This year I’ve had the privilege of addressing a few thousand medical professionals at one-day seminars run by Health Ed around the country, most recently in Brisbane. My subject: ‘Is pornography becoming a public health issue?’ I’m finding it interesting that where it seemed only a few of us were once saying this, now there are eminent bodies coming to the same conclusion. This is encouraging – if significant medical bodies are recognising the problem, perhaps it will be taken seriously and more resources provided to address it. The British Medical Journal has just reported on a UK conference on the issue. And there’s also a piece in the Edmonton Journal by a Canadian psychologist of the harms of online pornography and the destructive impact of the sex industry.
Internet Pornography is an urgent public health issue, conference hears
…[Pamela Luna, a governing councillor of the American Public Health Association] who co-chairs the American Public Health Association’s film festival, said that girls who were being systematically recruited by the hard core pornography industry all over the world were discarded and left “mentally and emotionally wrecked,” as highlighted in one of the films, Hot Girls Wanted. She said that public health professionals should do more to prevent this happening, by using the media to exert a positive influence on young people’s behaviour, strengthen resilience, and deter young people from risky behaviours.
“We have to look at the media, we have to understand it, we have to use it in a way that’s powerful, we have to have our voices heard, we need to be advising on films, we need to be there—we can’t sit back,” she said.
Peter Donnelly, professor of public health medicine at St Andrew’s University, Scotland, said that the “very violent and denigrating” nature of much internet pornography was a deep concern. He said, “All males need to think very carefully about their use of pornography, because if there’s no market, you begin to change this. What you hear in the films and from other young men you speak to is they’re not sure what it is to be a young man these days, and they need help in expressing their masculinity in a way that feels constructive and comfortable.” Read full article.
‘Pornification of Culture a Threat’
…The commercialization of human sexuality is pervasive, and I believe the primary force driving this is online pornography, which shapes child and adolescent sexual identity and attitudes toward female and male sexual roles.
In a recent longitudinal study of American youth aged 10 to 15, 19 to 27 per cent reported exposure to X-rated material in the past 12 months. A recent review of the research observed that “consistent findings have emerged linking adolescent use of pornography that depicts violence with increased degrees of sexually aggressive behaviour” and that “research suggests that adolescents who use pornography, especially that found on the Internet, have lower degrees of social integration, increases in conduct problems, higher levels of delinquent behaviour, higher incidence of depressive symptoms and decreased emotional bonding with caregivers.”
This “pornification of culture” — the seepage of pornographic images, language, behaviours and attitudes into popular cultural forms such as advertising, music and films — is rolling through our society like a tsunami. Unless we openly acknowledge, understand and resist this disturbing trend, the issue of where, how and when men pay for sex will simply be an afterthought.
As a psychotherapist, I specialize in supporting women and men as they recover from working on the streets, in body rub parlours, brothels and as escorts. In the 12 years I’ve been doing this, I’ve found the vast majority grow up in desperation and deprivation, and become ensnared as adolescents within an exploitative machine that deepens their degradation and stigmatization. I have yet to meet anyone who truly and freely chose selling sex services as a preferred way of life.” Read full article.
The human rights organisation has forgotten the importance of procedural human rights
Prostitution is not just an intellectual concept to many participants in the debate; it comes with real memories, trauma, smells, sights and feelings. It is a ‘debate’ felt in the body, and survivors of all kinds of sexual violence can come away from the discussion shell shocked
The ‘controversy’ and ‘battle’ over prostitution and pornography that prevails in public debate and academia might be fun for some. For those who haven’t been prostituted, whether or not one stands in solidarity with survivors or ‘sex workers’, the debate might be an engaging intellectual challenge that gives life meaning and purpose.
The terms of argument and rebuttal on the issue are certainly rigorous and potentially invigorating for some involved as bystanders. Some of these bystanders might even be stimulated at the sight of prostitution survivors vs. ‘sex workers’ battling it out in public, like a mud-wrestling match.
Discussion on ideas and policy approaches to prostitution and pornography touches on issues of life and death for millions of people around the world. Sexual violence, mental illness, drug addiction, disease and suicide are primary factors of consideration, no matter what policy approach is favoured.
