I learnt a new phrase today

“Poverty pimp non profits”. I found it in the comments thread of this post, used (derogatorily obviously) to describe any NGO which works with trafficked women and calls for a legal model that decriminalises the prostitutes themselves while criminalising the demand and facilitation sides of prostitution.

Apparently, any suggestion that a prostitute may be trafficked or coerced, or even underage, is to take away her ‘agency’; apparently it isn’t the violence of prostitution, or the psychological harm involved in submitting to unwanted sex, or the crippling poverty that makes women and girls vulnerable to it that takes away agency, it’s noticing that it happens. Apparently, suggesting that prostitution isn’t a 100% free choice, harms these women and girls more than the traffickers, pimps and johns ever will.

The term is particularly galling when many women involved in what is (again derogatorily) referred to as the “rescue industry” * by these same people – some of whom are making great careers for themselves in academia writing books about how empowering prostitution is – have often had first hand experience of prostitution themselves.

For example, Norma Hotaling, who died last year, and Somaly Mam, a Cambodian woman described in this New York Times piece on trafficking and forced prostitution in Asia, and the horrific levels of brutality involved (warning, the descriptions are disturbing and potentially triggering).

But no, they, apparently, are the pimps, not the actual men committing the actual violence.

[All links found via Feminist Law Professors]

* What the rest of us would recognise as helping the most vulnerable people in society.

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30 responses

  1. The follow up New York Times article is here:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/04/opinion/04kristof.html

    Again, the content is disturbing and potentially triggering. There is also a filmed interview with the girl in the article, who had been a victim of trafficking. Her (female) pimp gouged her eye out when she asked for a few day’s rest to allow herself to recover after a forced abortion.

    It’s a shame the reporter is so keen to point out the difference between ‘free’ and ‘forced’ prostitution. He even has the suggestion on his blog that being able to take a prostitute back to your hotel room is a sign that she isn’t ‘imprisoned’. Which is in slight contradiction to what he says in the article:

    “The career trajectory is often for a girl in her early teens to be trafficked into prostitution by force, but eventually to resign herself and stay in the brothel even when she is given the freedom to leave.”

    He advocates for improved law enforcement, but says nothing specific about demand or criminalising demand.

    So, while not the best article in the world in terms of analysis, it is vital to get to hear first hand testimony like this.

    His next column will include interviews with brothel-owners in Cambodia.

  2. The main problem with first-hand testimony is not that prostituted women have had the courage to describe in detail the 24/7 male sexual torture and violence committed against them. Rather it is how it almost always is reinterpreted by reporters such as the New York Times article wherein male violence becomes minimalised or even ignored and instead the focus is on the woman(s) supposed ‘free choice and agency.’

    Likewise many so-called pseudo ‘feminist academics’ have gained considerable acclaim and financial gain by promoting the male-determined Sex Industry which of course would not exist if prostitution were not considered ‘just work.’ Such pseudo ‘academic feminists’ all claim to have listened to prostituted women’s testimonies but always the male violence is either ignored or invisibilised. So, just who is committing sexualised torture against these women? Why the brave feminist organisations which refuse to accept prostitution is ‘just another job’ and instead provide professional, expert support and assistance to women seeking to exit female sexual slavery. Ah but this is widely perceived as ‘moralising, reducing prostituted women to ‘victim status’ or else it is supposedly reinforcing the dichotomy between so-called ‘respectable women’ and ‘dehumanised women’ (meaning of course prostituted women). We can ignore this meaning is a male one and used to ensure women as a group are kept subordinated to men as a group.

    But – the truth will out and despite advocates for sex industry and ‘pseudo feminists’ attempting to muzzle the truth – they will not succeed.

    I see no agency or free choice when innumerable women and girls are turned into sexual slaves and all to faciliate Johns (male buyers of course) having female bodies made available for them to masturbate into.

