sex workers voices .......

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Infosaturated

Snert wrote:

The only thing, evidently, that could possibly be good enough is for WHITE MEN TO GO TO JAIL.

 

Snert wrote:
I wasn't really expecting any humble epiphanies.  But now I've named the game.

You certainly have named the game. Who would be FORCING WHITE MEN TO PUT THEIR PENISES IN WOMEN in exchange for money?

They could just, you know, not do it.

susan davis

so, you do want to get rid of sex workers. you state you want to support us yet deep down you judge me for my work. name a civilzation without prostitution......

women were only ment to do what you deem is right, my work is not within what you see as good, so i must be banned and put at risk for doing it.

my job is very physical, the massage component is alot of work. many people do physical work. and endless sucession of men? most workers would at most see 5/6 clients a day, most of whom would not be in for a marathon.as a result of excitment and anxiety, it generally doesn't last very long. it's not like in an adult film, then again neither is making an adult film like an adult film.

i train regularly and always stretch at the beginning of every day. like a dancer, my body is my tool. i do all i can to take care of it.

do you like your job?if so, why accept payment? do it for free if you like it so much.

so i am also a subclass, nice to see your true colors......

and your racist rhetoric is dispicable, where does any research as the majority of sex workers are women of colour, or that the majority of customers are white men?you assume it is women of color and to me that has a dagerous undertone, as if white women would never lower themselves but women of color would...are you serious?

 

Snert Snert's picture

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If a majority of prostitutes are WOC then we must examine the racism inherent in large numbers of minority women being imported to serve the sexual desires of white men in ways that the majority of white women are unwilling to do.

Very well. I'd endorse that. But this isn't abolition.

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If prostitutes were having sex willingly, for pleasure, they wouldn't require payment.

If they were doing it solely for their own pleasure then I'd agree that they wouldn't require payment. But I don't do my job "for pleasure", though I do do it willingly. I expect payment.

Quote:
Not providing men with extra women to have sex with is not "punishing" men. It's called equality.

Nobody is suggesting that men should "be provided" with "extra women". It's being suggested that if some women want to be sex workers, that they have that right.

Quote:
A society where men and women have sex for the same reason, it feels good.

I don't specifically believe that we all have to have sex for the same reason. I like to cook fancy dinners for the fun of it, but I hold nothing against a chef who only cooks because that's his job.  The idea that we should only be allowed to have sex for mutual pleasure is as much a non-starter for me as the idea that we should only be allowed to have sex to make a baby for God.  It's really neither your nor my place to tell another adult why they should or shouldn't have sex.

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A woman's body was not constructed to be used like that hour after hour, day after day, by an endless succession of men.

I'd rather let a sex worker tell me this.  Presumably, a sex worker who wants to be a sex worker has figured out a workaround.  And honestly, if not, I'm not going to be so paternalistic as to tell them they can't be a sex worker because I know their body better than they do.

Quote:
Finally, there are civilizations that did not have prostitution. Not all societies have a subclass of women that the men pass around for sexual pleasure.

There are civilizations that didn't have priests, firefighters, lawyers or kindergarten teachers too.  I really don't know what this paragraph is supposed to mean.  We should abolish all jobs that haven't existed since the time of the cavemen??

I'm loving your choice of phrase, though:  "women that the men pass around for sexual pleasure".  Scold them, Infosaturated, scold them!!

Meanwhile I wonder if susan knows that she's just being handed around like a Playboy magazine.  Should we tell her?

Infosaturated

susan davis wrote:
and your racist rhetoric is dispicable, where does any research as the majority of sex workers are women of colour, or that the majority of customers are white men?you assume it is women of color and to me that has a dagerous undertone, as if white women would never lower themselves but women of color would...are you serious?

I bolded the word IF on purpose because I was not stating a fact. I was stating a possibility. That's what IF means. There have been reports of large numbers of asian women being used in body rub parlors and various reports of trafficked women. In Germany 70% of the workers are non-German and worldwide is is a well-known fact that large numbers of minority women are being trafficked to serve in developed countries. Last time I checked, a large majority of men in Canada are white. They make comparatively more money than minority men. Now I don't have proof, but I think it's a reasonable assumption that white men at the very least are proportionally represented as customers and possibly more due to their income.

