INTERVIEW: Marian Hatcher sets the record straight on the new U.S. anti-trafficking bill, SESTA-FOSTA

The new anti-trafficking bill in the US has gotten a lot of bad press in the media, as well as from sex work lobbyists and civil liberties organizations. Meghan Murphy spoke with Marian Hatcher, a survivor turned activist, to get the real story.

Marian Hatcher

Last month, Congress passed a new anti-trafficking bill: the Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA) and the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (SESTA), which will enable victims, prosecutors, and state attorneys general to hold Internet service providers liable for facilitating prostitution and sex trafficking. The bill has been supported by anti-trafficking organizations who have been engaged in a long struggle with sites like Backpage.com, which have profited enormously through the exploitation of women and girls, sold knowingly on the site via “sex ads.” Previous attempts to hold Backpage liable have failed, as litigators, civil liberties organizations, and digital rights groups like the American Civil Liberties Union and the Electronic Frontier Foundation have argued that Backpage is protected by Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which says that ISPs should not be held accountable for information users post on their site. In other words, if a child is sold on Backpage.com, the company, despite the fact it knowingly hosts and profits from that ad, has not been considered liable.

In order to learn more about SESTA-FOSTA, the fight to hold traffickers and websites like Craigslist and Backpage accountable for their role in sexual exploitation, and the myths currently being perpetuated by sex work lobbyists, civil liberties organizations, and the media about the new legislation, I spoke with Marian Hatcher, who is the Senior Project Manager and Human Trafficking Coordinator at the Cook County Sheriff’s Office, as well as a sex trafficking survivor herself.

Marian was featured in the Oprah Winfrey Network documentary, Prostitution: Leaving the Life; the Midwest Emmy-winning documentary, INK 180; the Shared Hope International Gang Trap series; Nick Kristoff’s A Path Appears; and, most recently, I Am Jane Doe.

She was the recipient of the 2014 Shared Hope International Pathbreaker Award, presented to individuals who have dedicated themselves to tackling the demand that drives domestic minor sex trafficking. In 2016, she was awarded the 2016 Presidential Lifetime Achievement Award for Volunteer Service from President Obama, and in 2018, Senator Richard Durbin honoured Marian on Congressional Record in his Black History month speech.

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Meghan Murphy: Tell me a bit about your background on the issue of sex trafficking and your interest in this bill.

Marian Hatcher: I graduated from Loyola University in 1985 with a degree in finance, after which I worked for three major corporations — in my last position, I had a staff of 25 people. Eventually, I became a victim of domestic violence (which is a common part of the history of many survivors of prostitution), and took flight from my abuser, numbing the pain with drugs and ending up on the street. Basic survival and feeding a now full-blown drug habit made me dependent upon prostitution, then ended up with a pimp, who trafficked me. Thankfully, that led me to jail. I often say I was rescued by angels with handcuffs, never expecting exit services to be offered in a correctional setting. But I was offered substance abuse and mental treatment, intensive case management, and peer support that enabled me to heal and move forward with my life. On December 22, Governor Bruce Rauner granted me Executive Clemency, clearing my criminal history.

Over the last 14 years, my role with the Sheriff’s Office has evolved into coordination of prostitution and sex trafficking-related programming, as well as policy and legislative technical support. I sit on numerous boards and have facilitated trainings on trafficking and prostitution for various law enforcement groups including the FBI and US Department of Homeland Security.

Tom Dart, the Sheriff of Cook County, Illinois, has fought against online promotion of prostitution and sex trafficking since 2009, having sued Craigslist to seek the removal of its “Erotic Services” section as well as taking further efforts against similar companies. His efforts against these companies has been hindered by the Communications Decency Act of 1996, which will now be amended under SESTA-FOSTA, in order to allow sex trafficking victims to hold online companies accountable.

This legislation, supported by Sheriff Dart, is the first victory, providing a path to justice for those exploited online.

MM: Can you explain what this bill [the Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act of 2017 (FOSTA) and the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act of 2017 (SESTA)] will do (or what it aims to do)?

MH: Congresswoman Ann Wagner’s bill, H.R. 1865 (FOSTA) passed 388–25 on February 28th. The bill was considered with an amendment from Congresswoman Mimi Walters that restored victim-centered provisions to the bill (which had been removed in December), amending section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA 230) in order to allow victims to file civil actions in state courts. The amendment offered by Rep. Mimi Walters added in the language of S. 1693 (SESTA), making the critical changes to CDA 230 we were fighting for. Without the Walters amendment, the changes to the CDA would not have been included since these provisions had been removed from FOSTA by the House Judiciary Committee. FOSTA went to the Senate for consideration and was passed without amendment 97–2 on March 21st. Together, the bipartisan package [now] clarifies that Section 230 of the CDA does not prevent states and victims of sex trafficking from pursuing justice against America’s modern day slave markets. It also amends the Mann Act [which made it a felony to engage in interstate or foreign commerce transport of any woman or girl for the purpose of prostitution] to allow the prosecution of websites that promote prostitution.

In short, it is one bill with two parts. SESTA amends the CDA so that states can use trafficking laws to charge website operators in state court and gives survivors a direct civil course of action, federally, against websites that facilitated their victimization. FOSTA includes amending the CDA (by adding back SESTA language), but primarily creates new criminal penalties for website operators, to be used by the feds or by states, by expanding the Mann Act. Civil remedy for survivors can only be sought if prosecution is successful.

MM: What role and responsibility can websites have in facilitating sexual exploitation/trafficking/prostitution?

MH: There are hundreds of websites that allow ads (sometimes they even assist with ad content) to be posted that sell children and (mostly) vulnerable, marginalized adults for sex.

MM: A lot of sex work lobbyists are criticizing SESTA-FOSTA by claiming the bill harms “sex workers” by preventing them from screening clients, “negotiating safe working conditions,” and forming online communities. Some have also argued that SESTA-FOSTA will “hamper trafficking investigations by shutting down online ad venues that act as useful resources for law enforcement to identify victims.” How do you respond to these arguments?

MH: Screening for potentially violent sex buyers and assurances of safe places do not exist in prostitution. Our primary objective must be to end exploitation and prevent the harm that is inherent to those in the sex trade. While there may be some who are prostituted by choice, for the vast majority it is lack of choices that drives them into the sex trade — a trade that is violent whether it is indoors or outdoors. We can’t prioritize that “choice” over the exploitation of vulnerable people.

This illegal marketplace requires visibility in order to function. While a small piece of the sex buying market may go to the dark web, the online marketplace has to be accessible to buyers. It cannot thrive if it goes deep underground where people cannot find it.

MM: Many liberals/civil liberty organizations/digital rights groups are saying the bill endangers free speech online. Do you think there is any legitimacy to this argument?

MH: Human dignity and the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness must always supersede free speech. It’s simply the greater good. We have finally begun to put an end to a culture that considers the exploitation of vulnerable people (largely, people of colour) in our communities as inevitable, and that attempts to (wrongly so) rationalize the explosion of online exploitation as beneficial to those being exploited. We are finally saying that prostitution, trafficking, and sexual exploitation is harmful whether it occurs online or offline.

MM: What role have Silicon Valley companies like Google, Microsoft, and Facebook played in all this?

MH: While there was of course opposition by some tech companies, Oracle, IBM, Hewlett-Packard, and Facebook supported the bill. Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, was very vocal in her support of the legislation in the days nearing the vote. For those who have opposed the bill, there is clear financial incentive. In September, Senator Ron Wyden (D-Portland), who co-authored Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act in 1996, spoke against the pending amendment to the legislation. He argued that Section 230 fostered $1 trillion in economic activity and gave startups a shot in the then-emerging marketplace, allowing free speech and innovation to flourish without government intervention. It has always been about money and the free market.

MM: Why do you think these civil liberty organizations and sex work lobbyists are opposed to these bills?

MH: There is an overwhelming amount of research that shows the majority of survivors wanted to exit and that victims who are currently being exploited also want to exit. To argue that this bill will harm “sex workers” is to ignore the fact that most women and girls being sold on these websites are not doing so by choice. There is a purposeful lack of information about this fact, though. Willful ignorance and plausible deniability absolutely is a factor, here. Sex buying sites highlight the need to address the conditions that drive people into prostitution and sexual exploitation in the first place. But of course this too is about a profit motive — it’s about the ability to profit from prostitution.

The immediate actions taken by Craigslist, Reddit, Cityvibe, and Erotic Review to shut down their U.S. prostitution ads reflects role of these companies in promoting prostitution and sex trafficking. It also demonstrates the power SESTA-FOSTA has to hold them legally responsible for facilitating these criminal activities.

