Sex trafficking still not a myth, ‘off-street’ sex still not ‘safe’, johns don’t give a shit

Reports in this Sunday’s Observer after the sentensing of Bogdan and Marius Nejloveanu for sex trafficking offenses.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/law/2011/feb/06/sex-slave-trafficking-brothel-crackdown:

Campaigners against sex trafficking call today for a major crackdown on the thousands of brothels in Britain amid accusations that government indifference to the issue is encouraging pimps to target the UK.

[...]

[Abigail Stepnitz, national co-ordinator for the Poppy Project] said: “The focus on trafficking has been to remove immigration offenders or to prosecute organised criminal networks. From our experience the focus has not neccessarily been on addressing the presence of brothels that create an environment where trafficking can thrive. That has never been the focus.”

[...]

Fears are growing among campaigners that ministers appear intent on downgrading trafficking as a priority, a charge denied by the government. In addition, they accuse ministers of attempting to sideline the issue by removing trafficking from the government’s violence against women and girls strategy.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2011/feb/06/sex-traffick-romania-britain:

Marinela, 17, was terrified. Trafficked from Romania, she had been coerced into prostitution by a pimp who beat her with numbing regularity. Now there was something new to fear. “I didn’t even know where I was going,” she says now. “I couldn’t trust anyone, I had no idea of the law. I was so scared.”

The sex crimes unit of Greater Manchester police arrested her for prostitution-related offences, but at least Marinela was safe behind bars. Her first day in custody was the first since her arrival in England six months earlier that she had not been forced to have sex. She had been raped by different men 50 times a week on average, often violent, drunken strangers. And if she was released from prison, Marinela was convinced she would be murdered by the gang who trafficked her.

[...]

Victims are notoriously reluctant to describe their experience because of the shame, fear and stress. It is even rarer for such women to agree to be identified. Motivated by a courageous desire to expose this sordid, violent world, Marinela has revealed the full horror of her ordeal in an account that should reopen the debate about how Britain deals with its sex industry.

[...]

Weeks into her ordeal, Marinela relented. Nejloveanu presented her with a lurid set of garish underwear and she was taken to a nearby brothel masquerading as a sauna. She could not speak a word of English. When the first “client” booked her she wanted to say “no” but could not. She wanted to explain her predicament, tell the man that she was trafficked. Instead she cried, hoping that the man would take pity on her. He did not. None of them did.

[...]

Daily shifts lasted 12 hours, 10pm to 10am, seven days a week. Sometimes she would be obliged to have sex 12 times with different men. She says it was normal for her trafficked peers to have sex with 10 men a day.

Punters paid £40 a session, of which half went to Nejloveanu and half to the sauna or massage parlour where she was imprisoned.

[...]

Those who ran the saunas were instructed not to let Marinela go outside, often for days at a time.

[...]

Nejloveanu’s girlfriend would simply plough through the local papers’ classified section and ring up massage parlours and saunas asking if they required girls. “She was ringing to see if they had any ‘jobs’ there. Are there any jobs available? Jobs meant brothels.” Marinela, along with the two other Romanian girls, was transferred around the West Midlands, to places such as Lisa’s Sauna in east Birmingham, where “a lot of girls worked,” according to Marinela, and which remains open.

The point is, this is how brothels, which are, according to sex industry supporters/apologists, supposed to be ‘safe’, operate – they demand 12 hour shifts, they don’t ask any questions, they actively help traffickers and pimps control the women and girls they are abusing.

A legalised brothel may only be able to demand an eight hour shift, as if having unwanted sex with eight men a day as opposed to 12 would make it all ok. They might refuse to do business with any dodgy pimps, but then find there’s no longer a supply of ‘girls’ available.

There’s also the ever-laughable claim that the johns will help police the system. 70 men a week for six months equals 1680 men (of course there will be some ‘repeat customers’, but women are moved around specifically because men want ‘fresh faces’); so that’s easily over 1000 men who didn’t give a shit, who must have been able on some level to see that they were having coercive sex with an emaciated, battered teenager with little or no English, and just did not care. The handful (and it really is less than five) cases of ‘savior’ johns a year always gets played up by sex industry advocates, but the idea that these men can help protect vulnerable women is a joke.

