babble is's discussion board but it's much more than that: it's an online community for folks who just won't shut up. It's a place to tell each other — and the world — what's up with our work and campaigns.

Janice Raymond at Vancouver Public Library Montreal Massacre Memorial

El Feministo
Joined: Aug 30 2013

The following open letter has been delivered to the trustees of Vancouver Public Library ( and to the Vancouver Rape Relief collective ( 

I believe this issue deserves serious consideration by the Library, by Rape Relief, and by the general public, and I encourage concerned citizens to contact Vancouver Public Library and/or Vancouver Rape Relief if you have any concerns regarding this event. Tthe event program is available at


18 November 2013

To Vancouver Public Library management and board, Vancouver Rape Relief management, collective, and board, and to members, donors, and volunteers with both organizations:

I am writing regarding Vancouver Rape Relief's (VRR's) intent to host Janice Raymond at their “Montreal Massacre Memorial 2013” event hosted by Vancouver Public Library (VPL) on Nov. 30, 2013. Ms. Raymond is to deliver a talk titled “Prostitution: Not a Job, not a Choice”. Further to Raymond's controversial stance on prostitution, you are likely aware of Raymond's notorious stance toward transgendered people, too. I am requesting that space be made available to both transgender communities and sex work communities to respond to Ms. Raymond when she speaks at VPL.

Ms. Raymond is infamous for suggesting that “medicalized transsexualism represents only one more aspect of patriarchal hegemony” and arguing that transgendered people should be morally mandated "out of existence". She also wrote Technology on the Social and Ethical Aspects of Transsexual Surgery, for the US Government, which led to the elimination of US federal and state aid for indigent and imprisoned transsexual persons – legislation which some speculate facilitated the deaths of already-marginalized trans persons. Raymond's opinions on prostitution are similarly controversial, and widely criticized: her testimony in Bedford v. Canada was judged not to be credible. Her promotion of the belief that “legalization or decriminalization of prostitution ... promotes trafficking” has been widely debunked and policies based on this mistaken assumption (like the USA's PEPFAR legislation, until it was struck down by the US Supreme Courthave been shown to have harmful effects.

Meanwhile, VRR's negativity toward transgender people is well-documented in coverage of VRR's dispute with Kim Nixon in the 1990s. However, you may not know that VRR continues to perpetuate this conflict, with VRR insinuating “real woman” discourse into UBC's recent Take Back the Night event. VRR collective member (and de facto leader) Lee Lakeman's recent defamation of Ms. Nixon in the form of public accusation of felony theft continues VRR's aggression toward transgender people – a politics of exclusion reified into a praxis of hate (to this day, VRR argues that transgender is not an identity, but rather, say VRR, “it is really an insidious form of paralyzing liberalism which translates into ultraconservatism in action”). Moreover, VRR's ideological bond with Raymond's politics is reflected in VRR's role as the home of the Canadian Association of Sexual Assault Centres (CASAC)authors of a 2013 statement which prioritizes the elimination of sex work over all other women's issues.

Whereas VPL intends to host an event sponsored by VRR, featuring Raymond, I refer you to VPL's policy, which “is responsible for working with its communities to create services that diverse communities identify as respectful, inclusive, and accessible” with specific regard to “sexual orientation, gender identity,” etc. In light of this policy, I am asking both VPL and VRR to ensure that Janice Raymond's presence at VPL includes the voices of the communities that she and VRR excludes. I am appealing to the Library's Diversity and Inclusion Statement (referenced above) as well as to theLibrary's meeting room policy, which in turn refers to the BC Human Rights Code. I believe the latter's clause on “discriminatory publication” applies to any statements made during this event.

To be clear, this is not an attempt to censor or censure VRR or Raymond. To the contrary, I invite VRR to step inclusively into the realm of civil society rather than continuing to privilege the purity of your particular voice at the expense of the people you exclude. Inviting a dialogue between Raymond and the people she speaks against so stridently would be a step toward dissipating the pain and harm that Raymond's views have caused to so many people.

Finally, I would like to emphasize that this request is motivated by values promoting civic discourse in a vibrant public sphere. I respect VRR's right and privilege to mount this event, but showcasing a speaker who many people believe to be guilty of hate speech is inconsistent with these values, both generally and as reflected in VPL's policies.


El Feministo



Joined: Apr 17 2002

Silly me, I read this because I thought it would be about the Polytechnique Massacre (which only people far from here call the Montreal Massacre, as if there haven't been other massacres here - very annoying).

