Laura Agustin is now censoring my comments

I’ve been in a long, unpleasant ‘discussion’ with sex industry advocates on Laura Agustin’s blog here. In the original post she compares a homeless child (she uses the terms ‘child’ and ‘teenager’ interchangeably, and repeatedly refused to give a lower age limit on how old she thinks it is acceptable for a child to be prostituted) engaging in survival prostitution with a child’s sexuality, and says that anyone who is against child prostitution is a prude who is against the sexuality of children and teenagers (and babies and toddlers as well).

The issue of young people on the street who have a home somewhere they don’t want to live in – runaways – is always charged because of a widespread refusal to accept that everyone has a sexuality – babies, toddlers, children, teenagers, old people.

This comment is particularly odd, as the rest of the post is talking about shelters that help homeless children and teenagers avoid survival prostitution.

Agustin has barely taken part in the comment thread, instead leaving it to some sex industry advocate thugs to argue for her (and if you decide to read through the comments, be aware that one of the men is particularly violent and abusive in his language).

The comments on Agustin’s blog are not moderated, except for hot-links, and when I first left my latest comments, 10 days ago, they appeared on the thread (I saved the page as a pdf for reference, so I am not simply mis-remembering), but now, they are ‘in moderation’ (see below).

I’m not arrogant enough to think that anything I’ve said could have got to Agustin (like all the women who make it their life’s work to keep other women in prostitution, she displays a high level of callousness), so I don’t know why she’s suddenly decided to censor my comments.

This is my comment in full (I left another short comment further up thread, that is now ‘in moderation’ too).

Laura Agustin,

In one of your posts about the Irish Anarchist Bookfair ( your response to a criticism of your attitude to capitalism implied you prefer: “Practical, pragmatic arguments about the here and now.”

Dealing with the here and now means dealing with states, laws and law enforcement. Practically every group that wants to bring about meaningful changes, whether that’s stopping deforestation in the Amazon, banning pesticides that kill off honeybees, or closing tax loop-holes, uses the law, and, inevitably, law enforcement.

But according to you, anyone who tries to use the law to get justice with regards to sexual violence against women and children (and men too for that matter) is ‘crying to daddy’ – everyone else can use the law, but we alone must hobble ourselves by not doing so.

And that’s some really nice trivialisation of sexual violence there; any raped woman who wants justice is a baby crying over a broken toy.

But actually that attitude fits in perfectly with your neo-liberal worldview, where human beings are reduced to economic units, and all human interactions are economic transactions, and economic transactions are always rational, selfish and good. Under such a worldview, a ‘prude’ is anyone who attaches any emotional value to sex, and all sex is good, even the ‘sex’ of a homeless thirteen-year-old engaging in survival prostitution. Under such a worldview, rape can’t be a big deal, it’s just theft, just ‘unrecompensated sex work’.

You try to ‘sex up’ your work, by calling yourself ‘the naked anthropologist’ and aligning yourself with so-called ‘sex positives’, but it’s hard to come across as ‘sexy’ when your worldview allows for no emotional elements at all.

Tell me, what does the sexuality of a baby or a toddler look like to you when you view all human interactions as economic transactions?

Thaddeus Blanchette,

“So a sex worker who is raped by a client in Sweden or Scotland will likely be told that what she did was illegal – prostitution – and to shut up and go home, in spite of the law’s supposed orientation to protecting women.”

This is getting kind of sad and desperate on your part; maybe the police in your part of the world are 100% corrupt 100% of the time, and can just make up the law as they go along and no one can do anything about it, but in western Europe, we manage a little bit better than total corruption. I’m not saying it’s perfect by any means, but we manage a little bit better than 100% corruption 100% of the time.

It’s also rather patronising to ‘sex workers’. Maybe a prostituted child or a woman trafficked from abroad wouldn’t know what the law was, but an adult citizen of a country operating the Nordic Model (where the prostitute her or himself is decriminalised) would know what the law was.

“This is what I find to be the most ludicrous point of Ploddies’ position and that of other radfems: they don’t look at what cops actually DO with these laws they want to enact. This is a particularly grevious error for people who claim to understand that the state is a tool of the patriarchy.”

We know very well, that’s why we spend a lot of time, as activists, and as professionals in the legal system, trying to get the police to investigate rape and domestic violence and stalking properly, to treat victims properly, to get the courts to try cases properly, and to counter the cultural myths and biases that can affect juries.

“And feminists? They are essentially destroying the concept of consent when it comes to sex and women’s bodies.”

That line only works if you think acquiescence is the same as consent, and that it’s only coercion if there’s a knife to someone’s throat.

“Radfems, my ass. Liberal, middleclass, white kids with daddy issues is more like it.”

