The price is high. It must be paid, but I think [Mick Hume, author of Trigger Warning: Is the Fear of Being Offensive Killing Free Speech?] underestimates it. He reproduces a famous sentence from Evelyn Hall’s book The Friends of Voltaire that is often mistakenly attributed to Voltaire – “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it” – and calls his enemies “the reverse-Voltaires, whose slogan is, ‘I know I will detest what you say, and I will defend to the end of free speech my right to stop you saying it’.” I’m not a reverse-Voltaire, but I’m something just as bad, in Hume’s typology: a “but-head”, someone who says, “I believe in freedom of speech, but … ” Anyone who says “but” must deny that the right to free speech is “indivisible”. Hume thinks that’s a fatal mistake: if you allow any exceptions, the dividing line between permitted and forbidden is no longer perfectly sharp, and you’re on a slippery slope, risking more and more restrictions. I disagree: the line is no longer sharp, but it’s not true that we’re on a slippery slope. The first amendment of the US constitution states categorically that “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press” (Hume calls it “the global gold standard” of free speech). The court’s defence of the first amendment over the years shows how the line can be held even after exceptions are allowed, for it does place limits on free speech – for example, on “fighting words”, deliberately intended and likely to incite “imminent lawless action”; on explicit threats against specific targets; and on false shouts of “Fire!” in a crowded theatre.
Hume admits these exceptions to unrestricted free speech, and then makes a rationalisation that he condemns elsewhere: he says they’re “not cases of free speech”, “not about free speech at all”. Yet each states quite plainly and correctly that you can’t say what you like, where you like, when you like: they place a limit on speech.
So Hume is himself a “but-head”, rightly so. And his admiration for the first amendment requires him to address an issue he omits: the fact that it was used to justify Citizens United, the 2010 US supreme court ruling that opened the way for corporations to contribute unlimited funds to political causes, and, in effect, buy the leaders they want, most notably by funding political “attacks ads” on television. Here free speech is free speech for the rich and, by the same token, the silencing of the poor. For while the poor can say and publish what they want, they will not be heard by the mass of the electorate. Hume criticises the UK Communications Act 2003 on free-speech grounds, but in this case it does more for the cause of free speech than the first amendment, by prohibiting political advertising on television or radio and ensuring equality of air time (mercifully brief) for the major parties’ party political broadcasts.
“Love how you treat them like slaves too bro love your work” pipes up one young Australian dad on Facebook. He is messaging Tim “Sharky” Ward, a notorious Australian pimp who lives in Pattaya, Thailand.
Pattaya’s lucrative sex trade boomed off the back of the United States Army who frequented the town for a bit of “rest and relaxation.” The trade continues to this day, bolstered by favourable economic policy and cohorts of sex tourists.
Pattaya’s demand for young women is particularly well served by the continued exclusion of minority and ethnic groups in the region.
Sharky, Pattaya’s resident pimp, boasts several hundred thousand online fans that flock to view his explicit images of young women. He also shares stories of how he demands respect and uses violence if “girls” don’t pay up – for instance, he put one woman in a “sleeper hold” in order to snatch her money. Sharky’s fans applaud.
We might expect pimps like Sharky to be embraced by the deadbeats of the world. Surprisingly though, Sharky may find his greatest promoters are actually those who consider themselves progressives. From within their stronghold of so-called feminist and left-leaning supporters, they are calling for pimps like Sharky to be recognized as legitimate managers and professionals.
Such is the case in a new policy adopted by one of the world’s most renowned progressive organisations, Amnesty International.
In recent days, the debate has heated up over Amnesty’s call for full decriminalisation of the activities of pimps, sex-buyers and those profiting off exploitation in the sex trade. Australia’s feminist media has been quick to respond with declarations of support for Amnesty and their pimp comrades.
Mamamia was among the first to lay out a business case for why Amnesty’s policy merits support. Destroy the Joint followed suit. Yet both ignored the many organisations whose research and experience stands in opposition to Amnesty’s policy – including the EU Parliament, the European Women’s Lobby and Council of Europe, not to mention hundreds of grassroots organisations that support people within or getting out of the sex trade.
