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Sunday, April 1, 2012

It's Not JUST Semantics: Trafficking DOES NOT Equal Sex Work

I originally posted on this issue in January, but in light of recent events, I have edited and added to this old post. 

April 1, 2012

Check out this article from The Good Men Project by Raymond Bechard:

What Do You Really Know About Hookers?

I feel like screaming it from the top of my crappy apartment....TRAFFICKING IS SLAVERY, IT IS NOT THE SAME AS CONSENSUAL SEX WORK!!!! I would probably consider going outside to scream this, except it's way too cold. And there's snow. Anyways, what is the deal with this guy? Can someone please explain it to me, because I'm at a loss. He writes:

"What can be stated as fact in the realm of commercial sexual exploitation, human trafficking, and prostitution is limited to the human suffering of its individual victims. Each of them began their lives with promise. And each of them had that promise broken and torn away. Though our urge to quantify the problem often compromises our rational and critical judgment, we must not also let it diminish the humanity of the individual who is fighting to escape and survive." he sure about that? Has he actually spoken to a real prostitute, who is choosing to be a sex worker, and who feels proud and empowered by her choices (and by all of the cash that she's raking in)? I bet he hasn't. I know plenty of sex workers who aren't suffering. I just hallucinating?

I left this comment in response to his article:

"What do I know about hookers? Quite a lot actually. I know enough to know that prostitution/sex work IS NOT THE SAME THING as human trafficking. I don’t understand why the author continues to confuse the two. I think his campaign against the trafficking of individuals who are underage and/or forced into sex slavery is a very important one. However, why can’t we just keep the facts straight? The author constantly uses the words “hooker” and “prostitution,” referring to the work of consenting adult sex workers. If the author cannot distinguish between these two very different things, then what makes him a credible source? I find this to be very worrisome…

I am a sex worker advocate, and know many women who have been involved in the sex industry (whether it be escorting, pornography, or dancing) by choice, and who were proud of their career choice. These are not women who are being forced or coerced. These are women who have made a choice to do what they wish with THEIR bodies. Shouldn’t we all have that basic right?

If prostitution were legal in CT (and other states), we would likely see a drop in trafficking. Prostitution would have actual regulations, and workers could have access to medical screens, as well as legal rights. Connecticut would save approximately half a million dollars per year if police stopped wasting their time arresting prostitutes. Anyways…I digress. My point is that PROSTITUTION IS NOT THE SAME AS TRAFFICKING. The title of this article is misleading, as there is no actual mention of real “hookers” in the article.
For an actual dose of truth regarding sex work, check out my blog at
I am a sex worker advocate in CT, and starting a Sex Workers Outreach Project in my state.

Look, I'm all for freedom of speech, and this man certainly has the right to publish these articles. Also, I don't doubt that he's doing a lot of great work for the community. But seriously, can he just get his facts and semantics straight?

It does a disservice to BOTH populations, workers and victims, to compare the two. Sex workers have a choice, whereas victims of trafficking do not. It's quite insulting that anyone would compare the two. Essentially, it's comparing a victim of rape to a woman who's having consensual sex. Take a moment to think of the ramifications of that statement. Rape myths, anyone?

Bechard is also very instrumental in the anti-backpage ad crusade. I have written about this issue in a different post, but as I edit, I think it makes more sense to have all of this information in one place. This is a post that I wrote on January 3, 2012:

Below is a link to an article written by Raymond Bechard, June 24, 2011:

The Controversy Around Backpage Ads

Has The Hartford Advocate Stopped Human Trafficking Advertising? "Not Yet."

Ok, I get it. Dennis Paris was guilty of trafficking minors on the Berlin Turnpike, claiming that he had an "escort business." Dennis would advertise in The Hartford Advocate's Back Room section (yes, we have all seen it...who doesn't check out The Advocate's fun section from time to time? C'mon now). Thankfully, Dennis is serving 30 years in federal prison. Ok wait...the story doesn't end yet. 

The point of the article is to get readers all riled up at the fact that The Advocate continues to print their Back Room section (I'm reading it right now...oooh..All Natural 40DDD Voluptuous, Mature Blond. In-calls only!). *GASP* How could The Advocate continue to do such a thing!? Ok, so are you riled up and angry yet, ready to call The Advocate???

I hope not. If you are, you've missed the point. Yes, it's true that Dennis Paris used The Back Room in order to traffick minors, and this is disgusting. However, the majority of the advertisements in the Back Room are placed by consenting adult sex workers. 