Even those of us not prostituted may understand we are participating in a discussion that has serious human consequences. We might be in awe of survivors who speak out in their own names and mobilise and educate the public on their own behalf. We might want to support and facilitate their work at every opportunity.
And so we should. In fact, the lives of millions of women and girls around the world depend on us doing so. But I think our commitment to public debate on prostitution and pornography needs to be backed by an equal commitment to safeguarding the human rights of the population at issue in the conduct of this debate, whether they call themselves survivors or ‘sex workers’.
We might begin to protect these procedural human rights through encouraging forms of public engagement that do not pit prostitution survivors against ‘sex workers’. The unedifying sight of bystanders taking sides and cheering on survivors and ‘sex workers’ as they battle it out in public is surely something to be avoided on human rights grounds.
Prostitution is not just an intellectual concept to many participants in the debate; it comes with real memories, trauma, smells, sights and feelings. It is a ‘debate’ felt in the body, and survivors of all kinds of sexual violence can come away from the discussion shell shocked.
Regardless of whether these participants take a survivor or ‘sex worker’ view, the harms are the same, and can be serious. They are particularly serious when deniers of the harms of prostitution publicly attack survivors as ‘weak’ or ‘ill-suited’, and blame them for their trauma.
Amnesty International recently set up its own mud-wrestling match on prostitution when it sought feedback from members worldwide on a series of ‘policy background’ documents that canvassed the possibility of organisational support for decriminalising the sex industry and its customers.
Rhetorically, the consultation process was framed as a discussion about support for decriminalising people in prostitution, but there is almost no-one in the organisation who disagrees with this suggestion, and this was the existing policy of the organisation anyway, so this framing was just a red herring.
Rather, the consultation process sought to gauge membership resistance to the idea of supporting the ‘human rights’ of prostitution buyers. The mud-wrestling match that ensued was predictable, and should have been anticipated by Amnesty International. It caused prostitution survivors a great deal of time, money, energy and heartache in trying to convince the world that buying prostitution is not a human right.
Amnesty International paid no mind to this cost that would be worn by survivors when it lobbed its volley on prostitution into the international arena. The organisation did no advance groundwork to strengthen or support prostitution survivor organisations so they might be less burdened by the consultation process, nor did the organisation put in any structural safeguards or checks to make sure the consultation process wouldn’t unreasonably impose harm on survivors. There was no training or education of AI members in human rights approaches to engaging with survivors or ‘sex workers’, nor was the organisation even apparently aware of the existence of international prostitution survivor organisations before embarking on the consultation.
Amnesty members worldwide have no doubt benefited from the consultation process and all the knowledge and awareness of the ‘debate’ on prostitution it has brought them. But these benefits to members have come at the cost of prostitution survivors and ‘sex workers’. Amnesty International is a human rights organisation, but it forgot about the importance of procedural human rights.
A human rights approach to engagement with oppressed, tortured, violated and vulnerable populations does not further disadvantage these populations in the process, nor does it use these populations as tools of education and awareness about human rights issues. Amnesty did not uphold this important principle in its recent ‘consultation’ on prostitution, and for this the organisation needs act. The current consultation needs to be dismantled, and a new process respecting procedural human rights put in place.
Dr Caroline Norma is a lecturer in the School of Global, Urban and Social Studies at RMIT University, and member of Amnesty Australia.
There is no excuse to deny or ignore the undeniable exploitation of countless human beings
People have been asking me my thoughts on the recent and sad reports that Somaly Mam’s story of being trafficked into prostitution as a child are not true.
I know many good people who have selflessly supported Mam’s work in Cambodia for many years. I commend them and know their fund raising efforts have done much good. My view is that while the founder of any movement or organisation can be flawed, the movement itself, when it is good and necessary, should not rise or fall because of the faults of its founder. This article by the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women’s Taina Bien-Aime in the Huffington Post captures my broader thoughts on the matter.
The Somaly Mam Story: What We Still Know About Sex Trafficking
…What the Somaly Mam story highlights is a state of affairs that many of us in the social change movement bemoan, namely that simple stories of exploitation rarely grab the public’s imagination, the donors, or the press. Unless the overdone images of runny noses, torn clothing, or worse, naked children in a cage waiting to be sold, are splashed on glossy pages, the actual suffering of human beings too often fails to trigger widespread empathy or outrage.