MM: The hashtag, #SurvivorsAgainstSESTA has been dominated by pro-prostitution rhetoric, including even from The Women’s March, which criticized the bill. But clearly, it is misrepresentative to say that survivors oppose the bill, as many survivors are actually in favour of it. What role did survivors play in developing and pushing SESTA-FOSTA forward?

MH: #ListenToSurvivors was the driving force behind the passage of this legislation, supported by courageous legislators, advocates, non-profits and the philanthropic community. In the end, they listened to our voices.

They read our letters and they gave us a voice on Capitol Hill, including survivors like myself in meetings in both the House and Senate. In those meetings we spoke our truth, drenched in blood and fueled by pain and collective purpose. They listened to survivors as we visited every member of the U.S. Congress. They listened to the voices of the bought and sold, raped, beaten, kidnapped, and murdered.

In September, they listened to Yvonne Ambrose’s testimony, who said:

“My name is Yvonne Ambrose. I am the mother of the late Desiree Robinson, and I’m asking you, the U.S. Senate, to change section 230 and support the bipartisan legislation to Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act. Not only for my baby, but for the protection of yours and others to come.”

Desiree would have celebrated her 18th birthday on March 29th. At 16-years-old, she was sold by a trafficker online — the john raped, beat her, and slashed her throat. She was one of at least 37 children and adults determined via statistics provided by Legal Momentum — a women’s defense and education fund in New York — to have been murdered due to sex ads placed online between 2011 and 2016.

On Tuesday, Charles McFee pleaded guilty to delivering Desiree to a pimp (Joseph Hazley) for a “finders fee” of $250 in 2016. Desiree was murdered less than a month later. Prosecutors say McFee watched Hazley, who is also charged with trafficking Desiree, create an online sex ad for Desiree.

MM: What more do you think we need to do and what more do you think can and should be done in the US, in particular, to combat sex trafficking/prostitution and assist victims/survivors?

MH: Websites shutting down or getting them actively self-policing (as in the case of Reddit) by changing policies allowing ads for paid services involving physical contact is a great start, as it makes it more difficult for buyers to buy sex. Many will buy sex less frequently or stop altogether, because buying sex will no longer be as simple as ordering a pizza online. It will also remove some of the profit incentive for traffickers by eliminating the public platforms for exploitation.

Prostitution and all forms of trafficking are a part of the #MeToo movement. The collective voices of that global movement must embrace the truth, based on research that shows the selling of human beings is an exploitative, unwanted, violent, and unacceptable practice that should be abolished.

Criminalizing the consumer (sex buyer) — the driving force of this exploitative business model — as we have criminalized traffickers (i.e. pimps) is also something we need to do in the US to tackle this problem. We also need to provide robust exit services for those who sell sex and continue to fight corporatized sex trafficking, both at the street level and online. We absolutely must normalize human dignity and respect.

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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  • Elara

    Great interview, amazing woman.

    “While there may be some who are prostituted by choice, for the vast majority it is lack of choices that drives them into the sex trade — a trade that is violent whether it is indoors or outdoors. We can’t prioritize that “choice” over the exploitation of vulnerable people.”

    Exactly. Whenever I say this to the libfems and that they’re throwing trafficked women under the bus they get really mad and tell me I’m not a “real feminist”. As if these loyal daughters of the patriarchy are. It’s come to that point where it’s gotten so tedious discussing with them and dealing with their choice-tantrums and male-approved feminism that I don’t see why I bother. Think I’d have more luck fighting a Balrog with a fire extinguisher.

  • susannunes

    I really wish people would stop using the phrases “sex work” and “sex workers” when talking about prostitution. Using those words makes them sound like paid rape is just another “job.” We HAVE to stop using these phrases. If you want to talk about the opposition, call them pro-prostitution.

    Words do matter. That is why I frequently point the misuse of “worker” and “work” to describe human rights abuse. They sugarcoat what prostitution really is. Sex is not “work.” Paid rape is not “work.”

    Johns are not “consumers.” They are RAPISTS. Pimps are not “businessmen.” They are human rights abusers.

    • Kathleen Lowrey

      I agree that since “sex worker” is associated with the “hooray for johns and pimps” approach, it’s doesn’t feel quite right to use it. But “prostitution” and “prostitute” are so laden with generations of misogyny they don’t feel right, either. The internet term “presstitute” to mean “media entity that will do anything for money, and is beneath contempt” sort of captures it: there is so much poisonous disrespect built into the word. I find myself using sex worker because of that, but uncomfortably.

      • susannunes

        I think the correct language has to be used. “Prostitution” is the correct word. “Prostitution” deserves disrespect because it is disrespectful to all women. There is no way one can sugarcoat what is going on. “Sex worker” implies prostitution is “work,” that it is “work” just like any other (try putting this “work” on a resume and see how far you get in the employment process), and it is no such thing. It is neoliberal bullshit. I refuse to use it. All people should to do the same.

  • I noticed that the opposition to this bill complained that it would move prostitution out on the street where it would be less safe, yet opposition to the Nordic model complains that the model moves prostitution off the street into private spaces that are less safe. No consistency to the arguments.

    • Hekate Jayne

      That’s exactly how male supremacy is maintained. The male position is ALL positions being held simultaneously.

      Abortion is murder, life is precious. At the same time, they cut education, healthcare, food assistance, etc., for kids.

      Mother is the most important job EVER. Then they undermine mothers by making support non existent.

      Rape never happens. But she was asking for it.

      Mexico will pay for the wall. Congress needs to give me the funding.

      That (white) male shooter is mentally ill and needed help. That (not white) male shooter is the devil.

      Males are a really special kind of manipulatively ignorant. Their positions conflict depending on who they are “debating”, sometimes within the same few sentences. That is the privilege that they secure for themselves by holding supremacy with violence. They don’t make sense because they don’t have to. They don’t retain complete control with logic and reason, they hold it with violence, and violence doesn’t take any special skill.

      We all know what prostitution is about. Males will never acknowledge it. They don’t want to, and they don’t have to. Honesty is impossible for most of them since it is something that they very rarely engage in, anyway.

  • I just went back and had another look at the comments for that Jezebel/Slot article, and they seem to have removed all the ones questioning their stance. I seem to recall a bunch of comments on how Jezebel ignores trafficking and the many people harmed by prostitution, yet somehow they aren’t there. Left-wing authoritarianism, yay!

  • lk

    I have been pretty disconnected from the internet and the world because my mom recently passed away, but can I just so I am soooo freaking HAPPY about this bill being passed!!!!!

    This was an awesome interview and I admire and respect women like Marian so much. Reading stories like Marians and other stories of victims of the sex industry is a huge part of the reason I stopped supporting the legalization of prostitution.

    “Human dignity and the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness must always supersede free speech.”
    -Do people honestly think that the right of pimps, johns and websites to advertise/make money off the rape/abuse/murder of women and girls is a violation of free speech?

    “as it makes it more difficult for buyers to buy sex. Many will buy sex less frequently or stop altogether, because buying sex will no longer be as simple as ordering a pizza online.”
    -Yes, the harder we make it for men to buy sex the better..finding girls and women to rape/sell for money should not be as easy as just hopping on craigslist.

    In addition to holding websites accountable, punishing johns/pimps…I would also like to see more hotels/motels that turn a blind eye to trafficking and prostitution either shut down or forced to pay fines. I know FC had shared a few stories about trafficking victims who had sued the motels where they were sold out of, but I’m not sure what the outcome of those lawsuits were.

    And what the hell is wrong with the Women’s March twitter: first they supported that TIM who was screaming at Rose McGowan about her white cis privilege (LMAO) and now they are critical of a bill that punishes websites that advertise women and girls that men can pay to rape.

    • Meghan Murphy

      I’m so sorry to hear about your mom, lk <3

  • Eva Jasmena

    I don’t know what to think about FOSTA specifically since I haven’t read much on the subject yet. I can say though that if we want to get people out of prostitution, we need to look at it through the prism of mental health and addiction. I don’t mean just substance addictions but behavioural addictions too like gambling, internet, porn, shopping, and even sex addiction.

    In Ontario, a person can add her name to a self-exclusion list and then the casino will try to keep her out using unreliable facial recognition cameras. In Singapore, it’s a national self-exclusion list and the casino is bound by law to have a person scan her ID and clearly identify her as not on the list before letting her in.

    The following is my story, and no my name here is not my real name. This story might show why from a mental-health and public-health perspective, prostitution should be criminalized.

    My parents both suffered alcohol and gambling addiction. My brother who was around five years older than I was tried to molest me when I was around eight before my parents divorced. I lived with my mother and feared her. By the time I was twelve, I’d accessed my mother’s online porn. It started off as vanilla porn and escalated to femdom by the time I was fourteen and violent BDSM by fifteen. I used porn as a way to escape the trauma of my childhood.

