Letter: ‘Worse, the article panders to the kind of fear-mongering …’

‘Sun’ bogged down in ‘Traffic’

This week’s cover article on trafficking really sucks. Used to be, the Pac Sun would actually spend some time delving into the subjects they chose to cover. In the late ’70s, when I worked for a sister weekly of the Pac Sun in Denver, Colorado, one of the subjects covered took weeks of installments to unfold. They didn’t cover one angle and call it a day.

Worse, the article panders to the kind of fear-mongering currently propagated by the anti-affordable housing people, who maintain to Marinites that their own communities are safe until their children are taken away by “bad people” (often racialized) who come into their communities.

A more complete view of the industry you are barely covering would go look into the presumption that prostitution is rooted in the rape of children. Emi Koyama at eminism.org notes that the vast majority—read those two words again—the vast majority of young people “rescued” from the trade are 16- and 17-year-olds, and it’s rare that there’s anyone under 13.

You also would have done the math: for the average age to be around 13, there needs to be many more 5- to 12-year-olds forced into prostitution than are empirically possible.

While the exploitation of teenage women remains very problematic, it is the extension of the definition of the term “trafficking” into the realm of anti-prostitution which discolors a proper view of that most intriguing industry.

One accepted and untrue presumption is that most women prostitutes are streetwalkers. Another misperception is that most prostitutes are controlled by pimps. Your article does nothing to dispel either viewpoint. Rather, the article plays on the obvious scene that streetwalkers are the most visible workers in sex. Thus, we scorn them, just as we scorn the faces of poverty on the streets of San Rafael, people whom we brand with the bad word of “homeless” but who in fact might not be without housing.

It’s just not true that most women selling sex for money are pimped. See Maggie O’Neill’s blog at “The Honest Courtesan,” where she attacks that view as well as the average of trafficked teens and other myths.

See also Melissa Gira Grant’s excellent book Playing the Whore. It has several thought experiments. One is the slight distinction that consensual sex between adults is legal, but if it involves the exchange of pieces of paper with numbers printed on them, then it’s not.

Another thought experiment is when a man buys a woman dinner on a date, and then goes to bed with her—that dinner can be seen as a form of payment. A similar situation is that of a husband who works and his wife does not—that can also be seen as constituting a form of prostitution.

Finally, there’s this humorous conjunction (which you guys had laid in your lap recently in the form of a letter to the editor, but chose to sneer at): suppose a client of a massage parlor pays for extra services, but then films said interaction and places it upon the Internet. That interaction then becomes legal porn, and is thus not prostitution.

Harping on the child prostitution angle keeps one from the poignant point that sex traffickers (which actually means transporting women against their will across borders to sell them to other humans, which is just another form of pimping) don’t want legal prostitution, because if you decriminalize it you take away their power and profit.

Let’s finish up with one of the conspicuous holes in the article: the figure given by the writer of 58,000 abductions in 1999. That 16-year-old stat stands right next to a quote about prostituted children. One must thus question why the author wrote the article in that way. In contrast, and in fact, one can find sources which declaim a much higher annual number of missing children by a factor of four, with a 97 percent recovery rate.

It would have been much more characteristic of the Pacific Sun and its longtime heralded purpose of providing more info and depth than the local daily. So I challenge the Pac Sun to delve into this subject deeper, rather than contribute to the continuing hysteria in such a superficial manner, which is a disservice to the community this once-vaunted weekly purports to serve.

Jonathan Frieman, San Rafael

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