By the way, feminista (and féministe) are the same in masculine and feminine, so presumably in anything in-between...


Mercedes Allen
Joined: Jan 10 2011

El Feministo, your letter is excellent, and I wonder if it would be possible to repost it at my blog?If so, how would you like to be attributed and is there a link (i.e. if you have a blog or website) that you would like included?

lagatta, indeed the event is intended to mark the massacre at l'Ecole Polytechnique.  Janice Raymond's lecture, however, is designed to co-opt and channel the concern about violence against women into a campaign to abolish sex work.

Joined: Apr 17 2002

I think both abolitionists and decriminalists have every right to speak out against massacres of women. Both currents were certainly present at the Sisters in Spirit events here in Montréal: Stella, La Clés, Québec Native Women...


Mercedes Allen
Joined: Jan 10 2011

lagatta, certainly.  There is a difference, though, between that and using the massacre of women to argue that the very existence of an unrelated group or groups (sex workers, trans people) *is* violence against women, and to call for their abolition.

It's doubly dubious when that viewpoint (given that it's one that the event's sponsor, Vancouver Rape Relief, holds as well) is the only viewpoint presented.

Joined: Jul 11 2009

There's no such thing as felony theft in my country (Canada). However, there is such think as libel, lying and cheating and it's THIS. Babble is a stink bug and Rabble is a stink bug for allowing this anti-woman stench.

El Feministo
Joined: Aug 30 2013

Hi all, 

1. Yes, Mercedes and others, feel free to reproduce my post as you wish, and thanks for asking.


2. I have received a thoughtful and detailed response from Vancouver Public Library. I won't reproduce it without permission, but their position is reflected in the following tweet: "This is a third-party event and is not VPL-hosted or -endorsed. Our public space policy is at: ." For VPL, this is essentially a room rental, and nothing more. I accept that.


3. Thank you, hysperia, for the correction re Canadian law regarding theft. Nevertheless, I agree with you that Ms. Lakeman's assertion appears to be defamation. The statement, to be clear, was

"Ripping off a women's shelter and rape crisis center for thousands of dollars pretty much disqualified Kimberly Nixon from any future consideration of any kind of alliance with VRRWS i'm guessing" 

This statement came after the directive: "if you happen to see Kimberly Nixon you might remind KN of owing VRRWS 1200$ plus as I recall," which Lakeman subsequently corrected: "that was 12000$ owed to VRRWS".

Of course, this statement isn't defamatory if Lakeman can provide proof that Nixon owes VRR $12,000. I have asked Lakeman to provide evidence to support her assertion about Ms. Nixon, but there has been no response. 


4. My point in publicizing this issue is to address and to expose the enmity that leads to statements like these. Much dialogue and healing is necessary to overcome this rift. It is clear to me that there are no winners in this battle. 

I also think it's important to reveal what this event is attempting to do in the name of women and in memoriam to the women who lost their lives in Montreal. Inviting a transphobic speaker to rail against prostitution seems like a Trojan horse of the worst variety: "come to support and remember the victims of violence – would you like a side-serving of ideology with that?" As someone who is moved by the memorial aspect of this event, I think this kind of bait-and-switch is quite tasteless.


5. Finally, my efforts have led at least one party to "out" me as a "Men's Rights Activist" who is "harrassing" Janice Raymond. Not true. They even made me a web page! While I am obviously opposed to many of Raymond's positions, I have never contacted, much less harassed her. In any case, my words speak for themselves, and anyone who wishes to peruse my Twitter account will see that I sometimes challenge MRAs bad behavior, too. That said, the similarities among MRA discourse, "real women" discourse, and abolitionist discourse are often striking.


6. As the library is no longer involved in this conversation, I look forward, hopefully, to Vancouver Rape Relief's response. This is an opportunity for VRR to heal past wounds. I would rather see VRR recuperate their relationship with trans people, with sex workers, and with progressive women in general—rather than continuing to marginalize themselves by embracing the bigoted and xenophobic ideologies of transphobia and abolitionism. 


