#NotYourRescueProject: How a white middle-class academic masqueraded as the women he trafficked and pimped

Julie Bindel reveals that the “sex worker led” hashtag campaign #NotYourRescueProject was actually created by Dr. John Davies, masquerading as one of the women he pimped and trafficked.

Molli Desi was — until recently — one of several women and girls trafficked from the Indian sub-continent into the UK sex industry and pimped from flats in Kingston and Surbiton. Their names include “Beauty,” “Kama of Kingston,” “Rani Desi,” and of course “Molli Desi.” These women and girls were marketed to sex-buyers under the moniker of “sacred prostitutes”: servicing men wasn’t just “sex work,” it was their spiritual mission and they were highly trained. The men who bought them, however, complained on punter websites that they were unable to speak English and were utterly unenthusiastic. These men did not report the trafficking of these women and girls to the police.

Molli Desi

Desi made a lot of money for her pimp/trafficker. But she was also a boon for his ideology. This is because her pimp/trafficker was the sex-trade’s foremost ideologue, Dr. John Davies. Davies is now serving 12 years imprisonment for a £5 million charity scam. More recently, he lost his appeal before three judges for the conviction for offences that earned him a further three years in jail. Disturbingly, these crimes relate to possession of multiple weapons including stun guns disguised as mobile telephones and canisters of CS gas. I therefore write with urgency. Why did Davies arm himself with these weapons, and where are the women and girls he trafficked and pimped?

I have discovered the creator of the hashtag campaign #NotYourRescueProject is Dr. John Davies, masquerading as Desi. This hugely damaging campaign continues to be instrumental in enabling liberals, leftists, and others who should know better, to smear feminist sex trade abolitionists such as myself as Victorian, anti-sex, racist colonialists, driven by class prejudice, hell-bent on controlling the sexuality of “sex workers.” It is also a handy platform from which to abuse and gaslight survivors who give very different accounts of male violence in prostitution. Moreover, it is has become a legitimate “body of peer-reviewed research” to thwart social policy which would otherwise provide prostituted women and girls exit from prostitution and hold the men who profit from their abuse to account.

“I believe it is very important for sex worker voices from the emerging world to be heard unmoderated by any special interest,” “Desi” has written. “I believe enabling sex workers with rights and especially the right to organize their own resistance is what is most needed.” “Desi” further argued that although there is some abuse within prostitution, that is caused by, “sex work being a marginalized occupation.” In other words, violence against women is supposedly caused by feminist abolitionists like myself.

Those campaigning for blanket decriminalization of the sex trade love #NotYourRescueProject. As pro-prostitution activist and former pimp Maggie McNeill wrote on her blog, “By late afternoon an article about it appeared [at the Georgia Straight], and by the next day prohibitionists were frantically attempting damage control by interjecting their own myths, denunciations, and accusations (the sex workers were really ‘pimps’ or clients, were “not representative”, etc.) into the stream.”

On the pro-sex trade website, Slutocracy, an author claims that, “This problem of ‘rescue’ is global.”

Dr. Laura Agustin, author of Sex At The Margins: Migration, Labour Markets, and the Rescue Industry coined the term “rescue industry” to describe feminists opposed to the sex trade. The author at Slutocracy incredulously suggests that we are profiting from our politics, writing, “There’s a lot of money to be made with sex workers’ bodies.”

The same article condemns feminists critical of the sex trade:

“It is heartbreaking to learn that one of the biggest issues sex workers face is white middle class feminism… With some aspects of feminism endangering them (the European Women’s Lobby want the harmful Nordic Model to be made Europe-wide, and many feminists support and campaign for the Nordic model and criminalization) it’s no wonder that some sex working women and sex worker allies don’t want to identify as feminist.”

