NOMAS National Task Group on Sex Trafficking, Pornography, & The Commercial Sex Industry
Robert Brannon Ph.D., Chair
A. Our Culture’s Mythology of Prostitution
- There is a common, popular stereotype, sometimes termed “the happy hooker,” of a woman willingly selling her body, who is tough, independent, sassy, strong, often wise, and in full control of her fun, raunchy life-style. In this stereotype she’s an adult, who knows what she’s doing. She could quit, when she wants to, but is making plenty of money.
- The happy hooker stereotype can readily be seen in countless Hollywood films, novels, stage productions, cartoons, and in ribald jokes.
Almost every attractive female Hollywood star in film history has played some variation of this stereotypic role, including Elizabeth Taylor, Jane Fonda, Julia Roberts, Audrey Hepburn, Dolly Parton, Marlene Dietrich (twice), Greta Garbo (twice), Helen Mirren (twice), Cameron Diaz (twice), Shirley MacLaine (three times), Helen Hayes, Rita Hayworth, Jane Russell, Gloria Swanson, Ginger Rogers, Janet Gaynor, Julie Christie, Shelley Winters, Jodie Foster, Charlize Theron, Melina Mercouri, Brooke Shields, Sigourney Weaver, Nancy Kwan, Catherine Deneuve, Sharon Stone, Donna Reed, Nicole Kidman, Michelle Pfeiffer, Mira Sorvino, Elizabeth Shue, Melanie Griffith, Jennifer Connelly, Lynn Redgrave, Joey Heatherton, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Anne Baxter, Nancy Allen, Rebecca De Mornay, Jamie Lee Curtis, Simone Signoret, Shelley Long, Eartha Kitt, Salma Hayek, Laura Antonelli, Jessica Alba, Megan Fox, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Kristin Chenoweth, Jenifer Garner, Shirley Jones, Anna Magnani, Helen Buday, Giulietta Messina, Emily Browning, Molly Parker, Catherine McCormack.
- Our culture thus generally views prostitution and stripping as “naughty,” but also, titillating, fun, sexy, funny, and mostly quite harmless, if not entirely respectable.
“Whore and pimp” Halloween costumes for young children are commonly sold now in the U.S., and are also often seen at adult costume parties. To “pimp it up” now means to make something flashy, expensive, desirable, and cool. An Abercrombie & Fitch marketing catalog promoted stripping as an empowering summer job for students (Smith et al., 2005). Middle school students at a career day in California were told that an excellent careers for girls. A male job counselor told girls that if they had breast enlargement surgery, they could earn excellent salaries as strippers. “For every two inches up there, it’s another $50, 000,” he told the girls (Kim, 2005).
B. Realities of Prostitution
- It is surprisingly difficult today to obtain accurate, reliable information about prostitution. (Many quoted statistics were estimates made at conferences, and are no more than somewhat-informed guesses (Stransky and Finkelhor, 2008).
(a). The subject has seldom been studied, relative to other issues, by objective social scientists.
(b). Much of the social science “literature” has been authored by overt admirers of prostitution (usually male) who perceive the issue as a matter of sexual freedom vs. Victorian moralism, and do not notice or mention issues of power, abuse, or exploitation.
(c). A large proportion of the “information” on-line and in print, is actually misleading propaganda, covertly paid for by agents of the hugely-wealthy commercial sex industry.
(d). Some print and on-line sources of reliable formation on prostitution, from scholars and professionals, are cited at the end of this document.
- Age of Entry. Among the most important of all facts established by research is the surprisingly young age at which girls are first deceived or forced into prostitution, or driven to it by homelessness and sheer desperation. This is usually in adolescence, often around the age of 14, 15, or 16. Nothing more clearly refutes the “happy hooker” stereotype than this tragic fact of a very early age of entering prostitution.
