Unethical practices produce New York Times’ ‘sex work’ story

Screen shot -- New York Times Magazine cover story.
Screen shot: New York Times Magazine cover story, May 5, 2016.

Over the weekend, Emily Bazelon, a staff writer at the New York Times, published an article called “Should Prostitution Be a Crime?” What she didn’t say was that she had already answered her own question, and that she chose to distort (or outright ignore) facts and interviews in order to push a narrative in support of full decriminalization, under the guise of neutral reporting.

Her bias becomes clear early on to anyone who is familiar with the politically loaded term, “sex work,” which she adopts uncritically, claiming this is “the term activists prefer.” While Bazelon admits that most of those who speak publicly as “sex workers” are white and very privileged in comparison to most women in the industry, she doesn’t challenge the language.

The piece centered itself around Amnesty International’s recent decision to adopt a policy supporting the decriminalization of pimps and johns. Due to the choice of organizations like Human Rights Watch (HRW), World Health Organization (WHO), UNAIDS, and Amnesty International to advocate for the legalization of prostitution, Bazelon is able to claim this as the “human rights” approach to prostitution legislation, without acknowledging the unethical ways these organizations came to this advocacy, the hypocrisy of this position, and without fairly representing the opposition. In fact, defining decriminalization as the “human rights argument” is a distortion tactic itself as, by comparison, those who oppose the legalization of the industry are positioned as not being onside with human rights goals. In truth, prostitution itself is defined as “incompatible with the dignity and worth of the human person” by the UN, meaning that organizations like Amnesty International and HRW defy their own mission statements, core values, and responsibilities by advocating for a system that accepts and normalizes prostitution.

Bazelon claims that “sex work” activists are “fighting the legal status quo, social mores, and also mainstream feminism,” leading me to wonder who and what, exactly, Bazelon believes “mainstream feminism” is…

Feminism is a radical movement that fights a system of oppression called “patriarchy,” so to call it “mainstream” is strange, in and of itself. But I myself have, admittedly, used the term from time to time, in reference to the large, mainstream, liberal publications that promote a version of “feminism” that is pro-capitalist, pro-objectification, pro-sex industry, and that fail to challenge male power at its root. This is to say that, when I have used the term “mainstream feminism,” (which I have, in the past, used interchangeably with other terms such as “Playboy feminism,” “liberal feminism,” and “corporate feminism”) I don’t mean “feminism” at all. My perspective is that feminism is not, as celebrities like Matt McGorry and corporate beauty magazines like Cosmo and Glamour claim, a thing that happens any time a woman makes a choice about anything at all, nor is it something that is not specifically about “women’s liberation” but rather about “gender equality,” nor is it something that must necessarily be inclusive of men. No. Feminism is a movement that is focused on ending the oppression of women under patriarchy and on ending the male violence women are subjected to within that system.

That Bazelon positions those fighting for men’s right to legally buy and sell women as “fighting mainstream feminism” confirms either ignorance with regard to what the feminist movement actually is or a strong bias.

But Bazelon not only doesn’t acknowledge a bias, but denies one, saying in a video conversation posted to Facebook shortly after the article was published, “Six months ago, I really knew almost nothing about this topic.”

This claim is hard to believe, even without considering the perspective put forth in the piece, which left out testimonies from survivors, distorted quotes from abolitionists, presenting them as out-of-touch conservatives, irrational ideologues, and misogynists, and provided false information about both the Nordic model and decriminalization.

In one case, Bazelon writes, “Melissa Farley, a psychologist who received Bush funds, wrote in 2000 in the journal Women and Criminal Justice that any woman who claimed to have chosen prostitution was acting pathologically — ‘enjoyment of domination and rape are in her nature.'” The actual argument from “Prostitution: a critical review of the medical and social sciences literature” reads:

“Pornography, for example, is a form of cultural propaganda which reifies the notion that women are prostitutes. One [john] said ‘I am a firm believer that all women… are prostitutes at one time or another’ (Hite, 1981, page 760). To the extent that any woman is assumed to have freely chosen prostitution, then it follows that enjoyment of domination and rape are in her nature, that is to say, she is a prostitute (Dworkin, 1981).”

The argument being referenced here is Dworkin’s, which says that normalizing prostitution or saying that women freely choose to work in the sex industry because they “enjoy it” leads to the conclusion that women, in fact, enjoy being dominated and raped, as this is what we see both in porn and in prostitution.

Likewise, Farley does not argue that she believes women enjoy rape and domination, but that buyers (johns) believe this and that men who buy sex have antiquated, sexist notions about gender and accept male sexual aggression and entitlement as “natural.”