In addition to this heightened need for sensationalism, our society craves numbers. Suffering in small quantities is rarely enough. Given the undercover and “hidden in plain sight” crimes of human trafficking, no entity has been definitively able to pin down the actual number of victims. From the United Nations to national statistics, the numbers range widely from 2.5 million to 20.9 million. Irrespective of the range, all agree that the majority of those estimated individuals are women and children with a majority of that group ending up in the sex trade. In a recent report, the International Labor Organization estimated that profits from human trafficking generated $150 billion, two-thirds of which, or $90 billion, stem from commercial sexual exploitation.
Cambodia is designated as a source, transit and destination country for labor and sex trafficking. The U.S. State Department also found that the sale of virgin women and girls continues to be a problem and that Cambodian men form the “largest source of demand for child prostitution.” Regardless of its founder’s personal failings, the Somaly Mam Foundation has plenty of urgent work ahead.
In collaboration with the Cambodian Women’s Crisis Center, Dr. Melissa Farley, of Prostitution Research and Education, interviewed 133 Cambodian men who purchased commercial sex. The study shows that almost all of these male buyers interviewed in Phnom Penh stated that they witnessed extreme violence inflicted on the prostituted women, more often than not controlled by pimps. The men surveyed also saw children available for paid sexual abuse in brothels, bars and massage parlors. One of the “johns” astutely said that “prostitution is the man’s heaven but it is also those girls’ hell.”
The Somaly Mam episode cannot be used as an excuse to deny or ignore the undeniable exploitation of countless human beings in the sex trade. Nor should it be a vehicle to call, as some mainstream human rights organizations are doing, for the full decriminalization of the sex industry, the equivalent of legalization of prostitution. A vision to end human rights abuses must be applicable to every person whose rights are trampled, including women sold and exploited in the sex trade. The right not to be prostituted cannot be trumped by the purported right of men to purchase women’s bodies. The history of the women’s movement to end violence shows time and again the difficulty for a violated woman, whether in domestic abuse, sexual assault, rape or discrimination, to be heard, to be believed, to receive justice…
These undeniable facts certainly do not condone fabrication, but the revelations about Somaly Mam cannot erase the horrors of the sex trade and the growing movement of genuine, courageous survivors exposing these truths. The misguided excuses to ignore this reality by promoting legitimization of exploitation, including identifying sex trafficked children as “sex workers”, must continue to be met with vigilance and concerted action.
Indigenous women and girls will be more vulnerable to prostitution and trafficking if Amnesty’s draft policy is endorsed
Petitioning International Secretariat of Amnesty International and Salil Shetty
Recognise that Amnesty International’s draft Policy on Prostitution endorses condone and promote the violation of human rights if passed at the Australian National AGM.
Abolish Prostitution Now
A PLEA FROM AN AUSTRALIAN INDIGENOUS WOMAN ON BEHALF OF ALL WOMEN
Dear Sisters, survivors and allies,
I am speaking as an exited prostituted woman and the grand-daughter of a Latje-Latje Indigenous woman in Australia. As many of you are aware Amnesty International have drafted a policy in favour of full decriminalisation of prostitution. They are actively opposing the Nordic Model which protects the prostituted from prosecution and decreases demand in favour of a policy which has been informed by the sex trade and one notable pimp.
Indigenous peoples are the most exploited peoples on Earth.
AI’s policy on prostitution seeks to ensure that the buying and selling of (mostly) women be seen as inevitable and just any other job. ‘Sex Worker ‘unions claiming to be helping prostituted women are actively promoting AI’s policy ensuring they too profit from our enslavement.
Many of you have written/co-signed letters from survivor groups and written as individuals
These have been an invaluable resource.
At this time here in Australia, a small and dedicated team have taken on our local Amnesty International branches. We have had some success, with two AI branches endorsing the Nordic Model and one calling for a halt on the policy until survivor’s voices have been heard.
However, we are soon going to take this to a National AGM and ask that you lend your support.