Joined: Feb 7 2012

As an organizer of the Montreal Massacre Memorial I would like to remind you that Janice Raymond is specifically invited to speak on the topic of prostitution at the Montreal Massacre Memorial. She had not been asked to share her views on trans issues. Janice Raymond is professor emerita of women's studies at the University of Massachusetts.  She is a former director of the international Coalition Against Trafficking in Women and the author of the recently published book: Not a Choice, Not a Job: Exposing the Myths about Prostitution and the Global Sex Trade. Her presentation is a part of an all day event marking the National Day for Remembrance and action on violence against women. Other speaks on the day will address topics like Sexism within the Police Force, Tribal Law and Violence Against Aboriginal Women, The Impact of Recent Immigration Reforms on Women Escaping Male Violence and Defending Battered Women on Trial. 

Vancouver Rape Relief is intentionally orgenizing an event that is free and open to all.

For more information about the day and its political-historical context please visit


Joined: Apr 17 2002

Hilla, I wish that you too would refer to the sad event by its real name, the Polytechnique Massacre. Sadly, it wasn't the only such massacre or school shooting in Montréal. I remember being in the university bookshop at Université de Montréal (I was a graduate student) when the radio announced the massacre at the Concordia University Engineering Department. I know a secretary there who cowered under her desk so as not to be killed. And then Dawson College...

Transphobia is certainly bigoted, but how on earth is it xenophobic?

I don't think abolitionism is either. Hating sex workers  is bigoted, and often xenophobic because often they are either trafficked or in dire straits, from very poor countries, but there is nothing that is either about wanting to eliminate certain employment sectors as long as the workers are afforded transitional compensation and training for socially-useful employment. Ecosocialists would say the same about the arms industry, much of the auto industry, publicity, etc.

I have no familiarity with either Janice Raymond or her critics, and have no particular affinity with the views of either faction. I'm definitely an abolitionist in the broader sense, though. I don't think there is anything empowering or progressive about people selling themselves to the rich, or to access to bodies via money. And yes, I know people who are sex workers, and some are friends. However, I'm against phony abolitionism that simply persecutes sex workers.

It is very racist and bigoted indeed to proposition vulnerable Indigenous people, racialized people or transpeople with the assumption that they are "available" to service bourgeois people, usually white and usually male.


El Feministo
Joined: Aug 30 2013

Hilla: I'm not sure you've read through this thread, but I linked to the program and noted the topic of Raymond's talk at the outset. You've reiterated the information from the program, but this doesn't really add to the conversation; in fact, in ignoring the substance of this thread, it seems impertinent.

That said, thank you for adding the subtitle of Raymond's talk. Having Janice Raymond speak about "Exposing the Myths about Prostitution and the Global Sex Trade" is quite perverse. Raymond's work has been discredited by Canadian courts and widely debunked elsewhere. As mentioned above, Raymond's conflation of prostitution and trafficking is a perfect example of mythmaking – with dangerous consequences. The references in my letter are just the tip of an iceberg of evidence in this regard.

Once upon a time, Vancouver Rape Relief supported all women, including sex workers, including prostitutes, including trans* people. Today, VRR allies with neoconservative organizations like Raymond's CATW, whose links to American conservative groups and the religious right have been amply documented – in addition to the references above, published evidence of this over a decade ago. More important than these ideological alignments is the growing evidence that CATW's advocacy has contributed to harming women and others throughout the global south.

Yet, important as I think these points are, they have little to do with commemorating the tragedy at l'Ecole Polytechnique. In that regard, once again, Vancouver Rape Relief is exploiting a tragedy to promote its own political agenda. That seems profoundly anti-progressive, anti-feminist, and deeply disrespectful to the victims of that tragedy and to their survivors.



El Feministo
Joined: Aug 30 2013

lagatta: for me, xenophobia describes transphobic attitudes for the same kind of reasons you acknoweldge re attitudes toward sex workers.

I'm using it in the sense described here (via wikipedia):

"Xenophobia can manifest itself in many ways involving the relations and perceptions of an ingroup towards an outgroup, including a fear of losing identity, suspicion of its activities, aggression, and desire to eliminate its presence to secure a presumed purity."

That seems to me a particularly apt description of the exclusionary, derisive, and sometimes outright hateful attitudes all too often directed toward trans* people and communities.

I appreciate your interest in getting the words right, btw. Thank you.