    When I left home, I got a feature phone to help keep me away from the porn. My first roommate and her friends pressured me into alcohol. I resisted at first because I liked the feeling of inebriation so much that it scared me. After continued pressure, I eventually succumbed, spent every weekend drunk for over a year, and finally got fired when I showed up to work drunk one day. I deserved it, fair enough.

    I eventually moved into a hovel, kicked the alcohol habit, found new work, and moved in with a colleague. She drugged and raped me two days after I moved in. Given how intertwined our relationship was as colleagues and roommates with common acquaintances, and given the greater stigma of being raped by a woman, I kept quiet.

    I moved out, rented a hotel room, and ate out. To pay for my room and food, I turned to prostitution. After around a week, I lost that job too since I lacked the sleep I needed to work effectively. I then had to sell full time. Most men asked for unprotected sex and though they accepted my refusal, I could read the disappointment in their faces. Out of fear and perhaps influenced by the porn, I started to carry cuffs and would try to convince clients to let me cuff them during the act. Many wanted me to play-rape them when I did so, so I’d try to convince them to let me blindfold them too. I noticed that many of them acted ashamed of their behaviour and I felt ashamed of mine too.

    Most of the men were older and horrific. I tried to keep some semblance of sanity by focusing on the few younger and more handsome men, but that came with its own problems since I felt guiltier whenever I might experience any sexual pleasure from the sex. I didn’t want to feel sexual pleasure and whenever I did, I felt as if my body had betrayed me.

    Fearing that others might find out what I was doing, I got a smartphone on a prepaid data plan and started to look for work again. At the same time, fearing that someone I knew might find out what I was doing, I also started to network to work abroad where no one would know me. A woman recruited me before I could find some legal work and helped me to work abroad for close to two years in a few different countries. She proposed East Asia due to the white fetish over there. She trained me on how to dress and cross customs to make me look older.

    Since I wanted to avoid sex as much as possible, I asked to be advertised as a dominatrix. Since that didn’t make enough money, I was advertised as an erotic masseuse on separate ads too.

    Both in Canada and abroad, I don’t think a single one of my clients was mentally healthy. I turned the women down since I didn’t know what to do with them. In fact, I later got my contact to revise the ad to deter female clients.

    As for the men, those who wanted just vanilla sex were in the minority. Some were pathologically masochistic and would pay me to degrade them. One offered me five hundred in Canadian equivalent to drink a large class of water and then do things to him I can’t mention here.

    One counted around ten thousand dollars in Canadian equivalent for me to see, shoved it back into his backpack, gave me a straight razor and around two hundred dollars equivalent, and offered me a choice between giving him a non-sexual massage or slitting his throat for the ten thousand. Where did he think I was supposed to stash his body?

    Another paid me to cane the soles of his feet with triple the money if I made him cry.

    Another paid me to take a set of keys from him and to refuse him any erotic service and then paid to rent my shower facilities on occasion. I found out that the keys were for a chastity device after I asked him what they were for. I asked him why he needed to literally lock himself up and have me keep the keys to hand him when he came to shower at my place. He answered that he couldn’t trust himself unlocked. Was I holding the keys to the junk of a potential out-of-control rapist?

    Some paid me to have lunch with them when they’d pour their hearts out with their harrowing stories. To be fair, some were quite harrowing with many describing abuses of their own by both men and women often in their childhood and sometimes in relationships that they’d recently escaped.

    The majority of my clients was violently aggressive. I got into pushing and shoving matches with a few large men and got raped four times in my first year abroad when men forced unprotected sex onto me. The worst part was that, while the rapes terrified me as I feared pregnancy or an STI, another part of my sick, twisted mind actually got off on the rapes and was seeking them out. They were still rapes in that I hadn’t consented and had the sex physically forced onto me as I physically resisted; but in each of the four cases, the men were young and handsome and my mind was already warped beyond any reasonably sane functioning and so I actually orgasmed to the rapes. That made it worse. My physiological reaction confused me, depressed me, and made me suicidal.

    By the second year, I’d become so emotionally numb that I didn’t care about my life anymore. When a man offered double, triple, or even quadruple for unprotected sex, I just accepted though I did use an IUD.

    I soon learnt to cope with the trauma by dissociating my emotions from the physical pleasure of sex, which is a very dangerous thing to do. Once that happened, my sexual behaviour become ever more compulsive as my sense of shame numbed out along with all of my other emotions.

    On one occasion, after I had served a few disgusting men that day and needing to try to erase my mind from it, a younger more handsome man wanted me to cuff him and massage him. I convinced him to let me gag him. I don’t know what vengeful rage took a hold of me that day, but I forced unprotected sex onto him, observed the worry on his face, forced a smile, untied him, and let him go shocked and speechless. I knew he probably wouldn’t report me since prostitution was prohibited in that country; but after he left, I cried. I knew that I was using an IUD but he had no way of knowing that. I didn’t even know whether I might have been infect with anything that I could have passed onto him. At that stage, I seriously wanted to kill myself. I told my contact that I wanted to go home, but she just pressured me to stay. A few months later, I finally did return to Canada.

    In Canada, still struggling to find work, I networked again and one person hired me to work as a cleaner, a cook, and an errand runner at a bawdy house. No longer selling sex, I soon turned to violent porn again. Two of the women were flight-attendants that my contact had recruited at a local casino. and who worked there part time until they lost their airline jobs supposedly because their gambling had interfered with their work. They then worked full time.

    At that house, I kept hearing stories of women getting internally-falsified passports, including Canadians getting Canadian ones, with earlier years of birth to age them for international travel. My contact told me never to go to that house before 11 am because the police never went there past that time.

    One of the women did the texting work. She made a point of using a separate phone number for each seller and changed SIM’s each fortnight. One day, I noticed her responding to a text asking if she (meaning the woman she was texting for) offered unprotected sex and she texted ‘yes.’ I asked her if she knew what he’d typed and she didn’t because her English was too weak. She said ‘yes’ with the thought that the seller could deal with the client once he got there. I asked her to lend me the phone and I texted that no I (meaning the person I was texting for) didn’t offer sexual services. He pushed back and I stood my ground for her sake until he stopped texting. How can a person who does not know English be responding to such sensitive texts?

    One day I went to the house earlier since two gamblers were fighting with each other and another woman called me to meet go there to break it up. I arrived at around ten, calmed them down, and started to cook breakfast when the cops arrived. To my surprise, beyond checking my passport, they couldn’t care less about me and focused instead on arresting the foreign nationals for working in Canada. For that, they needed proof only on a balance of probabilities so there was not much incentive for them to actually investigate much.

    A man was in the house too. The police didn’t arrest him probably due to lack of proof. For him, the police would have needed proof beyond reasonable doubt. Fair enough. However, they could still at least have asked for a witness statement from him to help with their investigation. If an investigator can’t arrest someone, then he should try to get him to help them arrest someone else at least. Instead, they just lectured him about STI’s and human trafficking and then escorted us out of the house. They investigated nothing. I think what happened was that the balance of probabilities required of an immigration charge discouraged the proof beyond reasonable doubt needed for a human-trafficking investigation. After all, if an immigration charge requires less proof and the cop wants to get home for dinner, then it makes sense to drop the criminal investigation in favour of the immigration charge.

    I was just moved to another house. The women there always wanted to go to the local casino to drink and gamble and I soon got hooked to both. This pushed me back to selling sex. Since I didn’t want to live near the casino, I returned to working abroad for another three months before getting caught and removed from the country for lying to a police officer (since they couldn’t prove the rest as conclusively but did catch me in a lie at least). On my return to Canada, I registered for a trade school; but since I continued to struggle with porn, gambling, online gambling, and alcohol, I finally brought up the courage to confide in a friend of mine who was also in the sex trade and who was also struggling with gambling addiction. She showed me a parental app that I could download. For some reason, it had never previously crossed my mind that such an app even existed. I remember going to a bank and asking the teller if she could block my debit card from a specified time in the evening to a specified time in the morning, on a specified day of the week, and on specified days of the year, and if she could lower my daily ATM withdrawal limit. She went back to check on my bizarre request and returned to tell me that the best she could do was to lower the daily limit for six months at a time. I took what I could get. For alcohol, I started hanging out with some Muslims since I knew they didn’t drink alcohol. The parental app kept me away from hookup sites too. Mentally and emotionally, I was a complete mess. I finally went to Alcoholics Anonymous and then Sex Addicts Anonymous to deal with my porn and other problems relating to that.

    I have since been tested and miraculously never contracted anything. I have since reintegrated into society, but my experience tells me that buying sex (and maybe even selling sex other than for survival) should be a criminal offence punishable by a heavy fine and guidance towards appropriate mental-health services for both buyers and sellers.