Daily Life published a piece by Eurydice Aroney claiming that Amnesty’s opponents want to “criminalise sex work.” This charge was echoed by Rebecca Hiscock in The Conversation. Both articles’ claims are demonstrably wrong, given that petitions against Amnesty’s policy clearly state they do not support criminalising anyone who sells sex. Hiscock frames opposition to Amnesty as a kind of over-simplified “tragedy porn” that ignores voices of those involved in sex work and that therefore misses important nuances. On the contrary, a blanket approach to decriminalising all aspects of pimping is a culpably oversimplified response that is neither contextually attuned, nor attentive to the voices of those most exploited by pimps.
Aroney in Daily Life regurgitates invalidated claims about how decriminalising pimping and brothel keeping is necessary for the safety of sex workers, and then pronounces that anyone who doesn’t concur must be too “privileged, wealthy and white” to understand. Although I suspect it is the privileged, wealthy, white pimps like Sharky and his ilk that understand it best.
The necessity of ongoing revenue is the apparent logic behind promoting the sex trade. Yet this logic is not applied to any other industry on earth. There are calls to shut down coal and shut down global supply chains – “smashing the state” was even a topic explored at the recent All About Women feminist conference. Little concern is expressed for the workers in any of these industries. Undoubtedly anti-free trade, and yet bizarrely pro-sex trade, the feminist left seeks to undermine capitalist industries, except the one industry responsible for some of the most heinous human rights violations on earth, all the while proudly declaring its impeccable moral bona fides.
The standard defence for this hypocritical position relies on the notion that “any exploitation is bad, sexual exploitation is no different.” This is echoed by the more explicitly socialist version, “all work is exploitative under capitalism, so work involving sex is no different.” Amnesty International draws on this to explain that all labour exploitation is equally bad. Yet it doesn’t take a trauma therapist or criminal lawyer to know that sexual crimes are treated differently from non-sexual offences for good reason. There is a world of difference between being forced to wash dishes against one’s will, and a person being forced to have sex against their will, usually for years or decades.
Amnesty and their supporters in the Australian feminist media argue that there are sufficient laws to deal with sexual exploitation and trafficking, including child sex abuse. They argue that not all prostitution involves sex trafficking.
On the contrary, all sex trafficking results in prostitution and any increase in the industry influences rates of trafficking. Research out of various European states, including the London School of Economics, has shown that any legalization of the sex trade significantly increases the flows of sex trafficking. An international study of male sex-buyers found that fully one quarter preferred women under the age of 18, with a universal preference for young women. This is reflected in Thai estimates that the sex industry involves around 40% children. Research shows over half of the women in Sydney’s sex trade are from overseas and many lack English comprehension.
The Australian feminist media not only evades many of these issues, but effectively represses these women’s stories by focusing solely on Australians who engage in sex work of their own volition.
While the causes and solutions to sexual exploitation are complex and varied, the Australian feminist left leaves little room for any perspective other than their own – that is, the privileged, naive position that they so despise, yet doggedly espouse in equal measure. After all, the author who claims to have drafted Amnesty’s pro-pimp policy is Douglas Fox, a man with vested interest in UK brothels. The endorsement of sexual exploiters is now the purview of Australia’s feminist progressives. You find friends in the strangest places, right Sharky?
I am a licensed psychotherapist. I’m writing this post on my last day at a teen health clinic, where I’ve seen patients and their families for nearly a decade.
In the past year especially, it’s become increasingly clear to me that I cannot uphold the primary value of my profession, to do no harm, without also seriously jeopardizing my standing in the professional community. It’s a terrible and unfortunate conflict of interest. I’ve lost much sleep over the fact that, for a significant portion of my clients and their parents, I am unable to provide what they profess to come to me seeking: sound clinical judgment. Increasingly, providing such judgment puts me at risk of violating the emergent trans narrative which–seemingly overnight and without any explanation or push-back of which I am aware–has usurped the traditional mental health narrative.
When I am suddenly and without warning discouraged from exploring the underlying causes and conditions of certain of my patients’ distress (as I was trained to do), and instead forced to put my professional stamp of approval upon a prefab, one-size-fits-all narrative intended to explain the complexity of my patient’s troubles, I feel confused. It’s as if I am being held hostage. No longer encouraged or permitted to question, consider or discuss the full spectrum of my patient’s mental health concerns, it has occurred to me that I am being used, my meager professional authority commandeered to legitimize a new narrative I may or may not wish to corroborate.