There is a stats piece at the end of the article that I’m going to quote in full, to avoid accusations of selective quoting on my part.

The police say that approx. half the migrants working in off-street prostitution in the UK are from Eastern Europe, of those half are classified as trafficked or ‘vulnerable’, with ‘only’ 400 meeting the police’s legal definition of trafficking.

Of course, sex industry apologists are going to jump on this, it’s only 400 women after all! And half the women from Eastern Europe are willing! There’s no definition given for what ‘willing’ actually means, the definition given for ‘vulnerable’ is “that they spoke little English, were overly reliant on their “controllers” and faced other barriers preventing them from exiting prostitution.” So, then, are the ‘willing’ women those who have been there long enough to pick up some English and become institutionalised so that they don’t need to be so tightly controlled by their pimps? As the Poppy Project points out, the police methodology involves “officers entering brothels and asking women if they had been trafficked”.

The most comprehensive inquiry into sex trafficking and off-street prostitution in the UK identified 17,000 migrants working in brothels.

Of these, about half – 9,000 – were from eastern Europe, of which police believe 400 had been trafficked.

The report, completed last year by the Association of Chief Police Officers after an investigation named Operation Acumen, found a further 4,128 women from eastern Europe, which they categorised as “vulnerable”. The classification included women whose experience the police concluded fell below the threshold of trafficking but were vulnerable to sexual exploitation in that they spoke little English, were overly reliant on their “controllers” and faced other barriers preventing them from exiting prostitution.

The police investigation detected another 5,000 women from eastern Europe working in brothels who were willing to work as prostitutes and could not be considered trafficked or vulnerable.

Campaigners, however, say the police’s definition of “vulnerable” included many victims of trafficking and that their inquiry significantly underestimates the problem. The Poppy Project argues that many women find it difficult to disclose issues such as rape and that the police’s methodology, which involved officers entering brothels and asking women if they had been trafficked, was unlikely to glean accurate information.

The definition of trafficking has long been controversial. The most favoured defines it as involving the use of force, fraud, deception or coercion to transport a victim into an exploitative context.

The sex industry is, by its very nature, exploitative, it couldn’t exist in any form without extreme economic inequality, and it couldn’t exist in its current form, the form that hundreds of thousands of men choose to engage with, with out extreme violent coercion.

While we’re on the subject, this report on the break up of a trafficking ring involving girls from Nigeria (and yes, the report also mentions other ‘willing’ women being pimped out), again really emphasises how little the johns give a shit – observe the size of the operation, compare the description of the trafficked Nigerian girls with the adverts that were places offering ‘escorts’ (the johns were paying ‘escort’ level prices too).

Among the prostitutes were six trafficked girls and young women, aged from 15 to 21, some of whom had been terrified into working for fear of breaking a “juju” oath they were forced to take during voodoo ceremonies in Nigeria.

[...]

They worked 12 to 15 hours a day, were regularly moved from brothel to brothel, and supplied with “necessities” – condoms, creams and lingerie. Food was brought to them. The going rate was €160 (£140) for half an hour, but they had to pay their money into Toma Carroll’s bank account.

[...]

Live chickens were killed and the victims made to eat the raw hearts. Fingernail clippings and pubic hair cuttings were taken, and retained, to “instill the fear of God in them” and show they could be “metaphysically” reached wherever they were. Often the girls were naked, and one was cut all over her body with blades, said investigators.

[...]

Phone records showed 300 calls a day were made or received. “That gives you some idea of the scale”, said Tony Fitzpatrick of SOCA Wales. They also found drafted advertisements, one reading: “African Nandi, very petite tanned chocolate delight, petite slim size 8, 34C but leggy flexible kinky, Nandi enjoys nudism and exploring her body and yours making the sessions fun and intimate.”

[...]

In one year Carroll, a father of four originally from County Carlow, spent £28,580 on newspaper advertising alone. From 2002 increasing amounts of money were deposited into his daughter’s bank account. In 2006 €111,000 were deposited, in 2007 €1.13m and in 2008 €500,000 had been deposited by September.

You have to wonder how so many men can be so blind, how they can manage not to tell the difference between a terrified child with cuts all over her body and a ‘fun flexible kinky nudist’.