    Beyond that though, I think we need stricter laws pertaining to alcohol and gambling too. Maybe we could apply the Singaporean model with a national five-year auto-renewable self-exclusion list not only for casinos but for all gambling including lottery tickets, alcohol, and nicotine too. That way, no seller could sell without scanning the potential buyer’s ID to clearly identify that person as not on the list. We need stricter laws against advertising too. No casino or tobacco shop or liquor shop or lottery seller should be allowed to advertise anywhere other than on a government-approved website that addicts can block through parental control apps if they want too. We also need to ensure that addicts know about these apps. The state could require any prepaid smartphone to come with a factory-installed parental-control app to make addicts aware of it. Nowadays the internet can serve as an enabler for all kinds of addictions especially online gambling.

    We could consider legislating that a financial institution must give its clients more online ability to block their use of their debit and credit cards during specified times of the day, week, or year and to lower the daily limit.

  • Candice Smith

    I’m very glad that Feminist Current included this write-up and interview with Marian Hatcher. Firstly, her story provides hope for other people in similar situations. Secondly, it’s important to understand that middle-class and/or educated women can also wind up in this situation (though they aren’t as vulnerable as other groups of women). I have never bought the argument that some women freely choose to become prostitutes, since some come from middle-class backgrounds. Marian Hatcher is a true inspiration and hero. Also wanted to mention former Senator of Nevada, Harry Reid (left-of-center Democrat), who wanted to outlaw prostitution in Nevada.

  • Gina Bongiorno

    I am a licensed massage therapist, and I agree that trafficking is a terrible thing that needs to be stopped. I used Craigslist as my main form of advertisement for 10 years up until yesterday when they took down the Therapeutic section due to a shortsighted FOSTA that had not been properly amended or written to protect legitimate massage therapists.

    Using Craigslist, was still effective for me be a use I ran a mobile massage business, where I travel to people’s homes and businesses to do massage onsite. I often found work at hotels, getting put on call after becoming familiar with larger hotels. I worked on travelers, and went to resorts, or served as a backup for spas whose workers called off last minute. I did get many perverts asking for extra service , but was able to effectively filter out dangerous and unwanted requests. Even though only 10% of my requests were productive after the filtering, the sheer volume of replies vs the cost of advertising made it justifiable to use Craigslist. I want to be clear: I was not offering any suggestive or sexual services! Yet Craigslist Therapeutic section was the main source of business for me. I know I was not the only legitimate therapist on there, but yes, we were in the minority. There is sadly no comparable (price-wise or traffic-wise) advertising platform, and independent massage therapists such as myself are facing the takedown of many other platforms, as the general language of the bill doesn’t encourage screening, and advertising sites and hosts are becoming spooked and lumping massage therapists in with sex workers withpout examining the differences.

    I understand trafficking needed to be stopped, but this bill will only sweep it under the rug, and is destroying a whole category of business (independent licensed massage therapy). I suppose none of you care about it. Or you think I should go work for a low quality corporate chain, and take a 60% pay cut for their commission, so I cam piggyback off their advertising, since advertising is being made inaccessible to me as an independent, legitimate therapist.

    Please tell me there are amendments coming, that will encourage sites to run legitimate ads for actual licensed therapists!

    As a massage therapist I find it difficult that we have always had to contend with fake massage therapists, who really are just sex workers masquerading as therapists. I always thought that the ads for underage (usually foreign) girls at (usually asian and trafficked to the US for sale/indentured servitude) certain “spas” were fairly obvious to pick out. If the police would have done their job, we wouldn’t end up with short-sighted bills like this, that throw massage therapists, and legitimate therapeutic services under the bus. This bill will be counterproductive, and only drive the practice further underground and lead to the use of coded ads, making it more difficult for the authorities to catch real trafficking.

    I don’t do sex work, and understand the authors and sponsors of this bill won’t agree, but I believe that if sex work was legalized and regulated as it is in parts of Europe and Canada, it would keep them from spoiling the reputation of massage therapy, and I do believe there is a difference between an independent sex worker and a sold woman or child. Marian Hatcher and others who have been through the trauma may be unable to look at the field without a strong knee jerk reaction to assume all sex workers are forced, or sold by others, or that they are underage. There are many more than she is willing to acknowledge who willingly sell their “services”. As adults, they should be allowed to, and both sides should not have to be anonymous, to protect against violent attack and murder, they should have to have a license, and be tested. Her statement that there is no regulating or protecting sex work if made legal doesn’t hold up to scrutiny past conditioned emotional and social mores.

    FOSTA will make it harder for authorities to spot trafficking (they weren’t doing their job in the first place which was why it was proliferating on those sites, the sites could have been used for stings), AND
    It will cause collateral damage to independent massage therapists who are not doing sex work, because advertising is being closed off to us as websites overreact to the bill and refuse to filter or get the ads individually.

    Please tell me there will be a workaround for people like us. I shouldn’t have to give up my business and work under a corporate business, just because my advertising is being closed off in a shortsighted, improperly written attempt to stop trafficking.

    • Meghan Murphy

      FOSTA doesn’t target massage ads, that’s ridiculous. Craigslist likely shut it down because it was full of sex ads.

    • bananasmoothie

      Wow.

      I am a licensed massage therapist as well who got my first business by posting on Craigslist. I soon found other ways to gain business. Online sex ads like these are ruining our industry. They create a demand for sexual services that didn’t previously exist since your average Joe isn’t going to go searching streets or strip clubs for possible prostitutes. But they’ll consider it when they can order one online. This demand, in turn, means more illegal “massage” parlours opening up and more men wondering which LMTs are using massage for a cover for prostitution as well. So I get to deal with more sexual harassment, as if I didn’t have enough of that already, just being female in general.

      As privileged women who are blessed with training and decent paying jobs, the least we can do is not throw our trafficked sisters under the bus. Or children. These sites made it too easy on pimps, traffickers, and johns, which increased the demand and number of transactions AKA rapes of women and children that would have never taken place otherwise.

      There are hundreds of other low cost ways to market a massage business.

      I think child rape is slightly more important than free classified ads for massage therapists.

      • Wren

        Thanks for this inside info.

    • Hanakai

      Get over yourself. Legitimate licensed massage therapists were easily able to find work and customers in the days and years before craigslist. The energy you spent on your whiney diatribe could have been used thinking about other ways to drum up business.

      The reality is that a lot of sex is sold under the auspices of massage parlors or services and craigslist had a legitimate interest in shutting it down. The further reality is that ending sex slavery, sex trafficking and the normalization of prostitution is way more important and much more a matter of the public interest than is insuring that masseuses get to advertise for free.

      • will

        Seconded.

  • Meghan Murphy

    It’s not wide reaching at all. It has one very specific aim. Everyone who’s pissed about this bill should actually figure out what it’s about instead of reading the myths being spread around by the sex work lobby and other financially invested parties.

    Also, this bill was pushed for and supported by VICTIMS OF TRAFFICKING and women who were in prostitution. Like, it was the victims who fought to be able to hold sites like Backpage accountable.

  • marv

    Men reading this comment will be cheering because you are feeding male dominance.

    https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10155157827226050&set=gm.441830502924370&type=3&theater&ifg=1

    Did you know that a mind can be in a patriarchal tomb while the body is alive?

    • Candice Smith

      you know, Andrea Horwath of NDP is also anti-prostitution. and a lot of men don’t like her either….

      • Meghan Murphy

        Is she really??

      • marv

        I couldn’t find her position online. I am incredulous but would love to be proven wrong.

        • Meghan Murphy

          Same.

  • Meghan Murphy

    Oh please. The men who owned Backpage made millions off of ads selling trafficked girls. The entire purpose of this bill is to hold these sites accountable.

    • Wren

      I hadn’t yet run a google search on SESTA-FOSTA yet and just did and found that it is extremely difficult to find a write-up on a major website that doesn’t trash it. Gee, I wonder why?? Anyway, I found out that Amy Schumer supported it, despite the possible loss of her cool-girl status, so props to her.

    • Cathryn Bearov

      The answer to trafficking is far more complex than this legislation. More women are trafficked into the hospitality industry/domestic labor than the sex industry. Also, there many more women who put themselves into the sex industry, than those who are trafficked. These bills fail to distinguish between the two types and do not address the hospitality industry trafficking at all.
      As several researchers have pointed out, if the open marketplaces are shut down, predators will simply move to the deep web where they are more difficult to track. More prostitutes will enter abusive pimp relationships. Law enforcement professionals concur with this.
      Interestingly, some researchers preparing for a conference in trafficking had their powerpoint slides on Google docs. They were erased by Google. So the legislation, as written, also seems to negatively affect research. Prostitutes/sex workers say they cannot access sites listing known dangerous clients and have lost systems for vetting clients.
      According to police, the ability to access such sites seems to have lowered homicides of these women by about 17%. Law enforcement professionals now expect the murder rate to rise. There is far more information available from reputable researchers and law professionals clearly showing the huge flaws and terrible consquences of these bills. This legislation was poorly considered and simplistic. It helps pimps and predators, not women/transgender/men in the sex industry. It does not stop or reduce trafficking.
      Before you get gung-ho and happy about this, do some research looking at BOTH SIDES and from multiple people. It’s called being informed.