It’s been perilous to simply admit to not fully understanding it all–let alone disagree with the trans narrative. There was no training or teaching. I was just suddenly told that some of my patients thought they were trapped in the wrong body and that was that.
After much soul searching, I felt I had no choice but to remove myself from this crippling work setting. Being told to exercise my clinical judgment with some clients, while ignoring it with others, made me feel like a fraud.
Throughout my career, I have come to my work with these thoughts in mind: that life is complex, that people are complex. But in one way or another, most people tend to balk at that kind of ambiguity. I try to assist people in flexing a little, try to help them find ways to manage life’s gray areas, and the occasional distress that comes from simply being conscious. But at the end of the day, I couldn’t deny it was a little weird for me to go on believing I could effectively teach others to be less rigid, more free people facing their lives head on, when I myself, their humble guide, was being exploited, tongue-tied by a new party line.
There are so many complex forces, from many different realms, coming into play with this trans wave. Most people are completely unaware of these intersecting interests.
Unfortunately the culture war has done a number on the concept of critical thinking. I have considered myself liberal my entire adult life, and I still am. But for a long time I couldn’t find anyone questioning this trans explosion who wasn’t on the far right. It made me feel like only conservatives were allowed to think, to consider this issue, but ultimately their thoughts were rendered meaningless due to their branding by the culture war. It’s essential that left-leaning people model critical thinking for the masses in this regard.
It’s important to link people like us together, who have been silenced, so we can resume contact with our critical thinking skills and reduce our growing sense of self doubt. Divide and conquer is best accomplished through silencing, through calling into question those who speak out. There is so much of this attached to the trans movement. Even just wondering about a profound concept such as transgender is labeled transphobic. What I think has happened is that people are now phobic about their own gut responses to life. We are being systematically separated from our own intuition. This is fatal for a civilization, I think. Not that our intuition always tells the truth with a capital T, but it is a critical piece of who we are. Without it, we remain profoundly directionless, and more susceptible to coercion of all types.
Both Lucas and Morgan identify sexting and online pornography as a cause of significant problems in schools. Nonetheless, while they have little difficulty in identifying most victims of harassment as female, perpetrators are described in gender-neutral terms. At no point does anyone use the words “male sexual entitlement.”
I will use those words, however. I am a mother of sons and the thought of them growing up within a culture of rampant male sexual entitlement terrifies me. Right now they are six and seven – still innocent, still able to see their female peers as fellow humans – but as adolescence approaches, I fear that a deluge of misogyny will engulf them as they encounter the adult world and so-called “normal” attitudes to sex.
I am very much in favour of them being granted access to as much accurate, open-minded sex education as possible. Nonetheless, I doubt such teaching will ever be effective as long as we are in denial about the real problem: the widespread, culturally sanctioned dehumanisation of women as the price for male sexual gratification.
There is no point in explaining consent to boys, as though it is some peculiarly complex social exchange. It isn’t. What confuses them is the fact that our pornified, misogynist culture treats female bodies as soulless objects. They witness this everywhere: on TV, in the news, online, on the streets, in the words of their peers and elders.
They can sit in a classroom and be informed about the rights and wrongs of it. They can be encouraged to think, in abstract terms, about the Woman as Person. But that is not how they encounter her in the media, nor in the minds of fellow men. Deep down, they know that their “right” to access hardcore pornography and purchase female flesh is inviolable. The Woman as Person narrative is subordinate to the one telling them that the ultimate human right is a “real” man’s right to fuck.
Among many self-styled progressives there is an assumption that the same moral principles that justify compulsory sex education also justify a non-critical attitude towards porn and the sex trade. The “my enemy’s enemy is my friend” fallacy convinces them that anything which annoys some mythical US-style religious Right has to be a good thing.
Hence student unions and fem socs across the land will organise consent classes for male students while condemning all criticism of the sex industry as “whorephobic.” The inconsistency escapes them. They haven’t noticed that, as Dworkin pointed out thirty years ago, male-dominated right-wing moralists are no more bothered by the exploitation of women’s bodies than left-wing sexual libertarians. They’d much rather put their energy into policing women’s access to abortion than men’s access to torture porn, just as left-wing warriors for sexual justice would rather spend their time attacking anti-porn feminists instead of asking how, and why, men across the world learn to treat women as objects into which you insert other objects, again and again, perhaps until they die.