Majority does not mean the same thing as all.  Not as many Canadian women are driven into the profession. In country after country women are shipped in because there are not enough women in that country that are willing.  This is also why strip clubs need to import women. Not enough Canadian women are willing, at any price. Aboriginal women are also over-represented presumably due to economic hardship. Worldwide aboriginal women are over-represented.

Aboriginal culture in Canada did not have prostitutes.

Snert Snert's picture

Quote:
Who would be FORCING WHITE MEN TO PUT THEIR PENISES IN WOMEN in exchange for money?

 

Probably whoever forces BLACK MEN and ASIAN MEN and MEN OF MIXED HERITAGE to have sex. Or, as you put it, "PUT THEIR PENISES IN WOMEN".

 

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I want laws targeting johns and pimps to be strengthened.

 

As I said, the only thing, evidently, that could possibly be good enough is for WHITE MEN TO GO TO JAIL.

 

Why not just own it? Why not just say "I want to see men go to jail". You're not the least bit interested in entertaining the idea that maybe we could help sex workers without imprisoning or criminalizing men (er, sorry, WHITE MEN) for having sex for money. Are you really, really sure there's not some part of you that's driven by more than just an earnest desire to help?

 

 

Infosaturated

Tahanu, you stated:

Many sex-positive feminists assert that when women and men can develop an open, healthy and embracing relationship of their own and each others' sexuality, that society will measurably improve in terms of women's status. Some argue that issues such as violent pornography and prostitution, homophobia, and child sexual abuse, are symptoms of an unhealthy and repressive attitude towards sex.

You certainly can't say that society has a more repressive attitude towards sex than it did 30 or 40 years ago.  And yet porn, violence against women, child abuse, don't seem to be lessening.  How long to we wait for a sign that being "less repressive" will reduce violent pornography and prostitution, homophobia, and child sexual abuse?

Sweden's approach has done far more to advance equality for women then the American approach.

Infosaturated

double post

Snert Snert's picture

Quote:
How long to we wait for a sign that being "less repressive" will reduce violent pornography and prostitution, homophobia, and child sexual abuse?

 

Or in other words, "when can we start being more repressive again??"

martin dufresne

your racist rhetoric is dispicable

Susan, could you find it in your heart not to insult us when we state things that don't sit well with you? If First Nations men ever get to buy White women and youths' sexuality in numbers comparable to that of White men buying First Nations women and youths sexuality, for example, I promise you that we will cease speaking of racism in prostitution.

Infosaturated

Snert wrote:

Quote:
How long to we wait for a sign that being "less repressive" will reduce violent pornography and prostitution, homophobia, and child sexual abuse?

Or in other words, "when can we start being more repressive again??"

Not at all. I think it's great that society has become so much less repressive. I am of the women's lib movement. I think women should be free to enjoy sex just as much as men always have. I think it's great that the LGBT community has made it this far although there is still a distance to go.

I don't think it is "repressive" to ban violent pornography, child sex abuse and prostitution. Quite the contrary. I think it will encourage a much healthier view of sexuality as something pleasurable between equals rather than a model in which one person is subjegated by the other.  But that's just me.

Snert Snert's picture

Quote:
I don't think it is "repressive" to ban violent pornography, child sex abuse and prostitution. Quite the contrary.

 

Has anyone at babble, EVER suggested it's repressive to ban the abuse of children?

 

Smooth the way you just sort of slid that in there alongside adults choosing to have sex for money. Smoooooth.

Infosaturated

Snert wrote:

As I said, the only thing, evidently, that could possibly be good enough is for WHITE MEN TO GO TO JAIL.

Why would white men go to jail?  Nobody is going to force white men to break the law.

Lee Lakeman

Snert

I find this conversation difficult perhaps you do but I find your posts lack any discipline as to the location of this conversation within the feminist group of threads.  To accuse those who don't agree with you of being dishonest in their aspirations for a better world and only being angry and wanting to hurt men is such a tired and silly but nevertheless contemptuous shot that I am shocked you are not corrected.  That is not arguement or even venting frustration but a sheer unadulterated dose of misogyny.

Just for the record: men individually rarely go to prison for violence against women.  It is a problem recognised worldwide that even winning a conviction is so difficult as to confound reformers.  But public laws, public charges, and public trials do have an effect on reducing violent sexist behaviour.  That's why the UN is struggling to aid developing countries to put laws and admin proctices in place to deal with wife assault incest and rape and femicide.

Infosaturated

Snert wrote:

Quote:
I don't think it is "repressive" to ban violent pornography, child sex abuse and prostitution. Quite the contrary.