      • Meghan Murphy

        If a john can find prostitution ads online, so can the cops. Also, it is absolutely not true that the majority of women in prostitution are there because they want to be. They are there because they have no other choice. In any case, the notion that Backpage should be allowed to host and profit from ads selling trafficked children is ridiculous. There is no defense for such a thing.

  • Meghan Murphy

    You didn’t sexually assault anyone.

    • Eva Jasmena

      I don’t know. I’m confused. All I know is that we need to put an end to the sex trade.

      • Wren

        We women don’t share responsibility for our exploitation just because we are vulnerable. We are rendered vulnerable by patriarchy in order to be easily preyed upon, but the guilt belongs to men. In other words, you are not to blame for the abuse you suffered. All of these men are criminals, even the ones you feel sorry for.

  • Meghan Murphy

    omg! These ads didn’t ‘slip through the cracks’! Moderators at Backpage actively edited these ads in order to ensure they could stay on the site! (i.e. by replacing obvious language with coded language). Backpage fully knew about and allowed these ads on the site because they wanted to profit. Stop defending these assholes.

    • Eva Jasmena

      I wasn’t defending them. I just don’t know the details of FOSTA nor of the internal operation of such sites. I know that at least a few years ago, a person could advertise quite explicitly in the hook-up section of the site. With so many ads being posted a day for cities around the world, I imagine that it would be extremely easy for human-trafficking ads to slip through as long as the poster chooses somewhat subtle wording pertaining to minors or more than one person working together, etc.

      Recognizing that the site logistically probably cannot vet each ad so carefully (with even the reader getting tired of reading such ads by the end of the day), it makes sense to strictly regulate all hook-up and even massage sites (even when it might not be prostitution-related since such ads often serve as fronts) to require the site to identify a person in person with her ID at a branch office before allowing her or him to register an account and it should not allow anyone without an account to be able to access the site beyond the main page.

      While that still wouldn’t prevent a person from putting up an ad to sell a minor or a trafficked person, the poster would more probably choose to not put up such an ad since if he does, the police could require the site administrator to ID the poster who put up the ad. I think that would work more effectively than having the site administrator needing to read each of myriad ads a day with code words constantly evolving.

  • Meghan Murphy

    Websites that have legit massage therapy ads are not in danger of being shut down. They were scared because they knew there were ads in there that were illegal. Pimps and traffickers are the reason this category was shut down. I’m sorry this has impacted you, of course, and hope these sites will become more diligent in monitoring their ads or come up with some kind of system to ensure legit massage therapists can still advertise….

  • Wren

    What a load of shit. I know of at least two murders of prostitutes in my area in the last six or so years that were facilitated by craigslist and backpage.

    “Even educators and those who study the effects of sex for hire are having their files destroyed by Google”
    What educators are you talking about? And files destroyed by Google?? What credible researcher doesn’t have backup for their work? This makes no sense at all. It’s like you’re just making shit up (which you are).

    Here’s the list of all the activists and RESEARCHERS and EDUCATORS who supported this bill.
    https://www.iamjanedoefilm.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/FINAL-Senate-leadership-SESTA-013118.pdf

    Do you think we’re idiots?

    • will

      “Cathryn Bearov” seems to have an online presence that is centred around posting about protecting the rights of choosy-choice sex workers.

  • Meghan Murphy

    wtf does prostitution have to do with wine and weed?!? I mean, you can have addictive behaviours around all sorts of stuff. The reason prostitution is bad is because it is inherently harmful to women, both as individuals (ie the prostituted women) and as a whole.

    • Eva Jasmena

      My post above may have been exaggerated, but I’m just speaking from my own experience. Yes, prostitution damaged me in major ways. At the same time though, if I look at the events that led to me turning to prostitution, trauma made me more vulnerable and easy access to addictive behaviours (including alcohol but especially gambling) contributed greatly to it. People might think me weak for proposing that casinos and such have stricter rules to keep people like me out. I won’t deny that yes, due to past abuse and trauma, I am weak. Some might say that I’m just trying to blame others for my mistakes. I’m doing no such thing. I accept that I made bad decisions. But at the same time, those bad decisions were strongly influenced by trauma which made it more difficult for me to avoid making them.

      I would think it reasonable to better regulate casinos and other such businesses to help addicts to manage their behaviours so as to prevent them from falling into prostitution in the first place. Criminalizing the buying of sex helps to reduce demand but does little to reduce the supply. At most, it might push more privileged sex-workers out of the industry.

      If a person suffers an addiction that results in that person desperately needing money to survive, then reducing the demand will merely reduce the price to compensate until a new market equilibrium is reached with sellers selling at a lower price to compensate for the greater risk that the buyer is taking. If we want to truly end prostitution, we cannot focus just on reducing the demand side. We necessarily must also try to reduce the supply side; and imposing stricter rules on casinos for example could help to do that.

      Again, I’m just speaking from my own experience. I did manage to get out of the industry, but stricter rules on certain businesses could have prevented me from entering the industry in the first place. No one just wakes up one day and decides to sell sex. For the most part, while demand plays a role, many other factors besides just demand also play a role in a person deciding to supply it. To establish a national self-exclusion list and require a person to scan her ID or finger print at a casino entrance would impose but a minor inconvenience to those who want to go there to gamble.

  • Wren

    Or we could just throw pimps and sex buyers in jail and offer prostituted women counseling, financial support and other services. Seems a lot simpler.

    • Eva Jasmena

      That’s overly simplistic. A seller has an incentive to lie to protect the buyer at the moment in time. How does a prosecutor prove that he’s guilty in such a situation? You do realize that a plumber can be called in to a bawdy house to legitimately fix the plumbing in exchange for money that we give him, right?

      You have to be in the situation to understand that. Don’t get me wrong, we absolutely should criminalize the buying of sex for those cases when it can be proved beyond reasonable doubt. But we can’t count on that alone.

      As for pimping, you do realize don’t you that quite often women will do ‘pimping’ for one another? I’ve had women text for me just as I’ve texted for other women, sometimes the same one who’d texted for me previously. Sometimes some women will pay another to do the domestic and other work. The dividing line between prostitution and ‘pimping’ can sometimes become extremely blurred.

      Even when it’s organized, often the ‘pimp’ (or more accurately ‘madam’) is a transitioning seller or former seller herself. Often the ‘pimp’ is a victim in her own right who just failed to escape the industry before ‘graduating.’

      That said, I do agree with laws strictly regulating the advertising of sexual services even at the risk of a woman herself being heavily fined for having helped a friend with poor English type up an ad as a way to deter such behaviour. I don’t think prison would be right for that though. I also think we should fine women who text for one another. On one occasion, a client texted whether the woman offered unprotected sex. The texter who knew little English texted ‘yes’ because she’d misunderstood it. I happened to catch her doing it so immediately asked her to lend me the phone to correct the mistake. It was an innocent mistake on her part, but the consequences can be serious. Again, prison might seem extreme for that. Many women will work together to take turns so as to not be selling sex every day. Often one will take a break to clean, cook, run errands, do texting work, etc.

      Quite often we didn’t want to work in our own country out of a fear of being discovered by someone we know. Working abroad is very common in the industry. As a result, it was quite common for me to be working with someone with whom I struggled to communicate. It’s very international. That’s why having someone else text can be so dangerous. We might not want to punish a victim, but sometimes a mild punishment like a heavy fine can serve to deter against further harm.

      As for counseling, yes, that helps, but only to a degree. Trauma and addiction is an extremely powerful thing and so stricter regulation of casinos and such could reinforce the success rate of therapy. As for financial assistance, I agree. But again, had money been the solution for me just a few years ago, I can guarantee you that it would just all have gone to alcohol and especially gambling. I’m not saying that I didn’t need money, just that stricter regulation of casinos and such would have helped me to use that money more productively. Trauma and addiction affect the mind at an extremely deep level.

      • Wren

        Your points here don’t make a whole lot of sense and seem like an army of straw men.
        First, it’s really not furthering the cause of ending sexual exploitation by suggesting that casinos should be closed. There may have been a connection between gambling and prostitution for you, but it’s really not related to what is being discussed here. As far as addiction goes, yes women in prostitution have high rates of addiction, but in general the addiction comes AFTER the involvement in prostitution (remember the average age of entering the sex industry is 13 or 14). This is because prostitution is awful and it is necessary to dissociate however possible, and often with drugs and alcohol.