Do the pro-sex trade lobbyists really believe that the Molli Desi character is genuine, and that she truly is the founder of #NotMyRescueProject? From Bustle:

“At the beginning of January, a loose coalition of sex workers and allies got together virtually to decide on a hashtag that would give this issue visibility. They finally decided on the hashtag #NotYourRescueProject. The two main faces behind the hashtag are N’Jaila Rhee and Molli Desi, both of whom are sex workers. They consulted with sex worker rights advocate Melissa Gira Grant and activist Suey Park of #NotYourAsianSidekick fame. Within a few days, the hashtag was trending.”

It is odd that a girl trafficked from the Indian sub-continent, whom I know to be poor, uneducated, and illiterate would have the time or the inclination to maintain a high social media profile: blogging and tweeting as a highly articulate “sex worker’s rights” activist who was well connected to key players in the pro-prostitution world, including the aforementioned Maggie McNeill who invited Desi to guest blog an exhaustive series of essays on the topic.

It is odder still that Desi would tweet and blog photographs from the Esher house where Davies lived; or share his peculiar interests: cars illegally parked in disabled parking spaces, the anthropology of Devadasi women and girls, Hungarian politics and geography centred around Szeged, and migration theory. But I have irrefutable proof that the Desi “sex worker’s rights” campaigner is in fact Davies. The girl he trafficked from Bangladesh has had her image stolen from her, and experience totally colonized by this conman, and the pro-prostitution movement.

John Davies

My investigation into the life and crimes of Davies led me to the West London suburbs of brothels in Surbiton and Kingson, and to Davies’ local pimping operations, as well as his decades-long involvement in human trafficking. I also have business records and have traced ISP addresses of various websites used by the women and girls he trafficked and pimped back to Davies and his alias’, including John Shelton. But one of the most shocking aspects of this story is how Davies not only hid behind the respectability of academic trafficking denialism within the notorious Centre for Migration Studies Department of Sussex University, he also doubly exploited the women he pimped by appropriating their entire identities and creating fake “empowered sex workers” under their names.

On “her” blog, Desi writes:

“Criminalizing clients will create huge problems for sex workers as our bodies will become the forensic locale of investigation. The police will have the right to survey my body and invade my vagina for evidence, they will confiscate used condoms and search my phone to see who called me.”

Not only did #NotMyRescueProject create a media storm within pro-prostitution activism, it has also been swallowed by the academy, thereby going full circle back to the very institution that allowed its creator, Davies, to masquerade as an “empowered” Bangladeshi “sex worker.”

Reference to the campaign was cited in an influencial book entitled, Missionary Positions, A Postcolonial Feminist Perspective on Sex Work and Faith-Based Outreach from Australia (September 2017), which argues that feminist abolitionism is rooted in puritanical, white Christianity.

The genesis of the campaign was to attack all opposition to pimping and sex buying. It was the brainchild of a pimp, trafficker, and sex buyer. Since the imprisonment of Davies in 2015, Desi’s Twitter account has lain idle. Where is she now? And where are the other girls and women he abused?

Julie Bindel is a journalist, a feminist campaigner against male violence, and the author of The Pimping of Prostitution: Abolishing the Sex Work Myth.

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  • Karen Eisen

    maybe it’s off topic, but we must not support NDP’s Jagmeet Singh. He supports legalization of prostitution. Check out his web site.

    • Meghan Murphy

      Can’t find anything (although this doesn’t surprise me — this is the NDP’s position)… Link?

    • Kathleen Lowrey

      so unsurprising. The NDP and the Liberals are classic “where else you gonna go, baby?” politics when it comes to so many questions of genuine vs. faux feminism.

  • That Bustle rag again. They do seem to work hard for the interests of perp-y dudes.

  • Kathleen Lowrey

    Thank you, Julie Bindel. Thank you thank you thank you thank you.

    It’s almost impossible to react appropriately to the sheer wickedness of this abusive fraud. But little moments like this young trafficked woman’s putative interest in

    “Hungarian politics and geography centred around Szeged”

    are simultaneously chilling and hilarious because they show the whole pimpy decrim academic mess for its sheer hypocrisy: they knew, they KNEW, they had to know this was ludicrous bullshit. They didn’t care.

    The stun guns: oh god.

