Hedges is concerned that the sex trade would jump from being a less organized less developed capitalist industry into something even more frightening.

    That all said, I agree with Hedges that the support for prostitution often from guys sounds quite base and superficial and based on simple support for objectification, but that being said, is this the way Pivot Legal is approaching prostitution?

    All in all left needs more dialogue where contrasting perspectives present themselves and this is as good an opportunity as any.

    • Hedges’ Boxing Buddy

      Apologize for grammatical errors.

    • Morag

      What the hell is “Hedges’ Boxing Buddy” talking about? Is this the way a “nice” john debates about women’s lives?

      • Yes, I guess it is. The comment is gibberish. I was going to respond, but I don’t want to encourage him.

        • Morag

          You’re very right, lizor. It’s gibberish. And the usual weasel words have appeared: ‘nuance,’ ‘polarization,’ ‘perspective,’ and, of course, the dreadful ‘puritan.’

          I mean, we wouldn’t just want to come right out and say that prostitution is BAD for the health and well-being of women and children, right? That prostitution is a bad deal, period. No, no: that’s not ‘nuanced’ enough. Heh. Jesus. The ‘reasonable’ men are the WORST, because they don’t confess that they see the value of women’s lives as a matter of debate.

          • Laur

            Morag and Lizor, this isn’t directly related to the post, but I wanted to tell you both how much I enjoy your comments here. It’s good to find feminist women who won’t take bullshit.

          • Thanks Laur! I really appreciate your comments here. You (and so many others) help restore my sense of hope for the world. 🙂

          • Morag

            Laur — same, same! You’re very generous with your knowledge, and I always enjoy your comments.

            As for male ‘nuance’ … pffttt! Bullshitery is bullshitery, and, while we can’t stop them from shovelling it into our discussions, it does a mind good to name it. Or, as lizor suggested, to ignore it.

        • Morag

          Here’s more. Another great example of men’s ‘varied perspectives’ on the humanity of prostituted women:

          ‘Let’s not pigeon hole ideas into convenient polarized camps because 2 camps on opposite sides seems the “best” way to make sense of varied perspectives.’

          Nah. Let’s. How about let us do exactly that. Abolishing prostitution is the only goal that makes perfect sense.

          • I thought you were being funny with that quote and then I scrolled down…

            Yeah, let’s not reach any evidence based conclusions! Or make choices based on ethics – AKA “morals” (EEEK! MORALS!!!!) Lets just blither in circles about how everything is waaay to complicated to improve anyones lot, what with all those perspectives and identities all floating around in a think marinade of agency. I mean, what’s a man to do amidst all of that? Best jack off and sleep on it…

          • Oh gawd. Sorry for all the typos. “thick marinade of agency” – not “think” – no thinking with this stuff at all…

          • Morag

            lizor, when you go on and on about women’s human rights, and about ethics and (EEEK!) morals, it becomes obvious you just don’t have enough agency. But, I know where you can get some!

            Just go make some comments on a blog where the third-wave, liberal, sex-positive feminists hang out. There’s lots of agency there — more than they could ever use. When they accuse you of taking theirs, run away with the goods. Like stealing candy from a baby!

          • Hedges Boxing Buddy

            What lovely civil decorum. I am respectful to you but ah well, let’s all just insinuate the other justs wants to “jack off and sleep on it,” amirite?

            I’m done. You can have fun with your ersatz version of me for apologizing for my grammar errors and god knows what else that looks like an attack on the person and not the argument.

            I’m moving on. Just going to play some Outkast and relax I think.

            Peace.

          • MRAtears

            “What lovely civil decorum. I’m done. I’m moving on. Peace”.

            Translation:

            My verbal diarrhea about johns being abhorrable (abhorrent?) human beings unable to “embody a more full sense of appreciating the less sexy moments of the opposite sex” and “is what exists in the black market currently some form of socialism or communism with regards to prostitution” was justifiably ridiculed.