For Bazelon to read all that and then to rewrite Farley’s words, framing her argument as one that says “any woman who claimed to have chosen prostitution was acting pathologically” and that “enjoyment of domination and rape are in her nature” is deeply disturbing in its overt dishonesty.

While Bazelon centered her piece around the perspectives of those who support a legalized sex industry, she intentionally left out stories of survivors who would have disrupted the chosen narrative for her story. A woman named Sabrinna Valisce who was involved in the sex trade in New Zealand on and off for many years, both before and after decriminalization, told me she spoke with Balezon for the piece, but that her interview was cut. Valisce was a volunteer with the New Zealand Prostitutes Collective (NZPC) until about two years ago and had advocated for full decriminalization until she experienced its results firsthand.

While the Prostitution Reform Act was meant to make the industry safer for women in it and enforce safe sex practices, it’s done the opposite, Valisce says. Women were suddenly expected to engage in “passionate” kissing and oral sex without protection (called “NBJ” or “Natural Blow Job”) — things that had previously been viewed as “a betrayal of the sisterhood” and internally policed by the prostituted women themselves. “All that has gone by the wayside [due to] high competition and lowered rates,” Valisce says. “Girls are also now expected to let men cum as many times as they can within the booked time. It was never that way before. They paid once and received one service.” Under decriminalization, Valisce’s efforts to institute exiting programs were rejected full out.

Not only that, but a kind of routine violence was normalized by johns. “I’m not talking about punching and beating… [though this still does happen] I’m talking more about the everyday violence of gagging, throttling, spanking, hair pulling, rough handling, and hard pounding.” Valisce says there has been a notable rise in men’s sense of entitlement and a normalization of abuse since the new law came into effect.

Just weeks after decriminalization was implemented, Valisce says just about every brothel in the country rolled out what they called “all-inclusives.” This meant, she told me, “that women couldn’t negotiate their own fees or services, nor could they decide what their boundaries were.” The reason she had supported decriminalization, Valisce said, was because she wanted “the power in the hands of the people who work in prostitution” and to ensure that women weren’t getting arrested or ending up with criminal records. She was told that decriminalization was the only way to go.

Her goals remained the same, but she realized the only way to address the problems she was seeing under decriminalization was through the Nordic model.

Regardless of the real effects of decriminalization and contradictory testimony from survivors, Bazelon parrots Amnesty’s claim that legislation in New Zealand and Australia places “greater control into the hands of sex workers to operate independently, self-organize in informal cooperatives and control their own working environments.”

When I spoke to her over Skype, Valisce said she had told Bazelon that she had worked alongside trafficked women post-decriminalization. Trafficking was hard to track, as it had been rebranded as “sex worker recruitment,” but it still went on. Nonetheless, Bazelon reported that “the New Zealand government has found no evidence that sex workers are being trafficked,” and left it at that. Bazelon’s desire to paint a rosy picture of decriminalization in New Zealand seems to have led her to expunge Valisce’s testimony from the record, despite (or perhaps because of) the fact that she was the only person Bazelon interviewed who had worked under decriminalization in New Zealand.

“The things she’s said about decriminalization in New Zealand are absolute falsehood,” Valisce said.

Everything Valisce told me, she also told Bazelon. Which makes her statements about New Zealand and the benefits of decriminalization all the more shocking, and Bazelon’s choice to leave Valisce’s testimony out of the story all the more telling.

Bazelon’s claim that she’d known nothing of this topic or debate prior to beginning work on this piece seems even stranger as I discovered her connections to George Soros, a billionaire whose Open Society Foundations (OSF) not only is a major donor to Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch (HWR), and UNAIDS, but a number of sex work lobby groups across the world. Soros and OSF funded the Global Network of Sex Work Projects (NSWP), which was revealed to be a front for a pimping operation last year, as their vice president, Gil Alejandra, who served as co-chair of the UNAIDS Advisory Group on HIV and Sex Work & Global Working Group on HIV and Sex Work Policy, was arrested for sex trafficking. (Bazelon spoke to the president of NSWP for her piece, but didn’t mention the trafficking conviction, though she had been made her aware of it by another interviewee, Rachel Moran.) The man who appears to be the biggest financial backer of the pro-legalization lobby in the world, whose organization is overtly pro-legalization and funded reports Amnesty International relied on in order to support their position also has longstanding ties to Bazelon and her family. Bazelon herself was a Soros Media Fellow in 2004 and her grandfather’s foundation, the Judge David L. Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law (Emily’s sister and mother both serve on the Center’s board), receives over a $1 million in funding from OSF.