  3. Alas is a racist porn front
  4. The term poverty pimp is coined to discribe the actions of peopel who advocate for continuing the criminalization of prostitution, an industry they don’t even work in,(or maybe they did work in the business when they wanted to support their drug habit), while simultaneously getting paid showcase the poverty that criminalization brings. When a non profit worker or representative is engaged in promoting a victimization only perspective of prostitutes while simultaneously opposing decriminalization of prostitution, a worker based initiative, that’s poverty pimping non profit.

  5. An example of a poverty pimp non profit would be the SAGE Project Inc. in San Francisco. SAGE runs the First Offender Prostitution Program, a diversion program both for people who’ve been arrested for solicitation and providing prostitution. SAGE receives a portions of the fees mandated from those who’ve been issued citations along with the police who arrested the people and the district attorney who threatens criminal proceedings. These fees don’t cover the cost/salaries of running the shame based sex negative program that promotes hate speech against prostitutes as drug addicted diseased thieves. This non profit, like others, opposed passing proposition K, a San Francisco worker based initiative that would have stopped the police from arrest people for working as prostitutes.

    This is called profiting off the criminalization of prostitution. By profiting off the backs of the criminalized labor of prostitutes, while opposing prostitutes rights, qualifies this non profit, and others who hold their position, as slave owners as in the U.S. pre civil war plantation model.
    This poverty pimping non profit phenomenon is a clear example of how the feminist are in bed with the dominate male culture they claim to oppose.

  6. I think what Maxine is talking about are the fees that johns, and only johns pay:

    http://www.sagesf.org/html/about_services_fopp.htm

  7. No, NO NO…get your facts straight sage fan-actic or is it addict? Fee are paid by the workers too. The workers are mandated to spend more of their time, for free at SAGE than the men who are arrested for prostitution are.

  8. […] articles/essays/commentary, sexual exploitation, violence against women | Following on from yesterday’s post, this is one of the YouTube films discussed in the Sociological Images […]

  9. Maxine, I find your comments about SAGE quite disgusting. What exactly do you find so bad about a service that describes itself in this way:

    One of the things that makes The SAGE Project, Inc. so unique is that, at its heart, SAGE is about survivors, and many SAGE staff members have first-hand experience with the issues of prostitution, addiction, and homelessness. SAGE was founded by a CSE [commercial sexual exploitation] survivor and continues to be a resource and extended family for survivors, including women and youth who are still in the sex trade and want to be safe and healthy.

    Centered in its peer-centered roots and focus, SAGE offers a valuable perspective on the CSE/CSEC experience and how best to meet the needs of survivors and while eliminating the causes of CSE/CSEC.

    SAGE programs serve women, men, and youth of both genders in a compassionate, supportive, judgement-free environment that is based in the SAGE staff’s direct experience with commercial sexual exploitation and the issues that promote survivorship, wellness, confidence, and connection.

    The way you talk about it, it sounds like you are the one who hates prostitutes.

  10. Ms. Jennifer Drew, you sure have a way with words.

    Can I ask you a question? Why would any man pay $200 and hour or more to masturbate when they can just use their hands for free? Eliot Spitzer paid tens of thousands of dollars to masturbate. I say he got a raw deal.

    Could you please explain to me why a man would pay from hundreds to thousands of dollars AN HOUR to masturbate, when two hands are really all that you need?

  11. >>>Maxine, I find your comments about SAGE quite disgusting. What exactly do you find so bad about a service that describes itself in this way:>>>

    Because the way an organization describes itself and the way it actually may be are two different things. When a woman is arrested for prostitution in San Francisco, she is given a choice between having an arrest record for prostitution or going to SAGE. She does not have the choice that she really wants, and that is to not be arrested in the first place.

    An organization like SAGE would not be able to operate in Sweden, interestingly enough, because it depends on prostitution arrests for it’s funding. Which is not possible in Sweden. Think about that before you defend an organization like SAGE.

  12. I don’t have time this morning for a long answer, so I’ll have to make it brief.

    Re. Masturbation, masturbation doesn’t affirm ones male supremacy, which is why some men prefer spending money (maybe lots of money – after all, a ‘high-class’ prostitute makes one a ‘high-class’ john) on raping prostituted women.