            Calling a group of radical feminist prostitution abolitionists “simplistic puritans” due to their accurate understanding that the goal of groups like Pivot Legal and supporters of the Bedford case is not to protect women “currently caught up in the sex trade” but to legalize sex work outright, surprisingly did not go over well?

            My self-proclaimed “nuanced critique” was called out for its display of ignorance of the issue, and this challenged my male ego, so now I’m going to take my ball and go home.

            To jack off and sleep on it.

          • “Just go make some comments on a blog where the third-wave, liberal, sex-positive feminists hang out. There’s lots of agency there — more than they could ever use. When they accuse you of taking theirs, run away with the goods.”

            Great idea! Maybe I could repurpose it somehow … maybe as oven mitts or safety goggles. It certainly seems to work well as a barrier to unpleasant realities.

      • Hedges Boxing Buddy

        I don’t think there are any nice Johns for the record

        • Hedges Boxing Buddy

          I think me calling them abhorable should suggest as much. Let’s not pigeon hole ideas into convenient polarized camps because 2 camps on opposite sides seems the “best” way to make sense of varied perspectives. I share many of Hedges’ values on the matter but am concerned about those currently lost in that line of exploitation, and therefore worry about being a simplistic puritan myself. Hedges is right with how the left galvanizes around exploitative “sexy” matters, whether that’s prostitution, stripping, or 50 Shades of Grey. I can agree with this and still present a nuanced critique like I did without being inconsistent, but it’s unfair to disacknowledge points I expressly states, ie that Johns and pimps are awful human beings.

    • DTES gal

      Street prostitution has been legal for decades. That’s what brought us Willie Pickton and Piggy Palance and police who rape streetwalkers while on duty.

      • ArgleBargle

        Whats new is that now using cash to coerce people into unwanted sex – paid rape – is illegal. Also, what’s new is that the Canadian government has an Act in law that acknowledges the exploitation and harm inherent in prostitution (especially impacting women and children), and the importance of protecting the human dignity and equality of all Canadians by discouraging men who seek to purchase people. As the police ramp up getting behind this law (some forces already are on it, thank you to them) and arrest and jail these johns, it will give men like Willie Pickton and any other man seeking to rape women and children for cash much less room to operate.

  • Mary

    Bravo Meghan! Wonderful piece. Thanks for writing it. I can’t wait to hear Hedges at the end of the month. So happy he will be joining us, it is a victory to have his voice and contribution. Though he is a “white, American male” (and that point must be acknowledged) he is doing fantastic work getting these ideas into the larger culture.

    • Meghan Murphy

      Thanks Mary!

  • Magdalene

    We need a pro-prostitution bingo card: It’s her choice, listen to the sex workers, you’re anti-sex/Puritans, it’s just like working at McDonald’s, it’s like any high risk profession (except without any of the perks and none of the adulation), are you going to abolish mining, boxing or police work, there are no underage prostitutes etc… The same people who think that the ‘myths’ of prostitution have been debunked also think that climate change has been debunked.

    The comments section of this blog for instance features debates about rape stats, climate change and a lot of cheerleading about a blog entry on the age of entry into prostitution. As if hair splitting about how many twelve year olds there are makes you seem anything but a callous dolt:

    https://maggiemcneill.wordpress.com/2011/11/27/the-law-of- averages/

  • S. Constance

    We might be finally getting somewhere with CDN Highway 16. They are getting touchy. Aren’t they? Chris — bravo. We have a social crime on that CDN Hwy 16. You broke the story: women in poverty and abused and killed by men. How bad is it? Let’s see. Try 1400 suspects for setting up to copycat. (48 Hours Report / RCMP).. I wonder who is living their “dreams”?]

  • Andrew

    I see the sex industry like I do the tobacco industry. In the end, the only thing that will work is a change in public perception and enough peer pressure to weed it out. Smoking has declined enormously in the United States despite being legal.