The pro-prostitution lobby is fierce, well-funded and we need your help.
I want to deliver a letter signed by Indigenous women worldwide.
Prostitution is not inevitable. Women are not commodities.
I ask that add your name, whether survivor or ally, after mine to our letter written below. This National AGM is taking place July 5-6 so we have very little time to collect signatures.
With sincere respect I ask that you support us in this significant time of change for women.
In solidarity and Sisterhood,
Simone Andrea (Watson) of Abolish Prostitution Now Amnesty Action
“To the International Secretariat of Amnesty International and Salil Shetty
We the undersigned demand recognition for the violation of human rights Amnesty International’s current draft Policy on Prostitution will endorse condone and promote if passed at the Australian National AGM.
As Indigenous survivors and allies of our Indigenous sisters worldwide we fully and without reservation demand that AI acknowledge on our behalf
* That Prostitution is not inevitable – but the result of demand
*That prostitution IS violence against women
*That trafficking and prostitution are NOT two different industries but each feed the other
* That AI’s current draft policy focuses on “harm minimization” and profit for pimps rather than prevention of our abuse and this is NOT acceptable.
* That full decriminalisation and legalisation of prostitution increases trafficking and further violence against Indigenous women and children.
*That in passing this current draft policy Amnesty International will go down in history as one of the worst offenders in human rights history along with colonialists, slave owners and human rights criminals.
*That Amnesty International concedes and thereby endorses the Nordic Model as the best way forward to end ongoing human rights violations against women as a caste globally.
Indigenous women of Australia and globally reject AI’s policy in its current form and demand that our voices be heard.
International Secretariat of Amnesty International and Salil Shetty, President
Simone Watson, Petition promoter
Recognise that Amnesty International’s current draft Policy on Prostitution will endorse condone and promote the violation of human rights if passed at the Australian National AGM.
Rodger was very clear about the reasoning behind his violence. In a video posted online before the shooting, he says:
For the last eight years of my life, ever since I hit puberty, I’ve been forced to endure an existence of loneliness, rejection and unfulfilled desires. All because girls have never been attracted to me. Girls gave their affection and sex and love to other men, but never to me. I’m 22-years-old and still a virgin. I’ve never even kissed a girl. I’ve been through college, for two and a half years, more than that actually, and I’m still a virgin. It has been very torturous.
College is the time when everyone experiences those things such as sex and fun and pleasure. But in those years I’ve had to rot in loneliness. It’s not fair. You girls have never been attracted to me. I don’t know why you girls aren’t attracted to me. But I will punish you all for it. It’s an injustice, a crime because I don’t know what you don’t see in me.
This is male entitlement. You’re looking at it.
Rodger was so enraged that he had not been given that which he deserves, as a man — sexual access to women — that he killed.
In a world wherein men learn they not only deserve, but have the right to women’s bodies, Rodger’s behaviour isn’t really all that surprising. From the time they are young, boys are offered women’s bodies. They are provided with pornography, told that this is what women are for: your eyes, your pleasure, your dick. Read more.
The male orgasm is unimaginably trivial in comparison to the human rights devastation that prostitution inflicts on whole swathes of the globe’s female population, writes Caroline Norma.
Amnesty International ran a Stop Violence Against Women campaign between 2004 and 2010 to hold governments to account “for their failure to protect women” and urge them “to live up to their duty to stop this violence”.
The organisation during this time lobbied hard for governments around the world to take a strong stand on issues like domestic violence, child marriage, reproductive rights, sexual violence in war, and the history of the Japanese military ‘comfort women’.
During the same period, though, Amnesty’s international secretariat was lobbied internally by some of its own branches to take a stand on issues of ‘men’s rights’. In particular, some of its UK members wanted the organisation to stand up for men’s right to buy women for prostitution.
News of this lobbying reached members only last year when the international secretariat released a series of ‘policy background’ documents intended to, it retrospectively explained, invite discussion among members globally on the issue of ‘prostitution and human rights’. Exactly whose human right to prostitution was at issue for the organisation was, however, made clear by the secretariat in its Decriminalization of Sex Work: Policy Background Document (2013):
Sexual desire and activity are a fundamental human need. To criminalize those who are unable or unwilling to fulfil that need through more traditionally recognized means and thus purchase sex, may amount to a violation of the right to privacy and undermine the rights to free expression and health.