Joined: Apr 17 2002

Usually, xenophobia means bigotry against "foreigners". I'd call bigotry against transpeople "transphobia", not xenophobia, unless they are the stereotypical Brazilian drag queens. I'd certainly not defend either form of bigotry. I looked at the Wikipedia article, it has very serious problems (unrelated to transpeople) related to attacking what can be defensive measures by oppressed peoples.

susan davis
Joined: Aug 1 2009

i wonder if the vpl would say its just a room rental" if it was something blatantly hateful ....for example and extremist islamist event recruiting terrorists....? or a drug cartel recruiting drug dealers...?

their response seems a little shallow considering the content of the presentation.....dismissive almost


El Feministo
Joined: Aug 30 2013

I want to briefly respond to some of the online commentary in response to VPL's press release on this topic. I agree wholeheartedly with the Library's defence of the VRR's right to hold this event; VRR & Janice Raymond should feel be completely free—and should feel free—to speak for anyone who wishes to listen. I agree with the Library that “commitment to free speech and intellectual freedom are the fundamental core values of public libraries and are bedrock values for democratic society.” Amen.

That said, I believe that some expressions – such as those which contest people's human rights or those which can be argued to have caused significant harm – merit special consideration vis-a-vis the values of the public sphere. In this particular case, given the obvious rifts that are opened by this particular speaker, it is worth considering providing an opportunity for aggrieved communities to respond. That's all my letter requested—I hope I was clear that I did not think the event should be prevented from going ahead. That's what I meant by "Inviting a dialogue between Raymond and the people she speaks against".

I still hope that, given the contested nature of this event, the library will consider making space for this event's opponents to hold a concurrent counter-event. At the moment, it seems there is likely to be a protest anyway. Why not go one better? Why not make this a teaching & learning moment?

Joined: Nov 30 2013

Lagatta: you posted "I'd call bigotry against transpeople "transphobia", not xenophobia, unless they are the stereotypical Brazilian drag queens."

I'm sure no harm was intended with this comment. However it is disrespectful and furthers misinformation to link transgendered persons with drag queens through suggestion that drag queens are also transgendered or a subset of the transgender umbrella. The two are completely different. The majority of drag queens are cisgendered men - men who identify as men and impersonate women. Often they have a female alter ego (different behaviours, mannerisms, voice, etc) when they are in drag, but they do not identify as women. Transgendered people are people whose internal identity does not match their external bodies - in otherwords their gender and sex are not aligned. Transgender includes those who do not identify as either male or female but somewhere inbetween or something altogether different as well as those who have an internal identity that is opposite to the sex assigned at birth. Their behaviours and mannerisms are consistent and do not usually change based on what they are wearing. I hope this helps to clear up any confusion or misunderstanding of the two.


Joined: Apr 16 2003
El Feministo
Joined: Aug 30 2013

For those who prefer to read, and for the public record, here is a transcript of Janice Raymond`s talk. It excludes verbal pauses ("um") and the occasional repeated word but otherwise is as faithful as a transcript can be – and of course, as Catchfire linked above, the audio of the speech is also available here if anyone wishes to double-check against the speech itself. 


Prostitution: Not a Job, not a Choice

Professor Emerita Janice Raymond, Coalition Against Trafficking of Women

Saturday, November 30, 2013

"First let me say how meaningful it is to be back speaking here in Vancouver, especially at an event organized by the wonderful Vancouver Rape Relief and Women's Shelter – certainly, in my opinion a group of women who understand, from the dedicated front line work that they do, with victims of male violence against women, much of what I will be talking about today.

"I'm going to talk about abolition of prostitution, and I'm also going to be talking about what I call the myths that people have about prostitution in general, abolitionism in general, and a lot of the issues I think that many, many of you are familiar with and that I really think it is important to speak about.

"I think one reason that we have these myths is that basically we have a media that is very entranced with the glamorization of prostitution and that idealizes prostitution as sex. We have a prostitution and pimp culture in which we live. We have a sex industry that is global. And we have a globalized prostitution industry that is essentially supported by the globalization of pro-sex work advocacy around the globe. We have men who are prostitution users who are there and who feel entitled to the access that they have to women. And we have a lot of, unfortunately, groups, including very progressive NGOs, who feel that legalization of prostitution protects women. It's simply a job and it should be treated as such, or a service. We have the kind of cliches that really reign: that prostitution is inevitable (I was asked that eternal question this morning in an interview); prostitution is the oldest profession; legalized prostitution regulates the sex industry. Or in the more progressive media, prostitution is sex work, trafficking is migration for sex work. Prostitution is a service, like any other service job. Trafficking is forced and prostitution is voluntary.

