In the last several years I have heard a lot of Christian ministries and others working to end the trafficking of sex slaves–women, girls and boys, often to areas with high male concentrations: man camps for the pipeline or fracking industry in North Dakota and possibly soon in South Dakota, South Dakota hunting cabins during pheasant and other hunting seasons or in more urban areas like this Rapid City sting operation by South Dakota law enforcement.
Watching the DVR’d ‘ “Super Bowl” episode of Melissa Harris-Perry last night, she first briefed us on this issue and then had a panel of those who are concerned for the rights and concerns of the sex worker industry and have delved into the statistics of the large events that some are saying bring in thousands of sex slaves for the markets of say, the Republican National Convention, Super Bowl’s, and other large sporting events.
To my surprise, they critiqued some of this focus on sex trafficking as a trojan horse for further criminalization of sex work and a way of building the prison industry.
I happen to agree with one of the panelists, Dave Zirin of The Nation, that says, that sex work should be legalized so that workers can unionize and have better protections (see video below at about 4:24 mark but watch the hole video for comment from the women on the panel).
Deon Hayward of Women With a Vision also brings up the issue that hyper-vigilance during these high-focus alerts by law enforcement, the end result is that poor and minority women get picked up and arrested, just for being in the wrong place and merely having condoms in their purse (proof to police that they’re a prostitute).
That this high-profile work can backfire and further harass already marginalized women (who aren’t even sex workers!).
All of this nonsense does nothing to protect those who have been forced into sex slavery.
Decriminalizing sex work so that it would be like any other occupation would force the implementation of labor laws and obviously create guidelines to keep minors from work that would not be safe for them. It would also allow sex workers to report to law enforcement those who commit violent crimes against sex workers, without fear that they themselves will be prosecuted.
I live in one of the highest states in the union for rape. In a state, where 1 in 3 American Indian women will be raped in her lifetime, and apparently, the statistics for her white sisters aren’t much better, I think our relationship to sex work and our relationship to the sex industry must find new ground.
So, back to sex trafficking versus sex work.
While I applaud the police forces doing stings to pick up child predators, I do hope this is not just a new ‘industry’ to ‘save’ those who don’t want saving, just respect.
And that we forget to save the children in the process of further criminalizing sex.
I would like to say I also support sex workers in becoming a legalized profession. They are going to do the work anyway, so why shouldn’t we afford them, in a high-risk industry, the benefits of protection by the law?
Isn’t the Christian thing to do is provide them safety, whether we agree with their choices or not?
Or are we left to throw stones?
I am concerned at all the non-profits and Christians becoming involved in this campaign if it is indeed a Trojan horse.
I think it is evil to use this concern for our children to further criminalize female sexuality and the men who seek their company.
For more information, follow hashtag #notyourrescueproject for the opinions and experiences of sex workers themselves.
[The original version of this post had a family story that I have been informed I remember incorrectly. While I am not certain I do, I removed it for the sake of the concerned family member. It doesn't change the gist of this post anyways.]