 

Has anyone at babble, EVER suggested it's repressive to ban the abuse of children?

 

Smooth the way you just sort of slid that in there alongside adults choosing to have sex for money. Smoooooth.

Your last few posts have been hostile so I would remind you that this is the feminist forum.   

Tahanu stated that violent pornography, child sex abuse and prostitution were outcomes of a repressive society. I'm just using her terminology not "being smoooooth".

I think if that were true, given that our society has become less and less repressive, we would begin to see violent pornography, child sex abuse, and prostitution, diminishing. Instead these things are increasing.

Therefore, becoming either more or less repressive is not a successful means of controlling violent porn, child sex abuse and prostitution.

That means we need to use other means if we want to control violent pornography, child sex abuse and prostitution.

I don't want to put white men in jail unless they commit crimes.  I want women and children to be safe and while some women choose prostitution I believe that the majority do not want to be prostitutes. There are many studies backing up the premise that most prostitutes don't want to be prostitutes, and that many of them were abused, and that many are forcefully trafficked and that it is a dangerous job that does not become less dangerous through decriminalization.

I don't expect you to agree with me but I do require you to treat me respectfully and to refrain from putting words in my mouth or thoughts in my mind.  I am fully capable of expressing myself.

susan davis

martin dufresne wrote:

your racist rhetoric is dispicable

Susan, could you find it in your heart not to insult us when we state things that don't sit well with you? If First Nations men ever get to buy White women and youths' sexuality in numbers comparable to that of White men buying First Nations women and youths sexuality, for example, I promise you that we will cease speaking of racism in prostitution.

i am not insulting anyone, i am pointing out the dangerous nature of these sorts of unsubstaniated claims. this not a matter of opinion,this is people trying to assert that mostly sex workers are women of colour. not true, and for the record, i have first nations men as clients so they do get to purchase white women....i see men from all races, what is your point? you are making examples as if it is fact. just go online and see how many blond blue eyed workers there are in sex work as compared to numbers of WOC....it's pretty clear to me you are once again drawing assumptions with no basis in lived experience.

no where does it show that consumers are mostly white men purchasing the sexual services of mostly women and youth of colour. promoting your opinions as if they are facts is contributing to the perpetuation of many myths about our lives. this is shown to cause harm, so please. let's deal in facts and not conjecture.

i have repeatedly and respectfully requested such assertions be accompanied by research links to support them, once again. please show me any research ethics board scrutinized data that supports these assertions of sex workers mostly being women of colour and mostly purchasers being white men.

susan davis

Infosaturated wrote:

I don't want to put white men in jail unless they commit crimes.  I want women and children to be safe and while some women choose prostitution I believe that the majority do not want to be prostitutes. There are many studies backing up the premise that most prostitutes don't want to be prostitutes, and that many of them were abused, and that many are forcefully trafficked and that it is a dangerous job that does not become less dangerous through decriminalization.

I don't expect you to agree with me but I do require you to treat me respectfully and to refrain from putting words in my mouth or thoughts in my mind.  I am fully capable of expressing myself.

once again, please provide links to support these claims, what studies prove we are all trafficked?that we all would like to leave prostitution?that we were all forced?

 

http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2009/oct/20/government-trafficking-enquiry-fails

 

UK investigators fail to find one victim of human trafficking...

Tuesday 20 October 2009

 

The UK's biggest ever investigation of sex trafficking failed to find a single person who had forced anybody into prostitution in spite of hundreds of raids on sex workers in a six-month campaign by government departments, specialist agencies and every police force in the country.

The failure has been disclosed by a Guardian investigation which also suggests that the scale of and nature of sex trafficking into the UK has been exaggerated by politicians and media.

Current and former ministers have claimed that thousands of women have been imported into the UK and forced to work as sex slaves, but most of these statements were either based on distortions of quoted sources or fabrications without any source at all.

While some prosecutions have been made, the Guardian investigation suggests the number of people who have been brought into the UK and forced against their will into prostitution is much smaller than claimed; and that the problem of trafficking is one of a cluster of factors which expose sex workers to coercion and exploitation.

Acting on the distorted information, the government has produced a bill, now moving through its final parliamentary phase, which itself has provoked an outcry from sex workers who complain that, instead of protecting them, it will expose them to extra danger.