Results differ from one sample to another, reported statistics are not always comparable, and some studies focused on minors, which might somewhat skew the results. Nonetheless, the basic finding – of a very early age of entry into prostitution – is generally consistent. Nadon et.al.(1998) reported that 89% of the prostituted women they studied had begun before the age of 16. Silbert & Pines (1980, 1982) reported that of 200 women being prostituted in San Francisco, 68% had begun at age 16 or younger. Some of these girls had been 9, 10, 11, or 12 years old. Three studies each reached the same conclusion: an average entry-age of 14: Boyer et al. (1993); Weisberg (1984); Gray (1973). A U.S. government study put the average age of entering prostitution at 12-13 (Spangenberg (2001); http.www.justice.gov/criminal/ceos/prostitution.html)
Researchers in Seattle (James ,1980, n=136) and in Norway (Høigard & Finstad,1992) each calculated a mean age of entry of 15; James states that 36% of these girls had been 14, or younger. Bagley & Young (1987) found that 51% of prostituted Canadian women they studied had begun at age 15, or younger. A government study of 229 prostituted youth In Canada (1984) determined that they all had entered prostitution between the ages of 8 and 19. Most had been15 to 16, and many had begun at 13 or14.
- Childhood Sexual Victimization. Another key fact is that 60% to 70% of the women being used in prostitution had previously been victims of sexual abuse or incest in childhood, while living at home. The magnitude of this relationship astonished those who first discovered it. Sexual abuse was often the direct cause of becoming a run-away, which had led quickly to entrapment in prostitution.
Many studies document a strong association between childhood sexual abuse and prostitution, usually beginning in adolescence (Abramovitch, 2005). Ninety percent of the prostituted teenagers studied by Newton-Ruddy & Handelsman (1986) had been sexually abused by care-givers, or neighbors. Some 70% of the prostituted women studied by Silbert and Pines (1982, 1983) said that childhood sexual abuse had played a direct role in their entry to being used in prostitution; 96% of them had been run-aways.
Bagley (1987) reported that 73% of the prostituted women studied had been sexually abused as children. Widom and Kuhns (1996) calculated that girls who are sexually abused are 28 times more likely to later be used in prostitution than are other girls. In a study of children being prostituted in California, most said they had been coerced into prostitution by pimps posing as boyfriends, by friends, classmates, and by men who were strangers to them (Carr, 2009). Girls being prostituted in New York City told researchers they feared and hated the johns, and 87% said they wanted to escape prostitution (Curtis et.al., 2008). Many additional studies verify the startling 60%-70% magnitude of early sexual abuse of women now being used in prostitution: Murphy, 1993; Belton, 1992; Simons & Whitbeck, 1991; Weisberg, 1984; Papery & Deisher, 1983; Farley et.al.,1998; James, 1980; James & Meyerding, 1977. Abuse by older male family members – usually fathers, stepfathers, and foster-fathers – is the most common.
- Homelessness. The most immediate precursor of being used in prostitution is most often homelessness: being alone on the streets few resources, and nowhere safe to go (Potterat et.al.,1985).
Of 775 homeless 12-19 year olds studied by Molnar et.al. (1998), 70% reported sexual abuse in their childhood, and 48% had attempted suicide – an average of six times. After 36 – hours of being homeless, most youths will be asked to exchange sex for money, food, or shelter (Clayton, 1996). Of girls who had entered prostitution between the ages of 12 and 15, 72% had run away from home as children (Raphael and Shapiro, 2002). In studies of women used prostitution in nine countries, 75% reported having first been homeless (Farley et.al., 2003). The same proportion of prior homelessness – 5% – was also reported by Yates et.al. (1991).
- Control by Pimps. Over-all percentages are not available, but many careful studies in various locations have determined that 80% to 90% of the girls and women being used in prostitution are not independent free agents, but are controlled by pimps. Throughout the world, the pimp-sector is basically in daily control of prostitution.
The Cambodian Women’s Crisis Centre found that 86% of women rescued from Phnom Penh brothels by police had been tricked or sold into prostitution, and did not know they were going to be prostituted, when they left home (Brown, 2000, 66, 89).
The European Union provides data on the extent of pimp-control in a number of European countries (Details in Scelles Foundation, 2012). In Spain, more than 90% of women in prostitution were found to be victims of trafficking by pimps (p.268). In Poland, 90% of prostitution along roads was said to be controlled by organized criminal groups (p.233). In Bulgaria, RiskMonitor estimates that more than 95% of those in prostitution have pimps linked to organized crime (64).