The push by some Amnesty branches to recommend the organisation stand up for prostitution buyers came at a time when the ‘right’ to buy a human being for sex was being challenged worldwide. From 1999, a number of countries legislated against the buying of people for prostitution. Sweden, South Korea, Norway, and Iceland criminalised the activities of prostitution buyers, and it was looking likely that France and Ireland would similarly penalise sex industry customers. This criminalisation of sex industry customers was an historically unprecedented way of making policy on prostitution, known as the ‘Nordic’ approach. This withdrawal from men of their longstanding legal right to buy women unsurprisingly attracted resistance and criticism worldwide, including from Amnesty branches. Read more
Statements from NORMAC and Abolish Prostitution Now following Amnesty state AGMs on weekend
NORDIC MODEL AUSTRALIA COALITION (NORMAC)
AMNESTY BRANCHES OPPOSE AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL’S SEX INDUSTRY AGENDA.
A resolution has been passed today by Amnesty branches in Tasmania and Queensland which advocates for an abolitionist approach to prostitution.
This decision conflicts with the position proposed by the international secretariat in support of a legalised sex industry with little government interference into the buying and selling of sex and with no recognition of those who are harmed in the industry.
Former anti-discrimination commissioner Dr Jocelynne Scutt stated her concern for the direction of Amnesty in proposing support for the sex industry. “Concerted action on a global level needs to be taken by all countries working cooperatively to end the slave trade, prostitution, and buying women and girls by whatever means – whether prostitution, slavery or marriages.”
Several Amnesty members who attended the Tasmanian branch AGM said that Amnesty had not consulted with Survivor Groups in the development of their sex laws proposals nor had they acknowledged the growing body of evidence that legalisation has been a failed experiment in all countries where it has been adopted, especially in Holland, Germany, Australia and New Zealand.
International Survivors Group Abolish Prostitution Now has stated:
If Amnesty International succeeds in its pimp- and pro-prostitution lobby-inspired stance of decriminalizing all aspects of prostitution, that will be almost the end of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as we know and understand it. They will not have brought it down alone, there have been other forces undermining the foundation of global human rights, but the impact of AI to decriminalize and remain the leading human rights NGO of the UN cannot be underestimated. The concept of Human Rights, and of Human Dignity as universal, inalienable and shared by all equally will be replaced by the idea of “dignity” being a marketable, individual stance that is at all times subject to market forces. Safeguarding human rights – and the rights of marginalized and disadvantaged groups like women and girls – will no longer happen from the standpoint of their inalienable rights, but merely from the point of view of improving their sales opportunities.
This is unacceptable. It means giving free reign to those in power, that is those with money. Just as decriminalizing all aspects of prostitution basically means giving free reign to pimps, traffickers, brothel owners and punters. The question will no longer be – how can women and girls (and boys and men) be kept out of prostitution, which we know to be devastating – but: How can we devise ways to make prostitution sound good, and to let those in prostitution keep a fraction of the money that is being passed around among powerful men? This is not Human Rights.
“NORMAC fully endorses this statement by Abolish Prostitution Now and considers that if Amnesty does not develop a contemporary and informed policy framework on the issues of exploitation of persons in the sex industry, the outcome will be dire both for their membership and for their standing as a peak human rights group.” said Matthew Holloway
For further information contact Spokesperson: Matthew Holloway 0450 682 372
Abolish Prostitution Now
Amnesty’s Prostitution Policy Sparks Dissent in Australia
Members of Amnesty International Australia vote against International Secretariat’s plans to decriminalise pimps and buyers of sex.
Pimp admits involvement in policy’s development.
Jimmy Carter speaks in support of the Nordic Model in opposition to decriminalising pimps and prostitution buyers.
Amnesty International’s proposed policy to decriminalise pimps and buyers met with opposition at Australian Amnesty state Annual General Meetings on the weekend.