It’s too easy to say that men are fundamentally incapable of seeing, I refuse to accept that half the human race are actually incapable of being human (the fact that some men can see, and that some women can’t shows that this is not true). Patriarchy brutalises men so that they are incapable of empathising.

Pornography plays a role in this; we know pornography is used to ‘train’ women into prostitution, and that men increasingly see pornography as sex, so if both the john and the woman he’s assaulting are following the ‘porn script’ the john won’t be able to see that anything’s wrong.

2 responses

  1. As an exited woman who did only indoors prostitution, I find it very difficult to understand why so many people , especially women, want to believe that indoors prostitution is safe or at less safer that street prostitution.

    It is very difficult to hear and see and said it by feminists who claim to be against all violence to women and girls, but then have double standards for indoors prostitution.

    Most feminists would agree that for non-prostituted
    women and girls, the vast majority of rape, mental abuse and physical violence occurs indoors.
    It is known that many non- prostituted women and girls who are raped and or battered often will say they are attached to their abuser/s – it would be consider that is brainwashing or being deluded to survive the hell they are. We would hear but doubt, when they say are happy with the batterer and/or rapist. We would not abandoned them, on that word.

    But all those ways of thinking are reversed when it comes to indoors prostitution.

    The belief that it must be safer, is a completely illogical way of thinking.

    Say you are a mother of a young teenage girl. Say she is out every night, sleeping with a different men all the time, not knowing their names or even remembering their faces. Say you observe she is drunk a lot and maybe on drugs. Say you think she may be getting hit or even battered.
    Would you let that go – or would your instinct be to ground her at the very less.

    But that is the norm for indoors prostitution.
    It is a world where the prostitute is there for any punter however violent. It is a world that is firmly behind closed doors, away from observation.

    Punters who make the choice to buy indoors prostitution are paying for time and privacy – most can afford to get any violence that they do to the prostitute invisible.
    In that world violence is the norm, the few that just want “non-violent” sex are the minority. The violence is mental, sexual and physical – it very common for punters to sexually torture in indoors prostitution – for many are rich enough to own the prostitution for as much time as they want.

    I have been locked with a violent punter for up to a month – that is not rare.

    I am terrified by the drive by many governments to push prostitution indoors in the name of safety for the prostituted – more likely to keep it all hidden, and then it may get forgotten about.

    Prostitution will never be safe in any scenario – so we must fight for abolition, starting with tackling the demand.

  2. Patriarchy not ‘only brutalises men’ it accords men power over women and that is the central issue. This is why so many men refuse to accept women are human rather than men’s dehumanised sexual service stations. After all why should men give up their power over women when the benefits are immense.

    So it is not that patriarchy ‘brutalises men’ it is that men set up this system to maintain their male domination over women and despite fact some men refuse to dominate/dehumanise women many other men condone and/or actively practice male domination over women.

    But that doesn’t mean men can’t change or are supposedly biologically driven to dominate women rather that men actively choose not to see women as human – therein lies the difference.

    Male supremacist systems want prostitution to be indoors because if men’s sexual violence against the women is out of sight then according to the male-centric myopic view, such violence does not exist. It can’t exist if we don’t witness it! Then too male supremacist systems will claim ‘look we are providing safe havens for prostituted women to continue to be men’s sexual service stations.’ But this is window dressing because the core issue is men’s pseudo belief in their sex right to women 24/7 which must never be challenged by women or eliminated.

    Remember it takes very little to dehumanise a person or group and the systemic male dehumanisation of women has been happening for centuries which is why it is so difficult challenging centuries old misogyny and male hatred for women.

    Pornography did not create prostitution but pornography is a central tool promoting the lie that women are men’s dehumanised sexual service stations. After all porn tells men that women aren’t human and hence ‘no human was harmed.’ Which is why whenever the issue of pornography is raised immediately the cry goes up ‘what about the men harmed in porn’ – remember only men are human and only men’s interests/needs/demands exist.

    Women are not human in our male supremacist society/system. But feminists refuse to accept these women-hating lies which is why demanding Johns be criminalised sends shudders down the backs of Johns and pro-prostitution supporters. After all the dominators are never accountable are they? No it is always the oppressed who are blamed and told ‘you have power’ – but it is mythical power – unlike the real power men are accorded by male supremacy.

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