In Germany, a policy analyst estimated that 80%-95% of women in prostitution there have pimps (Barry,1979, p.130). A more recent study in Germany found that 95% to 99% of women now in prostitution are under the control of others (Paulus, 2014). In Italy, the EU estimates that 80% of those in prostitution are being trafficked (p.173). In Ireland, 80% of women in prostitution are reported to be under pimp control (Benson / Ruhama agency, 2014).
Some reports have concluded that 80%-90% of all those in prostitution in the United States are controlled by pimps (Helfgott, 2008; Faugier & Sargeant, 1997). A study of women prostituted from hotels estimated that over 80% were under the control of a pimps (Prus & Irini, 1980). Of women who had left prostitution in Oregon, 84% had been directly controlled by pimps (Hunter,1994). Barry in 1979 estimated that 80% to 95% of all prostitution in the U.S. is pimp-controlled, and cited several studies of “street-walking prostitutes” which indicated that over 90% were controlled by a pimp (Barry, 1979). According to Barry the situation is more variable today, as a significant “normalization” of prostitution in U.S. culture has occurred (Barry, 1995).
(a). The legal scope of the term “pimp.” This word is legally defined as those who “profit from the prostitution of others.” It includes a range of third parties who profit from prostitution financially, including: guards, drivers, procurers, seasoners, madams, brothel owners, unseen investors and others (Posner & Silbaugh,1996, p.177).
- Percent who Want to Escape From Prostitution Immediately. In interviews conducted with 785 prostituted women, in nine different countries, 89% said that they would like to escape prostitution immediately (Farley et.al., 2003).
- Suicides, Femicides, PTSD: A Tragic Toll. In one study 65% of all prostituted women had been beaten and physically abused by johns (Silbert & Pines,1981). PTSD in survivors is massive and pervasive; a book is devoted to documenting this(Farley,2003). Murders are commonplace. In one year in New York City, two hundred prostituted women were reported murdered (Rosen, 1981). Forty prostituted women were found murdered, in Seattle alone, in 1982-84 (Washington Post, 9/20/88). Such kinds of murders of women should best be termed femicides (Russell & Harmes, 2001; Russell & Radford, 1992) .
There is a drastic way to escape prostitution, and many do finally choose it. Seventy five percent of the “call girls” in one study had attempted suicide at least once. Public hospitals have stated that about 15% of all suicide victims are women apparently being used in prostitution (Erbe,1984 ,p. 618-19).
- Boys in Prostitution. Boys are also widely available in prostitution, but less is known, and caution is advisable in generalizing across categories. Homeless boys have been reported to suffer lower levels of sexual trauma than do homeless girls (Gwadz, 2007; Tyler et.al., 2001). Some evidence suggests that boys involved in prostitution may be less often controlled by a pimp than are minor girls or women. For both boys and girls used in prostitution, the buyers are alway adult males, so the situations are not identical. There is a small but growing literature on the use of boys in prostitution (Bimbi, 2007, Kaye, 2003, Flowers, 2001, Van Der Poe 1992, Boyer, 1989, Coleman, 1989, Earls & David,1989).
- The Numerous Major Obstacles to Leaving Prostitution. In addition to the vigilance, persistence, and brutality of pimps, there are a remarkable number of legal, bureaucratic, job-requirement, and grim practical impediments, to anyone attempting to leave prostitution.
There will be needs for housing, a work permit, a health card, drug-tests, already having a bank account, a telephone, a mailing address, appropriate clothing, often babysitting needs, and the difficulties of not having an I.D. card, an employment history, the long waiting periods, transportation difficulties, often also language, health, and literacy issues. Often a list of arrests including felonies makes it impossible to get either job or housing. These records should be expunged as part of the process of exiting and healing.
What is needed, and actually does work, is to provide these women with jobs they can function in with their current skills, jobs that don’t require more than a few hours training, where her background is irrelevant to the employer, and where she receives immediate pay, so that she can survive . This is detailed in Williams, “Barriers to Services for Women Escaping Nevada Prostitution and Trafficking,” Chapter 12 in Farley (2007).