The proposed policy was raised at Amnesty state level AGMs around Australia Saturday May 10, with dissent from Amnesty members. Amnesty Queensland and Amnesty Tasmania voted against the draft policy. Members voted instead to adopt the Nordic Model of prostitution, which decriminalises prostituted people, while at the same time criminalises pimps, traffickers and buyers. WA members voted in favour of a new process, which would involve seeking input from those who have survived sex industry violence. There was rigorous debate on the issue in other states.
Former president of the United States and human rights champion, Jimmy Carter, is the latest big name to speak out against the proposal. In an interview with Robin Morgan, Carter said ‘it’s inconceivable to me that Amnesty International, or any other organisation that respects human rights, would endorse slave masters’.
Escort agency manager, Douglas Fox, has claimed the credit for the policy’s development and advancement throughout the organisation. Fox manages one of the biggest escort agencies in the UK, along with his male partner. Fox has held leadership positions in Amnesty International, with an agenda of decriminalising prostitution.
While escort agency managers have been given a voice by the international secretariat of Amnesty, survivors of prostitution and sex trafficking say they have been ignored by Amnesty’s international leadership.
The Swedish branch of Amnesty International has also taken a stand against the decriminalisation of pimps and buyers of prostitution.
The consultation on the draft policy on decriminalisation of pimps and buyers of sex was initially slated to be resolved at the International AGM in June. However, due to strong opposition internationally from prostitution survivors, Amnesty members and other human rights organisations, Amnesty International had pushed back the decision until August 2015.
Sunday May 11, 2014
Dr. Caroline Norma: Ph: 0410 190 964
Why are we forced to fund Scarlet Alliance?
NORDIC MODEL AUSTRALIA COALITION (NORMAC)
4 May 2014
Minister must withdraw funding from Scarlet Alliance
The Nordic Model Australia Coalition (NORMAC) has written to the federal Minister for Justice, Michael Keenan, calling on him to withdraw $360 000 in funding provided to the Scarlet Alliance to assist with the detection and prevention of human trafficking and slavery.
NORMAC has asked Minister Keenan to re-allocate the Scarlet Alliance’s funding to other groups who will also receive funding for this purpose, including Anti-Slavery Australia, Australian Catholic Religious Against Trafficking in Humans (ACRATH) and Project Respect.
Spokesperson Matthew Holloway said, “Whilst we fully support the intent of this funding, NORMAC is concerned that tax payer dollars are going to an organisation that promotes an effectively unregulated industry, with the only constraints on its operation being the planning approvals that would apply to any other business.”
“Project Respect is better situated to utilise additional funding as they do a lot of on-the-ground work assisting and supporting people trapped in prostitution towards meaningful careers and employment outside the sex industry.”
Lecturer in public policy Dr Mary Louise Sullivan has stated that:
“The Scarlet Alliance presents itself as the peak ‘sex worker’ association in Australia and is a major defender of the pro-prostitution position. Indeed the Association’s membership requires that those who join must agree to its objectives. Members must acknowledge that ‘sex work is a legitimate occupation’. Moreover they must be ‘actively promoting the right to work… including street, brothel, and escort, private and opportunistic work’.The Scarlet Alliance undisputedly opposes ‘the development of exit strategies and programs for women who wish to leave the sex industry, particularly trafficked women.”
The 2004 report from the Parliamentary Joint Committee on the Australian Crime Commission – ‘Inquiry into the trafficking of women for sexual servitude’ indicated it is generally accepted that approximately 300 women are trafficked into Australia each year for sex work whereas the Scarlet Alliance estimates only a low number of 10 trafficked women.
The Hon Mr Duncan Kerr observed that contract women who have been trafficked into Australia represent a continuum – from those who enter with full knowledge and consent; to those who enter with consent but are deceived as to conditions; to those who enter Australia completely deceived as to their work in the sex industry.
“NORMAC’s concern is that the Scarlet Alliance response fails to recognise that a number of people, specifically women, are trafficked into Australia under the false pretense of being offered legitimate work and instead become sexual slaves.”
“It would be irresponsible for the new Liberal government to continue down the path of providing any funding to the Scarlet Alliance as the organisation lacks the ability to impartially represent trafficked people and those in sexual slavery.”