If we are to shut down The Back Room, we may as well shut down the millions of porn sites on the internet, all because of the child porn sites that exist. I have also read articles on this same topic that discuss the dangers of prostitution, the exploitation of women. Wait a second....I thought that the sex trafficking of minors was the concern....hmmmm. So, are these folks that are against the trafficking of minors also against prostitution? Are they aware that these are different issues, and that most of the women who put ads in The Advocate are regular ol' adult sex workers? Does anybody care about their rights?

So, that brings us to my next point. If The Back Room (and other backpage ads) are shut down, how will this affect sex workers?

This article brings up some great points:
Making Sex Workers Visible In The Online Ad Controversy

“Efforts to close down third-party advertisers are a shortsighted and misguided tactic to address trafficking,” said the New York City branch of the grassroots Sex Workers Outreach Project (SWOP), in correspondence with In These Times. Blanket crackdowns endanger sex workers by forcing them “further underground,” potentially pushing vulnerable people away from social services and other initiatives that could alleviate the social and economic oppression often underpinning sexual coercion."

SWOP-NYC argues:
"Sex work is real work, which means sex workers have the basic labor rights we all expect, including a work environment free of violence and exploitation. Targeting companies that work with people in commercial sex will only lead to more shrouded interactions. This marginalization and isolation increases violence, HIV/STI transmission and stigmatization, hinders access to basic services, and promotes a loss of autonomy over the conditions in which people engage in the industry. There is so much we can do to prevent trafficking and support people who do want to move out of the sex industry, and these tactics only pull valuable resources from those strategies.
The voice commonly missing from the media coverage on the Village Voice and Craigslist is that of sex workers. It has become too easy to forget that there are real people involved with sex work with real human and labor rights."

It's always important to look at both sides of every story. Just sayin'. Now back to browsing The Back Room....

Alright, so there's a twist here. Bechard lives in my city, and regularly comes to the University that I attend. Should I take that as an opportunity to speak to him? It's unlikely that an abolitionist will want to hear anything about sex worker's rights, but perhaps it's worth a shot? Decisions, decisions...



  1. I encourage you to talk to him. I talk to people in the anti-trafficking and slavery abolitionist movement and you will find that not all are against sex work.

    I think it's particularly important to reach out to those that are willing to listen to both sides of the story in order to encourage them to get informed. Might be that you'll only get through to 1 out of 10, but it's still worth the effort if, as the SWOP-NYC statement reads, real people are involved. That 1 person will talk to others and every voice counts.

    For a perfect example, see below.

    "Good women need our help, bad women need to be punished"


  2. It's great to know you, Page. The more academics such as you that are with us, the stronger our constituency becomes, and the stronger our credibility becomes. But you know all that.

    Please visit my book site, I have much to share with you.

  3. Hi Aphrodite- I am checking out your site and blog, it looks amazing!! I'd love to chat more with you, are you a part of the closed facebook group? It's called Working Towards A Sex Positive World, and you can find the link on the home page of this site. xo


  4. I have read that the average age to enter "consensual sex work" in the U.S. is 13-14. Also, a very high percentage of women who enter consensual sex work were abused physically or sexually as children. If you have ever worked with a teen or pre-teen who has been abused, it makes you wonder what it means to make this choice when you suffer from feeling worthless, being told that your sexuality is someone else's for the taking for a portion of your life, PTSD and the host of other extremely serious psychological issues that arise from those experiences.

  5. Shelly Lubben often calls porn sex trafficking too. If people had any idea what sex trafficking really was, they wouldn't dare call porn, prostitution, etc. sex trafficking. A person who works in the adult industry gets to CHOOSE if they work & they get to go home when they are done. Someone who is a victim of sex trafficking, has NO choice, & is locked up like an animal once they are done working. It's very insulting to real victims of sex trafficking to have people compare willing sex workers to them. This is what real sex trafficking is like: (FYI: the story is a little religious).

  6. Bechard was once being investigated for misusing charity funds - sounded pretty egregious but I'm not sure the outcome, though he's obviously not serving a sentence for fraud. This link has a video with article:

    I wouldn't talk to him, but I'm bitter and angry like that.

    1. Oh my god- I JUST saw this comment! I did not know this, and now that I do, I'm on it...

      Thanks for the information!

  7. Oh and technically 'sex trafficking' in the US, according to federal code, IS consensual prostitution involving travel. No force, fraud or coercion required. I ain't saying it's a good thing, just that it's a thing:

  8. Trafficking and prostitution aren't the same thing, but they are connected. And research doesn't back you claim that legalization would reduce trafficking; on the contrary, it increases it.

    "The global sexual exploitation of women and girls is a supply and demand market. Men create the demand and women are the supply. Cities and countries where men’s demand for women in prostitution is legalized or tolerated are the receiving sites, while countries and areas where traffickers easily recruit women are the sending regions."