Bazelon says that it was only Amnesty International’s recent vote to adopt a pro-industry position that led her to support legalization. But this claim is hard to believe when we consider the bias she conveys in the piece, her connections to Soros, and the fact that she doesn’t acknowledge that Amnesty International, HRW, and WHO did not simply “discover” a grassroots “sex worker movement” independently, leading them to push for legalization. Rather, these organizations, alongside Soros’ OSF, have been working with pimps, traffickers, and industry lobbyists to develop policy for some time.

The report by Kat Banyard, which points out that NSWP was appointed Co-Chair of the UNAIDS “Advisory Group on HIV and Sex Work” in 2009, explains:

“UNAIDS is the international body responsible for leading global efforts to reverse the spread of HIV, and the advisory group was established to ‘review and participate in the development of UNAIDS policy, programme or advocacy documents, or statements.’ Alejandra Gil is also personally acknowledged in a 2012 World Health Organisation (WHO) report about the sex trade as one of the ‘experts’ who dedicated her ‘time and expertise’ to developing its recommendations. NSWP’s logo is on the front cover, alongside the logos of WHO, UNAIDS and the United Nations Population Fund.”

How can reports and policy funded by a billionaire who is specifically invested in the legalization of prostitution and that were developed in consultation with pimps and traffickers be either unbiased or be considered connected to “grassroots movements” in any way? The “movements” Bazelon references as having inspired Amnesty International, HRW, and WHO to develop these policies and positions are, in fact, organizations funded by Soros himself.

Bazelon’s dismissal of the Nordic model is yet another mistake made in her efforts to cling to neutrality. In an interview on the Diane Rehm show, she repeats erroneous claims that, while street prostitution appears to have decreased in Sweden after the implementation of the Nordic model, the purchase of sex did not, based on the increased number of ads online. But reports from Sweden say the ads are unrepresentative, as many of the ads posted are duplicates and/or posted by the same person. From the report:

“Authorities who have studied escort ads in the past have noted that one and the same seller of sexual services is often found in several advertisements. This finding is also indicated by the internet surveys, mainly in the form of the same telephone number cropping up during a search of several advertising sites. The overlap between the number of advertisements and escort sites and the duplication of many ads is shown by both surveys. This is also confirmed by other authorities working the field. Against this background, there is nothing indicating that the actual number of individuals engaging in prostitution has increased.”

While she admits that abolitionists are “oppos[ed] to arresting” prostituted women, Bazelon adds, “But they want to continue using the criminal law as a weapon of moral disapproval by prosecuting male customers, alongside pimps and traffickers — though this approach still tends to entangle sex workers in a legal net.” She fails to explain what she means by that and quickly moves forward to paint support for the Nordic model as something clueless American celebrities and ideologues do: The “man” vs the little guy, is the impression we are meant to get… The “man” being Gloria Steinem and Meryl Streep, and the “little guy” being, of course, the so-called “sex worker.”

Bazelon casually throws out the term “carceral feminism,” quoting Elizabeth Bernstein, a sociologist who studies “sex work,” who explains that abolitionists “have relied upon strategies of incarceration as their chief tool of ‘justice,'” going on to imply the history of abolition is connected to “faith-based” and “evangelical” groups who worked with George W. Bush to raid brothels for American TV audiences. She continues to connect abolitionists to Bush and to evangelicals throughout the piece, failing to acknowledge that the feminists who support the Nordic model today do so through a socialist lens and have always been part of an actual independent, radical, grassroots feminist movement.

Ignoring the decades-old grassroots women’s movement and the ongoing, tireless work of underfunded working-class women and women of colour who have been fighting prostitution for years is one of Bazelon’s most suspect choices. She discusses organizations funded by Open Society Foundations and the Gates Foundation, many of which have ties to pimps and traffickers, without question but erases or misrepresents the work of movement women who have nothing to gain from their fight against prostitution but a better life for women and girls and a more equitable world in the future.

Bazelon’s claim that decriminalization will make “people’s lives better, and safer” is not only untrue, but is based on money, not facts… The money that supports efforts to legalize is vast and passed around among sex industry lobby groups, civil liberty and human rights organizations, and, apparently, journalists. The incentive to support decriminalization is very clearly financial — prostitution is yet another billion-dollar global industry. It is unconscionable to ignore that reality when discussing key players. Support for decriminalization is also rooted in a deep desire to believe that a situation that is clearly not “okay” by any means can somehow become “okay,” despite ample evidence showing that this will never be the case.

Like the cover photo, which aims to convince the reader that “diversity” was a priority in Bazelon’s reporting (but, in fact, only featured those who both identify as “sex workers” and live in three American cities: New York, San Fransisco, and Seattle), the entire story intentionally removes or distorts the perspectives of abolitionists and survivors, positioning sex work advocates as the diverse expert voices that legitimize her piece.