        Cops are not going to mistake a prostitute texting for another prostitute as a pimp. That’s an odd thing to imagine, and would require more extensive evidence to hold up in court. A woman running a brothel or escort service certainly could be charged with pimping. Although many women who move into management in the sex industry were prostituted themselves and I have much more sympathy for them than any male pimp, they have still made that cross-over and are profiting off the sexual labor of younger women, and therefore they’ve made their bed and must lie in it, so to speak. It’s more reason for them to get out and try to make a new and different life.

      • Laurel

        Eva Jasmena, first, I appreciate your writing here, particularly, as it comes to sharing about your own experiences in the sex trade. There are a number of survivors who post here, as another woman mentioned, and the more survivors (and women still in the trade) we hear from here on FC, and elsewhere in the radical feminist “community,” the better.

        I agree there are many reasons women (and men/trans) enter the sex trade, including addiction, mental health issues, etc. I think one reason we don’t focus on reducing “supply” here on FC and among radical feminists more broadly, is because politically, it makes sense to focus on holding accountable those with the most power–the buyers.

        The suggestions you make to help sellers are fine, but they’re not really going after power, or male sexuality, which IMO, is what we need to focus on. Though, of course, women who aren’t interested in taking a radical feminist approach, or who want to do both/and, are free to focus on legislation that would help/impact individuals, without changing power dynamics.

        As you touch on, some of the laws survivors and feminists have supported have not been implemented in a way that is most meaningful, nor conducive to both freedom and equality. My gut instinct is that this is a problem with implementation (and perhaps some of the wording of various laws, including the various versions of the Nordic Model), and we shouldn’t throw the whole law away (here I’m talking about Sesta, and definitely, the Nordic Model), but instead work to improve it.

  • Wren

    Men who pay to rape are acting out their own sexual traumas?? I don’t think so.

    How can you say that violence is not gendered if you’ve lived through prostitution? Just because there may exist an occasional female abuser doesn’t alter the overwhelming pattern of men’s violence against women. Either you’ve been completely brainwashed or you’re not totally credible. I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt. And with that in mind, you know perfectly well that john schools don’t work.

  • Meghan Murphy

    Of course they are a partial answer. They hold sites accountable for their role in the exploitation of girls. There is much much more that needs to be done, of course.

  • Candice Smith

    not saying Bernie Sanders is perfect, but he is friends with Harry Reid, who was left-leaning Democrat Senator from Nevada, and Reid has long history of fighting against prostitution. Glad Bernie supported it…. though his Bros won’t be glad! Yah, Bernie and Yah, Elizabeth Warren!

  • Wren

    THE DAILY BEAST??? HAHAHA.
    And you literally researched “sex worker”?
    You do understand that not everything on the big bad interweb is first-rate research, and that by searching for “sex worker” you were searching for inherently biased info?

    “As with any polarizing topic, there will be well-respected people on both sides of the issue. That is what helps vigorous public discourse and good legislation. These bills had neither.”

    These bills had neither what? Discourse or well-respected people? Survivors and experts WHO CARE ABOUT THE EXPLOITATION OF WOMEN AND CHILDREN have been working for years to pass decent legislation. You just completely insulted all of them because you read something in The Daily Beast.

    Why are you really here wasting our time?

  • Wren

    “Careful. I did not say the majority of women in the sex industry are there because they want to be. I said there are more women who have PUT themselves into the industry than have been trafficked into it. That does NOT mean they are happy about it.”

    What??? They PUT themselves there yet they didn’t WANT to be there and they aren’t HAPPY there??

    If they didn’t WANT to be there then they were FORCED to be there whether by rape, gunpoint, or economic and psychological coercion. And of course they aren’t HAPPY about it because prostitution is an unending violent assault on the human body and mind. You would know this if you ever read anything other than The Daily Beast.

    Don’t tell others to be “careful” just because you can’t make one fucking coherent argument.

  • Wren

    “I am not grateful that women can sell their bodies to males to access necessities. I am fucking ENRAGED that males create and perpetuate a system that insures that there will be a lower class of women for them to pay to fuck, and makes it so profitable, that males will become pimps and traffickers of women and girls. Win/win for males. How fucking convenient.”

    Amen, sister.

  • Eva Jasmena

    So how would you amend SESTA-FOSTA to achieve its goals more efficiently?

    I can see at least three possible solutions:

    1. Require any hook-up or massage advertising website to clearly identity a person (either through a registered smartphone under her or his name, face-to-face at a local branch office, or other means) before allowing that person to create an account that he could renew every five years by identifying himself again. The poster would be solely liable for the content of the ad he or she posts but the business would be required under threat of losing its business license and paying a high fine for failing to provide the legal identity of the poster and deleting the ad within a reasonable period of time of the police presenting it with a warrant to do so. Part of this might include a policy to encourage people to register their prepaid SIMs for example.

    Logistics: This would impose logistical challenges at the front end. The business must set up a system to clearly identify a person before that person could register an account to post ads and renew the account every five years. At the back end though, the business would have less responsibility to vet each post since the responsibility for that would fall squarely on the poster’s shoulders.

    2. The business has no obligation to identify the poster but can be held liable for what a person posts. Essentially, SESTA-FOSTA.

    Logistics: It reduces challenges at the front end since the business would have no obligation to clearly identify anyone posting on its site. On the back end though, it might need to hire an army of readers to read and vet each ad always with the risk of human error stemming from low-paid workers reading these ads all day long. This would naturally encourage the business to overcompensate to avoid fines or maybe even criminal liability.

    3. Letting a business choose either of the options above or even a combination thereof. In other words, a person who chooses to identify himself to the company through a registered SIM or a passport or fingerprints, then the business would not need to vet his ads since it could provide the necessary identifying information if ever it’s presented with a warrant. Deleting the ad on request should be fairly easy too and would probably take no more than a few days in most cases.

    Should the business allow unidentified people to post, then it would need to vet their ads carefully since if the police present a warrant, they couldn’t ID him on request. Then it would be up to each business how it wants to do that.

    Those are just my ideas, but I’d like to know how you’d propose changing this?

  • Eva Jasmena

    Another possibility I could see in addition to the above would be to require any hook-up or massage site to post counter-addiction information on its main page. This could include information on different twelve-step groups, screen-blocking and filtered-browser apps, and other such information. This could prevent some from entering sex work in the first place while helping others to get out. Some sincerely don’t know where to turn for help. I didn’t.

    • Christopher Carr

      “This could include information on different twelve-step groups …”

      12 Steps has zero evidence of efficacy beyond spotaneous remission. It’s quasi-religious pseudo–science.

  • Eva Jasmena

    So is the focus on punishing men as an end in its own right or on helping women escape prostitution? In my case, trauma first led me to prostitution, prostitution contributed to more trauma, that trauma led to addiction, and the addiction kept me in the trade until I finally managed to find the hep that I needed.

    Yes, punishing buyers can help to reduce the demand, but that alone will not end prostitution (assuming of course that ending prostitution is the final goal). We need to address the supply side too. Again, if the goal is just to punish men and not to end prostitution, then we should stop at that. If the goal is to actually help us out of prostitution, then we need to address addiction too in a much more serious way. In many countries around the world, each person who enters a casino will be clearly identified and any person on a self-exclusion list will be barred from entering. In Canada, we just rely on unreliable facial-recognition cameras. Why would anyone oppose tougher counter-addiction laws that could help women out of prostitution? It doesn’t have to be either or. No one is saying that we must decriminalize prostitution before we can help addicts out of the industry. I’m saying we need to do BOTH.

    • will

      “Yes, punishing buyers can help to reduce the demand, but that alone will not end prostitution ”

      And no one is suggesting that it will. The Nordic model includes social supports for women in prostitution, counselling and therapeutic services, retraining, etc.

      “if the goal is just to punish men and not to end prostitution, then we should stop at that.”

      I’m not sure where you are getting this idea. Yes, a lot of commenters here have been abused – many severely – by men. Some of that abuse has happened while the person was in the sex trade and many people comment about those experiences and share their feelings of pain and outrage here in this forum.

      But that does not translate to a proposition that all that needs to happen is that someone “punish men”. We want an end to prostitution, and criminalizing buyers is an effective way to reduce the both number of men who will pay to rape a woman or child and the frequency with which they do it.

  • Hanakai

    It seems that some of you who are arguing or asserting opinions about SESTA-FOSTA are not really familiar with the legislation.

    Why not go to the source, and read the statute instead of repeating unsubstantiated verbiage, some of it garbage, from around the irredeemable Internet.

    Here, read it yourself: https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/1865/text

    Backpage founders and owners have been indicted and arrested and I applaud this. Those men made millions off the suffering and sex enslavement of women and children. Enough. These new laws have got some teeth and will enormously reduce the sales of prostituted women and children over the Internet.