This week a court heard how Majella Lynch died after a severe sexual assault left a full 400ml shampoo bottle in her stomach cavity. The man accused of the attack is described by the prosecutor as having “an interest in violent sexual activity” and having viewed “extreme violent porn.” Meanwhile in Ireland Magnus Meyer Hustveit received a suspended sentence for repeatedly raping his ex-girlfriend while she was unconscious. In a pleading letter to his ex, he explained that “I didn’t want to hurt you, I just wanted to come. I used the fact that I wasn’t allowed to watch porn or masturbate as an excuse.”
The judge’s decision not to imprison Hustveit, plus reader comments from Irish news sites, suggest that literally using a woman as an inanimate hole in which to ejaculate is considered an easy mistake to make. Earlier this year the killer of Cindy Gladue, an aboriginal sex worker in Canada, was acquitted after convincing a jury that Gladue consented to sex so rough she bled to death with an 11-centimetre wound in her vagina. Evidence from Bradley Barton’s laptop, showing that he visited pornography sites featuring extreme penetration and torture, had been ruled inadmissible at the trial. Unfortunately, Gladue was no longer around to say what happened; the only part of her that appeared in court was her pelvis, to allow jurors to examine the gaping wound.
Where do these men come from? Why do we define what they do as one-offs rather than the hate crimes they are? Why do we defend the media that reflects their image of women back to them? Why do we expose our sons to it then think we can mop up all the damage with the odd PSHE session on a sleepy Friday afternoon?
It is easy to start teaching your sons about physical boundaries and consent. Even when they are very young you will find instances where it is appropriate to tell them to stop if another child is not responding to their desired form of play (“no, you can’t do that now, not even if he was happy for you to do it five minutes ago!”).
But then they get older and learn that, for some magic, inexplicable reason, male-initiated sexual contact with women is the exception to this rule. You can’t attack that, otherwise it’s “shaming”. For some reason, whatever arouses heterosexual men exists on another moral plane. It’s not enough to tell them that their hidden desires do not make them bad people. Such desires must be endorsed, enacted and filmed for redistribution.
Fantasies of kicking puppies to death? Bad. Fantasies of ramming butcher knives into vaginas? Well, whatever turns him on. You don’t want your son to grow up feeling ashamed of his personal preferences.
What will my sons learn from a few hours taken out of a whole lifetime of being told that women are, if and when you want them to be, no more than holes for fucking? I have a hard enough time telling them they’re allowed to like pink.
The schism on this issue between organisations that focus on human rights and organisations that focus specifically on women’s rights is telling. It has again raised prominent law professor Catharine MacKinnon’s incisive question: “Are women human?”
Originally posed in a piece reflecting on 50 years of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, MacKinnon points out that men and men’s experiences are embedded in the document. This starts with Article 1, which calls on us to “act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood”.
Lest this be dismissed as mere semantics, MacKinnon asks men to imagine how included they might feel if the Universal Declaration of Human Rights enjoined us all to act in a “spirit of sisterhood” instead.
And so it is that women – more than half the global population – are seen as too specific to be indicative of humanity as a whole. We may have “women’s rights” but these do not always fit well into an existing framework of “human rights” that assumes a white, European man as its centre.
This marginalisation of women has generated decades of debate among feminists, particularly in political science and international relations, about the gender bias in existing human rights frameworks. In practical terms, this has meant disagreement about whether it is best to try and reinterpret rights to incorporate women’s experiences of violation or to try and create specific rights instruments, based – from the very beginning – on the material realities of women’s lives.
Amnesty International’s decision brings into sharp focus the problems with the first approach. The current version of policy is justified on the grounds of “harm reduction and the human rights principles of physical integrity and autonomy”.
But, it should be noted that background documents on an earlier version of the same policy supported sex-buying under the rights to privacy, free expression and health.
Prostitution, autonomy and bodily integrity
Autonomy is framed in terms of the individual’s right to be free from abuses of the state. Feminist theorists have often critiqued this emphasis in traditional human rights approaches.
