The Green Party of England and Wales have done it. Again. As part of their “Women’s Manifesto” they’ve come out in favour of the decriminalisation of “sex work”, in the process putting themselves behind policies that have been proven to increase human trafficking. I’m not surprised. The sheer amount of misinformation, bias and downright eccentricity on the topic of “sex work” is simply astonishing. All the same, those who believe themselves to be a cut above the mainstream should know better.
Newcomers to this issue should avail themselves of the research at hand. I’ve already gone over some of the issues surrounding this topic elsewhere on this blog, in the process (I hope) exposing some common fallacies. I’d sincerely implore any reader to grapple with this issue fully before leaping to snap conclusions, especially in light of just how serious the situation has become. It’s no exaggeration to say that lives are at stake here. Many lives. We can’t afford to mess around.
For the sake of convenience let’s go over a few facts. Most “sex workers” do not do what they do out of choice. Research points to the fact most wish just to escape their predicament. It’s not about reform. It’s about getting out. The same research also highlights the hardships these individuals habitually face, from verbal abuse to battery to rape.
Additional findings also point that the decriminalisation of “sex work” exacerbates human trafficking, ultimately creating an expanding market of willing buyers that traffickers respond to in anticipation of easy gains and reduced risks. Couple that with widespread economic and societal dislocation (as, for instance, what took place during and after the disbandment of the USSR) and you’ve got a toxic scenario where a vulnerable population, coupled with a ready supply of buyers elsewhere, can lead to a veritable explosion in trafficking activity. Predation. Coercion. Exploitation. Prostitution, essentially.
This is not rocket science. Myself and other advocates of the Nordic Model have pointed this out, time and time again. The oh-so “progressive” proponents of decriminalisation ignore us, time and time again. It’s like the truth doesn’t even matter. So what exactly are these people thinking?
There are a number of possibilities. A common retort is that those advocating the decriminalisation of “sex work” have “actually listened to sex workers”. The inference here is often that people like myself have done nothing of the kind, apparently basing our research on our own psychological hang ups and some kind of all-embracing moral constraint that’s just a bit silly.
There are serious problems with this perspective. For one, the argument falls apart when one considers that most prostitutes simply wish to escape their situation, exposing the sad reality that many of those who claim to be “listening” are in fact only making a pretence of listening for purposes of having their preconceptions reinforced. The staggeringly dishonest Juno Mac of the English Collective of Prostitutes (an interesting group in that you don’t have to be a prostitute to join it) is a case in point.
Secondly, the self-described “human rights” group Amnesty International seems to be behind much of this rhetoric. Amnesty prides itself on its advocacy work propagating the decriminalisation of prostitution, claiming to have – you guessed it – “actually listened to sex workers” as a means of facilitating their research. Amnesty also views legislation such as the Nordic Model to be an affront to the “human rights” of individual “sex workers”, despite the fact it’s been proven to have curtailed trafficking flows and reduced violent crime. Such details help point out some serious flaws in Amensty’s method. Namely, they haven’t listened to “sex workers”. They’ve listened to pimps.
Follow the Money…
I’m not joking. Amnesty’s “advocacy” has involved input from the Global Network of Sex Work Projects (NSWP), an entity that until 2014 included in its senior ranks an individual named Alejandra Gil; a convicted and currently incarcerated human trafficker also known as the “Madam of Sullivan”. The esteemed Gil operated across much of Mexico City, trafficking and pimping several hundred individuals to a plethora of “clients” in multiple locales.
Unsurprisingly, Gil is also believed to have had contacts across the state of Tlaxacale, itself regarded as hosting Mexico’s “epicentre of human trafficking”. In addition to her position with the NSWP, Gil also led her own NGO, Aproase, itself a “sex worker’s rights” outfit in the business of propagating policies conducive to Gil’s own “entrepreneurial” activities.