“The Scarlet Alliance’s core beliefs and ideology seem deeply opposed to recognising the harm caused by prostitution to those involved in the sex industry. NORMAC believes this makes their organisation unfit to receive taxpayer funding when it would be more effectively used by other organisations who have a proven track record” said Matthew Holloway.
For further information contact: Matthew Holloway – 0450 682 372
Paid For: My Journey Through Prostitution: a compelling take down of pro-prostitution myths
I recently read Rachel Moran’s autobiography Paid For: My Journey Through Prostitution (Spinifex Press, 2013). It is the most compelling take down of pro- prostitution myths I have ever read.
As Amnesty International goes against all it supposedly stands for in backing legalisation of the sex industry worldwide (so valiantly resisted by a number of Australian feminists at Amnesty branch meetings over the weekend – more to come on that), Rachel’s book stands as a powerful ‘No!’ to the global trade in the bodies of women and girls.
Rachel worked as a prostitute for 7 years in Ireland, finally managing to get out of the industry at 22. The book describes her experiences as well as breaks down myths and lies perpetuated by pop culture, the media, the sex industry, and even other feminists, about prostitution and is an incredibly powerful and brutally honest read.
When you are fifteen years old and destitute, too unskilled to work and too young to claim unemployment benefit, your body is all you have left to sell.
Rachel Moran grew up in severe poverty and a painfully troubled family. Taken into state care at fourteen, she became homeless and was in prostitution by the age of fifteen. For the next seven years Rachel lived life as a prostituted woman, isolated, drug-addicted, alienated.Rachel Moran’s experience was one of violence, loneliness, and relentless exploitation and abuse. Her story reveals the emotional cost of selling your body night after night in order to survive – loss of innocence, loss of self-worth and a loss of connection from mainstream society that makes it all the more difficult to escape the prostitution world.
At the age of 22 she managed, with remarkable strength, to liberate herself from that life. She went to university, gained a degree and forged a new life, but she always promised that one day she would complete this book. This is Rachel Moran’s story, written in her own words and in her own name.
A brave woman steps out from Ireland’s dark side and gives a clear-eyed account of the violence that is prostitution.
Susan McKay, former Chief Executive of the National Women’s Council of Ireland
Rachel Moran has wrought out of the depravity of the ‘prostitution experience’ an inspirational and brilliant memoir. Courageous and tender; ultimately her story is a searing indictment of men who buy sex.
Kathleen Barry, author of ‘Female Sexual Slavery’, ‘The Prostitution of Sexuality’ and ‘Unmaking War, Remaking Men’
An unprecedented testimony – brave, powerful and convincing.
Theo Dorgan, Irish broadcaster and poet
Prostitution survivor Rebecca Mott calls for total abolition
Prostitution survivor Rebecca Mott, who endured frequent rape, violence and torture while in the industry, has given an incredibly powerful speech on BBC radio on the truth about the sex industry.
Has the Courier Mail become a pimp?
In this May 4 article, Kathleen Donaghey gives the Sunshine Coast sex industry a nice free plug, promoting a special ‘Pie, coke and a poke’ deal. It’s so discreet, Donaghey writes, that a punter can duck out at lunchtime and still be home for the ‘wife and kids’ in the evening. A QUT researcher says it’s just a “fun, recreational pursuit.” There’s not a critic in sight. As my colleague Caitlin Roper tweeted: “Average age of entry into sex trade is 13. Prostituted women have PTSD levels equivalent to war veterans. Write about THAT @couriermail.” I wonder if the Courier Mail got any kickbacks from this piece given it has provided the brothel with thousands of dollars in free advertising?
If Tracy Connelly were alive today and living in France, it’s possible she might have found a way out of prostitution. She would have at least known that the society she lived in cared enough to want to help her out. But Tracy lived in Australia and was murdered on July 21, by a man suspected of buying her for prostitution on a street in Melbourne.
Australia, like France, has ratified Article 6 of the UN Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children, which requires member states to take ”all appropriate legislative and other measures” to deal with the ”exploitation of the prostitution of women”.
But there is little assistance available here to help women like Tracy free themselves from that life. A small number of struggling support services get by on negligible government funding, even though there are an estimated 26,000 people involved in prostitution here.