Women are much more likely to suffer violence and violation at the hands of non-state actors in private – even in their own homes. Thus, there have been moves to try and understand rape and domestic violence as a form of torture, or to expand the understanding of torture to at least include non-state actors.
And autonomy is already curtailed by the material realities of women’s lives. The Amnesty International policy dictates that governments should not enact laws that restrict “the consensual exchange of sexual services for remuneration”.
But, at the same time, as Amnesty International admits in its own publicity:
“we know that gender inequality and other forms of inequality and discrimination are forcing, or pushing people into the sex industry.”
What does individual autonomy and consent really equate to in this context of force, systemic poverty, discrimination and gender inequality? Should poor and marginalised women be grateful, as Ken Roth suggests, that wealthier men will pay to penetrate them?
It is as though we are expected to believe the fallacy that the interests of a pimp, or the interests of a sex buyer, are automatically the same as the interests of a woman in prostitution.
It is also a bitter irony that Amnesty International has chosen the “right to bodily integrity” as a defining feature of their policy. Feminists, women’s rights campaigners and survivor groups have spent years furthering the understanding that systems of prostitution are fundamentally about violating women’s rights to bodily integrity. Prostitution has been prominently theorised as a rights violation in terms of torture and inhumane or degrading treatment.
Most Amnesty International delegates clearly chose to ignore all of this.
The Amnesty International decision this week, and the apparent deafness of many human rights organisations to the concerns of those focused on the needs and rights of women – both within, and outside of, prostitution – has left feminists asking the same question that MacKinnon finishes her impassioned treatise with: “When will women be human? When?”
I was in Europe doing research for Female Sexual Slavery in 1977 when I met with the Executive Director of Amnesty International in London. I had thought, naively, that in following their mandate to address state torture, Amnesty would have had documentation of the traffic in women and children. Instead what I got was: Sexual slavery? Traffic in women? Never happened. That was a fiction of the nineteenth and early twentieth century. And of course this was capped off with the tiresome “sex between consenting adults,” mantra that excuses and enables men who buy women. Even then, as they have done in their latest campaign to promote prostitution through decriminalization of pimps and buyers, in the words of own Meghan Murphy, “they are just making shit up and stating it as fact!!?!?”
Linda MacDonald and Jeanne Sarson have formulated a human rights model for non-state torture. Instead of confining guarantees of human rights protections only to victims of state torture, in their approach to United Nations human rights law, prostitution and all forms of violence against women would be considered “non-state torture.”
Mounting a global campaign to make sexual exploitation a violation of human rights would give strength and support to state campaigns to bring down the heinous legalization of prostitution which India and other less developed countries are considering. Former President Jimmy Carter also speaks to the need for this Convention and calls upon the United Nations to adopt it. Under the direction and with the human rights commitment of the Carter Center’s Karin Ryan, a meeting of activists adopted these recommendations at a May 2015 World Summit: Ending Sexual Exploitation 2025 which supports the Convention Against Sexual Exploitation.
At no other time in history have we had the voices of survivors speaking out about the repeated harm done to them when they were bought by customers. Amnesty’s August 11, 2015 decision to adopt a pro-prostitution policy is a slap in their faces, a call to send them back to the streets and brothels. It also calls for the deprivation of global human rights adopted by United Nations in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights after World War II. Amnesty joins other sex industry driven organizations who have colonized the world of global human rights. UN AIDS, UN Development Programs and UN Women now, like Amnesty, recognize the “rights” of “sex workers” — the chief promoters of and fronts for the male/misogynist sex industries.
If we are to retain global human rights and if women are not to be reduced to men’s sexual objects, then we must bring our global outrage over Amnesty’s promotion of the sex industry to the United Nations, demanding the Convention Against Sexual Exploitation which shall include formulations of non-state torture — that which men do to the women they buy for “sex.”
We have the commitment, we know what needs to be done. Let us see who in the human rights community will step forward with the support to enable us to mount this campaign. The alternative is to leave women, globally, to live with sex industry’s continued colonization of women’s bodies and continued erosion of human rights.
We dare not let that happen.