  • Michelle

    I’m so confused. Most of what is presented in this article resonates with me feels true. Also, I have many friends who are sex workers and I sympathize with their side. It is such an incredibly polarized debate.Biggest discrepancy I am hearing is about a percentage of prostitutes/sex workers who are in it against their will. Marian Hatcher claims that most are being trafficked, and are victims. My friends, and much of what I have read, claim exactly the opposite. I’ve heard both sides claim that there is a wealth of research supporting their POV, but I have yet to see any of it. I’m honestly not sure what to think.

    One commenter belittled the idea that conflating sex work and trafficking is problematic, seeing that just because non-sexual forms of trafficking exist doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to stop sex trafficking. Which is true. But said conflation does seem telling to me-if the problem we are really after is modern day slavery, then why is no one going after, for example, the agriculture industry or the nail care industry with such zeal? There does seem to be sort of a puritanical hatred underlying it all.

    Again, I resonate and sympathize with so many ideas and arguments on both sides, I am feeling quite confused, but that seems appropriate as it is a super complex issue.

    • Wren

      What does it matter if some people are involved in something dangerous and exploitative “willingly”? Does it suddenly cease to be dangerous and exploitative and therefore it should be a legal and accepted part of civilized society?

      Some slaves loved their masters, some women love their abusers, so should we resurrect slavery and continue to sanction battery and abuse?

      It’s not actually a very polarized debate, btw, the media likes to pretend it is cause the media panders to men and their interests and is run by corporations enamored and/or affiliated with the sex industry. Most sensible people innately understand that prostitution is horrible and that no woman would choose it if given truly viable choices. You will continue to feel confused until you accept this reality.

      • Temptress Theresa

        I love it when people try and speak for sex workers. I have been in the adult industry for over 20 years and would not change it for a second. I have loved meeting new people, helping people with problems in their marriage, traveling, the list goes on. This life style has allowed me to live debt free and will be fully retired dependent on no one at the age of 44. No one forced me into this. It was a choice that I made and would make again. I have never been harmed and never felt unsafe. I am not saying trafficking does not exist because it does and it’s awful. But when it comes to website that allow for providers to advertise. Almost all the providers that advertise on these sites do so willingly. I have been so blessed to not have to prostitute myself for a business or corporation for slave labor. Which is what most of Americans do and then sit and cast judgment on people who make a different choice than they chose. It is preached all the time that a woman has the right do what she wants with her body, even taking the life of an unborn child, but she can’t have sex with whom she chooses. Such hypocrisy! Why can people not just worried about themselves????

        • Meghan Murphy

          Why does your experience negate the experience of most women and girls in the industry? Also, why do you think not caring about other people and the world around them is a good thing?

        • sdfjsjdfksdfsdf

          Temptress Because those people have significantly greater mental issues than many of us rational, sensible, libertarian, socially conscious sex workers do. Not being able to tell the difference between consensual, pleasurable sex and Rape, is a pretty colossal pathology.

          • Meghan Murphy

            You think prostituted women are having ‘pleasurable sex’ with johns?!?! Gawd, how naive can you get.

      • sdfjsjdfksdfsdf

        “Some slaves loved their masters, some women love their abusers, so should we resurrect slavery and continue to sanction battery and abuse?”

        So sex work is akin to American slavery? FFS

        Let me guess- you’re white.

        • Meghan Murphy

          Prostitution is racist af, dood.

  • Wren

    What discussion?? That you believe that there are “sex workers”?

    You came here (to a radical feminist blog) to question legislation that we support — that the vast majority of the survivors of prostitution, their advocates, and law specialists who have sunk time and cost into eradicating the most brutal form of gender violence ALL support — because why? For us, there is no discussion to be had, so why shouldn’t I use caps and swear? I’ve been listening to the defenders of sexual slavery my whole life. I’m tired of conversing with brain-washed women like yourself who continue to find ways to undermine or minimize the efforts of abolishionists, who want to normalize commercial rape because they have some “I’m-a-liberated-empowered-sex-worker-ain’t-I-so-subversive?!?” friend, or who believe pro-sex industry crap in The Daily Beast, or Slate, or any other news source that continues to defend male’s sexual access to women as some form of lefty-libertarianism. Your arguments never hold water, and I don’t believe for a minute that you even truly believe what your saying. You just lack the courage to be a woman standing against the sex industry. But don’t expect us to cower down.

  • Wren

    “Myself, I don’t tend to trust anyone who sees things as so black-and-white”

    Oh, well, then you certainly should avoid people who have moral clarity. Just don’t come here feigning confusion when you really don’t want to resolve it.

  • Wren

    It’s such a stupid claim. No outside party is erasing anything. Sites that have knowingly posted solicitation ads are shutting down because the jig is up (I know you know this. I’m just saying it cause I’m just so irritated, lol). There is no giant algorithm scanning through all google docs. These are paranoid and incompetent “researchers” who forgot how to save a file.

  • Wren

    Ha! Possibly. I did notice that the only upvote she got was from a man.

  • Meghan Murphy

    “Your discourse is violent”??! Please stop with this ridiculous hyperbole.

  • Meghan Murphy

    Ideas you disagree with are not ‘violent’. If you can’t debate Wren’s words, then that is your problem, not hers.

    • Wren

      I wasn’t even being snarky in my replies at first (I admit I do later). Somehow I’m finding this amusing.

  • Wren

    I’m not reading all this because I don’t live in Canada, I have things to do, and I think you are not who you say you are.

    You are also writing on A Voice for Men (as someone else noted) what seemed to be a rather pornographic description of an experience you claim to have had, and you feel that women in prostitution should be criminalized. I support the Nordic Model, as do all radical feminists.

    In summary, I think you are the same man that came here months ago with these exact same stories. Bye.

    • Eva Jasmena

      You’re free to think what you want to think. But I do find it strange that you know more about me than I know about myself. First you claimed just in your post above that I supported decriminalization. Now you claim that I support total prohibition. You do realize that those sit at two totally opposite ends of a spectrum, right?

      And yes, it is a spectrum. As a result, even supporters of decriminalization will sometimes support certain restrictions none-the-less. Supporters of prohibition may still support exceptions. Some for example might still make an exception for a person who sells survival sex while still wanting to prohibit a well-off person from selling sex and anyone from buying it.

      The spectrum doesn’t just sit at the extremes either. For example, some supporters of the end-demand model will still support some restrictions on the sale and advertising of sex none-the-less. So when a person says she supports prohibition, she may really mean something that sits between prohibition and end-demand. The same could apply to a person who says she supports the end-demand model. For example, even a supporter of the end-demand model might still support some aspects of prohibition such as banning a provider from advertising her services through certain media, especially those to which children might have more access. Inversely, other supporters of end-demand might support a purer form of it that would criminalize the buying of sex but grant the provider absolute freedom to advertise and sell wherever she wants to.

      A spectrum exists between end-demand and decriminalization too. For example, a person might support criminalizing the buying of sex but still support allowing at least survival sex workers to work together. Any combination of these can exist too. For example, a person might support criminalizing the buying of any sex and the selling of all but survival sex but then support allowing survival sex workers to work together for safety while still criminalizing buying sex from them.

      There can also be debate concerning the provider’s role in the end-demand model. For example, if a provider lies to protect the buyer, should she be held in contempt of court and face a charge and potential conviction for that? That’s where the line between end-demand and prohibition can become blurred. As far as I’m concerned, she should face the consequences of lying to a police officer under oath. Others might say she shouldn’t. That said, I also support more the French model than the Swedish one. The French model limits itself to a heavy fine, no incarceration. As a result, the provider might feel less guilty about speaking against the buyer and so face less risk of being charged for lying under oath for example.

  • Wren

    This?
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canada_(AG)_v_Bedford
    Yeah, or it’s one of the women.

  • Wren

    Did this case technically backfire and lead to the 2014 changes which criminalize buying but not selling? I’m assuming this wasn’t Young’s intention.

  • viciera

    The sex worker’s rhetoric is a piece of selfish madness that some people on the left are bending over backwards to try to accommodate it in their own economic and political rhetoric even when it offers so many contradictions with anti-capitalist views and criticisms of blind libertarianism. Even Jacobin is here defending this idiocy: https://www.jacobinmag.com/2018/04/sex-work-backpage-sesta-fosta-free-speech

    Labeling it an ‘attack on sex workers’. So basically preventing sex trafficking and child trafficking hinders sex workers means on income… then why are you defending sex workers if their livelihood depends and creates situations where children and the vulnerable of society, people the left should be protecting, are faced with the greatest atrocities? But wait, I also thought sex trafficking and sex work were not linked… yet preventing one effects the other… while profit making at the expense of the vulnerable is a bad thing but when sex workers do it it is empowering… while we simultaneously have to criticise individualism and the capitalism commodification of everything under the sun… while sex workers empower through commodifying sex and prevent criticism of what makes them profit cause profit and money making should not be hindered by morals and what makes me money is therefore good…… It’s also as if they have no moral nuance; the poor person that steals bread to feed their family is understood morally because of the lack of options and the situation, but does that mean that therefore theft should be seen morally as fine and legal? it’s the same with prostitution, you can understand someone needs to make money to survive, but I’m not going to say therefore prostitution is moral cause it made you money to live. It would mean that where money is, morality is which is a thoroughly capitalist and anarchist world.