While Bazelon claims the view she presents (which is, to be clear, her own) “poses a deep challenge to traditional Western feminism,” she’s ironically ignored the fact that Indigenous women and women’s groups say that prostitution never existed in their cultures until they were colonized by the West. Beyond that, almost all liberal American publications (many of which claim to be feminist) support the legalization of prostitution, as do, of course, privileged men. These are the voices and publications that dominate Western discourse and have the funding to promote their views. Men are the people who, at the end of the day, benefit from prostitution — their power is reinforced through its existence.

Bazelon herself is nothing if not a voice for Western privilege and liberalism, based on her Ivy League education, career, connections, and the ideology she supports. After all, is there anything more “mainstream” than the commodification and sexualization of women’s bodies? Certainly there is nothing more “traditional” than patriarchy itself.

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Meghan Murphy
Meghan Murphy

Founder & Editor

Meghan Murphy is a freelance writer and journalist. She has been podcasting and writing about feminism since 2010 and has published work in numerous national and international publications, including New Statesman, Vice, Al Jazeera, The Globe and Mail, I-D, Truthdig, and more. Meghan completed a Masters degree in the department of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies at Simon Fraser University in 2012 and lives in Vancouver, B.C. with her dog.

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  • Sara Marie

    Thank you for eloquently pointing out the problems with this article that supposedly doesn’t take a stance, Meghan.

    When I read the quote by Melissa Farley, I was horrified, but I also knew there was no way she had written that. And clearly, the text from her article is twisted in meaning. What Bozelan is quoting Farley is saying is horrible–and not true. Both the NY TImes and NY Magazine need to issue a well-publicized retraction of this error.

  • MsTerry

    Thanks Meghan! I was waiting for your response to this piece. My goal, and my difficulty, is using neo-liberal terms to argue against prostitution – you know, to attack neo-liberal feminism on its own terms. The only way I can argue against the “they choose to do it” argument is that (1) their choice is bounded by material concerns that are the result of inequality and (2) their choice is the result of socialization – i think you said it once, as the “drip drip drip” of patriachal culture. Am I on the right track?

    • Meghan Murphy

      Yes. Choice is all about context. Women who ‘choose’ prostitution choose it within the confines of capitalist patriarchy.

      • MsTerry

        Thanks! I really rely on this site.

      • Wren

        I really don’t understand how people can’t see that this whole argument about choice is just like the arguments to continue slavery. Maybe some slaves may have wanted to stay with their masters, maybe because they were not as brutal as others, or because the slaves internalized their oppression, or because they didn’t know anything else. Yet, how could anyone, at least now, reasonably argue that the “choices” of these few slaves proved that the entire slave enterprise was not based on violence, depravity, cruelty, hatred, privilege, and exploitation?

        Same thing with the Johns who say they’re “nice” to their prostitutes. I bet many white slave masters said the same thing. And these “sex workers”, I have some pity for them, but mostly I just don’t fucking care about them anymore. I’m too concerned with helping my students get stable housing, find a job, keep away from abusers, and stay out of prostitution.

        And this article is seriously shitty writing. WTF happened to the NY Times??? Maybe I didn’t always agree with them, but I always thought they could write!!

  • Cassandra

    I almost puked when I read the NY Times piece. I’ll usually go into the comments section and drop a bomb or two, but I was so disheartened by it. You’ve done a great takedown of it. The NY Times has lost all credibility with me. It’s neo-liberal capitalist misogynist poison.

  • Nora Temple

    Still baffled at the people who say it’s a job like any other. What other job has such a high homicide rate? Perhaps drug dealing, but there’s almost always a ‘legitimate’ reason (ofc there’s almost never a legitimate reason to kill anyone) such as they stole money from you, you’re on their ‘turf’, you double crossed them, etc.

    Prostitutes are regularly killed for a sick pathetic man’s jollies.

  • marv

    What a crystal clear diagnosis of the murky semantics of power.

    • Meghan Murphy

      Thanks marv!

  • esuth

    It’s so frustrating that this debate is always framed as one between two groups of women. Men are the buyers and the people who profit the most off this industry, why isn’t Bazelon asking them what they think? Something tells me a slideshow of moody portraits of johns defending their right to buy and sell women wouldn’t be quite as persuasive.

    • Meghan Murphy


  • fragglerock

    YIKES! How does anyone rationalize that no one is hurt by this practice? I bet money, this author and many like her would run circles trying to convince their daughters that women are more than their bodies but don’t have the guts to stand up against one of the most harmful and powerful industries to perpetuate the objectification of women.

    • Wren

      “I bet money, this author and many like her…”
      I bet money this author isn’t a her.