10.(a). What is the meaning of “consensual prostitution,” that is, of a girl or woman’s “consent” to let herself be prostituted, sold to strangers? Minimally it must means that she (a) made a conscious decision to do this, more-or-less free, and self-chosen; ( b) understood what she was consenting to; © had reasonable alternatives (other than homelessness, hunger, desperation, etc.); and (d) had the right, after agreeing, to change her mind. In the real world of today, prostitution almost never meets these four criteria (Brannon, 2014a).
10.(b). What is the actual extent of “consensual prostitution?” Davidson (1998) found that prostitution “in which a woman with apparent options, enters of her own volition” accounted for only about 1% of the total. Melissa Farley has interviewed women being used in prostitution in thirteen different countries, including the U.S. Farley finds that approximately 2% of the women are free agents, making some money, have other options, and could quit at will. About 48%, Dr. Farley found, are prostituting out of severe economic desperation, some but not all of them controlled by pimps. The remaining 50% are truly enslaved, guarded, and confined by their pimps, or sold to other pimps, unable to escape for years, if ever.
“Consensual prostitution” does exist, but it is the rare exception, not the ubiquitous, massive, world-wide reality. Public policy, and laws, should not be based on these rare situations, as they are highly atypical of the devastating non-consensual ordeals of the huge majority of women, girls, and boys being used in prostitution.
- Sex Trafficking, and Prostitution: the Same Reality by Another Name. Prostitution has been viewed as domestic trafficking, or as a sub-category of trafficking (MacKinnon, 2005) and sex trafficking has been described as globalized prostitution (Leidholdt, 2003). Dempsey (2007) proposes that “prostitution serve as an umbrella category, and trafficking is understood as one form of prostitution; so that one might say there is a distinction between trafficked prostitution and non-trafficked prostitution.”
It is clear that sex trafficking and prostitution are fundamentally the same phenomenon, differing in only minor ways. Women trafficked from abroad are typically delivered to local brothels and strip clubs, to be prostituted indistinguishably with local women. Women used in domestic prostitution are often transported long distances, to distant cities. International trafficking amplifies the dynamic of power and control, via greater dependence, isolation, and fear of being deported (Leidholdt, 2003). While the differences are relatively minor, different sets of laws often apply (See E- 5, below), and the two words’ “connotations” are rather different (Brannon, 2012), with “sex trafficking” somehow sounding worse to most Americans than “prostitution.”
12. Prostitution and Pornography. These branches of the sex industry overlap indistinguishably in many ways. Often the same men are involved, using many of the same women. Video pornography is made of girls being used in prostitution, to “prove” their consent, and for blackmail, using a threat of send the films to her parents and relatives (Schwartz et.al., 2007).
In one study 38% of women being used in prostitution said they had been used in child pornography before the age of sixteen, 10% of them before the age of thirteen (Silbert & Pines,1982). Pornography in addition harms many other women and men, indirectly, through eroticizing woman-abuse and making it “seem sexy” (Russell, 1991,1993; Brannon, 1991; Layden, 2010; Einseidel, 1991; Brannon & Frank, 1990; Brannon et al., 1996).
C. Appropriate Language about Prostitution
- “Sex Work” It is grossly inappropriate, and cruelly misleading, to speak of the girls and women being used in prostitution around the world as “sex workers”.
Priscilla Alexander, a paid lobbyist / advocate for prostitution, coined the phrase “sex work” in a book of that name (Delacoste & Alexander,1987). It was said to mean anyone who earns money, in some way, from sex. It included all the women used by the sex industry in brothels, strip-shows, pornography, massage parlors, escort services, etc. But it also included all the men, and their unseen agents, who are profiting by exploiting these women: pimps, brothel owners, pornographers, madams, and “investors” in the sex industry. It also included all the publishers of printed or film material dealing with human sexuality, all professional sex therapists, sex researchers, writers about sexuality, teachers, professors, sex-toy makers & sellers, and sex educators. Even Dr. Ruth was claimed to be a “sex-worker.”