    Re. SAGE, my understanding is that is (also) offers free, non-judgemental and much needed services to people in prostitution under all circumstances (including those choosing to stay in prostitution). Can you offer proof that all their work is only under circumstances of coercion?

  13. Meena, you are setting SAGE up to automatically fail. Under the present laws (laws which SAGE didn’t write and SAGE cannot magically change), the organisation has two choices in the short term; either do nothing for women who are arrested for prostitution, or lobby so that those women have the option of going to SAGE rather than prison.

    You talk as if SAGE created the entire prison-industrial complex out of thin air just to create clients for themselves.

  14. What SAGE says and what it does are two different things.

  15. SAGE has made sure to keep their poverty pimping monopoly going when they filed this brief to bar prostitutes’ rights to say yes and say no.

    http://209.85.173.132/search?q=cache:8Z9GaPxDiZgJ:www.bayswan.org/Tobias.doc+norma+hotaling+amicus+brief&hl=en&ct=clnk&cd=1&gl=us&client=firefox-a

  16. “shame based sex-negative program”

    There is a big difference between being negative about sexual abuse and negative about sex. There is also a difference between positivity about sexual abuse and positivity about sex.

    Perpetrators of sexual abuse should be shamed and punished – victims should be helped.

    Lumping together the instinctively right shaming of sexual abusers, with the long-disappearing ‘shaming of sex’ by religious groups is incredibly twisted.

    It is a way of ‘shaming’ anyone who wishes to eradicate sexual abuse by saying such people are sex-negative (i.e.- negative about good healthy sex which respectfully enjoyed for mutual pleasure).

    So why mix the two up Maxine? Do you think that sexual abuse is a good thing? Or do you think that mutually respectful and pleasurable sex for its own sake is a myth? Either way, it shows a very negative perspective of sex.

  17. SAGE is backed by the Presbyterians locally. The It seems that the ‘safe house’ the church runs uses SAGE as a drop off day care center for it’s ‘clients’; ex prostitute drug addicts. And it’s these religious groups along with the Bush Administration and the feminist haters of prostitutes who have plotted the public policies, like the amicus brief linked above, to get grant monies to pay themselves to create and promote hate speech policies against prostitutes which justifies violence against us. This guarantees that poverty pimp non profits will have a ‘victim’ to deliver services to.

    Additionally, opposing decriminalization of workers and our clients to maintain the status quo of arresting us, then you slave owners re- name the workers as ‘victims’ and the clients as ‘abusers’, (just like slave owners of the deep south); then extort monies in fees and fines or else be prosecued. These monies go towards the SAGE’s, the police and the DA’s salaries is abuse. Check out the hate speech against prostitutes that are presented in the form of exiting questions for the clients at the end of their shame based sex negative program. These questions clearly show the orientation of SAGE, a religious based moral hater of prostitutes as the manufacture of hate speech which justifies violence against workers.
    http://espu-ca.org/wp/?page_id=109

  18. >>Meena, you are setting SAGE up to automatically fail.>>

    SAGE set itself up to fail, when it started to depend on the criminal justice system for its funding, the same CJ system that criminalizes sex work.

    >>Under the present laws (laws which SAGE didn’t write and SAGE cannot magically change), the organisation has two choices in the short term; either do nothing for women who are arrested for prostitution, or lobby so that those women have the option of going to SAGE rather than prison.>>

    SAGE cannot magically change laws, but it could have put its support behind San Francisco’s Proposition K, which would have prevented women from getting arrested for prostitution. So yes, they could have helped to change the law. The only real option that sex workers should have is the one not to get arrested in the first place. SAGE vehemently opposed this option.

    >>You talk as if SAGE created the entire prison-industrial complex out of thin air just to create clients for themselves.>>

    This is a nonsensical statement. I already explained in a previous post that they depend on on the law as it is to receive their funding. That’s different than stating that they create the laws themselves.