"So, I'd like to unpack some of those claims today. But before I do that, I'd just like to tell you just a little bit about my own experiences.

"As an activist I've met hundreds of women in systems of prostitution whose lives have been ravaged by it. I've met women who thought they were migrating out of their country for decent jobs only to wind up in the sex industry. I've encountered runaway girls in my own country who left home because male relatives had sexually abused them and then find themselves smooth talked by pimps in the railway stations or bus stations across the country. I've been in brothels in Bangladesh and other places where I've seen girls as young as nine servicing male buyers. And I've talked to a lot of men who are habitual prostitution users, who feel entitled to purchase women and girls to meet their alleged sexual needs.

"And although, in a lot of the speaking I've done and a lot of the teaching I've done, you know I certainly know that people react to the viciousness of pimps and the viciousness of traffickers, and they sympathize with victims, sometimes. But I think a lot of often good and well meaning people are really confused about the relationship between trafficking and prostitution and about what it means to legalize a whole system of prostitution in a particular country. Because they're fed truisms, they're fed truisms such as legalization will control the sex industry, it will control the influence of organized crime, it will lessen the incidences of trafficking, it will protect the women in prostitution because it will regulate the system and it will get rid of all of the, you know, the excesses. And I know that a lot of people are, they've been fed those truisms, they're very unsure about those kinds of assumptions, whether they're true, because they sound realistic, but often they don't know how to respond.

"So, I hope today to do a little bit of unpacking about some of those truisms. When I began working on this issue in the 1980s in the campaign to abolish sex trafficking and prostitution, there were almost no NGOs and almost no governments that were addressing the demand side. You could never mention the men, the prostitution users. And it took almost twenty years for a solid block of countries to legally address, in a very modest way, the whole question of the buyers. First came Sweden, then came South Korea, then came Norway, and then came Iceland. And since these laws penalizing demand have been put in place, there have been a lot of arguments and a lot of attempts to overturn the laws. For example, the law in Norway: the conservative government was just elected was elected on the platform that they would overturn the law against the buyers. And unfortunately they have been elected. So we'll see, we'll see what happens there.

"But I'd like to center today just on some of the arguments that have been used around the whole issue of penalizing demand and what the arguments are and what some of the responses to those arguments might be. I'm a philosopher by training so I like to deal a lot in arguments. A big one is, instead of penalizing the buyers, governments should welcome prostitution users as partners in the campaign against trafficking and prostitution. We call these kinds of arguments, these kinds of programs, "responsible johns" or "ethical buyers".

"An example of this was the World Cup situation in 2006 which was held in Germany. And many of you may know that Germany has decriminalized many of the aspects of the system of prostitution, in some cases brothels, pimping, et cetera. So when the World Cup took place in Germany in 2006, there were women's organizations and human rights organizations that set up a campaign, and the campaign was actually called "Responsible Johns". And what they did was, they promoted an ethical version of sex tourism. Now what that ethical version of sex tourism was, was that they distributed literature around the stadium where the men where coming in to the football game, in four languages, encouraging men to abstain from sex in the brothels that surrounded the stadium, and there had been specific brothels that were set up specifically for the entrance of the World Cup in that year. To abstain from sex, but only if the women say that they've got high debts with the brothel owners, or they're being exploited, or if the women tell the men that they've been forced into prostitution.

"Now the question, of course, is why would a woman tell a man, first of all, that she's been forced into prostitution, and second of all, you know, why would he ask? Now this has been a big argument of the pro-prostitution lobby: we can train johns to be ethical, we can train johns, we can train buyers, we can train prostitution users, we can train kerb-crawlers, whatever you call them, to be ethical. So then one might ask, well, you know, do these campaigns have any effect on the buyers?

"There's no literature from the World Cup in 2006 that says that that campaign was successful. But in 2010, the Amsterdam city council did an internet study, a small study, sampling the views of men who used internet sex sites. They put the survey on things like the World Sex Guide (which is a very big, global internet sex site) and they asked users – they asked prostitution users to basically, well, one of the questions was, when you come across women who you think have been forced into prostitution, do you take any action. Well, the answers were "no" across the board. There's been another study that's been done in the United States, of 2000 men, in my state, Massachusetts, and the study found that the knowledge that the women who have been exploited, coerced, or pimped, or trafficked, failed to make any difference in the behaviour of the buyers. They continued buying, they continued using the same women, even though they might have known this in some way. Even though they thought they saw signs, bruises for example, on women's bodies.