‘Issues’? That’s really funny coming from a guy who thinks only 0.01% of sex is enjoyable, even for men, and that that’s ok and normal!

From Agustin’s blog today:

censored comment

From my saved pdf of the blog post:

uncensored comment


14 responses

  1. Thank you!

  2. Wow. That comment thread is awful. You argued extremely well, though (as you always do 🙂 and the increasingly abusive tactics of one commenter, in particular, only highlighted his own failure to make good counterarguments. (He wafted on forever and resorted to attacking you personally but his rebuttals were mostly fallacious, inconsistent and unsupported by anything other than opinion and anecdote. It became more and more obvious that he was resorting to bullying you because he lacked the ability to respond to what you had to say with evidence and reason). And, also, you showed no signs that you would allow abusive tactics to shut you down. Call me cynical, but I don’t think it’s a mystery that somebody like Laura Agustin might decide to limit the comments from a person who can a) make solid and supportable arguments that conflict with her own position and b) resist the usual abusive silencing tactics from her other commenters.

  3. Thank you for the supportive comments!

  4. Agustin has twittered about this blog post! It’s so tedious apparently, that she want’s to draw everyone’s attention to it! My comments are still ‘in moderation’ – I can’t imagine how she thinks this makes her look good.

    Agustin twitter

  5. Chocolattruffaut

    I have to express my gratitude for your navigating that thread with such clear arguments. I think Laura Agustin was originally trying to say in her article was that the reason why most teenagers and children end up on the street is because of their perceived sexuality (most of the time being homosexual), but she didn’t express herself clearly and then her batshit insanity manifested itself. The glaring mistake I see most of the commenters making on that thread is that they assume that when a child or teenager is engaging in either “survival” or “consensual” prostitution is that they’re going to be having sex with someone of their own age. This couldn’t be father from the truth-a 13 year old girl on the street is not going to have a client who’s also 13 and will take her out to dinner and a movie first. Her client will most likely be a middle aged guy with a wife and children who are the same age as her!

    It makes my skin crawl seeing men, like the commenter you engaged with, go on and on about how much they frequent brothels and how everywhere is sunshine and rainbows and why are radical feminists against sex and sexy women???

    I can’t wrap my head around why it’s so difficult for the pro-prostitution lobby to admit that maybe, just maybe, there are women who hate being prostitutes and that the world of prostitution (and porn) is not 100% woman friendly every minute of every day.

    And finally, I can’t believe we’re at a point in discourse (feminist or otherwise) where some child rape is not as bad as others!

  6. Your post is spectacular.

    I was once in a sex worker rights community group that kicked out a participant who was a citizen liaison with police. The strippers running the group called police the enemy, and when I pointed out that most people call the police when they see something bad go down therefore any effective prostitute outreach group must integrate that fact into their action plan, they kicked me out too, and I mean a man stood up and came over to where I sat so I felt he would get physical if I didn’t go right then. He then “escorted” me to the elevator and then the intimidating fuck stood glaring at me until the doors closed.

    He worked behind the bar of a strip club.

  7. Hi Chocolattruffaut,

    Thanks for your comment.

    I think you are being overly generous towards Agustin! With the statement at the end of the original post: “One sort of marginalised sexuality can contribute to another, unfortunately.” She is definitely calling prostitution a sexuality, and defending it as a sexuality, even when the ‘sexuality’ is that of a homeless thirteen-year-old engaging in survival prostitution.

    As I said in my censored comment, when one views all human interactions as economic transactions, all sex becomes good, even the coerced sex of survival prostitution.

    She has written elsewhere on her blog that she considers prostitution to be suitable work for children (children from a poor background, that is), and that it is oppressive to stop children working in that way.

    I’m not sure anyone was saying that they thought the johns using ‘juvenile sex workers’ would be juveniles themselves, I think the general gist of it was that if teenagers having sex with each other is fine, prostituting can’t be a big deal.

    Actually, bully-boy’s argument was that nobody enjoys sex anyway, not even men, so prostitution is no big deal!

    Sex industry advocates are rarely prepared to talk about the physical and psychological realities of submitting to unwanted sex, but the truth leaks through in the ‘harm reduction’ material that they produce; telling prostitutes not to ‘work’ while drunk or high (ignoring why they might need to be drunk or high to ‘work’), telling them not to inject anesthetics into their vaginas because it might mask a serious injury, to get ‘on top’ if they are in physical pain after repeated penetration, to use mild toiletries if they’ve been damaging their skin through excessive washing (ignoring why they might be washing themselves excessively), etc, etc.

    Hi Sam,

    Thank you for your comment as well!

    I can understand why lots of women in the sex industry would not feel confident going to the police (lots of people from all types of marginalised communities don’t feel confident interacting with the police), but the answer to that is to improve relations with the police, not spout bull-shit about how the police will just make up the law anyway because they hate prostitutes so much!