  19. >>Lumping together the instinctively right shaming of sexual abusers, with the long-disappearing ’shaming of sex’ by religious groups is incredibly twisted.>>

    Your erroneous ideology assumes that every customer of a sex worker is automatically a sexual predatory, based solely upon the fact that he or she is paying for sex. Sorry, but not everything is so neat and tidy in the world. There are adult, consensual sex workers, and not amount of denial on your part is going to change that.

  20. >>Re. Masturbation, masturbation doesn’t affirm ones male supremacy, which is why some men prefer spending money (maybe lots of money – after all, a ‘high-class’ prostitute makes one a ‘high-class’ john) on raping prostituted women.>>

    “Raping prostituted women”, you say. I’m sorry, Anti-P, but I just cannot believe that you believe in your own rhetoric. What is the full definition of “rape” to you? There are some radical feminists who believe that if a woman has sexual intercourse with a man at any time, for any reason, she is being raped. So by that broad definition, saying that a woman being paid for intercourse is being raped is rather redundant. So is your definition of rape that broad?

    And you use the term “prostituted woman”. Well, Anti-P, guess what? My definition of that term is extremely broad. My definition includes nearly every woman on the planet. Take the housewife, for example. The housewife, in return for room and board and a stipend provided by the husband:

    . cooks, cleans, and maintains the house

    . takes care of the children

    . provides sex

    So by my definition, the housewife is a prostituted woman. Yet this is the work that most women in the entire world do. They do this even if they work outside of the home. Yet it’s so much easier and so much more socially acceptable for you to single out those women who are honest about the whole situation and ask for the money straight up as being “raped” or “degraded”.

  21. Thanks Meena for your compliment because I sure do have a way with words. In a nutshell why should a man like Spitzer pay so much money just so he could masturbate into a woman’s body. Well, the answer is the male sex right which says all men have the right to use women’s bodies as sexualised masturbatory objects. Not forgetting of course, Spitzer was clearly like so many men, proving his ‘manhood’ to other men by demonstrating he has the finances to buy ‘high class prostituted women.’ Often it is not about the male’s sexual climax but rather it is about the man’s ability to prove to other men his masculine power and sexual entitlement to women and girls.

    Imagine the feelings of total control wherein a man once having ‘bought the woman’ can do whatever he wishes to her because she is just a sexualised commodity. Prostitution is both about male power and male sexual entitlement. After all male sexuality is not ‘male sexuality’ unless a woman’s body is involved. No real man masturbates – no he needs a woman’s body to prove his ‘manhood’ to other men.

    Don’t forget johns often go in groups to buy prostitutued women and we need to ask why would a group of men want to go together to buy prostituted women. Again, answer is in order to prove to other men their ‘real manhood.’

    Prostitution is all about men’s sex rights and nothing to do with women’s sex rights. Under prostitution women have no rights they solely exist to provide bodies for men to rape and sexually assault. I wonder how many men are willing to become prostitutes since this ‘work’ is considered so empowering. Oh yes men work in prostitution but they are the pimps, brothel owners, traffickers and businessmen all earning huge profits from women’s and girls’ bodies. I see no female empowerment in prostitution at all, but still we have the pro-prostitution apologists constantly claiming prostitution is ’empowering.’ Are these pro-prostitution apologists willing to enter prostitution and become a man’s/men’s property because that is the reality of prostitution.

  22. The housewife, in return for room and board and a stipend provided by the husband:

    . cooks, cleans, and maintains the house

    . takes care of the children

    . provides sex

    So, Meena, you’re saying that sex, for women, is no better or worse than scrubbing a toilet? You know what? Some women actually enjoy sex.

  23. Well, Anti-P, guess what? My definition of that term [prostituted woman] is extremely broad.

    Ah yes, the old, ‘but aren’t we all prostitutes really?’ argument! Let me guess what comes next: ‘anyone who sells any service is prostituting themselves, aren’t they?’

    This is a piece of meaningless empty rhetoric, you may as well say, ‘don’t we all work in sweat-shops really?’ Well no actually, I work in an air-conditioned office and I can go to the loo any time I like.