When police in July last year announced the results of Operation Pentameter Two, Jacqui Smith, then home secretary, hailed it as "a great success". Its operational head, Tim Brain, said it had seriously disrupted organised crime networks responsible for human trafficking. "The figures show how successful we have been in achieving our goals," he said.

Those figures credited Pentameter with "arresting 528 criminals associated with one of the worst crimes threatening our society".  But an internal police analysis of Pentameter, obtained by the Guardian after a lengthy legal struggle, paints a very different picture.

The analysis, produced by the police Human Trafficking Centre in Sheffield and marked "restricted", suggests there was a striking shortage of sex traffickers to be found in spite of six months of effort by all 55 police forces in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland together with the UK Border Agency, the Serious and Organised Crime Agency, the Foreign Office, the Northern Ireland Office, the Scottish government, the Crown Prosecution Service and various NGOs in what was trumpeted as "the largest ever police crackdown on human trafficking".

The analysis reveals that 10 of the 55 police forces never found anyone to arrest. And 122 of the 528 arrests announced by police never happened: they were wrongly recorded either through honest bureaucratic error or apparent deceit by forces trying to chalk up arrests which they had not made. Among the 406 real arrests, more than half of those arrested (230) were women, and most were never implicated in trafficking at all.

Of the 406 real arrests, 153 had been released weeks before the police announced the success of the operation: 106 of them without any charge at all and 47 after being cautioned for minor offences. Most of the remaining 253 were not accused of trafficking: 73 were charged with immigration breaches; 76 were eventually convicted of non-trafficking offences involving drugs, driving or management of a brothel; others died, absconded or disappeared off police records.

Although police described the operation as "the culmination of months of planning and intelligence-gathering from all those stakeholders involved", the reality was that, during six months of national effort, they found only 96 people to arrest for trafficking, of whom 67 were charged.

Forty-seven of those never made it to court.

Only 22 people were finally prosecuted for trafficking, including two women who had originally been "rescued" as supposed victims. Seven of them were acquitted. The end result was that, after raiding 822 brothels, flats and massage parlours all over the UK, Pentameter finally convicted of trafficking a grand total of only 15 men and women.

Police claimed that Pentameter used the international definition of sex trafficking contained in the UN's Palermo protocol, which involves the use of coercion or deceit to transport an unwilling man or woman into prostitution. But, in reality, Pentameter used a very different definition, from the UK's 2003 Sexual Offences Act, which makes it an offence to transport a man or woman into prostitution even if this involves assisting a willing sex worker.

 Internal police documents reveal that 10 of Pentameter's 15 convictions were of men and women who were jailed on the basis that there was no evidence of their coercing the prostitutes they had worked with. There were just five men who were convicted of importing women and forcing them to work as prostitutes. These genuinely were traffickers, but none of them was detected by Pentameter, although its investigations are still continuing.

 Two of them - Zhen Xu and Fei Zhang - had been in custody since March 2007, a clear seven months before Pentameter started work in October 2007.

The other three,  Ali Arslan, Edward Facuna and Roman Pacan,  were arrested and charged as a result of an operation which began when a female victim went to police in April 2006, well over a year before Pentameter Two began, although the arrests were made while Pentameter was running.

 The head of the UK Human Trafficking Centre, Grahame Maxwell, who is chief constable of North Yorkshire, acknowledged the importance of the figures: "The facts speak for themselves. I'm not trying to argue with them in any shape or form," he said. 

He said he had commissioned fresh research from regional intelligence units to try to get a clearer picture of the scale of sex trafficking. "What we're trying to do is to get it gently back to some reality here," he said.

"It's not where you go down on every street corner in every street in Britain, and there's a trafficked individual.

"There are more people trafficked for labour exploitation than there are for sexual exploitation. We need to redress the balance here. People just seem to grab figures from the air."

Groups who work with trafficked women declined to comment on the figures from the Pentameter Two police operation but said that the problem of trafficking was real.

Ruth Breslin, research and development manager for Eaves which runs the Poppy project for victims of trafficking, said: "I don't know the ins and outs of the police operation. It is incredibly difficult to establish prevalence because of the undercover and potentially criminal nature of trafficking and also, we feel, because of the fear that many women have in coming forward."

The internal analysis of Pentameter notes that some records could not be found and Brain, who is chief constable of Gloucestershire, argued that some genuine traffickers may have been charged with non-trafficking offences because of the availability of evidence but he conceded that he could point to no case where this had happened.

He said the Sexual Offences Act was "not user friendly" although he said he could not recall whether he had pointed this out to government since the end of Pentameter Two.