"So, you know, we don't have a lot of studies that have been done around this – I don't think we need these studies but I think they're very useful, in terms of talking about what are the results of these alleged ethical buyers campaigns. The government of the Netherlands has a hotline where a buyer can call in, it's called, it's part of the Crime Stoppers program, where buyers can call in and say, they can register if they've seen any abuse. That hotline has never been used for that purpose. Same in Denmark. So, at any rate, that's one argument.

"Another argument is, and this is an argument that is very common in academia, that prostitution is too complex an issue to limit demand simply to the consumer of sexual services. Now, I say that's a favourite academic argument, because basically, it makes demand abstract. It kind of metamorphoses real live men into market forces. And, of course there are other factors that promote prostitution and trafficking. Of course its not only the demand. National and international economic policies. Globalization. Countries in financial and political crisis. Natural disasters. Like we see in the Philippines, where immense amounts of trafficking are now going on in the central region. Military presence, for which the United States bears an immense responsibility. Racial stereotypes and practices. And of course women's inequality. But you know a prostitution market without demand would go broke. And so, there are constant attempts, in most of the academic literature on prostitution, at least in a lot of the Women's' Studies literature that I am familiar with, that really does not want to talk about demand in terms of real live men exercising access to real women's bodies. And these debates go on all the time.

"Another argument is that penalizing the demand drives women underground. And I think this has been a particularly powerful argument in certain circles, because people think, well, yeah, if you penalize the men, they're afraid to come up to the women on the streets, or whatever. But then you have to ask, what is underground? This has been a big argument, by the way, that's been used in Sweden. Well what underground usually means is that prostitution has been driven to some indoor site or to the internet, both of which are hardly underground, or clandestine in ways that are not accessible. I mean both the buyers, and the police for that matter, can access these sites. And advertisements on the internet are very visible. In fact, one could argue there that prostitution is more visible than elsewhere. And the 2010 report of the Swedish National Board, which evaluated the law in Sweden came to the conclusion that exposure on the internet makes it easier for the police to reach people who are organizing the sex trade and to locate the purchasers of sex and to locate the victims. There is no evidence to suggest that laws penalizing the buyers, such as the Swedish law, the Nordic model, have caused prostitution to migrate elsewhere. Prostitution is always migrating. And it's Swedish organizations, for example, claim that those who assist victims report that there has been no overall increase in indoor prostitution in the country since that law went into effect, and since the dramatic reduction in street prostitution. There has been an immense reduction in street prostitution, so the pro-prostitution folks use this argument all the time to say, “oh yeah, well, it's just gone indoors.”

"But there's a blatant contradiction in this claim as it's used by the critics, because its very interesting that the critics will use this argument – when they're against the Nordic model, they will use the argument to say that it's driven prostituted women into more clandestine and into more dangerous indoor locations. But, for the most part, those who use that argument have been long-time opponents of the law. But when those same groups are promoting legalization or decriminalization of prostitution, they argue that indoor prostitution is safer for women. You cannot have it both ways. It's either more dangerous, or its safer. But they use it in both ways.

"And of course, their aim in the first instance is to discredit laws penalizing the buyers. I think this argument has been, also, very popular. Penalizing the buyers forces women in prostitution to take bigger risks. That goes something like this: they say that women on the street used to be able to assess their buyers when they had more time before they had to jump into a car, to see if there was potential danger in the car before agreeing to the transaction. But I really love Trisha Baptie's response to that – Canadian journalist and survivor of prostitution, who many of you know – she says, and I'm quoting her here, “I had five minutes, I had two minutes, I had ten minutes, it didn't matter. Its the luck of the draw. There was no real way for us to know who was going to be a good date and who was going to be a bad date.”

"And, I think what people don't know is that the potential for women in the legal brothels, of the Netherlands, of Germany, of Australia and the other legalized countries, the potential to be abused and harmed is much more likely than for prostituted women in countries where there are laws against buying women for sexual activities. This is one reason why, for example, pro-sex work groups in the legalizing countries are now writing self-help manuals, which teach women, in the legal brothels, how to fend off violent overtures from buyers, how to use specialized equipment against the buyers, how to never use a pillow on the bed unless you want to get smothered. How to keep a knife under the bed for safety's sake. Read them. They're on the internet. Self-help manuals. They resemble, as a friend of mine says, crisis management in hostage situations. Manuals that resemble crisis management in hostage situations. And so, I mean, you can't take the risk out of prostitution, and buyers are a major part of that risk. The manuals are a backhanded testimony to the real risk that women – whether they're in countries that tolerate prostitution or whether they're in countries that allegedly say prostitution is safer for women, it's not.