What this clever, misleading, wildly-inclusive term effectively does is to disguise and hide the life-devastating abuses of the girls and women being used in prostitution, by including them as part of the same “occupational category” as those who are abusing them. (Imagine if we were asked to say that the warden and the captive prisoner are both engaged in “prison work.” )
Some people feel that “sex worker” sounds better, less disparaging, than most other terms. It does sound better; that is what’s so mis-leading and harmful about it. It is a white-wash which obscures the ugly truth, and using that language can affect our judgement adversely (Hughes, 2003; Brannon, 2010 ).
- The terms “prostitute,” “whore,” “hooker,” etc. should also be avoided in thoughtful writing and in active usage.
This is not because these words sound disparaging, but for a quite different reason. Such only-the-woman terms focus our attention entirely on the one woman, the commodity being sold, and not on the two men involved, who are in full control of the transaction: the seller (pimp) and buyer (John).
- Terms which are more appropriate, and have been developed by feminists who work in this area, are: women who are (or are being) “used in prostitution”. Or, even more simply, we should speak of women (or girls or boys) not as “prostitutes,” but as people who are “being prostituted.”
These more careful, accurate, and politically accountable terms help to direct attention also to the two men involved, and who are in charge.
- Using politically thoughtful, accountable language has no cost, and is one of the easiest – and most noticeable – acts that each individual person can perform alone, to help confront the attitudes and naive assumptions that encourage accepting and continuing prostitution.
Feminist men, in particular, for whom NOMAS exists, have a clear imperative to practice appropriate language in this instance.
D. Ending Prostitution: Underlying Facts and Issues
- It is crucial to remember always that the one word “prostitution” actually covers three very different parties: the John (buyer), the pimp (seller), and the woman or person being prostituted (the commodity being sold). No reasonable response can treat these three parties as the same. There must be quite separate provisions, for dealing with each of these very different parties.
- Legalization? De-Criminalization? Many people have at some time thought that such simple “solutions” might be preferable, to the hippocracy, and the patent injustices of the current system. The fatal catch is that such a step would legitimize, unleash, and hugely empower the one party already largely in charge, the pimping sector. The magnitude and visibility of prostitution would expand exponentially in a short time (massive TV ads, billboards, call-buttons in hotel rooms, etc.), as it has everywhere in the world that legalization has been enacted.
See the accounts of disastrously failed legalization in Australia, Netherlands, New Zealand, etc., in Outshoorn (2004), Jeffreys (1997), and Sullivan (2007) Making Sex Work: A Failed Experiment with Legalized Prostitution.
- In theory, and on paper, there are several somewhat different governmental approaches to prostitution: e.g. Legalization, De-Criminalization, Regulation, (Nominal) Prohibition, etc. In reality, all of these have led to the same final reality: a highly lucrative system, of cruel exploitation of the weak and vulnerable, mostly ignored by the governments (except if visible on the street, and causing complaints), controlled, run and managed day to day almost entirely by the pimping sector.
This long-term international reality is discussed in detail in Barry, The Prostitution of Sexuality (1995). Ostshoorn’s The Politics of Prostitution (2004) has separate chapters on the laws on prostitution in France, Britain, Netherlands, the U.S., Australia, Canada, Finland, Sweden, Israel, Austria, and others.
- The current legal reality, almost everywhere in the United States, is best described as “Nominal Prohibition.” That is, all the roles connected with prostitution are technically “illegal,” and thus supposedly, “prohibited.” The penalties however are actually small, low-level, state-law misdemeanors (Posner & Silbaugh,1996, p.177). Most importantly, the misdemeanors – especially of Johns, and pimps – are almost universally ignored, almost never enforced.
In one typical year in N.Y. state, there were 14,197 arrests for “prostitution;” 93% of these arrests were of prostituted women, only 5% were of Johns, and less than 2% were of pimps, including all guards, drivers, madams, and others who profited ( N.Y.S. Division of Criminal Justice Services: Table 7.1, Barry, 1995).
(a). There is one (single) U.S. federal law against prostitution, called the Mann act. It is applicable when any state lines are crossed, and if enforced, might become a very significant factor. Women used in prostitution are often transported across state lines, to distant cities. The Mann act however is almost never invoked, mentioned, or enforced.