What’s doubly disturbing is that the NSWP isn’t a minor organisation, having participated in consultation and advocacy with both UNAIDS and the World Health Organisation. In the latter case, Gil has been cited by WHO as having a direct hand in their research regarding HIV and “sex work”, something which Amnesty are believed to have seized on when it came to formulating their own decriminalisation policy.
Strangely, the NSWP apparently still maintains Gil is a “human rights defender”; a remarkable accolade for a person who has spent years corroding, denying and indeed destroying the human rights of multiple persons. It also speaks volumes as to their confidence in having gained the collaboration of groups like Amnesty.
It doesn’t end here. Amnesty’s deep concern for human rights has also led them to “actually listen” to the likes of individuals such as Douglas Fox, himself a pimp operating one of the largest “escort agencies” in the UK. Fox had a sizeable hand in drafting Amnesty’s initial policy proposal on “sex work”, in the process attempting to insert the nonsensical claim that “access to sex” is a “human right”. Whilst he failed in this particular endeavour, he does appear to be a prime figure behind Amnesty’s current policy.
Like the trafficker Alejandra Gil, Fox believes himself to be a pioneer of progressive policies, arguing there is a chasm between “coerced” and allegedly “non-coerced sex work”. Whilst this may initially appear to have some logic behind it, Fox has nothing to say on the very evident fact that trafficking increases in the wake of policies he himself endorses. He also appears to have taken a particularly dim view of the feminist academic, Julie Bindel, viewing her and her supporters as engaging in “destructive negativity” and fabricating an apparent myth equating “sex work” with trafficking.
Again, Fox displays no understanding of either subject, let alone how they intertwine, having little to say on the question of supply, demand, the feminisation of poverty or indeed geopolitical problems like the collapse of the USSR. Like Gil, his main focus revolves around invoking a distorted human rights narrative to serve his own financial interests. They are both pimps, after all.
Fox’s disdain for Julie Bindel is itself interesting. Bindel has clashed with Amnesty before, maintaining that their claim to have “listened” to prostitutes is largely fabricated, with the organisation’s leadership having endorsed Amnesty’s current position before any alleged consultation took place.
Bindel has also butted heads with other decriminalisation advocates, including the now imprisoned Dr John Davis, himself a formerly “esteemed” academic, who, Bindel maintains, has links with trafficking operations in Eastern Europe and elsewhere. Whilst the case of Dr Davies is convoluted and expansive, it does allude to a consistent link between the advocates of “sex work” and financial interests that stand to gain by a proliferation of prostitution. Given the above cases, I don’t think any serious person could argue otherwise.
Fads, Hysteria and the Corrosion of the Left.
The above information may come as a surprise to some. After all, the notion that “decriminalisation works” has picked up steam in recent years, with the Green Party being only one among several supposedly “progressive” groups endorsing such policies. Outside of the machinations of individual pimps and partisan research, however, I’d say there are other reasons why such arguments have gained weight, particularly on the left.
At the risk of sounding overly blunt, I’d say we’re often dealing with a type of political faddism. In my personal experience of politics, a great many individuals do not base their arguments upon what they may specifically know to be factual. Quite often what is perceived as actually being true doesn’t command prominence and encountering persons willing to argue on the basis of either insubstantial findings or outright fabrications is not unusual.
In many instances argument is founded upon both sheer emotion and personal calculation, with activists advocating a point of policy merely because they believe it’s what’s done, with anyone disagreeing (particularly those outside their organisation of choice) being wrong by default. In other words, people lie.
This isn’t a newsflash for anyone who has been alive longer than thirty seconds. You’d expect this as a matter of course with those associated with the establishment. Careerists, liberals, those more fixated on their own self-advancement etc., will necessarily say just about anything they believe will accrue esteem in the eyes of their peers and accelerate their trajectory up their career ladder of choice. This is not news.
