Sunday, December 7, 2008

WFF's Tracy Ryan Takes Down Huffpo Trafficking B.S.

Evidently, I wasn't the only one who found the recent Huffpo piece on human trafficking (aka sex slavery) a complete crock. Writer Tracy Ryan, affiliated with The Woodhull Freedom Foundation, had a look at the authors' numbers and spotted many of the same inconsistencies I saw, plus a few more I missed. She dismantles the whole thing very nicely, thus:

Taken point by point:

Claims that 27 million people are held in debt bondage or that 800,000 are trafficked are not supported by any evidence. There are probably 250,000 total sex workers in the US, (less than one per thousand population). This piece claims 300,000 new sex workers with an average age of 13 enter the industry annually. No professional outreach organization or law enforcement agency would agree with this exaggeration. If it were true within five years there would be 1.5 million underage girls in the US sex trade.

You’d think outreach workers and law enforcement folks would notice. You might also wonder where all the new johns were coming form to support a more than six-fold increase in prostitution in just five years. Their figures indicate Finland with a population of just 5 million would see 85 thousand new sex workers in five years. Another anti-trafficking group in California said the number trafficked into Finland was 80 thousand a year.

These people care nothing about the accuracy of their numbers. The US State Dept originally (2001 or thereabouts) estimated 50K trafficked into the US annually. This they later admitted was a number pulled out of thin air. After seven years and 100 million dollars of Federal anti-trafficking money spent about 1100 cases were identified nationally. Virtually all of them had to have some of their facts tweaked to meet the standard for being a trafficking crime.

The number quoted for Finland (population 5 million) of 17,000 is actually the number now quoted by the State Dept. for the US (population 300 million) after admitting the 50K was a wild exaggeration. The 17,000 is probably no better. Last year I asked the public relations guy with Honolulu County’s District Attorney’s office how many cases their office was aware of in Hawaii. He said ONE and that involved domestic servitude, not prostitution.

The average age of entry is not known by anyone. No valid study exists concerning this question. All of us are left with extrapolating conclusions based on our own contacts and knowledge. Since it is clear to anyone familiar with this industry that there is a large and growing segment of women who enter it at college age or thereabouts in order to have an average age of 13 there would need to be large amounts of children well younger than 13 to balance them out. Thirteen to fifteen may be a common age for streetwalkers to have entered the industry, but it is way too young to be considered an average.

Playing up the underage card is a tactic just as inflating the numbers is. In Melissa Farley’s recent book about prostitution in Nevada she reports that “prostitution of 13-17 year old children is rampant according to one police officer”. However arrest statistics for 2006 showed that of over 4500 arrests only 40 were for underage prostitutes. Of these 40 people 29 were 17 years old.

The article points out that much victimization results from teenagers running away. It illogically blames the sex industry for this victimization. A rational approach would be to first concern itself with what they were running away from. It would also take into consideration the lack of legal rights such runaways have and how this plus a lack of life experience almost certainly will lead them into abusive conditions. If the institution of prostitution were abolished, as is the stated desire of the writers of this piece, teenagers would still run away and still be victimized.

Simply stating that children face potentially abusive situation in an industry provides no logic for abolishing the industry. A hundred years ago small children worked long hours in mines and factories under often appalling conditions. No one argued for closing the coal mines or abolishing the steel industry.

The next point is that johns should be arrested for creating the demand for this industry. This is based on the false premise that all prostitutes are abused slaves who desperately need to be rescued. There is a mountain of evidence from prostitutes around the world that contradicts this. The “arrest the johns” mantra shifts blame from the people indicated as causing abuse (pimps and traffickers) to some third party who has not done anything other than agree to give a women some money that she wants form him in exchange for a sexual service he desires.

The arrest the johns argument makes as much sense as an argument to arrest people for wearing or using cotton during the time when black Americans were held in slavery. The growth of cotton has continued without slavery and harms done to young women in the sex industry can be addressed without arresting johns or abolishing prostitution. The 100 million dollars wasted by the Federal Government in its vain attempt to find trafficking victims could have been much better spent funding programs for teenage runaways.

> The next point merely states what the opinions are of some people in Sweden. It also repeats the lie about 17,000 trafficking victims entering Finland annually. There is no more reason to give credibility to the Swedish “experts” quoted here than to the writers of this whole piece; who clearly deserve none.

They go on to state that 70% of the 88,000 prostituted women in England and Wales are under the control of pimps and traffickers. This they argue is a reason to dump the burden of proof issue when convicting johns. This is similar to their efforts in the US Congress to eliminate the need to prove force in getting trafficking convictions. This drive to eliminate the basic rules of evidence in proving criminal cases was objected to by the US Attorney General’s office and others. The authors of this piece offer no evidence to support their claim of 70% . The number of street prostitutes is generally estimated at 10 to 15 %. Interestingly here they quote the number of prostitutes in Britain at about 88,000 Britain has a population ten times as great as Finland where these same people claimed there were17,000 trafficking victims every year.

Their statement about brothel closures in the Netherlands and other trends along those lines in Europe are falsely attributed to evidence of trafficking. This trend is political and follows the successful fear mongering campaign these advocates are pressing on the continent. It has no basis in good public policy.

