Flat Earth News

Sex traffic jam

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Tagged: / Posted: 20 November 2008

Won't somebody somewhere check the story about sex workers being trafficked into this country before the government causes complete chaos and misery for the prostitutes it claims to be protecting?

 I haven't checked the story myself, simply because I'm up to my neck in other work, but it carries the clearest possible signals that it may be false.

We're told of women being smuggled into the UK from various countries including many which are members of the EU. Why would you smuggle somebody from, say, Poland, when all you have to do is to get on a coach in Warsaw and sleep all the way to Victoria station and walk legally into the streets of London?

We're told of women being conned and beaten and forced into prostitution by men who earn a fortune from their work.  I don't think I've ever visited a major city where there were not women selling themselves. In this country, I've spent a lot of time working with them. And, although some may find it distasteful and others may find it hard to believe, the reality is that, for better or worse, a great many women do choose to earn money as sex workers. So why would a man who can earn a fortune by running willing prostitutes go through all the hassle and risk and expense of working with unwilling women? (And, on a side point, my experience with prostitutes is that very few of them have pimps and, certainly in London in the mid 1990s, the person who was earning most out of their work, by providing flats and maids and card boys, was not the media cliche of a muscular thug with chunky gold jewellery: it was an elderly woman in carpet slippers with a fag in the corner of her mouth, called Mary Daly.)

 And look at the statistics we are being offered. They're all over the place. Newspapers solemnly report a supposed Scotland Yard estimate that 70% of the prostitutes in London have been trafficked, and yet when they set up their own specialist unit to 'rescue' these women, they found so few that the Yard closed it down. MPs run around claiming there are 18,000 trafficked women. The Home Office say it's 4,000. The English Collective of Prostitutes say the whole thing is a myth - and nobody listens to them.

 The trouble is that, just like the WMD and the millennium bug and the Jersey childrens home and all the numerous other examples of Flat Earth News, the sex trafficking story is one in which a) the journalists have no idea what the truth is, but b) it suits a lot of people to keep telling the story.

 In this case, the story has been pushed by right-wingers, particularly the religious, who think that all prostitution is depraved and even sinful, so all prostitutes need to be 'rescued'; and by left-wingers, particularly the dominant strain of feminists, who think that all prostitution is sexual exploitation, so all prostitutes need to be 'rescued'. I am not quarrelling with those opinions; I'm not interested in them at all. The point is that on the right and the left, there are masses of people who are inclined to believe and to promote the story regardless of the facts. The media pick it up because it's a good tale. The police and the Home Office join in because it's good for them to charge around on white horses rescuing people. And they have found a small number of cases. And maybe they are genuine. Or maybe they have busted massage parlours and confronted sex workers with the prospect of prosecution and/or removal from the country; and maybe some women have thought it sensible to avoid both risks by declaring that they have been working against their will.

Now the government wants new law to protect these supposed thousands of victims. And what effect will it have if they do make it an offence for a man to have sex with a 'controlled' prostitute even if he is genuinely ignorant of the fact that she is being controlled? It will scare a lot of punters away. Good, say the right-wingers and the left-wingers. And where does that leave the sex workers? Short of clients. So, since this is a market like any other, they will try to bring back the clients, by cutting their price and so, in order to keep their income level, they will have to sell themselves more often. Well done, Harriet. For the street prostitutes, who overwhelmingly tend to be addicted to illegal drugs and who will not accept any cut at all in their income, there is a clear risk that they will cover a shortfall with shoplifting and street robberies. Well done, the government, tough on crime and even tougher on the victims.

 Quite what the truth is, I don't know. For journalists, the point is that when you see internal contradictions in a story, you have to deal with them - check them, make sense of them, find out whether there is some explanation or whether they are a signal that the story is untrue. In the world of Flat Earth News, where more and more journalists work without the time or the resources or the motivation to get to the truth, that kind of checking doesn't happen very often. And so we just don't know the truth. Won't somebody go out and find it?





Excellent post

Added: 12 November 2009

Thanks for sharing the excellent post. Your post reveals some true facts about the dark world. I agree with you, UK or USA are not the countries where one can find sexual slavery. In interest of earning handful of money and for better living, women from various part of the society are doing the sex jobs by their own will.
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Hear! Hear! Well said Nick.

Added: 21 September 2009

Hear! Hear! Well said Nick. Excellent article. I have always believed this sex slavery thing in England was all Bulls**t. In all my time working with the girls and being a punter I have never met one girl or heard of one girl who was doing it against her will. Most of them are their own boss (even when working for an Agency) and make good money out of it. And your right - I don't think anyone in their right mind would go through the trouble and hassle when they could earn perfectly good money with girls who are willing to work.

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Is having sex when you are

Added: 19 September 2009

Is having sex when you are fifteen against the law if you wanted to have sex?
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Hi Nick, Can I ask where you

Added: 14 August 2009

Hi Nick,

Can I ask where you found the information that the HTA - I assume that's what you mean - was closed down because it found so few people? All the news reports I've found (not that they're necessarily accurate!) have pointed to some sort of funding issue.


Added: 17 August 2009

I'm not sure what you mean by the HTA. I can't see the ref to it anywhere....

Escort service

Added: 28 July 2009

Escort service in London is a thriving sector. The presence of large number of independent escort girls and escort agencies is making this sector more competitive.

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People who have businesses

Added: 4 March 2009

People who have businesses with female escorts who are willing to work make quite a bit of money or at least they can given the girls are beautiful. The women also make extremely good money and it's a business like any other.

Interesting info on this

Added: 22 November 2008

From the Guardian letters page, Dec 28 2007

Sex slaves and the reality of prostitution
By: Professor Julia O'Connell Davidson
Harriet Harman holds that a Swedish-style law against buying sex is necessary to stem demand for sex workers trafficked into Britain (Harman calls for prostitution ban, December 21). She was supported by former Europe minister Denis MacShane, who insisted there are 25,000 sex slaves in the UK. This is a startling assertion - 25,000 is more than the entire workforce of Debenhams. How is it that this vast number of women and girls are so readily available to male clients and yet simultaneously so difficult for the police to detect?

When 515 indoor prostitution establishments were raided by police as part of Operation Pentameter last year, only 84 women and girls who conformed to police and immigration officers' understanding of the term "victim of trafficking " were "rescued". At this rate, the police would need to raid some 150,000 indoor prostitution establishments to unearth MacShane's 25,000 sex slaves. The fact that there are estimated to be fewer than 1,000 such establishments in London gives some indication of how preposterous MacShane's claim is.

Abuse and exploitation undoubtedly occur in the UK sex sector, but only a minority of cases involve women and girls being imprisoned and physically forced into prostitution by a third party. More usually, those who are vulnerable are working to pay off debts incurred in migration, or to supplement paltry single-parent benefits. Their vulnerability is in large part a consequence of government action and inaction - its failure to regulate the sex sector, its immigration and welfare policies etc. And raids by police and immigration officials normally result in their deportation or prosecution for benefit fraud, not in their assistance or protection.

The government's concern about sex trafficking appears to have helped immigration officers meet their targets for deportations without protecting sex workers. Evidence from other countries (including Sweden) suggests that a policy of suppression, whether focused on clients or sex workers, can have very negative consequences for those who trade sex. But in place of serious debate based on independent research evidence, we are offered hyperbole and emotive rhetoric about sex slaves. We need to move beyond this and think not only about how to offer those who currently work in prostitution protection, but also how to ensure them rights.

Professor Julia O'Connell Davidson

University of Nottingham

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