  • M. Zoidberg

    >>”It is heartbreaking to learn that one of the biggest issues sex workers face is white middle class feminism… With some aspects of feminism endangering them (the European Women’s Lobby want the harmful Nordic Model to be made Europe-wide, and many feminists support and campaign for the Nordic model and criminalization) it’s no wonder that some sex working women and sex worker allies don’t want to identify as feminist.

    Wow. The person who wrote this has either a) never met a prostituted woman, or b) is a pimp / a mouthpiece for pimps / a criminally uninformed idiot.

    Women are humans, dumbass!! Not a series of all-you-can-violate holes for £30!

  • Wren

    I’m really, really in a bad mood today, so I’m reading this within the context of a foul mood, but….
    What the fuck is wrong with people??? Who believes this??? A young prostituted girl from India, most likely illiterate, and certainly not literate in English, writes something like this:

    “Criminalizing clients will create huge problems for sex workers as our bodies will become the forensic locale of investigation.”

    Duh, just fucking duh.

    Davies is a monster and should die, but honestly, I feel like any blithering idiot that believes the pro-prostitution lies is equally culpable. I just cannot for the life of me understand how any reasonably decent human would believe any of this shit. I’m tired of pretending like it’s only the fault of pimps, johns and traffickers. If you are not speaking out against the sex industry, it’s your fault too.

    And Julie Bindel, I love you, but this…
    “These men did not report the trafficking of these women and girls to the police.”
    Why would they?? They don’t care. They pretend they’re seeking girls who aren’t forced into prostitution so they can say they’re “good” johns, but when they are faced with the obvious reality of trafficking, they are more turned on. They think it’s their lucky day.

    • Liz

      I don’t think they care either. They could not use women the way they do if they cared anything about trafficking.
      But when I read that passage, I thought Julie Bindel might have said that because it reminds us what response we should expect from men as the normal response to evidence of trafficking. It underlines that NOT reporting trafficking to the police is not normal. That we should be able to take for granted that men report evidence of sex trafficking to police.

      I notice (and appreciate) stuff like that more and more because I think many reporters normalize abnormal and unacceptable behavior (whether from personal bias or desperation to avoid offense, who knows). An example is the Jezebel story about the “male feminist” rapist, as Fierce Mild pointed out the reporter/blogger talked about “unwanted physical violence” which normalizes the idea that there is “wanted” physical violence and that kind is a-OK.

  • Kiwipally

    Words fail me.

  • Emily Erin de Castrique

    Julie Bindel. Keep this woman alive and working for as long as possible!!!!! We need her!!!! Make sure she gets paid vacay too.

  • Meghan Murphy

    I believe it! I’ve scoured his site, though, and haven’t found anything specific about prostitution… Link?

    • ChoderlosdeLaclos

      It’s in the criminal justice section: Click on Policy, then on Criminal justice reform.
      Here is the link anyway. It says at the bottom of the page “In keeping with the Supreme Court of Canada’s unanimous decision in Bedford v. Canada, Jagmeet is determined to end the criminalization of sex work that puts so many at risk.”
      http://www.jagmeetsingh.ca/criminal_justice_reform

      • Meghan Murphy

        Thanks!

        • Karen Eisen

          Also, please check Singh’s opposition to Internet surveillance. Will wind up protecting sex predators! Would you happen to know if feminists in Quebec have the same split among pro-prostitution feminists and abolition feminists, as in the rest of Canada? I know the split is not as strong in France as in England.

  • Wren

    Oh Ms. Bindel, I’m a huge fan of yours! Like I said, I was in a very foul mood yesterday. I deeply appreciate your courage, intellect, and tenacity.

    I just get so frustrated sometimes. I feel like these men stole so much from me, and they just keep taking and taking and taking from so many women and girls. I don’t think it will ever end, and I feel nothing but seething hatred for them.

    • Hekate Jayne

      You are not alone.