A group of Lithuanian migrants who were trafficked to work in farms producing eggs for high street brands are suing a Kent-based gangmaster operation and its directors, in the first case of a UK company being taken to court for claims relating to modern slavery.
The six Lithuanians suing for damages are among a group of more than 30 men who worked as chicken catchers for DJ Houghton, owned by Darrell Houghton and Jacqueline Judge of Maidstone. Police raided houses controlled by the gangmaster couple in 2012 and liberated several suspected victims of human trafficking.
Speaking exclusively to the Guardian this week, the workers bringing the legal action have described inhuman and degrading conditions. They said they were driven to farms and factories around the UK to undertake back-to-back eight-hour shifts for days at a time.
They said they were the victims of violence, described the process of being debt-bonded on arrival, and spoke of their accommodation riddled with bedbugs and of becoming so hungry that they ate raw eggs. They have reported being denied sleep and toilet breaks, forcing them to urinate into bottles and defecate into carrier bags in their vehicle.
They also allege that their pay was repeatedly withheld, while Lithuanian supervisors working with the Houghtons abused and assaulted workers, intimidated them with fighting dogs and threatened them with instant eviction if they complained. Accommodation provided was dirty, overcrowded and unsafe and infested with bed bugs and fleas.
A Guardian investigation in 2012 revealed that the trafficked Lithuanians were working in supply chains producing premium free range eggs for McDonald’s, Tesco, Asda, M&S, and the Sainsbury’s Woodland brand. The farm sheds they cleared of chickens also produced eggs under the Freedom Food brand, and for Noble Foods, owner of the Happy Egg Company.
Noble Foods is the UK’s largest egg company and it and its chairman, Peter Dean, have been major donors to the Conservative party. The company helicopter has been lent on occasion to the prime minister, David Cameron, for election campaigning. Cameron promised earlier this month to tackle modern slavery in the UK.
It is notoriously hard for victims of trafficking to get justice. There have been 75 convictions for gangmaster offences since the Gangmaster Licensing Act regulating them came in to force, but only one compensation order for workers.
Misogynist academic working for neoliberal think tank thinks decriminalising the sex industry will lower rape rates
The academic in question is Catherine Hakim, who is evidently still trying to push her bizarre and misogynistic theory of ‘erotic capital’ onto the world and has teamed up with the right-wing neoliberal think tank Institute of Economic Affairs to try to do it.
Hakim’s theory is basically this: men want sex, women don’t, so women should sell it to men (or something like that, her ideas don’t seem to be very well thought out).
Hakim must think rape is about men not being able to control their sexuality, rather than it being a premeditated act of dominance – why else argue that a ‘sexual outlet’ in prostitution would help lower rates? The argument here is contradictory, she claims that porn and prostitution do no social harm, porn is freely available, so why still all the rapes?
Hakim/IEA are obviously trying to ride on Amnesty’s coattails to publicise their report. The quality of the research must be dire, Hakim claims that rape has gone up in Sweden post-abolitionist model, it hasn’t, reporting has gone up, plus the legal definition of rape is wider in Sweden, so more things get recorded. There is an estimated reporting rate of 20% in Sweden, which is poor, but still twice the reporting rate in the UK.
Hakim also claims that Spain has very low rates of rape. I have downloaded her report from the IEA, searched through the document for the term ‘spain’ and found no source for her claim, she also says in the same paragraph (on p27), that Japan, Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand have “exceptionally low rates for rape and sexual assault” she doesn’t make it clear whether she is talking actual numbers of rapes (which can be estimated by crime surveys) or reported rapes, neither does she acknowledge that rape is vastly under-reported everywhere.
In the same paragraph she blames Sweden’s high number of reported rapes on Sweden having “a profoundly sex-negative politically correct culture” and emphasises that the increase in reported rapes are what she calls “date rapes” – she is insinuating that it is all prudish women ‘crying rape’.
[EDIT: Re-reading this, she is saying that Sweden’s abolitionist approach to prostitution and ‘sex negativity’ is directly responsible for date rape – so she is saying that men are committing rape because prudish, repressed women aren’t putting out they way they should, and men then just can’t help but rape them.]
Hakim was disowned by the LSE after the publication of Honey Money, she’s obviously found her level among the neoliberals.
Hey, Amnesty International, and other sex industry advocates, these are your natural allies!