The U.S. Justice Department today states openly that it will only act when children are involved; it will do nothing to protect women, due to a “lack of resources.” Barry has pointed to U.S. policy-makers’ virtual refusal to treat prostitution of adult women as sexual exploitation (1995, p.225). The entire sex-tourism industry, which now openly takes men to prostitution-centers, in Thailand, Korea, and other Asian countries, is in clear and open violation of the Mann Act (Franzblau, 2007).
- One state, Nevada, supposedly permits legal brothel prostitution only in a few, very remote, rural counties. In reality however there is wide-open, flagrant prostitution throughout the entire state (Farley, 2007).
Nevada is today a major international center and destination for the use of women in prostitution. The Las Vegas phone book consists of over 25% advertisements for prostitution. Mayors of Las Vegas routinely and openly advocate legalization. The effects of this state’s pro-prostitution atmosphere are seen in the tested attitudes and values of male students at the U. of Nevada / Reno, who in comparison with male students in other states, more often thought it “acceptable” for their sons to go to brothels, for their daughters to become prostitutes, that women prostituted themselves because they “liked sex,” that it made young Johns into better lovers, that women find rape a turn-on, etc. (Largely rural Nevada also has one of the highest rates of rape in the U.S.) Details and statistics can be found in Farley, Stewart, & Smith, Chapter 13 in Farley (2007).
(a). Nevada has also introduced state taxation of profits made from prostitution, thus placing the state government openly in the role of pimping, i.e.: “profiting from the prostitution of others.”
One Nevada (Republican) legislator: “It’s a unique business. They sell it, you get it, and they still own it. Still, we’re going to tax it !” (N.Y.Times, 6/28/03; Brannon, 2014b). All aspects of prostitution in Nevada are described in Farley, Prostitution & Trafficking in Nevada (2007).
- Making Life Easier and Better, for those Currently Involved in Prostitution.
This is of course a totally positive goal, if it does not in some way support the continuation, and legitimation, of prostitution, and thus contribute to the victimization of untold thousands of other women, girls, and boys in the future. Some “advocates” loudly argue that almost any efforts, to end prostitution, serve to inconvenience those now engaged in it. This is not a legitimate argument against those crucial efforts.
- Who are “the experts?” Should survivors of prostitution, or, those who describe themselves as “advocates” for others now in prostitution, be seen as the ultimate experts, as to appropriate social & legal policy? Certainly there is much to be learned from true survivors. However, this argument has often been a tactic, used in attempts to silence the many lawyers, social workers, social scientists, legislators, and dedicated feminist activists, who work to end prostitution without having been survivors themselves.
- It is sometimes claimed that prostitution has always existed, and will always exit. At three different times however, in modern history, a government has chosen to act decisively to end prostitution altogether. The result, in each case, was that this goal was accomplished, with little delay. Pimps were locked-up, prostituted women were given jobs, counseling, and helped back to normal lives, and prostitution entirely disappeared, for so as long as the government continued its vigilance. Prostitution actually can be ended, when there is a strong political consensus to do that.
These instances – all in modern communist Asian nations – are discussed and documented in Barry, The Prostitution of Sexuality (1995, Ch.7, & 299-301).
E. Ending Prostitution: Recent Approaches
- A 1991 state law in Florida, written and steered to passage by feminist attorney Margaret Baldwin, was the first law in the U.S. to permit the victims of prostitution to sue responsible parties for damages under some circumstances (Baldwin,1992).
- The Swedish (& Nordic) model, of legally targeting the demand (i.e. Johns), while aiding and assisting the women who were victims of being used in prostitution, is the most successful and promising approach being employed anywhere today. It brought the level of prostitution in Sweden from among the highest, to the very lowest level seen now anywhere in Europe. It is an approach proven to work in practice.
See e.g. Demand Dynamics: the Forces of Demand in Global Sex Trafficking, Torrey (2004). The American anti-prostitution feminists Catharine MacKinnon and Andrea Dworkin visited Sweden a few years before this model was developed, and spoke at length with many feminists there, sharing perspectives on the dynamics of men’s demand for prostitution, which later were central to the highly successful Swedish model.
- The (somewhat Draconian) measure of confiscation of John’s cars, when being used as sites for street prostitution, has proven highly effective, in ending that particular practice. This cannot of course address prostitution in brothels, hotels, or other indoor locations.