Finally the quote about how Swedes consider prostitution inherently violent is an insult to women. It puts them in a position of
minors who are not capable of giving sexual consent. It ignores individuality in favor of defining people by membership in a class. In this regard prostitute, john, pimp, etc are all arch-types that hostile individuals get to define with no respect whatsoever for the obviously varying views of the people they wish to define. This is the opposite of “women’s liberation”.

7 comments:

  1. This was an excellent takedown. I especially like this part: "The arrest the johns argument makes as much sense as an argument to arrest people for wearing or using cotton during the time when black Americans were held in slavery. The growth of cotton has continued without slavery and harms done to young women in the sex industry can be addressed without arresting johns or abolishing prostitution."

    I absolutely detest pre-Civil War American slavery being trotted out in reference to the modern-day human trafficking. It is a cynical trick used by abolitionists to get those of us of African heritage (even if it is just partial) to jump on their bandwagon by bringing up that specter of injustice that still has some impact on those descendants today. That is my opinion anyway.

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  2. It's all about button-pushing. Pornography is hate speech. Prostitution is slavery. BDSM is fascism.

    Thus to they seek to associate the worst possible historical injustices with the descendants of those who have suffered them with anything the "noble cause" opposes.

    That the associations are false and the claims underlying them based on lies doesn't matter if the emotional response overwhelms common sense.

    That's exactly what the other side counts on, as reason is not in their corner.

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  3. @Ernest: "That's exactly what the other side counts on, as reason is not in their corner."

    Reason is an enemy combatant in their corner.

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  4. Yes, this is an excellent smackdown of the "trafficking" lunacy....couldn't you have provided a link to the original article, Ernest, so that we can give Ms. Ryan her proper credit??

    I am simply gobsmacked by the gross claims by the likes of Fairley. I mean....wouldn't anyone have noticed something if the rate of "trafficking" cited by her "studies" had really existed rather than simply cooked up or invented out of her....out of thin cloth??

    It's almost as if she claims that every single person who is economically disadvantaged or homeless should be counted as a "victim" of sex industry "trafficking"; or that every case of abuse of poor women should be assumed to be directly caused by "johns" (which you might as well define, in her loony fantasy world, as simply "any man who is in the area who pursues sex by any means").

    But this is the part that really floored me:

    The article points out that much victimization results from teenagers running away. It illogically blames the sex industry for this victimization. A rational approach would be to first concern itself with what they were running away from. It would also take into consideration the lack of legal rights such runaways have and how this plus a lack of life experience almost certainly will lead them into abusive conditions. If the institution of prostitution were abolished, as is the stated desire of the writers of this piece, teenagers would still run away and still be victimized.

    Simply stating that children face potentially abusive situation in an industry provides no logic for abolishing the industry. A hundred years ago small children worked long hours in mines and factories under often appalling conditions. No one argued for closing the coal mines or abolishing the steel industry.


    Now ask yourself this: how many of these teen runaways are themselves running from abuse themselves?? Abuse that took place in their former homes?? And yet, Fairley and the rest of the "pornstitution" posse has NOT A GODDESS DAMN THING to say about the abuse these boys and girls faced in their former households. Apparantly, that form of abuse is simply to be accepted; until it can be used to blame, scapegoat, and shame innocent "johns" and, by implication, the women who attempt to service their sexual desires for a fee.

    That, more than anything else, is what pisses me off to no end about "pornstitution" BS artists like Melissa Fairley; they care no more about actual women being abused than they do about women's free will and choices. It's all just a means to their narrow, sex-hating ends.

    Fascists like this befowl and desecrate the good name of "feminism" and "liberalism" and progressivism. Bravo to Tracy Ryan for standing up to them and calling out all their crap.


    Anthony

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  5. Do you have a link to Tracy Ryan's analysis? How about a link to the Dept of Justice recanting their claim of 50K people trafficked/year? Feel free to email me at charleg@goodvibes.com directly, if you prefer.

    Thanks!

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  6. Hi again-

    I did a little digging and tracked down the report
    The Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children In the U. S., Canada and Mexico
    , which seems to be the basis of the State Dept claim of 13 as the average age of entry into prostitution. (see this page)

    From my reading of the article (p. 92, Ages of First Intercourse and Entry Into Juvenile Prostitution), the age of about 13 refers to kids living on the streets. Runaways, throwaway kids, and kids who flee abusive homes who turn to prostitution to survive.

    However, that doesn't mean that the average age of entry into sexwork is 13. It means that among runaways, the average age of entry into sexwork is 13. That makes makes sense- this is the age that many of them runaway in the first place and there aren't any jobs for youth living on the streets. But unless one has accurate info on the numbers of street youth who turn tricks, as well as the average age and headcount on adults who enter sexwork, there's no way to make an accurate claim of "average age of entry into sexwork."

    Assuming the accuracy of the research, it would be fair to say that for children living on the streets, the average age of entry into survival sexwork is 13. And let's not forget that the main reasons children runaway in the first place is to flee abusive families.

    I think that what this highlights is that if you want to reduce/eliminate survival sexwork among children, the answer isn't to criminalize adult sexwork. The answer is to end child abuse.

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