 Parliament is in the final stages of passing the policing and crime bill which contains a proposal to clamp down on trafficking by penalising any man who has sex with a woman who is "controlled for gain" even if the man is genuinely ignorant of the control. Although the definition of "controlled" has been tightened, sex workers' groups complain that the clause will encourage women to prove that they are not being controlled by working alone on the streets or in a flat without a maid, thus making them more vulnerable to attack.

There are also fears that if the new legislation deters a significant proportion of customers, prostitutes will be pressurised to have sex without condoms in order to bring them back.

susan davis

http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2009/oct/20/trafficking-numbers-women-exaggerated

Prostitution and trafficking - the anatomy of a moral panic

Nick Davies The Guardian, Tuesday 20 October 2009  

There is something familiar about the tide of misinformation which has swept through the subject of sex trafficking in the UK: it flows through exactly the same channels as the now notorious torrent about Saddam Hussein's weapons.

In the story of UK sex trafficking, the conclusions of academics who study the sex trade have been subjected to the same treatment as the restrained reports of intelligence analysts who studied Iraqi weapons - stripped of caution, stretched to their most alarming possible meaning and tossed into the public domain. There, they have been picked up by the media who have stretched them even further in stories which have then been treated as reliable sources by politicians, who in turn provided quotes for more misleading stories.

In both cases, the cycle has been driven by political opportunists and interest groups in pursuit of an agenda. In the case of sex trafficking, the role of the neo-conservatives and Iraqi exiles has been played by an unlikely union of evangelical Christians with feminist campaigners, who pursued the trafficking tale to secure their greater goal, not of regime change, but of legal change to abolish all prostitution. The sex trafficking story is a model of misinformation. It began to take shape in the mid 1990s, when the collapse of economies in the old Warsaw Pact countries saw the working flats of London flooded with young women from eastern Europe. Soon, there were rumours and media reports that attached a new word to these women. They had been "trafficked".

And, from the outset, that word was a problem. On a strict definition, eventually expressed in international law by the 2000 Palermo protocol, sex trafficking involves the use of force, fraud or coercion to transport an unwilling victim into sexual exploitation. This image of sex slavery soon provoked real public anxiety.

But a much looser definition, subsequently adopted by the UK's 2003 Sexual Offences Act, uses the word to describe the movement of all sex workers, including willing professionals who are simply travelling in search of a better income. This wider meaning has injected public debate with confusion and disproportionate anxiety.

Two academics from the University of North London, Liz Kelly and Linda Regan, tried to estimate the number of women who had been trafficked in the UK during the calendar year 1998, an exercise which they honestly described as "problematic".

First, there was the problem of the word, which Kelly and Regan solved by accepting all variations of its meaning. Then, there was the shortage of facts. They spoke to specialists, studied news reports and surveyed police, who reported that 71 women had been "trafficked", whether willingly or not, during 1998. In Stopping Traffic, which they published in May 2000, Kelly and Regan argued that the real scale of the problem was probably bigger than this and, in the absence of any accurate data, they made various assumptions which they themselves described as "speculative".

At the very least, they guessed, there could be another 71 trafficked women who had been missed by police, which would double the total, to 142. At the most, they suggested, the true total might be 20 times higher, at 1,420.

But reaching this figure involved a further quadrupling of the number of victims missed by police, plus quadrupling existing estimates by sex health workers, plus assuming the accuracy of a newspaper report that "hundreds" of women had been trafficked into the UK from Albania and Kosovo, plus assuming that mail-order brides were also victims of trafficking, plus adding women who were transported within the UK as well as those brought into the UK.

Kelly and Regan were transparent and honest about the speculative character of their assumptions. They were clear about their adoption of the widest possible meaning of the term. They presented their conclusion with caution: "It can be estimated that the true scale of trafficking may be between two and 20 times that which has been confirmed."

And they presented their conclusion as a range of possibilities: "It is recognised that this is a wide range, but it indicates the likely scale of the problem while reflecting the poverty of information in this area."

During the following years, the subject attracted the attention of religious groups, particularly the Salvation Army and an umbrella group of evangelicals called Churches Alert to Sex Trafficking Across Europe (Chaste). Chaste explicitly campaigned for an end to all prostitution and, quoting their commitment to the principles of the Kingdom of God, they were enlisted as specialist advisers to the police.