  • Leo

    Agree, and middle class also doesn’t even mean economically well off at all, it can be one generation from working class, and doesn’t automatically save anyone, women especially, from ending up poor. It seems to get used to mean only upper middle class, and there’s a huge gap between that and lower middle class. And ‘white’ isn’t terribly relevant, given it doesn’t define economic status, but it gets used as though it does.

    • Wren

      Yes, “middle class” here in the U.S. doesn’t mean much anymore. I’m middle class, yet I’m two paychecks away from poverty. One bad illness, or a severe PTSD episode, and I can lose it all. Economic status is extremely fragile here, especially for women without any support system.

      But my whiteness has certainly helped me many times. When I’ve been homeless, people have taken me in. When I was a prostitute, I was able to work in mid-level brothels where black girls weren’t allowed. I’m lucky in that regard.

  • Hekate Jayne

    “Bitch” is a quality that I admire, personally.

    It is usually dude code for “woman that refuses to be a door mat”.

    • FierceMild

      Ha! You ninja-ed me.

  • Tasha

    Just wanted to point out this extremely disturbing post on the blog Davies used to pose as her. It argues that it is “hysteria” to worry about underage girls entering prostitution.

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/69d704228c11d78a8b06f436d7a70637003b1fe687bc7ff4f85fa9d2d4420ef9.png

  • FierceMild

    That’s because you’re a woman who will not be broken. There isn’t a single commenter in here (with the possible exception of the unfailingly sweet calabasa) who wouldn’t qualify as a raging bitch by Patriarchal measures.

  • Claudia Manion

    I also love this post and have to put my hand up as one of the women engaging in shitty behavior towards other women in the past. It took me a long time to wake the hell up so I really admire women that have the clarity all along. I’m happy to remain single now as I’ve also come to the conclusion that the majority of men are assholes and not worth bothering with, and really sick of hearing the right one is out there for me.

  • Wren

    That is so sweet and kind!!
    I really wish there was some way for all of us to connect in a more meaningful way (not that posting and writing here isn’t meaningful, but you know what I mean).

    • FierceMild

      It’s not all that kind. I have a huge house and I’m an anti-capitalist. It’s as much principle as anything else.

  • FierceMild
  • Liz

    Ah, trafficking and prostitution as a distinction without a difference. with trafficking treated like a variation of prostitution that it’s OK to criticize. Then it sets up the idea that these women over here are trafficked, those women over there are prostitutes…the supposed distinction I guess being that trafficked women don’t want to be there and prostituted women somehow choose it and that makes it “better” or something. I think I understand your point here and why we should challenge this line of thinking. Clearly some of it has snuck into my brain, as I re-read my comment I see I wrote “evidence of trafficking” and I have seen the brochures and press releases, I know where I picked up that phrase, but…have not thought about it the way you’re saying before.

  • calabasa

    The concept of consent is a smokescreen used to obscure the perpetrator’s abuse and blame the victim. We need to do away with the notion of “consent” altogether and replace it with more far-reaching notions of well-being.

  • Alienigena

    “You’re essentially saying that well-being trumps everything, including self-determination. In this context, the State, society, your husband could do things without your consent but for your well-being.”

    Cue the libertarians. You know, I rant a lot about authoritarianism and the authoritarian mindset, mostly to myself. I attributed that tendency to my upbringing (abusive family in which there was an arbitrary approach to discipline) and to ADHD (I always feel like people are trying to put me in a ‘prison of the mind’, why the concept of gender so irks me). But to claim that the state in western society is equivalent to the state in a totalitarian (including communistic totalitarian contexts) regime is just offensive. Further, suggesting that physical violence is wanted is just over the top and strange. Maybe someone with disordered thinking believes they enjoy physical violence. But I would never gratify their desires.