- The classic, stereotypical way to quickly locate a brothel is to ask a taxicab driver. In fact studies in Los Vegas and elsewhere have confirmed that cab drivers are major, central players today in the chain of pimping (they get a large cash reward for every John they deliver.) Thus some cities are now attempting to monitor, sanction, and prevent this illegal practice by city-licensed cab drivers.
- For no evident reason, “international sex trafficking” is addressed by an entirely different – and equally ineffective – federal law, than the state laws on prostitution. The federal Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) sadly limits all its penalties to: commercial sex acts which can be proved, in court, with cross-examination, to be “performed by force, fraud, or coercion”, or by a minor.
For impoverished, endangered, victimized women, such causalities are almost impossible to prove, in court. With this crippling limitation, the law is predictably ineffective. Two years after its passage, only four prosecutions had actually been brought under the TVPA.
- The most (potentially) effective law against pimping in the U.S. today is the 2007 New York State Anti-Trafficking law. It provides help and services to the victims, increased legal penalties for the Johns, and most importantly, a powerful new technique to (in effect) identify and target the pimps: it specifies all the familiar tactics of control, inevitably employed by all pimps, and makes those practices a major Class C felony. If effectively enforced (it has never been), it could drastically change the social landscape.
This innovative measure was drafted by feminist attorneys Dorchen Leidholdt, Jane Manning, Ken Franzblau, Jill Goodman, Jessica Neuwirth, Cathy Douglass, and a broad coalition of other feminist activists in New York, based at Equality Now, over a two-year period.
- There is a huge, un-met national need for shelters, housing, and social support, for those desperate to escape from prostitution (Oselin, 2014).
There is no such service today in Las Vegas, where a great need exists. Most women who were used in prostitution not completed high school, and most have had zero employment experience, so they need some social supports (Farley, 2007; Giobbe, 1990, p.72). Often a list of arrests will make it impossible to get jobs or housing. These records should be expunged as part of society’s support of exiting prostitution.
A few survivor-inspired organizations have done inspirational work in helping other women to get out of prostitution and rebuild their lives. Some ground-breaking early groups – WHISPER in Minnesota and CPA in Oregon – have now disappeared; but there is now Breaking Free in Minneapolis, Courtney’s House in Washington DC, and Refuge House in Tallahassee, which accepts any prostituted, trafficked, battered, or raped women.
F. Feminism and Prostitution
- Not everyone who calls herself a feminist opposes prostitution. A few claim it is “empowering” for women, and should be de-stigmatized, accepted as a valid career choice (Priscilla Alexander, Lynn Comella, Carol Queen, Wendy Chapkis, Emi Koyama and others.) This is a short list however, including several who profit from the sex industry, and no nationally known feminist scholars. The vast majority of national feminist leaders and authors in America (today, and in the past: Holsopple,1999; Larum,1998) are appalled by the abuses of prostitution, and oppose it strongly. The following is a partial list:
Gloria Steinem, Catharine MacKinnon, Diana Russell, Ellie Smeal, Melissa Farley, Kathleen Barry, Margaret Baldwin, Dorchen Leidholdt, Norma Ramos, Taina Bien-Aime, Janice Raymond, Donna Hughes, Carolyn Malloney, Susan Hunter, Vednita Carter, Evelina Giobbe, Jessica Neuwirth, Samantha Berg, Patricia Barrera, Jane Manning, Cathy Douglass, Chyng Sun, Phyllis Chesler, Ken Franzblau, Gail Dines, Susan Brownmiller, Twiss Butler, Ariel Levy, Christine Stark, Jean Fong, Sheila Jeffereys, Ann Simonton, Rose Garrity, Phyllis Frank, Shirley Ranz, Jill Goodman, Wendy Stock, Sonia Ossario, Suzanne Koepplinger, Jane Caputi, Merle Hoffman, Lois Galgay Reckitt, Linnea Smith, Lisa Thompson, Charlotte Watson, Rebecca Whisnant, Kajsa Ekman, Mary Sullivan, Julia Long…
- Abolition of postilion. In the 19th Century, there were those who wanted to “improve conditions” for black slaves, but to still maintain slavery in some form. Abraham Lincoln was at one time willing to compromise with slave-holders. The unbending “abolitionists” however – Susan B. Anthony, William Lloyd Garrison, Lucretia Mott, Frederick Douglass, Matilda Jocelyn Gage – insisted on the total abolition of human slavery, and prevailed.