    On the other hand, segregation has been illegal for more than fifty years but there are places that are more segregated today than they were then. Rich white people have simply created their own towns and priced black people out.

    Making prostitution illegal doesn’t make it go away and it doesn’t change the opinions of jonhs, pimps, etc., if anything it radicalizes them and allows them to be martyrs. They crawl into the shadows to stay away from the police where the women and girls have no legal protection.

    I’m not saying that it should be legal, but there are trade-offs, and I think the legality of it is almost moot to stopping it. What we need is considerable peer pressure, especially between men, so that it’s seen as disgusting and socially taboo. I think this is one of the biggest issues where men can make a difference simply by telling other men it’s not ok regardless of legality.

    • hal

      “I see the sex industry like I do the tobacco industry. ”

      so you see women, human beings, as everyday consumer products?

  • swaneagle

    Sad to say, many young people claiming to be radical during Seattle occupy not only were normalizing sex work as a career choice, but porn and BDSM as well. Rape, ofcourse, took a way back burner when i made an effort to have it addressed as the urgent issue it is. Instead, efforts were made to display the horrendous human rights violations against trans women in particular that was very narrow, accusatory and pushy. Instead of natural alliances being built, rape was leap frogged over, ignored and “radicals” were pushing anything goes cause it is all consensual nonsense. Tell that to the street girls too afraid to name their rapists or even turn to cops that are often rapists or misogynists as well. Law enforcement is a real concern to me. I do underground support for women who often fall thru the racist and sexist crap of non profit agencies who gather names for funding rather than providing real tangible help. The required partnership with police for rape or domestic violence services leave many women in the cold.We need deep and lasting commitment to the well being of women, mothers, girls and boys so that poverty does not crush them. I find it staggering that those who claim to be so dead set against capitalism are so supportive to one of capitalism’s greatest money makers. I am so disheartened by the the mire of bully behaviors, fanatical and violent dogmatism that was leveled against women seeking women only spaces, anyone who had misgivings about blanket support of all transwomen, even those who sexually harassed young men, and on and on. Big divisive mess and there are more monkey wrenches than this let me tell you. I am worn out as one who has worked on the frontlines of women’s and Indigenous rights for over 30 years. I feel more marginalized than ever due to poverty, elderlyness and my own efforts to stop the many facets of oppression. Hope there are women who can speak to this issue with more expertise than Chris Hedges. He has voice and published books. Many of the women who have been deeply oppressed have neither his privilege or ability to be heard. Please make sure some of them have a chance…. Good that a white privileged male is taking this on, but may he put his body where his mouth is all the way.

    • Thanks for your comment swaneagle. I can certainly relate to your frustration and sense of being marginalized and I want to thank you for your work supporting women who are not getting the services that many NGOs purport to offer. (I could go on a rant about NGOs propping up neoliberal capitalist expansion, but it would be a bit of a derail).

      As for Hedges as a “representative” for marginalized women, in fairness, he has never purported to be so. He is one of the few privileged white males who has recognized the use, abuse, marginalization and extraction of female labour as a resource in his broader analysis of the decline of western culture and in particular, liberalism. He has never made that his sole focus.

      The fracas around his being a speaker at The State of Extraction conference was because he has dared to connect the exploitation by the sex industry with other forms of natural and human resource exploitation in his longer form writing and he has dared to publish two short-form online pieces about the sex industry, most of which are reiterations of his findings that appear in his longer, more broad-context work.

      Sadly, the conference itself seems to be only focussed on natural resources. I checked the site and so far there are 21 male presenters and 12 female presenters. There does not seem to be any feminist analysis on the table at all.

      I do hope that, given the attempt to de-platform him due to his citation of people like Gail Dines in his writing, that he will introduce some ideas about the exploitation of women into his keynote. I suspect he will be the only one to bring any thought about this to the conversation.

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