"One-third of the window brothels in the Netherlands had to be closed because organized crime took over those brothels. I'm talking about the legal brothels, never mind the illegal brothels. And in Australia, the situation of legalized prostitution led to a dramatic increase in illegal prostitution. So that now, in the state of Victoria, there are three times as many legal brothels as there are illegal brothels. So, so much for the argument that legalized prostitution protects women. The major tolerant zones – initially under the system in the Netherlands, the Netherlands set up tolerant zones, we call them sacrifice zones, in the major cities, like Amsterdam, and Rotterdam, and Eindhoven Those zones all had to be closed, almost as soon as they were opened, within a period of several years. These were zones that were policed. These were zones in which the customers came into these garage-like apparatuses -sex zones, they driver their cars into these places, and the women service the men in the cars and the police meanwhile are going round and round the zone, but yet the zones were taken over by organized crime. And that was the reason they were closed, and the reason they were closed also was because many of the women were abused in the cars, right under the eyes of the police. So, the potential for women, in many of these areas, and especially in the legal brothels, is very very great, the potential for women to be harmed.

"Then there is the argument that the women in prostitution don't want the buyers penalized. Now, the argument that women in prostitution don't want the buyers penalized depends upon, well, which group of women in prostitution you ask. Those who, I would say, define themselves as sex workers, or those who define themselves as survivors. And I think we have to do a lot more talking about the fact that two conflicting voices speak for women in prostitution, and both claim the authority of experience. One voice – survivors – tells us that prostitution is a violation of women's human rights, and a form of violence against women. It maintains that defending the rights of women in prostitution requires prosecuting perpetrators, including buyers, and also giving assistance to victims. And that doesn't mean just providing women with safe sex alternatives, it means providing women with life alternatives. And the second voice, sex workers and their allies, is often louder, it makes prostitution look sexy, it frequently commands more media presence, and it seems to enjoy at least more financial support. Those groups are in the United States are getting much more financial support than abolitionist organizations. So, just as an example of this, for many years, in the United States, there was a group called COYOTE, which you've probably heard of, and COYOTE was the most influential group that claimed to speak for women in prostitution. Now, COYOTE was entirely a public relations group. It did not provide services, it provided not even any kind of tea or coffee or vans on the street, nothing. Instead, it made prostitution look sexy, and it was always attractive to media. And for years, they were the voice of women in prostitution. COYOTE lobbied for laws against pimping, they lobbied on behalf of the pornography industry, they went to court on behalf of the pornographers. But they saw themselves basically as the public defenders for normalizing prostitution. When we did some research about COYOTE, we found they were not founded by women who had ever been in prostitution, but they claimed to be. And ultimately they were put on the spot and they had to acknowledge that. So I think, what we have got to begin to do, and I say we, I mean allies and organizations like my own, that work on these issues, and all of us in general, we've really got to be able to really amplify the voices of survivors, because they are the voice of experience, and they are the women who know what they are talking about. But they don't make prostitution look sexy, and they are not attractive to the media.

"We have tried to do some of that, many years ago we organized a conference of former women in prostitution at the European Parliament, and some of you may have seen this document, it's on my organization's web site, it's called a manifesto of survivors of prostitution. It's built on a similar statement that was originally written in the Philippines, that was authored by 75 women in prostitution. And basically that manifesto proclaimed that prostitution is not sex work, trafficking is not migration for sex work, it called on governments to stop legalizing and decriminalizing the sex industry, and giving pimps and buyers legal permission to abuse the women in prostitution, and since then there have been many blogs, web sites, I know in Canada, a group of survivors testified in the Bedford decision, and that was really great, along with other survivor groups and other groups in Canada, but I think that this is really something we really have to give attention to, because the pervasion of quote-unquote self-identified sex workers, who not only ident—there's a lot of women who use that terminology, and this is not what I'm faulting. I'm faulting, really, women who shill for the sex industry. And this is happening a lot. And I think we have to really begin to talk about this very seriously. And one of the ways we can do this is to really amplify the voices of survivors, in forums like this.