  • Refael Fishzon

    These pieces are my favorite thing about this website. I roam through a lot of old ones, but it always seems there’s time between each one.
    I think you have a typo: shouldn’t it be NBJ instead of NBA?

    • Meghan Murphy

      Thanks Refael!

  • River

    FANTASTIC piece.

    • Meghan Murphy

      Thank you!

  • Meghan Murphy

    Prostitution is nothing like flipping burgers.

    • michael

      I didn’t say it was.

      • Meghan Murphy

        Yet you and others are comparing it to flipping burgers.

  • Meghan Murphy

    Yeah I can’t deal with that kind of sensationalism… It’s like watching the American news. The reality of prostitution is bad enough — even the ‘mundane’ parts. No need to exaggerate or sensationalize imo.

  • Meghan Murphy

    Yes, clearly for most women in prostitution the choice was between “lawyer” or “prostituted woman.”

    • Plinge

      Women can’t choose between being working at McDonald’s or being a lawyer. Therefore, working at McDonald’s should be illegal.

      • Meghan Murphy

        Oh. Does serving food feel just like being raped?

        • Plinge

          If sex work feels like “being raped” to a person, and that person does not like that feeling, then that person can opt not to engage in sex work.

          • Meghan Murphy

            Can they? How simple and easy! You should let them know.

          • Anon

            Are you really this dumb?

  • Meghan Murphy

    Can you not see the ways in which prostitution is wholly rooted in male entitlement?

    • Plinge

      Shopping at organic supermarkets is wholly rooted in male entitlement. Therefore, shopping at organic supermarkets should be illegal.

      • Meghan Murphy

        Are you really that dumb?

        • Plinge

          I don’t know if you saw my other comment, but I’ll ask the question again. (If you’ve already answered the question by the time I’m done typing, then disregard.)

          Here’s the question: How does prostitution harm anyone? I ask in good faith and with all respect.

          • Meghan Murphy

            Can you please click on the “Prostitution” category or tag and read through?

    • jodylorenwilliams

      No we don’t. Tricks are both male and female. Providers are both male and female. The sex industry goes beyond “male entitlement” and if you weren’t busy acting like WE don’t exist except when we say what you want us to say then I say THAT’S the problem. YOU acting like others who don’t support your agenda don’t even exist. You’re a “female” so how is that “male entitlement”? This is about power and who is in control of this – period. https://www.change.org/p/congress-hold-trusted-officials-responsible-for-crime

      • Meghan Murphy

        Ok, you’ve posted basically the same comment ten times in one minute. I’ve asked you to stop link spamming, but you’ve continued. Also you’ve tried to slander Rachel Moran by saying she ‘ripped off’ crazy Gaye Dalton (like, lol), so I’m gonna go ahead and ban you, k?

  • somebody42

    At least 90% of customers are male. Gay men or straight men. Men. And if you don’t know if male prostitutes are mostly poor men of color, read.

    • Wren

      Most of the male prostitutes I know were poor or black.

      I have never, ever known or even heard a legit story about a woman buying sex. It is not 90% men, but 99.999999999999999….%.

  • radwonka

    The few males are often gay escorts, the clients are mostly still (violent) males.

    And read that: https://www.feministcurrent.com/2016/05/09/legalization-has-turned-germany-into-the-bordello-of-europe-we-should-be-ashamed/

  • radwonka

    No they’re saying that women selling their bodies is like selling a hamburger (see: https://www.feministcurrent.com/2016/05/09/legalization-has-turned-germany-into-the-bordello-of-europe-we-should-be-ashamed/ also http://invisible-men-canada.tumblr.com/ )

    It’s the objectification of women’s bodies.

    Yeah hamburgers can’t give orgasms and vice versa, thus they’re not comparable or equivalent captain obvious.

    No they’re saying that better because they want to banalize prostitution as a cool thing. Nothing more, nothing less. No one owes an orgasms to anyone. Period. Saying otherwise is being pro rape.

  • radwonka

    Yeah, which raises the question: if you’ve nothing to say and no sources and lowkey defends johns with weak and old arguments, why do you think your opinion is wanted when it’s not even interesting, critical and pertinent?

  • Meghan Murphy

    If you want to participate here, you’re gonna have to stop the boring-ass trolling, brah.

  • Meghan Murphy

    It IS like 90% men who buy sex. At least.

  • Meghan Murphy

    Have you ever watched the American news? Have you ever watched the CBC, in comparison? If so, you’ll know what I’m talking about.

    • Kendall Turtle

      Lol am American, can confirm.

  • Meghan Murphy

    Can you please stop wasting everyone’s time here?

  • Meghan Murphy


  • Prank Fembleton

    All of this- just excellent. Thank you for posting this comment.