  • Alienigena

    “felt like such a space alien compared to other women”

    So agree with this statement. If you are not a man or boyfriend seeking missile from a young age (for me it was about 9 or 10 years of age, if not younger) you feel alienated from your female peers (given that most are heterosexual and become interested in having boyfriends, partners, children) and from males. If you are also not romantically attracted to women then you are really screwed. I have always felt like an alien anthropologist observing the strange, unaccountable behaviours of my parents, siblings, acquaintances, and friends. And of society in general. I have a hard time watching television (other than the occasional drama or the news) because it is all just so ludicrous. Even the weird retro show Strange Days ended on a sadly normative note (all of the children paired off, in proper hetero fashion). Day-time talk shows spend so much time schooling women on how to be the perfect mate, the perfect mother, the perfect party host, the perfect career woman, the perfect (fill in the blank) whatever, that I can find nothing in them to identify with. Novels often focus on male/female relationships, and I am finding I have less and less interest in the dynamics of such relationships (even from a distance, as that alien anthropologist).

  • Liz

    Thank you for your patience and the time you spend writing your comments. I learn so much from the things you post here. I did not even realize that the trafficking vs. prostitution “difference” terminology had gotten into my thinking until your comment.

    • Wren

      Thank you for listening to me 🙂

  • Wren

    This is quite a sophisticated conversation you two are having, but it is not a simplification to acknowledge that a healthy person does not want to experience pain. In fact, most of us actively try to avoid it, as do all sentient creatures. And any person that is willing to “assist” a person who “wants” to experience unnecessary pain is simply disturbed. This is common sense, not narrow-mindedness.

    It sounds to me like you’ve internalized some of the “kink” garbage despite yourself. Remember, there is nothing the patriarchy would desire more than for women to believe that some amount masochism is an acceptable part of the female condition.

  • foamreality

    I wish the liberal press would publish this story. Its a wake up call to liberal women who back the pro prostitution bullshit found everywhere online these days. At a time when the Weinstein’s of this world are being called out, this seems more appropriate than ever. Its time that that other multimillion dollar industry in LA had its day in the mainstream press too: how many women in porn have made serious allegations over the years, i’ve read quite a few. And how many of them ever get the mainstream attention hollywood does. Sites like bustle have defended porn industry and it seems no-one is prepared to ask if these women really consented or were pressured to keep their career afloat. All eyes are on hollywood. But if the culture there is as bad as it seems, we can only imagine how bad it must be for those women trying to make a living making porn. Why such a disconnect at a time when we are able to see how powerful men are protected by big business when they abuse relatively powerful (so we are led to believe) female superstars.

  • Hannah Dhaliwal

    It is so disturbing how educated individuals still take make very impulsive decision only to satisfy their desire. I mean, it is a free world, and if prostitution is something that Davies is interested, by all means he can do whatever he feels… even if my personal stance on prostitution may differ. But trafficking girls from India and making a fake domain to attract attention about an issue that is made by him, now that is wrong, not only is he doing identity theft, but taking away the life out of that woman. I wonder the thoughts that were going through her head when Davies “took her,” if she wondered is this what I will be stuck doing for the rest of my life? I wonder what caused Davies to make this impulsive decision. He obviously tried to do a just deed in bringing awareness about a taboo topic and giving light to the topic of prostitution by staring the trend #notyoursecurityproject, but I feel his intention behind this was majorly flawed. He obviously has no feminist ideals, as he feels they are just “objects” you can pick up from off the street and then use them to your will. This utterly disgusts me. Also the fact that this is not the first time that Davies was involved in human trafficking but that he has a “decades of this history,” that makes me question why he was not caught before? Or if the criminal charges that were put on him were just enough. I wonder where the real Molly Desi stands on this issue and what her thoughts on about what happened? It is actually quite controversial how on one side Davies is supposedly bringing light about issues regarding pro-prostitution activism and the issue that sex workers face about being a “white middle class female,” and how he actually seems to be standing on the total opposite end of the feminism spectrum. This just makes me think that society needs to be provided with REAL/GENUINE knowledge as educated individuals, do not really seem to be that educated these days.

  • Nan

    Coming late to this article, but I want to state my admiration at Julie Bindel’s tireless investigations to unveil the pimp lobby deception. Her journalism work is inspiring and would deserve to be published in mainstream media outlets. Thank you.