Chaste took the work of Kelly and Regan, brought the estimate forward by two years, stripped out all the caution, headed for the maximum end of the range and declared : "An estimated 1,420 women were trafficked into the UK in 2000 for the purposes of constrained prostitution."

The misleading figure was repeated in news stories and adopted by politicians. Even the government's Crimestoppers campaign recycled it. And over and over again, the absence of a definition in the original work was replaced with the certainty that this was about women who were forced to work against their will. Chaste spoke repeatedly about "sexual enslavement" and "sex slavery".

Three years after the Kelly/Regan work was published, in 2003, a second team of researchers was commissioned by the Home Office to tackle the same area. They, too, were forced to make a set of highly speculative assumptions: that every single foreign woman in the "walk-up" flats in Soho had been smuggled into the country and forced to work as a prostitute; that the same was true of 75% of foreign women in other flats around the UK and of 10% of foreign women working for escort agencies. Crunching these percentages into estimates of the number of foreign women in the various forms of sex work, they came up with an estimate of 3,812 women working against their will in the UK sex trade.

Margin of error

The researchers ringed this figure with warnings. The data, they said, was "very poor" and quantifying the subject was "extremely difficult". Their final estimate was "very approximate", "subject to a very large margin of error" and "should be treated with great caution" and the figure of 3,812 "should be regarded as an upper bound".

No chance. In June 2006, before the research had even been published, the then Home Office minister Vernon Coaker ignored the speculative nature of the assumptions behind the figure, stripped out all the caution, headed for the maximum end of the range and then rounded it up, declaring to an inquiry into sex trafficking by the Commons joint committee on human rights: "There are an estimated 4,000 women victims."

The Christian charity Care announced: "In 2003, the Home Office estimated there were 4,000 women and girls in the UK at any one time that had been trafficked into forced prostitution." The Salvation Army went further: "The Home Office estimated that in 2003 ... there were at least 4,000 trafficked women residing in the UK. This figure is believed to be a massive underestimation of the problem." Anti-Slavery International joined them, converting what the Home Office researchers had described as a "very approximate" estimate into "a very conservative estimate".

The Home Office, at least, having commissioned the research, was in a position to remind everybody of its authors' warnings. Except it didn't.

In March 2007, it produced the UK Action Plan on Human Trafficking and casually reproduced the figure of 4,000 without any of the researchers' cautions.

The evidence was left even further behind as politicians took up the issue as a rallying call for feminists. They were led by the Labour MP for Rotherham and former Foreign Office minister Denis MacShane, who took to describing London as "Europe's capital for under-aged trafficked sex slaves". In a debate in the Commons in November 2007, MacShane announced that "according to Home Office estimates, 25,000 sex slaves currently work in the massage parlours and brothels of Britain."

There is simply no Home Office source for that figure, although it has been reproduced repeatedly in media stories.

Two months later, in another Commons debate, MacShane used the same figure, but this time he attributed it to the Daily Mirror, which had indeed run a story in October 2005 with the headline "25,000 Sex Slaves on the Streets of Britain." However, the newspaper had offered no evidence at all to support the figure. On the contrary, the body of its story used a much lower figure, of between 2,000 and 6,000 brought in each year, and attributed this to unnamed Home Office officials, even though the Home Office has never produced any research which could justify it.

MacShane was not deterred.

"I used to work for the Daily Mirror, so I trust the report," he said.

Sources

The then solicitor general, Vera Baird, replied by warning MacShane that "we think that his numbers from the Daily Mirror are off" and then recycled the figure of 4,000 without any of the researchers' cautions. MacShane then switched line and started to claim, for example in a letter to the Guardian in September 2008, that there were "18,000 women, often young girls, trafficked into Britain as sex slaves." He used this same figure in another debate in the House of Commons, adding "We have to get the facts and figures right."

On this occasion, the source he was quoting was Pentameter Two, the six-month national police operation which failed to find a single person who had forced anybody into prostitution. But MacShane had a point: presenting the results of the operation to the press in July 2008, its operational head, Tim Brain, the chief constable of Gloucester, was widely reported to have said that there were now 18,000 victims of trafficking in the UK and that this included under-age girls.

Other senior figures who were involved with this press conference say they were taken completely by surprise by Brain's claim. "None of us knew where that came from," according to one senior figure. "It wasn't in his pre-brief. It wasn't in anything: ministers weren't briefed. Tim may have meant to say 1,800 and just got his figures mixed up."