  • Prank Fembleton

    “Nonetheless, Bazelon reported that “the New Zealand government has found no evidence that sex workers are being trafficked”

    Well that’s an interesting way of putting it, considering that until 5 months ago NZ didn’t even consider the internal trafficking of its own citizens illegal.

  • Wren

    Actually the last thing I read about Kristoff, and I can’t remember where, was him stating something along the lines of not wanting to impose limitations against “consensual” prostitution, you know the same bullshit logic that perpetuates the kind of ideas now in the NY times.

    But I gave up on him years ago because of his creepy visits to brothels in Cambodia where he asked enslaved little girls if they wanted to get out and sometimes that didn’t emphatically scream “oh yes, wealthy white male journalist!! Please save me!! I hate it!!” He mentioned “choice” withing this context and I nearly through my computer across the room.

    I agree he did some good stuff, but I wonder if he burnt out, gave up, or sold his soul.

  • Wren

    Haven’t you heard???? ALL the cool girls are nihilists!!

  • MsTerry

    This comment gave me goosebumps. Really well said!

  • Melanie

    The male prostitutes I knew were teenagers and young men who had been institutionalized in the foster care, juvenile justice and prison systems and who came from backgrounds of poverty, family dysfunction and abuse. Most, if not all of them, were abusing drugs and were homeless.

  • Meghan Murphy

    Oh yes I noticed that intentional trivializing and condescension re: Andrea’s experience in prostitution. Thank you for addressing this, John!

  • Meghan Murphy

    As far as I’m aware, Melissa has filed a defamation suit…

  • Meghan Murphy

    Thanks AP!

    • jodylorenwilliams

      Too bad she didn’t bother to speak to the oldest and largest group of ex-sex workers how they felt about the whole thing. We’ve been here since 1987 and are easily found online http://www.sexworkersanonymous.com Strange how she couldn’t find us with all that “research”

      • Meghan Murphy

        Please stop with the link spamming.

  • Meghan Murphy

    I respond with sarcasm because it is not a good use of my time and energy to argue, day in and day out, with people who make ignorant or sexist arguments in favour of prostitution.

  • lk

    “As “prude” or as “non prude” as someone is, surely they can admit sex is one of the most intimate acts that humans do.”

    From what I have read, many pro-sex worker activists will not admit that sex is significantly intimate. They insist that sex is merely a commodity that has a value on it; that all sex is transactional and all women are prostitutes in some way.

    Maggie McNeill is a former sex worker who blogs about sex worker rights and she was in this youtube vid for reason tv about legalizing prostitution.

    It starts with her saying: “We still pretend that there’s a magical mumbo jumbo taboo energy about sex that makes it different from all other human activities.”

    This is what she says about the idea that sex is deeply intimate in a way that other activities are not: MCNEILL: There’s a lot of work that’s intimate, isn’t there? I mean what about raising peoples’ children? But in America we don’t have a problem handing our children over to complete strangers to raise them in day cares or nannies. What about therapy? I mean you’re telling this person things that you might not even tell your best friend. You might not even tell your spouse. What about nursing? I have friends who are nurses and they have to
    clean peoples’ intimate parts and things like that. My gynecologist gets pretty intimate with my private parts when she examines me. So, the fact of something being intimate I don’t think that’s an argument. I think that’s neither here nor there as long as both parties agree. I can’t see where the relative level of intimacy—and what is intimacy anyway when we really get down to it? I mean who defines that? I think that the two parties involved are the only ones that have a right to define that.

  • Tangelo

    I read that article, it was horrible. Parents choosing to give their children hormones that stunted their growth such that, by adulthood, their child would have grown to only 4 ft 9 inches at most, and maybe 125 lbs or less. Justified by arguing that this would make it easier for the parent to care for the child. What about the child’s right to grow to his full potential. Ugh. The article did have a link to a very good article by a disability activist arguing against stunting the child’s growth.

  • Georgia95Luciana Todesco

    I do wonder what enticements or inducements were offered to Bazelon to write this piece, and by whom. Although the latter is pretty self-evident. Bazelon references George Soros-affiliated organisations throughout her piece–from Amnesty and HRW, to UNAids, WHO, Global Commission on HIV and the Law, and the Open Society Foundations. There needs to be transparency, because it read like an advertisement, not an investigative news story. It was a well-spun flyer, especially when it got to the bit about Meena Seshu of Sangram receiving an award from HRW. Sangram was receiving US money to fight trafficking, and was then found to have trafficked children. It’s written in the US State Department documents, transcripts of Congress and other records.