Prostituted women are the ones at the coalface of the misogyny and pornography-fuelled attitudes
Commentators this week have been falling over themselves to decry the ‘hypocritical’ public quiet over the murder of St Kilda prostituted woman ‘Tracy’, compared to the attention Jill Meagher’s death attracted last year. Wendy Squires wrote that, even though ‘Jill and Tracy are one and the same – women in the wrong place at the wrong time’, it’s outrageous that last week’s ‘dead woman isn’t headline news’. Squires believes it ‘ironic’ that Jill Meagher’s husband attracted media attention last week, while Tracy’s murder raised barely a headline. In fact, Squires ‘could have been Tracy’, just as she ‘could have been Jill Meagher’, so she wonders why the murder of women in prostitution is treated so differently from the murder of middle class, educated women with supportive friends and family.
While it is true murdered prostituted women don’t receive the same attention, do any of us really believe that either Jill or Wendy could have been Tracy? The crime committed against Jill was unforgivable, but do we really think she has anything in common with Tracy? Going on what we know about the population demographics of women in prostitution, Tracy was most likely abused as a child, homeless from an early age, preyed upon in her teenage years by pimps posing as boyfriends, and subject to a range of alcohol and drug addictions over the years of her sexual exploitation. She would also likely have suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, possibly exposing her to the risk of mental illness. While Jill and Wendy might have faced hardships in their lives, we can speculate these hardships were never aggravated by the experience of being traded for prostitution. Unlike Wendy or Jill, being a prostituted woman means you are always in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Prostitution is precisely the variable that sets Tracy apart from Wendy and Jill. Women in prostitution are at risk of murder and serious injury at a rate many times higher than even people working in bottle shops. The experience of being pimped and prostituted makes it almost inevitable they must shut down their minds with drugs or alcohol, or risk acquiring a mental illness. They are the ones at the coalface of the misogyny and pornography-fuelled attitudes circulating in our society. The physical expression of male rage is channelled their way in the form of brutal sex acts, verbal abuse, and practices of humiliation and degradation. They must withstand all of this with a smile, or risk non-payment or a beating from the customer or their pimp.
We do women like Tracy no favours when we pretend she is ‘just like us’, and express outrage that her murder doesn’t get the same attention as ours would. While we allow a vulnerable population of women and girls (and some young men) to languish in the sex industry while we happily take up opportunities of education and economic privilege, we cannot decry ‘hypocrisy’ and engage in after-the-fact hand-wringing over media bias. We need to recognise the fundamentally different health and wellbeing outcomes that prostitution imposes on its victims, and work to develop ‘exit programs’ to assist people out of the sex industry. We need to recognise the human rights harms that men who patronise the sex industry are causing, and develop policies and education campaigns to reduce their demand for prostitution.
Let’s be angry and upset at the absence of public outcry—but not just now a woman in prostitution has been murdered. We might feel the same outrage every time we drive past a brothel, or see advertisements for ‘escort’ services in our local paper. We might become upset at the state government bureaucrats who continue to collect money from pimps who legally trade people for prostitution in Victoria. Or our anger might be directed toward a federal government that fails to declare prostitution a gendered human rights violation like its counterparts in Sweden, South Korea, Norway and Iceland. Our tears might flow every time we hear a sex industry-apologist in the media calling prostitution a ‘job’ for women with no other choices.
In reality, Tracy could not have been Wendy or Jill, but she could have been any other woman in prostitution. All people in prostitution—whether in brothels, ‘escort’ agencies or on the street—risk the same unacceptable fate as Tracy. Those of us who downplay or deny the risks of prostitution seal this fate for generations of abused people who will be preyed upon by the pimps and traffickers of the sex industry. We must take policy and educative action now to dismantle legalised prostitution in Victoria and create a safe society for even our most vulnerable of fellow citizens.
Dr Caroline Norma is a lecturer in the School of Global, Urban and Social Studies at RMIT University, and researches prostitution and trafficking policy in Australia, South Korea and Japan.
See also: ‘Why virginity is a best seller: how the sex industry profits from an Asian girl’s ‘first time’, http://www.pac.nsw.edu.au/contact-details/ MTR blog, November 14, 2011
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