Brain now agrees that the figure is not correct and suggested to the Guardian that he had been trying to estimate the total number of prostitutes in the UK, not the total number of trafficked women.

But the damage had been done. Patrick Hall, Labour MP for Bedford, solemnly told the House of Commons that there was sex trafficking "in towns and villages throughout the land."

Fiona Mactaggart, a former Home Office minister, in January 2008 outstripped MacShane's estimates, telling the House of Commons that she regarded all women prostitutes as the victims of trafficking, since their route into sex work "almost always involves coercion, enforced addiction to drugs and violence from their pimps or traffickers." There is no known research into UK prostitution which supports this claim.

In November 2008, Mactaggart repeated a version of the same claim when she told BBC Radio 4's Today in Parliament that "something like 80% of women in prostitution are controlled by their drug dealer, their pimp, or their trafficker." Again, there is no known source for this.

Challenged to justify this figure by a different Radio 4 programme, More or Less, in January 2009, Mactaggart claimed that it comes from the Home Office's 2004 report on prostitution, Paying the Price. But there is no sign of the figure in the report.

In the summer of 2004, The Poppy Project, which is committed to ending all prostitution on the grounds that it "helps to construct and maintain gender inequality", surveyed London prostitutes working in flats and found that 80% of them were foreign, a finding which is well supported. They then added, without any clear evidence, that "a large proportion of them are likely to have been trafficked into the country", a conclusion which is challenged by specialist police, but which was then recycled through numerous media reports and political claims.

Last year (2008), Poppy published a report called The Big Brothel, which claimed to be the most comprehensive study ever conducted into brothels in the UK and which claimed to have found "indicators of trafficking in every borough of London".

That report was subsequently condemned in a joint statement from 27 specialist academics who complained that it was "framed by a pre-existing political view of prostitution". The academics said there were "serious flaws" in the way that data had been collected and analysed; that the reliability of the data was "extremely doubtful"; and that the claims about trafficking "cannot be substantiated."

Illusion

But by that time, the report had generated a mass of news stories, most of which took the unreliable results and overstated them. Like Chaste, the Poppy Project, which has been paid nearly £6m to shelter trafficked women, has been drafted in to advise police and continues to have its own office in the Sheffield headquarters of the UK Human Trafficking Centre.

The cacophony of voices has created the illusion of confirmation.

Politicians and religious groups still repeat the media story that 40,000 prostitutes were trafficked into Germany for the 2006 world cup - long after leaked police documents revealed there was no truth at all in the tale. The Daily Mirror's baseless claim of 25,000 trafficking victims is still being quoted, recently, for example, by the Salvation Army in written evidence to the home affairs select committee, in which they added : "Other studies done by media have suggested much higher numbers."

Somewhere beneath all this, there is a reality. There have been real traffickers.

Since the Sexual Offences Act came into force in January 2004, internal police documents show that 46 men and women have been convicted and jailed for transporting willing sex workers and 59 people have been convicted for transporting women who were forced to work as prostitutes.

Ruth Breslin, research and development manager for Eaves, which runs the Poppy project, said: "I realise that the 25,000 figure, which is one that has been bandied about in the media, is one that doesn't really have much of an evidence base and may be slightly subject to media hype. There is an awful lot of confusion in the media and other places between trafficking (unwilling victims) and smuggling (willing passengers). People do get confused and they are two very different things."

She said that in the six and a half years since Poppy was founded, a total of 1,387 men and women had been referred to them, of whom they had taken in just over 500 women who they believed had been trafficked into sexual exploitation or domestic servitude by the use of coercion, deception or force. "I do think that there a lot more trafficked women out there than the women we see in our project. I do think there are significant numbers. I would say the figure is in the thousands. I don't know about the tens of thousands. That's probably going too far."

Certainly there have been real victims, some of whom have been compensated as victims of crime. The internal analysis of Pentameter Two, obtained by the Guardian, reveals that after six months of raids across the UK, 11 women were finally "made safe". This clashes with early police claims that Pentameter had rescued 351 victims. By the time that Brain held his press conference in July last year, that figure had been reduced to 167 victims who were said to have been "saved from lives of abuse, exploitation and misery".

However, the internal analysis shows that supposed victims variously absconded from police, went home voluntarily, declined support, were removed by the UK Borders Agency or were prosecuted for various offences.