    Under the Nordic model, prostitutes wouldn’t be criminals and they would have as much right to justice as anyone else (and being a criminal doesn’t negate your right to justice anyway).

    The ‘Merseyside model’ written about here, where the Merseyside police treat all violent crimes against prostitutes as hate crimes, has gained high conviction rates as a result – all without a change in the law to the Nordic or New Zealand model, showing what can be achieved for real in the here and now.

    The only people in the end who benefit from keeping prostitutes away from the police are abusers and exploiters.

  8. […] on from my comment yesterday mentioning the Merseyside Model, there is a e-petition calling for the Merseyside Model […]

  9. Coming back to this in light of the recent convictions for child sex trafficking and child rape in Oxford, a few points are worth making.

    Those girls were not being sexually abused by the police or by the social services. The police and social services were both guilty of huge levels of incompetence, indifference and neglect, but they weren’t the sex abusers.

    This is important because people like Agustin and Thaddeus want us to believe that the police and social services are completely and irreparably corrupt, and are the ones actively abusing women and children, and that being on the streets and prostituting is safer and better for women and children.

    The testimony of Girl C shows that what she wanted and needed was for the police and social services to listen to her and her adoptive mother, and to take what was happening to her seriously.

    Hearing about the grooming that occurred in Oxford of vulnerable girls who were out on the streets shows very clearly that the streets are not safe, and entering prostitution is not a free choice.

    These girls were seen as disposable, as unreliable, as ‘bad’ and that is why they were not listened to, and why it took so long for someone to put all the pieces together and expose the gangs.

    Agustin claims that entering prostitution is always a free and rational choice, even for a homeless child, she repeatedly defends pimps as merely the ‘boyfriends’ of child prostitutes, ignoring completely how grooming works (see Child C’s testimony). This is hardly surprising, Agustin’s neoliberal worldview doesn’t allow for any subtle psychological understanding, human beings are only economic units, all interactions are only economic transactions.

    The ‘bad girls’ in Rochedale and Oxford were ignored because their behaviour stopped them being the perfect victims the mainstream requires, but according to Agustin we are babies crying over broken toys if we try to change this mainstream attitude.

    ‘Social justice’ which doesn’t allow for any attempts to change the law, to change the attitudes of the police, the courts, the people with power, keeps us helpless and keeps us within easy reach of the abusers – a ‘social justice’ movement which also tries to paint some abusers (ie the pimps) as benign, is doubly dangerous.

  10. Please forgive the source of this is an article but I thought it was pretty relevant. It’s about Angela Sinfield, a woman from Yorkshire who fought to bring public attention this issue and turn the tide against the gangs, after her own 12 year old daughter was a victim of such abuse.

    “When Angela went to the police and social services 13 years ago, to say her 12-year-old daughter had been groomed by a street gang and was now being sexually abused, she was met with disbelief.

    “I kept telling them, this is organised crime – it’s happening across the country,” she says, sitting in a cafe in her home town.

    “They thought I was a mad, neurotic woman – that I was imagining it. “Everyone seemed to want to sweep it under the carpet.”

    Back then, in 2000, the concept of “on-street grooming” was barely known.

    “The power of grooming is that children can have anything they want. They buy them nice things parents couldn’t afford to or wouldn’t buy.

    “Underwear, designer clothes, a BlackBerry. They get them into drugs and drink.

    “It’s not consensual sex, not when they’ve been drinking neat vodka, taking cocaine, using date rape drugs.

    “These girls are unconscious when they are gang-raped. Imagine that’s happening to your child and you can’t do anything against it.”

    The idea that somebody like Laura Agustin has any genuine sense of social justice is patently ridiculous. To dismiss the relevance of such a blatant power imbalance in the “relationships” these children have with their “boyfriends”, and the kind of dynamics involved in this type of abuse, is to actually display a profound lack of concern for social justice, fairness and equality.

  11. Thanks for the comment MLM, see here for Agustin dismissing the existence of manipulation and control through threats, violence and fear (‘brainwashing’ and Stockholm Syndrome) as “Psychobabble”.

    All in the name of the ‘agency’ of trafficked women and children of course!

  12. Yes, the “agency” of trafficked women and children who “colluded in situations that ended up going bad”. Because it’s always the victim who needs blaming for the situation, and not the other way around. There’s nothing more shameful than being a “victim”, is there? And nothing like a sociopathic lack of empathy dressed up as social conscience, either. She’s appalling.

  13. Yes, Agustin has a serious empathy deficit – we’re all just worker ants to her, and the only real oppression is not being ‘allowed’ to work.

  14. […] it is very funny, that someone who finds me so ‘tedious’ that she has to block me from commenting on her blog, is still spending time reading mine, and […]

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