    • jodylorenwilliams

      Hurray. You can smell the bullshit when the group who started this movement is excluded and then people like Megan acting like we don’t exist. What you’re seeing is “controlled opposition”. Lenin used to teach about it. http://www.sexworkersanonymous.com

      • Meghan Murphy

        What movement you are talking about? Who is acting like you don’t exist? Who is “we”?

  • jodylorenwilliams

    https://www.change.org/p/congress-hold-trusted-officials-responsible-for-crime I find it hard to have a discussion with people who are deliberately excluding us while talking about how this affects “all” of us. Including Megan Murphy. Feminism isn’t supposed to be about fitting into someone else’s idea of how we’re supposed to think. To treat us the way men do isn’t feminism. It’s getting women to do their job of keeping us in line.

    • Meghan Murphy

      How are you being ‘deliberately excluded’ from anything? How are feminists treating you ‘like men do’?

  • jodylorenwilliams

    Their arguments change when people see the bullshit. So they try another line of bullshit. When the oldest and largest group of survivors of the sex industry is being excluded – what you’re seeing is “controlled opposition” as Lenin used to teach. Megan and Emily here argue with themselves to be heard while WE are being excluded. THIS is what it’s about and what they’re trying to eliminate from the discussion. https://www.change.org/p/congress-hold-trusted-officials-responsible-for-crime

    • Meghan Murphy

      Again, who is “we”? You keep repeating the same nonsensical comment over and over without actually making a coherent point or argument…

  • jodylorenwilliams

    EXACTLY. http://www.sexworkersanonymous.com is the oldest, and largest, group of ex-sex workers. The reason why we’re being ignored is because everyone of us is disabled. What is being excluded from the conversation is that most of us enter into sex work because of being disabled. We don’t need “more jobs” as they are fraudulently claiming because IF WE COULD WORK WE WOULDN’T BE HOOKING!

    • Meghan Murphy

      Ohhhhh Jody Williams. I remember you now. I believe I banned you some time ago for trashing/slandering Rachel Moran on this site. Now you’re back with a new username? Cool.

  • Andrea Dworkin was initially forced into prostitution by her “Mr. Right” (the Leftist loverboy she met while in college here in the US) that she married and expected to have this wonderful life with when he took her back to his home country (the Netherlands). He conveniently “forgot” to obtain the appropriate paperwork for Andrea to be able to get employment and access the Dutch social safety net and all the other benefits she would have been entitled to as a Dutch citizen through marriage. So when he became violent and abusive and initially forced her into the sex trade, she had NO legal recourse available to her at all. And oddly, even though due to her complicated status as a foreigner on Dutch soil without the legal residency/citizenship status she was unable to get any other kind of job or any Dutch welfare benefits, her “husband” was able to make sure she could get a “job” in one of Amsterdam’s legal “well-regulated” brothels. She didn’t merely “visit Europe and run out of money.” She went to Holland with the man she expected to have this wonderful life with, and ended up being beaten up, threatened at gunpoint, and forced into prostitution and pornography. Andrea Dworkin was trafficked, period. Except the words “human trafficking” and “Romeo pimp” were not part of the lexicon, and not part of Andrea Dworkin’s working vocabulary back then. But she most definitely was ipso facto trafficked. Funny how ALL that shit was left out of Emily Bazelon’s article. That article is not just deceptive, it’s an outright fraud that’s not even fit for use as toilet paper.

  • Lucia Lola

    I think this is fast becoming my most shared article on this site. Again, thank you Meghan for keeping things honest, unlike some journalists.

  • Rocio

    Ya when I read they said Dworkin only “briefly sold sex” i was like bullshit! That’s utter bullshit. That’s how you know Bazelon wasn’t merely new to the issue and perhaps naive she totally dismissed Dworkin’s experience. Reminds me of the hardcore pro-full decriminalization people that try so hard to find a way to say Rachel Moran somehow wasn’t really prostituted.

  • Rocio

    Ya there’s also a reason she didn’t mention the situation in Australia bc the trafficking of Asian women in particular into the sex trade is documented in their press there.

  • Rocio

    A couple of years ago I did fall for this crap as it was so heavily promoted by the “sex positive” people. And then I found out about the Nordic model and that sat a lot better with me as an anti-capitalist Feminist who didn’t want to criminalize women but didn’t want to legitimize johns.

  • Rocio

    Exactly. I saw someone on FB make this argument comparing it to cooking food and I was like excuse me? I was pretty casual about sex in college having many hookups and NO having sex is not like making someone food or babysitting.

  • Sara Marie

    That is an interesting tumblr. It does look like it is filled with language I am not familiar with.