What is problematic is when people who claim to know better adopt the same methods, dispensing with their litany of feel-good abstractions (justice, peace, emancipation, democracy etc.) to simply do whatever is expected of them. It doesn’t actually matter if what’s expected is predicated on a fallacy. It doesn’t matter if it harms others. All that matters is going along with it. Faddism is the correct term here and I’d suggest this is partly behind much of the support the “sex work” lobby is currently enjoying.
Again, in my experience, elements of the modern left are not in the business of actually practising empathy. Solidarity, internationalism and comradeship, whilst once staple parts of what it meant to be a part of the movement, have now, in many instances, fallen victim to a bizarre form of “lifestylism” predicated on simple narcissism.
Whatever is in vogue and seen as suitably controversial and avant garde is to be endorsed. Minor details like the actual reality of the situation surrounding “sex work”, however, will not be entertained. All that matters is alignment with the “fad” and the pleasure to be accrued by both the approval of your peers and membership of a self-defined avant garde. Anyone who says otherwise can be dismissed as a “moralist”, “prude” or, to invoke a truly moronic new term, a “whorephobic”.
These supposed slurs are fascinating. “Whorephobia” for one. It should be self-evident that this condition doesn’t actually exist. In terms of the psychological sciences, the trendy-left habit of denouncing any and all opponents as “such and such phobic” rarely stands up to scrutiny.
What you’re essentially dealing with is a political tool for silencing others, with the “whorephobe” being self-evidently irrational and thus in need of exclusion from the debate. The “whorephobe”, in their damnable concern regarding a “sex industry” predicated on deprivation, coercion, exploitation and rape, is to be silenced. Take your ill-defined (and actually fabricated) psychological issues elsewhere. “Moralism” is not welcome here.
Yet this last point is particularly bizarre. Given their endorsement of groups like Amnesty (and by association actual criminals like Alejandra Gil) it’s hardly surprising that the pro “sex work” lobby are distinctly amoral in their disposition. They are hardly shy about denouncing alleged “moralists” as a result. Yet what constitutes morality for them is rarely examined.
More often than not, the individual “sex work” advocate will by default reject all arguments pertaining to ethics, at no point taking the time to examine the purpose, content or originating source of the offending “moralising” position. Consequentialism? Na. Deontology? Nope. Virtue ethics? Hell no! Simple concern for the suffering of others? You’re having a laugh, mate. Paying attention to such matters, let alone putting some kind of value on the physical and emotional well-being of other people, is just passé. This is a post-truth, post-ethics, post-compassion world. Get with the program.
Sarcasm aside, the above does link us with the aforementioned concept of lifestylism. Murray Bookchin, the proponent of social ecology and long-standing political theorist, spent much of his final years attempting to analyse both the appearance of postmodernism and the upsurge in lifestyle politics across the modern left.
Bookchin himself had first come into politics with the CPUSA around the time of the Great Depression. Active in New York, he’d helped support myriad political actions, from rent strikes, unemployed demonstrations to all out confrontations with the police. Bookchin was undoubtedly part of a generation that viewed the question of radical change as primarily a case of social revolution rather than the embracing of any and all individual proclivities; the human subject becomes free through the transformation of existing social relations and the collective construction of a fundamentally different, indeed socially orientated society.
Whilst Bookchin’s political development (and abandonment of anarchism in later life) was libertarian and ethical in nature, he actively sought to ground what he would later call Communalism as a counter-point to the incoherently eclectic, egoistic and indeed hedonistic traits that would ultimately come to dominate swathes of the modern western left. Whilst he would not see success in his lifetime, his insights are of note.
For Bookchin, what he called “lifestyle anarchism” was a dead end. Viewing the “individual ego” as the “supreme temple of reality” lifestylism excludes “history and becoming, democracy and responsibility”, ultimately manifesting as “a narcissism so all-embracing that it shrivels consociation to an infantilised ego that is little more than a bundle of shrieking demands and claims for its own satisfactions.”