"A final argument I'll talk about is that penalizing the demand harms the buyers' wives, their children and partners. Especially when its made public that they've been arrested or charged. So in other words, don't penalize the buyers because their families might be hurt. Well, one might ask the question, how does protecting the buyers from exposure in fact protect wives and partners? I mean, common sense dictates that women have the right to know what their male sexual partners are doing, including the knowledge of possible exposure to sexually transmitted disease. So, I think the arguments against penalizing the demand really do not hold up, and its really a paradox that any measure to restrict the men provokes yet one more argument from the pro-sex work lobby, that any penalties levelled at men harm women.

"I just want to say a few things about the South Korean model, because I think in this area of legislation, we always look to Western models for our examples. And I think a lot of you may have heard about the Nordic model but you may not have heard about the South Korean Model. Basically, the Republic of South Korea in the year 2004 passed a zero tolerance law, that's what it was called, targeting, among other things, the demand for prostitution. And included in that legislation were added resources to assist the women in prostitution. When I met with service organizations in Korea that provided this assistance to women, they told me that the most gratifying part of the law was the 56% decrease of women in prostitution that was reported several years after the law was passed. That was from a government study, that was the ministry of gender equality that conducted that study in Korea. So a 56% decrease in women in prostitution, and that the number of sex districts had decreased also, by about 40%. So what led to the decrease in women in prostitution? The assistance package, that was really, very much funded by the government, which provided counselling, job retraining, medical treatment, a monthly stipend, and legal support. And to qualify for that, women had to demonstrate in some way, through the assistance organizations, who certified this, that they had been harmed or that they suffered from addictions or other disabilities or were underage. Thousands of women took advantage of that provision and subsequently exited prostitution. However, the decrease was also due to the fact that the law was enforced against the buying of sexual activities. Prostitution users in South Korea faced jail time of up to one year, or fines of up to 3 million wan, which in Canadian dollars is about 2800 dollars. In 2006, a survey of the Korean Ministry of gender equality also interviewed men who said they were prostitution users and evidently reported that they had stopped using because of the enactment of the law. But more important than that, what the Korean women's groups also told me was that, and I am quoting here, survivors of prostitution say it is like a miracle that they can escape prostitution through the protective system of the law. The experience of they who always believed they live outside the law are subject to the protection of the law, and that the brokers who seemed to live above the law can be punished, truly empowers the women. So they were hearing from the women, basically, that that law was empowering to them, and that the men who abused them can finally be made accountable for it.

"I will finish by saying that some of you know that the governments of both France and Ireland, after extensive legislative reviews, have submitted legislation against the buyers. And next week, the National Assembly in France will vote on an abolitionist bill that prohibits the purchase of the sexual act, puts an end to the criminalization of those prostituted – the Sarkozy law, which criminalized passive solicitation, implements exit strategies with a special budget allocation and the establishment of local mechanisms, gives access to compensation for victims of prostitution and trafficking, and puts into effect national awareness campaigns and prevention policies. The bill has been submitted by the left – they can't say that this is a religious, conservative, moralistic bill – by the socialist and communist groups in the national assembly – with most of the major political parties being in agreement. So we are hoping that that law will be passed, and that that will take really the laws against buying in Europe that are now sequestered in the Scandinavian countries, out of Scandinavia and onto the continent.

"Now, I'm not saying that laws against penalizing buyers are perfect, and I am not saying law is the only answer. But law is certainly much more than law, it's an indication of what a country thinks about what happens to women. Its an indication of the fact that in this land, women will not be bought and sold. And it certainly has an immense normative function. And I think that what it does is it demonstrates that prostitution is not inevitable, and it makes the users legally accountable. These laws are very modest. They are not felony laws, by any means. In most countries, they're not even misdemeanours. They are very modest, but they do indicate, that in this country, the buying of women and children will not be tolerated. So thank you."

Matthias Lehmann
Joined: Jan 28 2014

Janice Raymond cited a government study of which she didn’t know who actually conducted it, a law of which she didn’t know the correct name, and figures that were not only derived via a dubious research methodology but which she also managed to confuse.

The “South Korean Model” is no more a “miracle” than the Swedish Model. The difference between the two is that the former states outright that it criminalises sex workers, while the latter claims it doesn’t.

For a detailed response to Raymond's claims, please read Janice Raymond and the South Korean Model.

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.
Login or register to post comments