  • Eva Jasmena

    Thanks will. Just for clarification’s sake though, though I don’t know the sex of the officers (since their names were blacked out, though the accused had told my friend that they consisted of both male and female officers), the CBSA interviewer and the Minister’s counsels were actually women. The judges were all men though. I’m just saying this to say that it wasn’t all just men working on the accused’s case.

    That said, how do we hold police officers, CBSA interviewers, Minister’s counsels (or prosecutors in a criminal case), and IB and IRB members and federal court judges to account when the accuser must prove beyond reasonable doubt that a man bought sex but only on a balance of probabilities that the woman he allegedly bought sex from sold it? As the case above revealed, there were reasonable grounds to believe that the man in the room did buy sex (though not beyond reasonable doubt since the police didn’t even bother trying to collect the necessary proof for a criminal trial). Yet there are also reasonable grounds to believe that the woman in the room with him didn’t even know for sure that she was in a bawdy house until after she’d already entered the house. And even then she apparently only suspected it until the police arrived and she realized there was a man in the room with her putting his clothes on IN that particular case, there were reasonable ground to believe that she was not aware that there was a man in the room with her until after she’d answered the door to the police officer and the man spoke.

    With that, I don’t think we can fairly blame the police and CBSA officers, the Minister’s counsel, or the judges involved in the case. They were just doing their jobs according to the laws presently in the books. By definition in the British adversarial system, it was the Minister’s counsel’s job to prove the accused’s guilt and so it was her job to present only that evidence that corroborated the notion of guilt and suppress the rest. So again, even that was not her fault. She was just doing her job as per the British adversarial system.

    Also, it was the judge’s job to judge her on a balance of probabilities as per the IRPA, and not beyond reasonable doubt.

    I don’t think we could blame the officers involved in her case. The system they were working in expected the very behaviour that they acted out. We can’t even blame the language barrier on them either. Federal law expects federal staff to know both official languages, both of which studies show to be among the more difficult languages in the world to learn. So it’s to be expected that many of them will possess a poor command of one or the other or both of the official languages. Once we throw interpreters into the mix, then we can expect total communication breakdown.

    In short, it’s the laws on the books that caused this problem, not the staff involved. They were just doing their jobs within that system.

  • alex

    I am one who is not coerced. My twitter handle is Alexandradenso1.

  • Meghan Murphy

    “Why can people not just worried about themselves????”

  • Meghan Murphy

    Oh oh! Didn’t take long for you to show your true colours, eh?

  • Meghan Murphy

    Funny how misogyny and support for the system of prostitution go hand in hand…

  • lk

    I love how quickly they rely on the same old (usually sexist) insults…
    -bitch -cunt

    I do think this is the first time I’ve seen you called a sociopath.

    “Let me guess- you’re white.”
    I’ve noticed this come up quite a bit when anyone criticizes the sex industry…do people think only white people are critical of the sex industry? Are the completely unaware of all the woc who want to put an end to an industry that relies so heavily on the bodies of wocs?

  • lk

    Thanks, sisters 🙂

  • Meghan Murphy

    SESTA-FOSTA doesn’t target ‘independent sex workers’. It targets companies that post ads selling trafficked children. It’s difficult to believe all you who oppose the bill truly care about victims and victimization when you support companies like Backpage…

  • Meghan Murphy

    If you are a ‘willing happy sex worker’, I fail to see what this bill has to do with you.

  • Meghan Murphy

    So do you think Backpage should not be held accountable, legally, for hosting ads selling children? Do you think they should be protected under section 230 of the CDA? Why should this particular business be allowed to profit from illegal activity but not other businesses?

  • Meghan Murphy

    They WERE monitoring ads. We know this because they EDITED ADS in order to allow them to fly under the radar.

  • Meghan Murphy

    I mean, you can keep posting all these myths you read on twitter as if they are fact, but that doesn’t make it so.

  • Meghan Murphy

    I’ve already explained this several times over, but the point of the bill is to allow victims to sue companies that profit from their exploitation. Do you believe Backpage should have been protected under section 230 of the CDA? Why should they be able to knowingly engage in illegal activity but not other businesses?

  • Meghan Murphy

    In another comment you said these sites would never go away and new ones were popping up all the time, so what exactly is your issue?

  • Meghan Murphy

    If this is true, you are an anomaly and you know it.

  • Eva Jasmena

    Ex-worker here. Some men raped me. Some paid to just talk. Some were pathologically submissive to me. I know that the whole spectrum exists.

    You say you have made friends with your male clients. I’d had deep conversations with some of my ex-clients too. From my experience, probably not one of my ex-clients was mentally healthy. In some of the deeper conversations that I’d had, a few of them acknowledged having suffered abuse of their own and some acknowledged feeling guilty about buying sex but doing so compulsively.

    I eventually turned to AA to deal with my alcohol problem. I eventually found help for my gambling problem. I even ended up in Sex Addicts Anonymous (SAA) to deal with my compulsive porn and other sexual behaviours. I found even the thrill and money of prostitution to be addictive. I even suffered rape fantasies after having experienced rape. It really screwed with my head.

    Interestingly, I’d met men in the SAA group who talked about their problems with buying sex. Perhaps due to my participation in SAA after leaving the sex trade, I have a somewhat different perspective on clients than most do. Most either vilify them as abusers (which they are) while others praise them for the money they pay. I have a more nuanced view. Yes, they are abusers, but often abusers who’ve suffered some form of past abuse , who are fighting a spiritual disease, and who are trying to leave the trade themselves.

    If you think your clients are normal, read the statistics:

    ‘It is argued that legalized brothels or other “controlled” prostitution establishments “protect” women through enforceable condom policies. In one of CATW’s studies, U.S. women in prostitution interviewed reported the following: 47% stated that men expected sex without a condom; 73% reported that men offered to pay more for sex without a condom; 45% of women said they were abused if they insisted that men use condoms. Some women said that certain establishments may have rules that men wear condoms but, in reality, men still try to have sex without them. One woman stated: “It’s ‘regulation’ to wear a condom at the sauna, but negotiable between parties on the side. Most guys expected blow jobs without a condom (Raymond and Hughes: 2001).”‘
    http://rapereliefshelter.bc.ca/learn/resources/10-reasons-not-legalizing-prostitution

    ‘We find that Mexican sex workers received a 23 percent premium for
    unprotected sex from clients who requested not to use a condom, and
    this premium jumped to 46 percent if the sex worker was considered
    very attractive. We also found that clients who requested condom use
    paid 9 percent more for protected sex, and sex workers who requested not to use a condom gave clients a 20 percent discount. These results are completely consistent with our theoretical predictions.’
    http://manishashah.bol.ucla.edu/papers/shah_JPE.pdf

    Prostitution had so screwed with my mind that I didn’t care about my life anymore. I decided to live for the moment. I figured that if I contracted anything, I could just kill myself. So yes, I eventually just took the money and enjoyed unprotected sex. And most men went for it.I eventually got out and got help and am thankful that I never contracted anything or got pregnant. But that was just luck.

    My clients generally knew the HIV risks involved and so did I. We just didn’t care. If that does not reveal a spiritual disease on a deep level, then I don’t know what does.

    With the above in mind, would you not agree that we should enact laws to help both potential sellers and potential buyers to stay out of or leave the industry? How could we do that? My thought would be along the lines of laws comparable to those that Singapore applies to its gambling industry but to expand it to the alcohol, nicotine, and sex industries too. Essentially, it would involve an effective self-exclusion policy that would keep those who chose to add their names to the list out. Given the public-health and mental-health concerns involved, it would seem to make sense.

    I don’t think a buyer should necessarily go to jail, but he should pay at least a heavy fine and receive sex-addiction education for a first offence and pay double for each repetition. Not only would this benefit the seller (by reducing the profit and so the temptation to sell) but the buyer too. You say your clients care about you. If you cared about them, you would support criminalizing the buying of sex (or at least the establishment of a national self-exclusion policy) and would not be selling it other than for survival so as to help them out of the trade.

    You yourself implicitly acknowledged just how addictive prostitution can be. I know. I’ve been there. If you cared about your own mental health, you would support criminalizing the buying of sex to help yourself out of the trade too.