Stacey Swimme

Innovative Thinking On The Sex Industry & Social Justice

Sex Workers and Clients Can Stop Human Trafficking (6 of 6)

Excerpted from a post I contributed at Sex In The Public Square on February 25th, 2008.

Sex Workers (and their clients) are Part of the Solution

Smoke and mirrors people… Look over there so we can violate you from over here. That’s how power works. Sex workers have a lot of experience in observing and actualizing the art of power. Sex workers have a lot to teach us. We all lose because sex workers are silenced.

Those who lose most of all are the people who actually are trafficked for labor in many forms. Billions of dollars are allocated so that regional and federal task-forces can cruise the web looking for ‘trafficked’ women. The results of these hunts produce thousands of misdemeanor arrests of US sex workers, costing tax payers millions in administrative and incarceration expenses- but they produce very little that actually serves the needs of trafficking victims.

When the sex industry is not criminalized, there is little incentive to employ those who don’t wish to do the work. Trust me, thousands of women are quite happy to work as prostitutes, there’s no gap in available service providers to meet the far over-exaggerated demand that is reported. The underground nature of some areas of the sex industry are a breeding ground for corruption and labor abuses. Keeping sex workers and their clients criminalized leaves them without routes for reporting violence, suspicious behavior or anything that suggests abuse.

Forced prostitution is not sex work. It is rape. It is in the best interest of all for those who do not wish to do sex work to have an avenue to get out of the industry that includes practical solutions and resources for a sustainable and independent life. Sex workers want to contribute to these solutions and it’s frustrating that when a sex worker is happy with his/her work they are accused of being part of the problem. Arrest-tactics, social stigma and compromised personal safety limit the ability of sex workers to participate in effective action.

Practical Solutions

Another Way is a list of 10 ways that as consumers in North America we can minimize our role in promoting the demand for cheap labor and our impact on the environment and economies of developing nations.

Sex workers have to acknowledge our role in consumerism and we have to make decisions with our money that are aligned with our values. Sex workers are uniquely positioned to make an economic impact because our income is often directly connected to the same corporations that are profiting from cheap labor. We have a responsibility to take that money back into our communities by buying local, buying fair-trade, supporting labor organizing of immigrant workers and joining in human rights projects that are working to raise awareness about the true nature of human trafficking.

This is a big, huge problem. I wish that I could just make 10 bullet points as a checklist for sex workers to end human trafficking. None of the solutions are going to be easy. I certainly am not as accountable as a consumer as I should be. This is an area that requires us to be very conscious about our decisions, to look at our daily lives and truly evaluate what sort of changes we can make to improve conditions on this planet. I think real change will require a collective sense of compassion that is seriously lacking in the world. US citizens are not the only consumers that are driving the demand for cheap labor. This is a global matter and I think that US sex workers need to consult our global community to seek out more solutions.

Sex workers will not be included in these conversations without putting up a fight. Those who believe that all commercial sex work is equal to rape won’t acknowledge us because we disprove their theories just because we exist. Those who work in any form of health/prevention services can’t or won’t work with us because their funding is tied up with the anti-prostitution loyalty oath.

There is a systematic effort to keep us silent and to censor those who support us. We challenge all of the imbalances of power, gender and authority that the anti-trafficking industry rests delicately on. We’re also an easy scapegoat. People are more than happy to believe that consenting adults in the sex industry are causing human trafficking, it means they don’t have to question their own role in the demand for cheap labor.

To end human trafficking we have to appreciate the very nuanced and complex nature of this problem, we have to be willing to look at the root issues and we have to stop scapegoating sex workers.

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