Today, there are some who wish to clean-up and “reform” the conditions of women in prostitution, but permit it to continue in some form. We in NOMAS however, and the majority of feminists world-wide, will embrace no lesser goal than the abolition of human prostitution.
On abolition of prostitution as the clear feminist goal see: Dempsey (2005), MacKinnon (1993), Jeffreys (1997), Barry (1995), Leidholdt (1993), Dworkin (1997), and Giobbe (1990). SPACE is an international organization of survivors of prostitution who strongly favor its abolition; http://spaceinternational.ie/
- The centrality of women’s use prostitution to feminism, and to feminist theory, is underlined by these trenchant, thoughtful words of Evalina Giobbe (1990), a teen-age run-way who was then very soon forced into many years of life-devastating sexual slavery:
“Prostitution isn’t like anything else. Rather, everything else is like prostitution… because it is the model for women’s condition.”
Confronting women’s use in prostitution is surely among the most central, urgent, and un achieved tasks of world-wide feminism.
On feminism and prostitution, see Margaret Baldwin, (1). (2004) “Strategies of Connection: Prostitution and Feminist Politics,” in Stark & Wisnant, and: (2). (1992) ‟Split at the Root: Prostitution and Feminist Discourses of Law Reform,” Yale Journal of Law and Feminism, 5, Fall.
The following are among the most useful and important books addressing prostitution:
Farley, M. (2007) Prostitution and Trafficking in Nevada: Making the Connections. San Francisco: Prostitution Research and Education. ISBN 0615162053
Raymond, J. (2013) Not a Choice, Not a Job: Exposing the Myths about Prostitution and the Sex Trade. Washington, D.C.: Potomac Books.
Barry, K. (1995) The Prostitution of Sexuality. New York: N.Y.U. Press.
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The following are reliable on-line sources of current information on prostitution: www.prostitutionresearch.com Prostitution Research and Education (PRE) Site. The largest single source of up-to-date information on prostitution, with hundred of current and classic articles, books, videos, etc.
www.catwinternational.org Coalition Against Trafficking in Women International (CATW) This fine site has a wealth of Reports, Articles, Research, Prostitution Law Reform, Declarations, United Nations Statements, & Press Releases
www.sanctuaryforfamilies.org Sanctuary for Families is New York’s leading service provider and advocate for survivors of domestic violence, sex trafficking, and related forms of gender violence. A search for “prostitution” on the web-site leads to forty-five relevant articles.
www.genderberg.com The radical feminist web-site of Samantha Berg, with articles on trafficking, prostitution, pornography, and related issues.
www.nomas.org. NOMAS. Click icon for: National Task Groups, then for: “Sex Trafficking, Pornography and The Commercial Sex Industry.” Articles by Robert Brannon and others.
www.spaceinternational.ie SPACE is an international organization of survivors of prostitution who strongly favor its abolition;
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Barry, K. (1979) Female Sexual Slavery. NYU Press, New York.
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Brannon, R. (2014a) Does Consensual Prostitution Exist? NOMAS Task Group on Pornography, Prostitution, & Trafficking; www.Nomas.org
Brannon, R. (2014b) Taxing Prostitution? Please Think Again…and a bit Deeper. NOMAS Task Group on Pornography, Prostitution, & Trafficking. www.Nomas.org
Brannon, R. (2012) The Fight Against Sex Trafficking: Still An Uphill Struggle. NOMAS Task Group on Pornography, Prostitution, & Trafficking. www.Nomas.org
Brannon, R. (2010) “Sex Workers” vs.”Girls Used In Prostitution: Our Psychological Barriers to Combating Trafficking.” Plenary Address, The Struggle Against Human Trafficking, NCADV / NOMAS M&M National Conference, Anaheim CA. www.Nomas.org
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