    I don’t agree that the women who write and re-post this stuff are our opponents, though. They are other women, and, when we’re talking about tumblr, typically very young women at that. For many of them, this is the only type of feminism they have gotten any viable exposure to. When we look at power dynamics, it’s sexual predators and other male supremacists we are fighting; few women have *real* power.

  • Wren

    OMG!!! Dr. Herman is so modest. SHE WROTE THE BOOK ON TRAUMA!!

    But I still think no one should bother even mentioning that there are some “privileged” prostitutes. They think they’re good until they’re raped or beaten, and this happens more than they’re willing to admit. Where I live there’s been several high profile murders in the last 6 or so years of prostituted women who chose the time, the number of men, kept the money, so on. Of course, these are just the newsworthy ones. t

    The women from that article that are actually selling sex are in denial about these realities. Also, I gotta say this, as much as we want to think that they are just “sanitizing” the issues, women that I’ve known that have embraced an identity as a prostitute are often the most psychologically disturbed. They have either abandoned hope completely or they have strange narcissistic needs.

    But I’m not talking about the women who say they are sex workers, but they’re a sex therapists, dominatrix, whatever. If their typical “work” day doesn’t involve dicks in every hole in their body, then I don’t even wanna hear from them. They just think they’re cool and edgy. Fuck them.

  • Novo

    http://mattbruenig.com/2016/05/13/how-certain-liberals-permanently-erase-the-working-class/ the guy who wrote this is apparently not great about gender, but he makes a really important point that translates to the ‘listen to sex workers’ rhetoric. Is anyone really dumb enough to think the majority of prostituted women are actually on twitter and writing liberal arts-inflected hashtags/thinkpieces about ‘agency’ and ‘whorephobia’? Interesting how the ‘sex workers’ they listen to are almost always highly educated Westerners who are conversant in postmodern queer theory/social justice hipster-speak. Thanks FC, for being one of the very few left/feminist sites to avoid this horrendous dogma.

    • Sara Marie

      In regards to your comment-yes! I was lucky enough to hear Rachel Moran speak, and she was talking about a woman currently in the sex trade she is in contact with. She suggested this woman could suggest to the other women in the brothel to google certain info, and the currently prostituted woman said, “none of the other women in the brothel have Internet access!”

      I wouldn’t be surprised if a significant proportion of women currently in the trade not only don’t refer to themselves as “sex workers” but aren’t familiar with the pro-sex-as-work movement–or, the Nordic model, for that matter.

  • Cassandra

    Where are you getting your information? You are in over your head, dude.

  • Sara Marie

    You’re a troll, Michael, but I want to respond to your comment for the sake of other readers.

    To state the obvious, an orgasm doesn’t preclude abuse. In fact, many rape victims of both sexes experience sexual arousal with or without orgasm during the (non-paid) rape. This only adds to the traumatic experience and feeling of distrust in one’s body.

    • Meghan Murphy

      Michael has been banned from the site now, fyi. The trolling was non-stop…

  • martindufresne

    Bazelon stated on video that she knew nothing about this topic prior to writing her NYT piece.
    This article of hers from eight years ago is proof to the contrary and a telling reflection of her faux-objectivity.

  • Rocio

    What you mean the most cited “sex worker” in Sweden for decriminalizing the johns says she never did prostitution and only stripped? What a shocker.

  • Jem Leav

    Absolutely revolting. Breech of ethics doesn’t even begin to describe what she’s done…

  • Meghan Murphy

    Would you say that about rape? Or domestic abuse? That is to say, do you think criminalizing violent/abusive men equates to ‘feminists pushing their beliefs onto others via the criminal justice system?’

  • meh

    You’re either an imbecile or a rapist. No little girl anywhere ever grew up thinking hey it would be lovely to allow a grunting, sweating stranger to empty his jizz into my orifices so I can pay my electricity bill. Any man who buys sex is a rapist piece of garbage and should be locked up. All prostitution is coercion and anyone who thinks otherwise is choosing to believe garbage to make themselves feel better about being either a sleazy cretin who doesn’t care what happens to women or a rapist.

  • Signme Uplease

    The FINAL word should ALWAYS be the sex workers themselves. In a perfect world, there would be no need for any woman (or man) to see her/his body. But, because we don’t live in a perfect world, we MUST listen to the sex workers themselves IN THEIR ENTIRETY, not just privileged sex workers, to craft legislation that ensures the complete safety and autonomy of the sex worker. Ultimately, they’re the ones who pay the highest price in this transaction. For example, I would LOVE to see legislation that REQUIRED that men have a test for STD’s before they can purchase sex.

  • Peta Johnson

    Whilst I fully understand the anguish, there are no simple or perfect solutions in this area. Vice Squads are notoriously oppressive and corrupt. There is no “zipperless f*ck” here in the world of commercial sex work.