Rather than constituting the nucleus of a potentially revolutionary (social) ethos, lifestylism comes to view the notion of ordered civilisation itself as an impediment to the “ecstatic self-fulfilment” of individual desire, itself being the product of “merely innate impulses that appear ab novo in a desocialised world”. Unsurprisingly, Bookchin ultimately comes to view lifestylism’s point of origin in both the incoherence and egotism of postmodernism and the sinister individualism of Max Stirner.
What does all this have to do with “sex work”? I’d say a great deal. The mentality depicted above is behind not only the appearance of sweeping politicised psychopathy on the modern left, but the attempted transformation of the traditional Marxian Feminist view on prostitution into a banal and self-adoring narrative on “empowerment” and “choice” abstracted from broader social and economic underpinnings.
Within this mind-set, the individual prostitute is no longer a product of an ensemble of social relations that stunt their human development and reduce them to the status of a physical vessel for the sexual predations of others. Instead, they become a conscious agent operating in an uninhibited societal void, free of any trifling details regarding endemic sexism, class dominion and outright slavery. “Sex work” becomes legitimised via such a delusion. So does sexual predation.
Those with the temerity to object soon find themselves in hot water. Bombarded with the aforementioned stigmas of “whorephobia” and “moralism”, dissenters are equated with the “bigoted” political right rather than treated as concerned voices with something to contribute. The lifestylist, in their “shrieking demands” for myriad “satisfactions” comes to view their intervention in political life as a means to an end, one that doesn’t brook interference from those who happen to think differently or present inconvenient facts. Egotism and pleasure seeking are the order of the day, with the essential hedonism of mainstream culture becoming manifested in a vindictive opposition to essentially any constraint on individual indulgence.
The “moralist” and indeed “prude” inevitably become targets. Their habit of making value judgements on the consequences of individual actions is intolerable to the lifestylist in pursuit of an essentially value-less, egomaniacal world of sensual excess. All concern for, to again quote Bookchin, “democracy and responsibility”, let alone distress at the proliferation of modern sex trafficking, is branded as a budding threat to the very concept of human agency and freedom. Hysteria and denouncement is the result.
It’s in this instance that the endorsement of “sex work” doesn’t even have to be political. In fact, when it comes down to it, it actually isn’t, given the common propensity among “sex work” advocates for dispensing with the need for either evidence or discussion. All that may drive the lifestylist is titillation at the prospect of having a ready access to a horde of suitably pliable women. Yet this must be hidden, and it’s here that the “faddism” of modern politics plays a role, providing a plethora of political and philosophical jargon in order to cloak a very modern, hyper-sexualised misogyny with the liberal buzzwords of “choice”, “agency” and “progress”.
This is no exaggeration. Not so long ago I encountered an alleged “socialist” posting a deluge of self-congratulatory material into myriad Facebook forums, intertwining his endorsement of “sex work” with a personal narrative about his own sexual conquests. Whilst this initially seemed just bizarre, it served as a prime example of the above, with an allegedly “progressive” ethos of “choice” and “emancipation” serving as a posturing veneer for a downright licentious attitude predicated more on sensory excess and self-entitlement than politics.
Strange as this person was, it was clear that a modern culture of “sex positivity” had provided him with a verbal arsenal for justifying his own aggressive, hedonistic proclivities. It simply didn’t matter to him who had to suffer for this. Chances are he never even thought to look. All that mattered to him was alignment with the trendy leftist “fad” of viewing prostitution as “sex work” and, most importantly, his own mindless, pleasure seeking life.
Cloaking himself in the verbiage of political theory was just another egocentric flourish at his disposal. “Prudes”, “moralists” and those in the annoying habit of reading hefty research papers simply couldn’t compete. All considerations pertaining to oppression, suffering and actual truth were to be swept aside in the name of self-interest. His interest. His ego.
I wish I could say he’s alone. Unfortunately he’s not. It’s certain that the Green Party’s recent “manifesto” will be applauded by those like him. The human cost will simply be ignored. Dissenting voices will be denounced. A depressing scenario. All the same, I hope the truth wins out. Given the severity of the situation, it must.