    I’m no fan of traditional, patriarchal marriage, but the solution is not to shrug our shoulders at the inequality of it all and say ‘at least prostitutes are honest about being bought’ (or fucking to survive), but to advocate for the possibility of decent human relationships, including – shock-horror – between men and women.

    This ‘we’re all prostitutes anyway’ attitude is not just anti-female-sexual-agency, it is profoundly anti-human.

  24. What is the full definition of “rape” to you?

    I’m going to quote the author Gwyneth Jones here:

    If it’s sex, and you don’t want it, it’s rape.

    You may want the money, the same way a woman with a knife to her throat will want her throat to remain uncut, but in neither case does that mean that you actually want the sex you submit to.

  25. For non-US readers who may not be familiar with proposition K, please see this link:

    http://www.sfexaminer.com/sanfrancisco/keep-trafficking-out-of-city/Content?oid=2143391

    And surprise surprise, Maxine Doogan is a convicted pimp! Who would have imagined!?

  26. >>This is a piece of meaningless empty rhetoric, you may as well say, ‘don’t we all work in sweat-shops really?’ Well no actually, I work in an air-conditioned office and I can go to the loo any time I like.>>

    Ms. London, you have made my argument perfectly. Just like there is a difference between a sweatshop and your air-conditioned office; there is a difference between a coerced 14 year old and a high-end Belle Du Jour. And it’s not fair of you to say that they are the same.

  27. But you don’t get the high-class call girls except on the back of the more exploitative prostitution. You can’t separate them out, especially not in a deregulated system that puts the burden of avoiding/reporting/proving abuse onto the most vulnerable women and girls.

  28. >>But you don’t get the high-class call girls except on the back of the more exploitative prostitution. You can’t separate them out, especially not in a deregulated system that puts the burden of avoiding/reporting/proving abuse onto the most vulnerable women and girls.>>

    Oh, such a burden. We can’t leave the burden to them. I mean, it’s not like they would actually know if they were trafficked or not. But then who, just who would the burden of proving and reporting trafficked women be upon?

    Why, that would be you, Ms. London, and that of your cohorts. You would just love to point your finger at women like Belle Du Jour, or even a working class prostitute, and say that they are trafficked, and they should be put into a slut-shaming concentration camp–oh excuse me!–
    rehabilitation program. After all, they should only been seen, not heard, and you know what’s best for them.

    You see, Ms. London, we know what you’re all about, and that’s why we fight you. Do yourself a big favor and stick to your air-conditioned day job.

  29. Your mis-characterization of me and my encounters with law enforcement is another example of how haters like you are only interested in silencing actual sex industry workers’ first hand accounts of police corruption. Your attempts to assassinate my character sends a clear message to all women and sex workers that the anti porn/prostitution haters are in bed with the dominate white male culture who use criminalization as a means debase our worker centered voices and are therefore not the place to go if one’s been a victim or a witness of rape, robbery, theft, coercion, assault and murder.

  30. Meena, I have never claimed that ALL women in prostitution are trafficked. I accept that there is a globally tiny minority of already privileged men and women who have the ability to negotiate enough to make prostitution ‘ok’.

    Your responses are getting quite rabid, I have no interest in ‘slut shaming’ and I want all exit programs to be as accessible, non-judgmental and non-coercive as possible.

    I talk about ‘burden’ because if prostitution is seen as ‘work like any other’ and if, for the sake of ‘agency’ we are not allowed to even look at what is actually involved in prostitution, or to suggest that what we see is abusive, then the burden is on the abused woman to come forward. There is a massive under-reporting of sexual and domestic violence in this country, and women are assumed to lie about sex all the time, so yes, any victim of any type of violence is under the burden of coming forward and talking about it.

    Maxine, talking about ‘haters’ all the time makes you sound like a 14 year old. You and Meena can call me names all you like, it’s hardly going to make your arguments more convincing.

    I’m closing this post to more comments, because frankly it’s getting boring. If you want to leave comments anywhere else on this blog that actually try to engage in debate, feel free.

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