Dealing with this, the document explains: "The number of 'potential victims' has been refined as more informed decisions have been made about whether or not the individual is believed to be a victim of human trafficking for sexual exploitation ... Initial considerations were made on limited information ... When interviewed, the potential victim may make it clear that they are not in fact a victim of trafficking and/or inquiries may make it clear that they are not and/or inquiries may show that initial consideration was based on false or incomplete information."

Research published recently by Dr Nick Mai of London Metropolitan University, concludes that, contrary to public perception, the majority of migrant sex workers have chosen prostitution as a source of "dignified living conditions and to increase their opportunities for a better future while dramatically improving the living conditions of their families in the country of origin". After detailed interviews with 100 migrant sex workers in the UK, Mai found: "For the majority, working in the sex industry was a way to avoid the exploitative working conditions they had met in their previous non-sexual jobs."

The UK Network of Sex Work Projects, whose outreach workers deal with thousands of prostitutes, told the home affairs select committee last year: "It is undoubtedly the case that women are trafficked into the sex industry. However, the proportion of sex workers of whom this is true is relatively small, both compared to the sex industry as a whole and to other industries." The chairman of that committee, Keith Vaz, observed: "We are told that this is the second largest problem facing the globe after drugs and we do not seem to be able to find the people responsible."

For the police, the misinformation has succeeded in diverting resources away from other victims. Specialist officers who deal with trafficking have told the Guardian that although they will continue to monitor all forms of trafficking, they are now shifting their priority away from the supposed thousands of sex slaves towards the movement within the UK of children who are being sexually abused. They say they are also dealing with more cases where illegal migrant workers of all kinds, including willing sex workers, find themselves being ripped off and overcharged for their transport.

Unheard

However, the key point is that on the sidelines of a debate which has been dominated by ideology, a chorus of alarm from the prostitutes themselves is singing out virtually unheard. In the cause of protecting "thousands" of victims of trafficking, Harriet Harman, the deputy Labour leader and minister for women and equality, has led the parliamentary campaign for a law to penalise men who pay for sex with women who are "controlled for gain" even if the men do so in genuine ignorance.

Repeatedly, prostitutes groups have argued that the proposal is as wrong as the trafficking estimates on which it is based, and that it will aggravate every form of jeopardy which they face in their work, whether by encouraging them to work alone in an attempt to show that they are free of control or by pressurising them to have sex without condoms to hold on to worried customers. Thus far, their voices remain largely ignored by news media and politicians who, once more, have been swept away on a tide of misinformation.

Infosaturated

susan davis wrote:
i am not insulting anyone, i am pointing out the dangerous nature of these sorts of unsubstaniated claims. this not a matter of opinion,this is people trying to assert that mostly sex workers are women of colour. not true, and for the record, i have first nations men as clients so they do get to purchase white women....i see men from all races, what is your point? you are making examples as if it is fact. just go online and see how many blond blue eyed workers there are in sex work as compared to numbers of WOC....it's pretty clear to me you are once again drawing assumptions with no basis in lived experience.

no where does it show that consumers are mostly white men purchasing the sexual services of mostly women and youth of colour. promoting your opinions as if they are facts is contributing to the perpetuation of many myths about our lives. this is shown to cause harm, so please. let's deal in facts and not conjecture.

i have repeatedly and respectfully requested such assertions be accompanied by research links to support them, once again. please show me any research ethics board scrutinized data that supports these assertions of sex workers mostly being women of colour and mostly purchasers being white men.

Susan, don't put words in my mouth. There is a quote function for a reason. I can't give you links to support things I didn't say.

If you think the majority of johns in Canada are minority men you are entitled to your opinion. I disagree.

If you think minority women aren't over-represented in prostitution, you are entitled to your opinion, I disagree. I believe that decriminalization would result in importing many more minority women to feed the industry increasing their numbers dramatically.

It is pretty much accepted as general knowledge on the left, that the majority of migrant laborers and trafficked persons are minorities. If you don't believe that, whatever, don't.

If you are going to disagree specifically with something I said, quote me.

susan davis

i did quote you.......? if it's generally accepted and widely known than you must be able to produce at least one link to substaniate your claims....

Michelle

Closing this for length. 

Snert, you'll have to do a lot better than accusing anti-prostitution feminists of persecuting white men.

And remind, if you can't participate in these threads without calling people "fucking asshats" then please don't post in them at all. 

I know it's easy to get carried away when the discussion gets intense, but let's think a bit before posting.  Thanks.

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